When I graduated from college, I bummed around for a year before actually looking for a job.
My first job was at Daily Globe where I wrote my first column in 1990. For the next ten years I worked, studied again, and tried to set up all kinds of small businesses before I got married in 2000.
When my son was born a year later, my dad told me to stop working for the sake of the baby. It was hard at first, but soon I got used to staying home.
During my pregnancy I discovered blogs and became fascinated with publishing my own stuff at home.
I started thinking of ways to make money without having to leave the house. Ten years later I got lucky with this blog. I never dreamed that what I loved doing would eventually pay off.
This is why Samantha Sotto’s story inspires me.
Like many Filipina moms, Samantha loves writing in her spare time and has a vivid imagination. But unlike most of us, she has just published her first novel under Random House in New York.
Samantha Sotto was featured this Sunday in the Philippine Star‘s On The Radar, interviewed by Christine Dychiao.
I was deeply moved while editing this piece, so I just have to share.
Read why Samantha’s story will inspire stay-at-home moms everywhere.
A new author’s happy ending
By Christine Dychiao
Once upon a time, there was a young mom who decided to kill time by writing a novel. She had just read The Time Traveler’s Wife and was so bothered by the ending, she felt like she needed to dream up a different love story to get it out of her system.
Because her son went to prep in Ateneo, and they lived all the way in Parañaque, she would drive him to campus, and then park herself at the same table every day for a year in Starbucks Katipunan while waiting for his dismissal.
“To save on gas and e-pass,” she thought. Which also proved to be the perfect place and time to bring her characters to life, between sips of non-fat green tea latte.
When she was finally satisfied with her tale of true love, she decided to get in touch with literary agents abroad, well, because, why not dream of being published?
As fate would have it, a literary agent from Levine Greenberg took notice, read her manuscript, and eventually sold her book to Random House Publishing in New York.
Everything happened in the blink of an eye. Her book is due for release in the US this Aug. 2. There will be a Philippine launch and book signing party at National Bookstore on July 27 before she flies off to New York for her press launch.
This is a true story. It really happened to first-time author, Samantha Sotto who is now On the Radar.
Read and be inspired by her narrative that is equal parts guts and genius.
And don’t forget to pick up her novel Before Ever After. It is proof that fairy tales do come true.
ON THE RADAR: Sam, you spent some time living in the Netherlands in your teens, backpacking through Europe in your 20s and going there for business trips when you started working for a multinational. What was it about the continent that inspired you to set your novel there?
SAMANTHA SOTTO: Maps and I don’t get along — which is extremely fortunate. I don’t think I would have been able to write Before Ever After if I had a better sense of direction. Getting lost in Europe’s crooked cobblestone alleys and tucked-away corners was how I found the inspiration for the novel. These forgotten nooks whispered stories that history books have left out. The “gaps” I found between my travel scrapbooks and formal research became the places and times that Max, my main character, filled in with his secrets.
The trip that really inspired the book was my backpacking trip to Europe in my early 20s. I sold my car to pay for it.
You mentioned to me that the novel came about because you didn’t like the ending of The Time Traveler’s Wife. What else inspired your writing?
I had a really bad “hangover” from reading The Time Traveller’s Wife. I loved the book and I suppose it couldn’t have ended any other way, but I still found it depressing. Watching tons of Dr. Who and writing the book was my therapy.
Dr. Who is my favorite show. It’s quirky and campy, but it also takes some dark turns. It was a huge influence on my writing.
I can only wish that other moms killing time at Starbucks, while waiting for their kids to get out of school, are as productive as you are! Any tips on what made you decide to take a stab at writing a novel?
Ha ha! I don’t know if I’m in a position to give tips. I honestly don’t think of myself as a “real” writer. I just thought that it was something fun to do. I didn’t write the book to get published. I wrote it because I enjoyed the process of writing.
I suppose the only “tip” I can give is to pour yourself some coffee, sit down and write—even if it’s just five words a day. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s still five words more than you had the day before. Everyone has time to write down five words.
Were you into writing short stories before that?
I’ve never attempted to write a short story. I imagine that it would be a lot more difficult than writing a book. I have a huge respect for writers for who are able to make you care about their characters and take you through an entire journey in such a short amount of time.
This is your first novel, and Random House, New York picked it up! Can you share with us how you got published? The highlights and even the lowlights, if any?
I only started researching about publishing when I finished the book. I knew absolutely nothing about the process so when I saw a second-hand copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published on sale, I bought it. That’s where I learned that I needed to find a literary agent.
The thing about literary agents, though, is that they pick you and not the other way around. You need to send them a “query letter” which summarizes what your book is about and why you think it will be marketable. If they like your letter, they will request you to send them a few pages of your book. If they like what you sent them, they will ask to see the full manuscript. After they read your book, three things can happen: they will reject you, they will ask you to revise and resubmit, or they will make an offer to represent you.
Google became my best friend during the agent hunt. I scoured the web for agents whom I thought would be a good fit for my book. I made a shortlist, sent out my query letter and crossed my fingers and all appropriate appendages. But I didn’t send out my letter to everyone on my list.
There was an agent that I particularly liked and so I decided to “save” her until I got feedback from the other agents. I was rejected a number of times, but luckily, I also received requests.
When about four or five agents had my full manuscript, I found the courage to send my letter to my top pick. She read my query, requested the full manuscript the next day, read the book overnight and made me an offer before the other agents had finished reading what I had sent them.
She asked me to make a few revisions and when the book was ready, she pitched it to publishers. After about a month, she sold the book.
Were you expecting to get published so quickly?
Not at all! I didn’t even think I was going to be published. I was just happy that I finished writing the novel. Everything after that was gravy. I was extremely lucky.
How did you feel when you got a call from your agent?
I was on vacation in Hong Kong at that time. She called my hotel at about four in the morning. I nearly screamed with joy. Luckily, I didn’t. Otherwise, my family wouldn’t have been too happy to be kicked out of the hotel at dawn. We celebrated by ordering champagne and omelets for breakfast from room service.
How did your husband and your family react when you shared the good news?
I think they were even happier than me. I suppose they were relieved that I was no longer going to be the nervous wreck that I had turned into while I was waiting to hear back from publishers.
Any big plans for the launch?
Yes! National Book Store will be distributing the paperback edition in the Philippines. We will be dong a launch and book signing party on July 27 at 6 p.m. at the National Book Store branch in Glorietta 5.
I’ll be flying to New York after that for a press event. My publisher has also arranged a fun blog tour for me so I’ll be doing a lot of hopping around the Internet when the book is released in the US.
The author—with her agent Stephanie Rostan and editor Kate Kennedy—sat down with Crown Publishing’s associate marketing director, Julie Cepler, to discuss the marketing and publicity plan for Before Ever After.
Are you dreaming up your next book already?
I’m 80% done with my second novel. I hope to finish it in a couple of months.
What advice can you give to aspiring writers who are dreaming of being published by a big NY publishing firm?
Stop dreaming and pursue what you want. The amount of creative talent in this country is huge and there is absolutely nothing that is stopping us from showing the world what the Filipino can do.
You went through such a huge career shift from marketing to being an entrepreneur to becoming a published writer. What advice can you give to women who find themselves having to go on a completely new trajectory?
I don’t want to say that you shouldn’t be scared about trying out new things — because you should be. Big life changes are, by their nature, terrifying. Being scared means that you’ve really thought about what you’re leaving and what you are planning to get into. Fear isn’t a sign that you shouldn’t be pursuing something — it’s a test of whether you want it enough to risk failing at it.
Look for Samantha Sotto’s Before Ever After at National Bookstore.
To know more, go to http://www.samanthasotto.com.