I can’t tell you how excited I am to have Anna David here today. I’ve been working with Anna for about a year now and it has been the greatest honor. She’s a quick-witted, candid writer and an inspiring voice in the addiction recovery field. She’s also one of the funniest, kindest, and wisest people you’ll ever meet. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of In Recovery Magazine, the host of the Recover Girl Podcast, and is the coach to the next batch of authors to hit the NY Times Bestsellers List.
Almost every writer I know has fantasized seeing their name on the NY Times Bestsellers List, but most writers have no idea how to get there. You can’t arrive somewhere you’ve never been before without a map. Anna David has mapped out a step-by-step method to take aspiring writers from obscurity directly to a publishing contract. I have sat in on her courses and I can tell you her information is like gold.
Learn all about her first-hand publication experience, her advice to aspiring writers, and how you can join her exciting new coaching program in this interview.
Interview with Anna David
Did you always want to become a writer? When did you decide that was what you wanted to do?
Always. When I was seven, I saw in the Guinness Book of World Records that the youngest author to publish a book was six and I was devastated that I couldn’t be the one to set the record. Of course, I didn’t finish writing my first book for another 20 or so years. There was never any question in my mind about what else I would do. I had no other skills! Everyone told me it was a bad idea—my dad never stopped talking about how I needed to go to business or law school—but I didn’t listen.
When did your drug abuse begin and how long till it spiraled out of control?
My coke use got bad when I was in my late 20s but I had loved it from the first time I tried it, when I was 16. I didn’t do it regularly until I was about 27 but the way I thought about it was never “normal”: I was obsessed with it. When I started doing it alone—with just my two cats, Camel Lights, Amstel Light, vodka and a whole lot of paranoia for company—it was definitely out of control. Though in many ways it was out of control from the beginning, in terms of how I thought about it.
After you got help and became involved in the world of recovery, what made you decide to focus your life and writing around addiction and recovery. Was it scary to ‘recover out loud’ as they say?
I never thought about it, really. I’ve always been a chronic confessionalist, telling the whole world my private business without realizing they may not care or it may not be appropriate. And I’ve always written about my own life, even when I was writing fiction—whether I was fictionalizing my own experiences or, in the case of my second novel, writing fiction around a world I’d researched. Addiction and recovery was my experience and so that was my material.
Do you feel like your experience with drug addiction has made you a better writer? How?
I don’t think so. I will tell you that my writing was God awful when I was high. I used to do coke and then try to write screenplays and TV specs and I would write these ridiculous specs of shows I’d never seen. One day, not high, I came up with a novel idea: to write a spec of a TV show I actually watched. I wrote that one sober and suddenly had a slew of agents fighting over me. Turns out drugs made me a TERRIBLE writer.
In my opinion, the only thing that makes someone a better writer is reading. And writing. And rewriting. Mostly rewriting.
Party Girl, a roman à clef novel about your cocaine addiction, is about your crazy life as a celebrity journalist in LA, and the dysfunctional relationships that ensued. How did this idea become a reality?
My first job when I got sober was as a columnist for Premiere magazine, writing a column called Party Girl. It seemed hilariously ironic to me that my whole life I’d been a wild party girl and as soon as I became someone who went to meetings and coffee and hung out with her cats and became, in many ways, suddenly boring, I was suddenly wearing the “party girl” moniker. It struck me that this would be a great premise for a novel: a girl gets a job writing about her wild and crazy life right when she stops being wild and crazy and so she has to create a persona based on who she used to be. I had that idea and so I just sat down and wrote it, in about nine months.
I know my readers, most of whom are aspiring authors, are dying to hear about your publication experience. Can you give a brief outline of your steps to becoming a published author–from writing process, to agent, to NYT Bestsellers List?
It was a very different world when I got into it. First of all, there were magazines—that people actually read. Also there were far fewer writers. People weren’t writing blogs that suddenly made them famous. Social media didn’t exist. And I wrote for a lot of magazines so agents knew my work. I was lucky enough to have two agents who wanted to sign me by the time I finished writing Party Girl. I went with the agent I preferred and she sold my book to my top choice publisher (Regan Books, then a division of Harper Collins) within a week. It was dreamy. But my commonalities with Cinderella ended there. Judith Regan ended up being fired in the biggest scandal to hit publishing a few months before my book came out and the book ended up being released under a fake imprint that HarperCollins invented for my release. People talk about being orphaned when their editors switch jobs. This was like the orphanage being burned to the ground! My next book deal was half the size of the first and it wasn’t until my NY Times bestseller, in 2010, that I felt things even out again.
What do you think is the most important thing for a writer to do if they want to land a deal with an agent or major publisher?
Write the best proposal you can. Have creative ideas for promotion. Know the books in your genre that did well and try to create one that fills a void those books did not. And of course sign up for my coaching program!
Now your coaching writers to follow the same path to the NY Times Bestsellers List. What kind of stories will make the best fit with your methods?
Anyone writing a memoir, particularly one by someone who’s writing about their biggest struggle and how they came out on the other side. Because of my audience, at least half of my clients are always writing addiction and recovery memoirs or at least stories that involved addiction. But hey, any trauma works!
What’s your best piece of advice for writers just starting out?
Besides apply for my program? Read as much as you can. Also, don’t get wowed by all the self-publish success stories you hear. If you’re like me, and your dream was always to publish a book, then you owe it to yourself to try for the big leagues. The mainstream route—getting published by one of the big New York publishers—is competitive but I tell everyone at least try that first and if it doesn’t work, you can always self-publish then. But your dream when you were little wasn’t to upload your book to Amazon and tell your friends to buy it; it was to sign a contract with a big publisher, work with an editor, have the big release—the whole nine.
If you try that and it doesn’t work. you then have a completed book proposal—which is the perfect outline to go the self-published route. But every writer deserves the opportunity to try.
Do we get to expect any new novels from you?
Nope! Pretty busy with my day job (editing In Recovery Magazine), speaking and coaching. But maybe one day (famous last words).
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