Unlike many authors, I can’t say I always had a burning desire to be a writer. It was just something I did better than other things–and I enjoyed it. Looking back, I wish I had started writing books earlier in life—I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to earn a living.
Frank was sitting in my living room talking to me so I knew he escaped from Cuba. But I didn’t know exactly how. Or that it was such a long and difficult endeavor. Frank told me his story sequentially, and it unfolded for me pretty much the way it unfolds for the reader. When he told me the ending of the story I screamed, “That’s it, that’s it, that’s the end!” I was so excited about the ending, I was practically jumping around. I knew if there was more to Frank’s tale, it would have to wait for another book.
The actual writing took just short of a year–with some breaks for other activities. I believe most writers could finish an average length book in a year if they write almost every day.
It’s funny, I’m most productive writing in the morning, but I’m most productive editing in the evening after dinner. And I often think of details or better ways of saying things shortly before I go to sleep. I keep a pen and paper at my bedside to jot down thoughts when they come to me. My office is next to my bedroom so sometimes I get up and write in the middle of the night.
I was so excited about this book that I asked a whole bunch of people to read it, even before it was fully edited. My friends and family were very enthusiastic about it, telling me how they couldn’t put it down, etcetera. They offered me great suggestions and pointed out errors that I hadn’t noticed. It takes courage to put your work out there, but it is necessary and the feedback you get is worth it.
Frank related his story almost as if he were in a play, acting out the parts and dialogue of different characters. But figuring out how to handle scenes where Frank knew what had happened but wasn’t there to witness the event itself was a challenge. My book has all the elements of a memoir but there were some scenes that needed to be fictionalized to advance the narrative. Finally, I decided to take inspiration from Jeannette Walls, author of Half Broke Horses, who handled similar issues in her book by calling it a “true-life novel”.
The other difficult part was trying not to get discouraged by the fact that first-time novelists have a very difficult time getting published.
I’m editing the sequel to The Boy Who Said No, a compelling story of Frank Mederos’ life in America and sinister forces in Cuba who are plotting to destroy him. The working title is Stalked.
Writers write. So write. Try not to get distracted by the many things vying for your attention—a problem that faces us all. Go to writers’ conferences. Make friends with other writers and read, read, read.