I’ve been friends with Kelli Estes for over ten years, knowing her as both a writer and an amazing woman who is always so supportive of other authors. I am delighted that her debut novel, The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is garnering high praise as no one deserves this success more than Kelli.
I wanted to be sure and introduce this wonderful author to you and invited Kelli to come and tell us about The Girl Who Wrote in Silk. Please join me in welcoming Kelli Estes!
I am so honored to be here on Jane’s blog! I first met Jane right around the time when her first book was about to be released. She and I were both members of the same local RWA chapter and I saw right away that she was someone from whom I would learn a lot. As her career grew I watched and learned everything I could. I think the biggest lesson I learned from Jane was to write from your heart. Don’t write what you think will sell, don’t write what others are having success writing. Write the story that you feel deep down.
I took Jane’s advice to heart, though it took several years before I fully realized how to put it into practice. Actually, it took ten years and five manuscripts (with time off in there to have two kids) before I learned that I needed to stop thinking about what I could write that was popular at the time, or what plot twist would capture an editor’s notice. When starting my sixth manuscript I had just emerged from a dark place of “will I ever be good enough” and decided that writing was the only thing that I wanted to do, and I would keep writing until I was good enough for publication, no matter how long it took. I went into a sort of cave where I wrote not even knowing where this book might be shelved at a bookstore. I took a break from writing workshops and conferences and I completely turned off every voice I’d ever heard offering great advice. I listened only to my story. What emerged was the book now titled, The Girl Who Wrote in Silk. It is the story of a young Chinese girl, Mei Lien, who is driven from the only home she’s ever known in Seattle and the horrific event from which she is the sole survivor. She tells the truth of what happened that night through her embroidery. Over a hundred years later that embroidery is found by a recent college grad, Inara, who subsequently uncovers not only the truth, but what it means to her own family. She is then forced to make an impossible choice.
This story took me by surprise and, in fact, I resisted writing it for several months because I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. I wondered who was I to write about the Chinese experience during a time of intense hatred and violence against the Chinese people in America. I am not Chinese, nor do I have any Chinese family members. I thought surely there was someone with more knowledge of the culture more qualified to write than I. But then I realized that I was the one with the burning drive to see this story written and there is no better qualification than that. I never once, however, took lightly the responsibility I had to present the history and related heartbreak with respect and honesty. Mei Lien became my favorite character in the book and the easiest to write.
I hope you enjoy The Girl Who Wrote in Silk and I’d love to hear from you. You can find me at my website, on my personal Facebook page, as well as my author Facebook page. Or even better, I’d love to meet you in person at one of the events I have planned this month in Washington State. Information on those can be found here.
You know what? There was another lesson I learned from Jane that I can’t wait to put into practice. If you’ve met Jane at one of her book signings, you’ll know what I’m talking about. When Jane meets a reader, she has a way of making that person feel like the most important person in the room. She takes the time to stop and truly connect with each person and I don’t know if she knows how special that makes her. We writers tend to be an introverted bunch and meeting people isn’t always comfortable. Some writers do it better than others. No one does it as well as Jane. As I go to my bookstore events this month, you can bet I’ll be trying my hardest to be like Jane!
Thanks for coming to visit, Kelli! Readers please pick up a copy (or download) of Kelli’s book next time you’re shopping. And if you do, be sure to leave / share feedback if you have time. I know Kelli will appreciate it! To help Kelli celebrate her debut release, I’ve also got an awesome mystery prize, chock full of books, giftcards and fun reader goodies for one of you! For a chance to win, leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win. Contest ends Friday with winner announced Saturday.