Interview with Aidan Donnelley Rowley - LIFE AFTER YES

I am pleased and honored to welcome Aidan Donnelley Rowley to my blog today.

Aidan is a busy young mom living in New York City who has her first novel, LIFE AFTER YES coming out on May 18, 2010. Please check out her enormously fun and insightful blog Ivy League Insecurities - you will immediately be hooked!

I had the privilege of meeting Aidan through the blogosphere, and I'm thrilled to present my interview with her today:

Aidan, you were a lawyer. What made you leave law behind and pursue writing? Did family and friends think you were crazy?

Technically, I am still a lawyer. My attorney friends remind me of this and I remind people about this fact when I am feeling particularly insecure about my identity and writing. (A lot.) I did a short stint at a big Manhattan law firm before jumping ship to write full time. Why did I leave? I’m not sure I have a satisfying answer for this, but I will give it a shot. The day I decided to leave was a Friday. I was newly married and had returned from my honeymoon less than a week before. I sat there at my desk, holed up in my air-conditioned office, staring out the window at the city I loved and realized I would never be genuinely happy spending the majority of my time in the corporate grind. In that moment, I chose life over law. I did not get the itch to write creatively until I was at the firm, a decidedly uncreative place. I realized – and fast – that I was far more interested in stories, the stories of people who surrounded me – clients and colleagues – than I was in reviewing documents and scouring law books. I started writing here and there and decided I would leave and write a novel. This decision made perfect sense to me because I (thankfully) had no idea what it took to write a novel, but, yes, family and friends thought I was a bit idealistic to think I could walk away and write a book.

What genre(s) do you write in? Do you have the desire to branch out to other genres?

My forthcoming novel LIFE AFTER YES has been called contemporary women’s fiction, but when I set out to write it, I knew nothing about genres. I love writing character-driven fiction and hope to continue doing this. I would also love to write a memoir one day and maybe children’s books.

How did you find your agent and how long did the process take?

I started querying at the end of April and got an offer from my agent at the end of July. I found my agent probably in much the same way that other writers do. I pored through those fat books listing agencies. I sent blind queries. I brainstormed any connection (however tenuous) I might have with anyone in the literary world. I talked about the fact that I was looking for an agent and I was pleasantly surprised at how many leads this unearthed. I got the name of my agent from my father’s college buddy’s law partner’s wife (yes, hard to follow) who happens to be a very successful author. Every connection is worth pursuing. You never know.

What advice would you give writers looking for representation?

Warning: my advice is clichéd. (I happen to like clichés, but that is for another time.) Grow a thick skin. And fast. I know: easier said than done. And silly advice coming from the occupant of absurdly thin (and pale) skin. Rejection is part of the game. The fit between author and agent must be just right. There are countless reasons that an agent will not offer representation – publishing trends, economic realities, etc - and rejection is often not a reflection of who you are or the viability of your work. Keep plugging away. Keep sending queries. Again, keep talking about how you are looking for representation. Also, if you are writing a novel, make sure you have written the novel and have polished it to within an inch of its life before querying. Agents will not take a chance on an unknown entity without having something tangible and compelling to look at.

How long did it take between the time you found an agent and your book sale? What can you tell us about the submission process?

I’m not sure my experience was typical. I do not remember the exact dates, but I signed with my agent in August, she started submitting to editors in November (after I completed some edits) and we sold the book before right before Christmas. My agent submitted to several editors that she thought would be a good fit and then waited. I trusted my agent (who has over forty years experience in the publishing world) and let her do her own thing in terms of submissions. I asked her to keep me apprised of noteworthy developments of course (a flurry of rejection letters came my way - cheers), but I did not insist upon knowing the minutiae of her submissions strategies.

Can you tell us a little about your book and its AWESOME title?

LIFE AFTER YES is not a fairy tale. Rather, it is a nod to the more complicated reality of modern love and loss, to the existential grays of commitment. The story follows Quinn O’Malley, a young attorney in Manhattan in the immediate wake of 9/11. After losing her father in the attacks, Quinn’s Southern banker beau proposes marriage. LIFE AFTER YES tracks the time beginning after her yes, to her supposed wedding. I am beyond thrilled with the title LIFE AFTER YES. Getting to this title was not easy though. When I found my agent the book had one name. When I found my editor, it had another name. And, now, it is LIFE AFTER YES (a third name!) Apparently this title shifting is quite normal, par for the publishing course.

When is it scheduled for release?

My book will hit stores on May 18, 2010 (HarperCollins/Avon), so mark your calendars! And feel free to tell anyone you know who can read about its release. That would be fine with me.

I love your blog and its title. How do you feel "insecurity" affects you as a writer?

Thank you! I think insecurity is universal and when embraced, and explored, is incredibly fertile material for writers, for parents, for people. Society tells us to smile, to put up a good front, but the truth is we are inherently insecure creatures. We worry. Constantly. And about everything. I started the blog as a means to inject some honesty into this fake-it-or-make-it world of ours, to highlight the truth that insecurity is human and should be revered rather than disdained.

How does your blog writing compare or differ from your novel writing?

My blog style is very conversational. This is purposeful as my intention is to start a new conversation each and every day – about something silly or serious or in-between. I think there is some overlap between the style of my blog writing and the style of my novel writing, but ultimately the writing process – and product – is very different. My blog writing is very spontaneous. Most days when I sit down to blog, I do not know what I will write about. My novel writing is slightly more disciplined. For LAY, I did not write a formal outline, but I had the trajectory of the story in my head. I am currently at work on my next novel and this time I have every twist and turn planned out. I have no doubt that I will veer from this course (flexibility is key), but it is nice to have something to look to when I get stuck.

What can you tell us about your personal life and how you weave your writing into it?

These days, my biggest and most important job is being mom to two young girls. I am thrilled to be a writer as this affords me the flexibility to be with my girls whenever they need me (which is a lot!) I write at different times everyday whenever I can carve out the time. Parenthood is the lens through which I now see the world. It is my language. As such, my blog is largely about questions of parenthood. I wrote LIFE AFTER YES before becoming a mother when I was intellectually curious about different questions – about commitment and career. My next novel deals more with my current reality, namely the reality of young motherhood. In it, I hope to excavate the inescapable fears and doubts and regrets concomitant with welcoming, and nurturing, new life. I love and revel in the fact that my life informs my writing (and vice versa).

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you so much for letting me grace your wonderful blog and tap into the incomparable community of writers you host here. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer these thoughtful questions! I hope that your readers take a few moments to visit me at Ivy League Insecurities. I would also be more than happy to answer individual questions via email and can be reached at

It's truly been my pleasure!

Speaking of Life After Yes, stay tuned for my post on Wednesday. It'll be a juicy one. ;-)
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