A former PR executive who abandoned a successful career to pursue a more fulfilling life, Maria Murnane is the author of the best-selling romantic comedies Perfect on PaperandIt’s a Waverly Life. At many of her speaking engagements she shares the “story behind the story,” an entertaining tale of courage, passion and perseverance that has inspired audiences across the country to follow their dreams—no matter what. To learn more, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
Describe your journey from writer to published author.
I used to work in public relations out in Silicon Valley, and after several years I finally admitted that I hated my career choice and quit. I had no idea what I wanted to do next, so I bought a ticket to go to Argentina for a couple weeks. I’d never traveled anywhere by myself, but after two weeks I loved it so much there that I decided to accept a job offer to stay and play semi-pro soccer (true story!).
I’d always thought it would be fun to write a novel, so after a couple months down there, I decided to just do it. I started writing and writing and writing, and eventually I had the first draft of what would eventually become “Perfect on Paper.” After about a year I came back to San Francisco and was lucky enough to sign with an agent pretty quickly. She told me my book was “the one” she’d been dreaming about, and that mine was the funniest voice she’d heard in ages. She was pretty sure we’d get a two-book deal, so needless to say I was VERY excited.
But when my agent shopped the book to all the major publishing houses, the reply was unanimous—no. After that rejection, which was brutal, my agent told me she’d really done all she could do for me and basically gave me the boot. I cried for about three days, then spent about six months rewriting the book. Then I went to a writers conference and pitched it myself to several more publishing houses, and they all said it sounded great and wanted to read it. So I was so excited again and sent it to all of them. After a few months I finally heard back from all of them—thanks but no thanks.
So once again I was crushed. More tears.
Then one day my dad (perhaps the nicest man on the planet) sat me down and handed me a book on self-publishing that he had read, along with a little plan he’d written for what I needed to do to publish on my own. He told me he loved my book and that I couldn’t let it go, so he was going to help me publish it myself. It nearly made me cry.
I reluctantly self-published the book, then hit the ground running in an effortto prove the publishing houses wrong. And it worked! Within a year it attracted the attention of senior executives at Amazon, who chose it out of more than 10,000 self-published titlesfor the company’s venture into traditional publishing. Since then it has also been published in Hungary and by Random House in Germany, and it’s also coming out in Indonesia and Serbia. It recently reached #2 overall on Amazon for the Kindle.
The sequel, It’s a Waverly Life, was published by Amazon Publishing in November, and Honey on Your Mind, the third novel in the series, is coming out on July 24. I’ve also launched a line of products based on the books that includes witty greeting cards, T-shirts and tote bags.
I’ve been featured in USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Entrepreneur, Money, Shape, and PopSugar, and I’ve shared my “never give up on your dream” story with dozens of organizations across the country, including the Harvard Women’s Leadership Conference (twice), the Massachusetts Conference for Women, the Baltimore Book Festival, the Texas Conference for Women, the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, and Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Sometimes I find it hard to believe everything that has happened.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Tell the story you want to tell, not what you think people want to hear.
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
Honestly, I’d love to be doing exactly what I’m doing now: writing novels. I love that I can say that.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
I miss the days when the only thing I worried about was whether or not my soccer game was going to get rained out.
What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
Soccer. There’s just nothing like it. It’s super social and an incredible workout. I think about 99% of my friends are people I’ve met playing soccer.
Ever had something happen that you thought was bad, but it turned out to be for the best?
Yep—getting rejected by all those publishers. If I hadn’t had to do so much marketing on my own, I don’t think I’d be anywhere close to where I am now.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Admitting that I hated my career choice—and then quitting a very good job. I’ve been a straight-A student, overachiever type my whole life, so to admit that I’d gone down the wrong path for so many years was incredibly difficult.
The best part of waking up is?
I’m not a morning person, so I don’t really get this question.
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Bill Clinton. He’s just…cool.
What piece of advice would you give the younger you?
Don’t try to be something you’re not just to fit a mold or please other people. No one is keeping score of your life but you, so what’s the point in faking it?