Friday, 14 August 2015

The Highs and Lows of Being a Debut Author with Scott Wilbanks

Today I have the very great pleasure of hosting debut author Scott Wilbanks, author of the newly released 'The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster' as he talks about the highs and lows of being a debut author. I'll provide you with links to find Scott in all the usual social media places at the end, but for now I am simply going to pass you over to Scott!

Highs And Lows Of Being A Debut Author

Before I dig into our topic, Rosy, I have to ask, did you notice any parallels between Annie (my protagonist) and yourself?

Like you, she’s a twenty-something bibliophile who also happens to be obsessed with every movie you listed on your profile page (though I can’t help but notice the absence of Keira Knightley’s Pride And Prejudice). And while she can’t bake her way out of a wet paper bag, it all leads me to wonder if you have an obsession for Victorian clothes, perhaps?


My road to publication can best be described as an accidental eight-year journey down a crooked path that was littered with well over a hundred rejection letters. And while it’s fair to say that I was pretty low by the hundred and first, there was an isolated incident that occurred after I’d received my book deal that very nearly broke my heart.

To put it in context, however, I first need to talk about two of the characters in my novel.

Christian, Annie’s best friend, has a secret buried so deep within his subconscious that it burdens him with a debilitating stutter. He’s a total sweet heart, an innocent who only sees the good in others, while seeing nothing but the bad within himself.

When I needed a foil, someone to draw his secret to the surface, I created Edmond, another sweetheart who is, however, anything but innocent, primarily because he has a demon—drug addiction. To make Edmond and his struggle authentic, I borrowed from a close friend’s playbook who had a history of dealing with the same.

Christian and Edmond’s journey together formulates only the secondary storyline of my novel, but they are both near and dear to my heart, nonetheless.

Four weeks after my publishing house moved Lemoncholy into production, and just two weeks after I’d spent an hour on the phone with this very dear friend who inspired Edmond, discussing his first international trip to visit me in New Zealand, I received an email from his sister. He’d died of an accidental overdose.

I can’t even begin to describe to you how the news impacted me, but I can let you in on a little secret that might make such a description superfluous.

I’m Christian—social awkwardness and all.

So, to anyone who decides to give my book a whirl, pay close attention the resolution between these two men, and you will begin to understand the weight of my loss.

But that is the risk you take, I suppose, when you write a book about misfits, all of whom are marginalized by an unforgiving society, and draw from very real friends to give them life.

I found out only two weeks ago that the person who inspired Annie (only in part, as Ms. Jane Austen also influenced her heavily) had also passed.

It almost seems silly, then, to talk about the high point of my journey, coming on the heels of that news, but I don’t think it will be what you expect. It wasn’t the moment I got the call from my agent (though that was pretty darn cool), nor was it the moment I was offered a book deal. It was the direct result of the endless parade of rejections—the novel, itself.

If it weren’t for every last one of them, coupled with my absolute refusal to give in, I would have never actually learned how high to set the bar to become published, nor would I have acquired the level of craft to achieve that goal. It was a painful, poignant, and incredibly rewarding process.

I wrote (badly), and queried agents, then rewrote (less badly), and queried agents again in so many cycles that each successive draft of my manuscript became something like the outer ring on a tree, possessing a character and depth greater than the previous iteration. The end result became so much better for it.

Thank you so much Scott for taking the time to talk to us about those staggering highs and lows and for providing such insight into the novel. In answer to your question I do have a taste for Victorian clothing, but alas I have yet to find a time travelling door or to be able to afford such a fantastic house as Annie's!

If this post has piqued your interest, the novel is now available wherever books are sold, and you can check out my review here!

You can also find Scott on various corners of the interwebs:
Twitter: @scottbwilbanks

Thank you again for chatting to us, your post made for fascinating reading. I think I speak for all of my readers when I say that I'm sorry that the lows that came along were quite so extreme.


  1. Hi Scott,
    What an emotional and honest insight into your novel - I haven't had chance to read the book yet but I do wonder if 'Edmond' and 'Annie' had read it before their passing and if so what their responses were. Hope this won't be a one off and that you already have another story in mind - gosh though I guess you'll have to choose your inspirational characters carefully!!

    1. Hi JoH!

      I'm in Houston, I think. I've been bouncing around so much with this book tour that I'm losing track.

      My friend who inspired Edmond read excerpts of an old draft. He never got to see the finished product, something that makes me very sad.

      I spoke about him at a book event in Los Angeles two days ago. His mother and sister attended. They said I did him proud.

      I'd lost contact with the other friend, the one who inspired Annie's mannerisms, several years back, even before I started writing my manuscript.

      It's all rather poignant and sad, but I know they'd both adore how the book resolves.

  2. Hi Scott - never anticipated I'd get a reply! good luck with all the time travelling you're doing and you know what I'm sure as eggs is eggs that whilst 'Edmond' didn't read the final book he's more than well aware of how it's turned out and all that's going on re the book at the moment. Try not to be sad and instead be glad that because of your perseverance he lives on through your book and can continue to have a place in the world through it. Oh dear - have just re-read this and it sounds pompous and preachy - definitely not intended that way it was just the response prompted by your own open revelations! Hope you find time to sleep sometime!

  3. Not preachy at all! It was lovely. Thank you, JoH!

  4. Lovely insight, Scott, and my condolences on your losses even as I rejoice in your publication. Perhaps it is too early to ask, what with the excitement of the release and the whirlwind of the tour, but is there another Scott Wilbanks book on the horizon? I truly enjoyed "The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster" and would love to see something else from you.

    1. Oh, wow! I'm tickled pink that you liked it! My second book is in acquisitions with my publishing house as I type. So I'll take all the good vibes I can get... It's about a young, Southern man who is burdened with the world's only documented case of chronic, incurable naivete--the result of a curious subtype of ADD and a lightning strike at the age of four. :)

  5. I've been wanting to thank you for featuring my guest post, Rosy, and also for your kind words.

    I talked about the gentleman who inspired "Edmond" quite a bit at my book signing in Los Angeles. His mother and sister were in the audience, making for a painful, poignant exchange. They're such beautiful people.

    1. You're very welcome, it was my pleasure!
      I'm so glad that his mother and sister were there and able to hear your words about him, what more lovely tribute than this book?
      Thank you again for taking the time to come on the blog, it was so lovely to have you.