Stacey Wiedower has been busy the past year. The Memphis-based freelance writer has published three novels, with the last one released just last month.
The books — 30 First Dates, Now a Major Motion Picture, and How to Look Happy — are all from Gemma Halliday Publishing, “a small, boutique publisher of quality women’s genre fiction who work with a select number of authors per year,” according to their website.
To be fair, two of the books were written already when Wiedower got the offer to publish 30 First Dates, the second manuscript she’d actually finished.
“I wrote two books before I started seeking a publisher,” she says. “I edited Now a Major Motion Picture (the second book published) for years while I was looking into how to get published and while I was working on the second book. That one wasn’t the one that I felt I was ready to launch with.”
When she wrote 30 First Dates, she knew it was “hooky,” and that it would grab someone’s attention. Her publisher asked if she had anything else she was working on and, as it happened, she did. “Things happen faster in boutique publishing and small press publishing than they do in traditional publishing where it would be a year-and-a-half before your book is on a shelf. Here it’s like you get signed and my contract said ‘within a year.’”
Despite her good fortune, she doesn’t recommend publishing so quickly and so close together. “It did surprise me, the speed of it,” she says. “It would not have happened that way had I not had two finished books on the table to present to my publisher before I signed a contract. Launching a book is so emotionally taxing, it’s been the most exhausting year of my life.”
Write what you know. That’s the advice given to every would-be writer and Wiedower has taken it to heart. She was born in Girard, Illinois, and moved to Manchester, Tennessee, with her family as a child. She’d intended to enter college with the idea of studying law, but was dissuaded by a book of essays written by attorneys looking back at their decisions. She went, instead, into journalism for an undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis. “I would’ve become a writer no matter what I tried to do, that’s one thing I’ve figured out.”
Her first job as a reporter was with The Daily News. But she knew she needed to write what she knew — or what she loved — and that she should tailor her writing career towards that. With that goal in mind, she enrolled again at the U of M for a master’s in home furnishings merchandising, or interior design. Since then, as a freelance writer, she’s worked with The Commercial Appeal, HGTV.com, StyleBlueprint.com, and at an interior design firm, among others.
And, as would happen when you’re writing what you know, How To Look Happy, her latest novel, is about an interior designer. That character, Jen Dawson, works with the South’s hottest design firm and has a fiancé who’s on the short list of the city’s most eligible catches. But the plans she’s hatched for her life fall apart when her boss deceives her and her fiancé dumps her on the same day.
Chick-lit. It’s become a pejorative term in some circles, looked down upon by those with a more highbrow, literary bent. But it’s the genre these books belong shelved with, and Wiedower embraces it. “It was a bona fide term in the publishing industry until sometime in the last decade,” she says. “It became passé and publishers would not touch the genre at all. And it’s because it became oversaturated. Bridget Jones’s Diary was the tipping point. The same thing that happened to vampire young adult literature had happened to chick-lit a decade earlier.”
As she was editing Now a Major Motion Picture, she says, “I was sadly learning that the book I’d written was in a genre the publishing companies wouldn’t touch.”
But she didn’t let that get her down and she certainly didn’t stop or swerve into other topics. She stayed true to what she wanted to write and, in the end, it’s paid off. “At the same time I was learning all that, I was discovering the indie community, which is where that genre moved because it didn’t die; it’s seen a rebirth in indie publishing.”
And by all accounts, the indie community and chick-lit devotees have embraced Wiedower. Sales are brisk and her books are all well-rated on the Amazon and Goodreads sites.
The Wiedower household is a literary one. Her husband, Lance, is a freelance writer as well, specializing in business and travel stories. The couple met in college, have been married for 16 years, and, at one point, she was his editor while at The Daily News. Now, he’s her first reader and the two have found a symbiotic relationship as they both work from home to get their stories into print. Even their 9-year-old son, Colby, is getting in on the family business with a middle-grade chapter book manuscript in progress.
Stacey continues to weave her days around writing from various points of view and with differing intents. She’s stepping outside of chick-lit with her next work in progress and is anxious to see where that might lead. But whether it’s chick-lit or another genre, or a story about interior design for a local publication, the key is to keep writing.
“For my career, I have no real desire solely to do fiction, though I’d like to make that my main focus and have freelance on the side,” she says. “Right now it’s the other way around. I’d love to flip that.”