You know you must be desperate when you find yourself Googling random word combinations in the hope that a book title will magically make itself known to you.
To be honest, after a week and an endless series of, “that’s good, but no thanks”, responses from my publishing house, I was grasping at straws. As half of my novel is set in the year 1895, the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted the title to evoke a turn-of-the-century vibe. To that end, I included the term Victorian in each word combination. And let me tell you what, there were a lot of those. Eventually, I stumbled across an online dictionary for Victorian slang, and, with nothing better to do, decided to putter around inside.
That’s when I stumbled across the term lemoncholy, and knew that I’d landed on something special. According to the dictionary, it was a synonym for melancholy. Unfortunately, that didn’t gel with my novel’s themes, but a delicious possibility began to percolate around in my head.
What if I coopted the term, combining melancholy with the phrase if life gives you lemons . . . to then mean the habitual state in which one make the best of a bad situation? That would describe my protagonist, Annabelle Aster, to the tee.
What didn’t register, at the time, was the irony.
Our minds are indescribably complex engines, and mine had chosen to have a last laugh.
You see, nearly nine years ago, I’d done just that—made the best of a bad situation—though I didn’t realize it at the time. All I knew was that I’d written down a couple sentences in a bleak moment.
In polite company, she was known as Annabelle Aster. Being a spirited woman, however, she wasn’t often found in such company, as she’d determined it to be, more often than not, insincere. And also being a sincere woman in every particular, Annie chose her company for the quality of its character, not its rank.
We’d just wrapped up the closing arguments in a three-week-long trial, one that had begun three years earlier when a multi-billion dollar company decided not to pay the commission I’d earned on what was, at the time, the largest transaction in my industry’s history. Basically, they’d toyed with me for several months, stating that they’d make it their goal to “destroy your company” if I decided to seek recourse through the legal system. It didn’t matter to them that I’d worked on the transaction for over a year, and, as a result, would be bankrupt if not paid.
So I sued. It was me and my best friend—a man with a lot of smarts, but no knowledge of my industry—against the resources of a multibillion dollar company and a client who’s wife’s interest income exceeded forty million dollars a year.
Will it surprise you that I was experiencing panic attacks throughout the trial, then, some of which were so bad the lead arbitrator asked if I needed medical assistance?
It must have been a real treat for the opposing parties, not that I cared. The greatest weapon you possess in a legal battle is an opponent’s absolute readiness to underestimate you.
I’d barely closed the door to my hotel room after the trial’s conclusion, though, when I experienced the mother of them all. I’m pretty certain that, to an outsider, this particular attack would look have looked a seizure.
Somehow, I’d managed to crawl into the shower—I honestly don’t remember doing it—and sat in the basin with water pouring over me and my clothes. And while doing so, the strangest thing happened. Those sentences that I shared earlier popped into my head.
They were inspired by a series of letters I’d written to, and received from, a failed date many years before, letters in which I had Annabelle Aster write to her friend, one Elsbeth Grundy, asking for advice regarding her lovestruck friend—me. I’d emailed the letter to my date, and, well, let’s just say that I got a second date. And a third. And, by the fourth, we were an “item.”
Back to the scene in the bathroom, though. Don’t ask me why, but I got out of the shower, changed into a robe, and wandered to a desk where I wrote the words down on a piece of loose leaf paper, before shoving it into my briefcase.
The next day, I found myself back home in San Francisco, too afraid to go to work. Merely thinking about it put me on the verge of a melt down. So I cleaned house instead, eventually stumbling across those few sentences.
Intrigued, I sat down, tapping a pen against my kitchen counter. I wrote an additional sentence. Then another.
Two months later, I’d written four-hundred-fifty pages of the worst first draft in history. More importantly, in all that time, I didn’t once set foot in my office.
And the day after I wrote the words THE END, I began the bureaucratic process of shuttering my company. I’d no heart for it.
But I’d caught the writing bug, having discovered that putting words to paper was the best therapy for what had subsequently been diagnosed as a chronic anxiety disorder.
Time passed—eight years, to be exact—and those sentences I wrote, and those that I added to them, and those that I reworked tirelessly, had turned into a book named The Lemoncholy Life Of Annie Aster, which has just launched.
And then some.
What happened with the trial, you ask?
And while the years between the trial and my books’ publication saw their fair share of tragedy—that date, turned boyfriend, turned best friend, had died—it also saw me moving to New Zealand after meeting the man I’d ultimately marry.
All we need to make it perfect is a cat.
So, Do you have any stories for us about where you got an idea for a book?
Scott is an American expat living in New Zealand with his frustratingly perfect husband. A former national title holder in the sport of gymnastics whose left arm is an inch shorter than his right—the result of a career-ending accident—Scott ditched the corporate world to “see where this writing will take me.” He is the author of THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER, a commercial fiction novel with a fantasy premise releasing August 1, 2015 through Sourcebooks that tells the story of two pen pals who are fighting against the clock to solve the mystery behind the hiccup in time connecting their homes before one of them is convicted of a murder that is yet to happen… and yet somehow already did.