Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 14, 2024

I DARE YOU: The Strange Beginning of an Amazing Journey

by Rebecca Forster

Photograph from out on a blue ocean toward a strip of green hills with sandy beaches. A hand holds a marker and is circling the hand lettered words "challenge accepted with red marker.

I have never kept journals. I did not dream of being a writer. I am a disappointment to 90% of the writing community and probably considered blasphemous by some, when I admit my career started as a joke. 

I was a travel/fashion executive at an advertising agency in San Francisco. One of my clients preferred to have meetings after hours, and I would to drag my peeved and tired account team to his mansion on the hill. He was a valuable, if thoughtless, client. On top of the extra hours, his wife often interrupted our meetings. 

Frustrated, I asked my secretary, * “Who does that woman think she is?” 

My secretary whispered back, “That’s Danielle Steel.”

I did not know who Danielle Steel was. When I found out, I made this flip remark:

“I could write a book.”

She snapped back, “I dare you.”

Joke, right?  Normal people don’t become published authors. Still, I accepted the dare in the spirit of good fun. I loved research, I wrote heft marketing plans for my clients, so I would apply the same talents to a ‘novel’, satisfy the dare, and wash my hands of my own silliness.  

It didn’t take long for me to realize, that I was on an amazing journey. The end of the road might not be a published novel, but I learned a profound lesson: with the right information, motivation, and spirit real people can pretty much do anything they set their mind to. 

Attitude is everything.

I embraced the fun of the moment and rejected any expectations of publication. This cleared my mind and left me fearless. 

A specific objective is imperative.

My objective was to complete the challenge with the least disruption to my livelihood and family life. Unrealistic objectives would have hobbled me. Wanting/needing to write is quite different than wanting/needing to make a living writing.  

Discipline is key.

Tennis is fun, but I had to spend a hours learning the game and honing my skills in order to play the game. The same holds true for writing. A fun dare was to be taken seriously. If I wasn’t going to give it my all, I shouldn’t have accepted it in the first place.

Know the market.

With no computers to aid me, learning about publishing was time consuming. I needed a path of least resistance to break in, and I found it in category romance. No agent needed, minimal submission requirements, specific creative guidelines. For someone who did not plan to write the Great American novel, this strategy was tailor made. Understanding your market will save time and heartache.  

Have a personal plan,

I work best in a structured environment, so I assigned myself specific writing hours and goal pages each night, seven days a week. I communicated this plan to my husband who willingly took over household chores because he understood there was an end date. 

Let go.

When I finished the three chapters and synopsis, I mailed the submission and forgot about it.  Did I allow myself to dream that I might sell this ‘book’? Absolutely. Did I become obsessed with that idea? Nope. I went back to working and enjoying my leisure time.  Little did I know, that my life was about to change. My flippant remark, my colleagues dare, and my willingness to go along with the fun was a seed that would eventually bear fruit. But for those weeks between submission and a request for a full book, I barely gave it a thought.

I am now 39 years into my writing career. 25 years as a traditional author, thirteen as an independent author, and one ill-fated year with an online publisher. I have published 41 novels in the following genres: category romance, women’s fiction, rom com, legal thrillers and police procedurals. I’m known for my thrillers. I’ve had five agents, four traditional publishers, and I made the USA Today bestseller list when readers still had to go into bookstores and physically purchase my books. My work has been translated into many languages. An audio publisher bought my most popular thriller series, The Witness Series, and produced it; I have used AI to produce audio of my other books. I taught at UCLA writer’s program, lectured on a cruise ship and to a college class in Albania. I have spoken at philanthropic and writers’ conferences around the country. I have made my living writing for 20 of those 39 years. 

I tell you all this not to brag, but to let you know that the dream is possible. You won’t realize you’ve been living it until you look back. 

And then, just when you are sure you’ve got a handle on this business, something changes, and the hard work begins anew. 

Bookstores go out of business and E-books become a thing. Newspaper reviewers are swapped out for thousands of book lovers populating a handful of social media platforms, all of whom have an opinion about your work. If you’re an indie author, you will need to pay for editorial and creative services or learn to be your own cover designer, formatter, public relations professional, and social media maven. You will have to learn how to advertise your work. You will have to write. The only constant is that readers want good books.

Writing is for the spiritually bold, the imaginative, those with big hearts, sharp minds, and a tempered ego. Writing is for those with a clear-eyed understanding of themselves, their abilities, and their desired objective. Above all, writing is about challenging yourself for the glorious fun and satisfaction of crafting a book. 

I know you can do it. 

I dare you.

* * * * * *

About Rebecca

Rebecca Forster started writing on a crazy dare and found her passion. Now a USA Today and Amazon best selling author, Forster is known for her legal thrillers and police procedurals. Over three million readers have enjoyed her Josie Bates thrillers in the Witness Series alone. With over 40 books to her name, Rebecca had a long career in traditional publishing before becoming an indie author. Her fast-paced tales of law and justice are known for deep characterization and never-see-it-coming endings.

In an effort to make her work as realistic as possible, Rebecca has graduated from the DEA and ATF Citizens academies, landed by tail hook and spent two days on the nuclear submarine U.S.S Nimitz, engaged in police ride-alongs, and continues to court watch whenever possi

Rebecca has taught at the acclaimed UCLA Writers Program and various colleges and universities. She is a sought-after speaker at bar and judges' associations as well as philanthropic groups and writing conferences. Rebecca is also a repeat speaker at the LA Times Festival of Books.

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19 comments on “I DARE YOU: The Strange Beginning of an Amazing Journey”

  1. Rebecca, welcome to WITS and thank you for sharing your inspiring and amazing journey. I absolutely agree with your primary takeaways and your bottom line and I am heartened by them.

    1. Lynette, Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. Attitude is everything. I know it can be hard to keep our spirits up but communities like this help so much :).

  2. Hi Rebecca,
    What a crazy start to a writing career - thanks for the inspiration. It's easy to take writing, submitting, publishing way too seriously!
    Kris

    1. Kris, You are so right. Believe me, I've had my 'teary' moments but then I remember the crazy joy I had at the beginning and try to channel it. Thanks so much for reading my post. Hope your writing is going well!.

  3. My goodness, what a journey!

    I'm a big believer in thorough research. Kudos for attending DEA and ATF Citizens Academies. I'll bet those experiences made a major impact on the realism in your stories.

    1. Winona, You've already crossed the first hurdle. Unlike me, I doubt anyone had to dare you. You've got the heart of a writer...I had to find mine. I want to be one of the first to hear when your book is published! Don't give up.

  4. What fun! And what a way to meet Danielle Steel.

    I'm 24 years (and two published big fat volumes) into ONE mainstream literary trilogy (and love it), but very much enjoyed reading about your journey. Thanks for penning (!?!) it.

    1. Bravo, Alicia! My son was a young writer. Published his first play at 16 and now at 38 published an incredible nonfiction with a few fiction books in between. I think you guys are fearless. No one needs to dare you, you do it! Hope your trilogy has been a smashing success.

    1. Thank you, Jenny. Isn't it funny how we all come to the same point? Our roads are so diverse, our love of the destination binds us together.

    1. Piper, you are correct that sands are shifting when it comes to publishing, but readers never change. They want us to write good books. When that 'sand storm' stresses you out, remind yourself that to survive and thrive the first order of business is to write a good book. Hang in, hunker down, write on. 🙂

    1. Denise, Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I love this site and am so grateful to have had the chance to post. Happy writing.

  5. Rebecca, thank you for sharing your journey. I love to read how authors get started, and what it has taken for them to keep going. I especially enjoyed learning that amid so many changes in the publishing industry, it is possible to stay successful. Thank you for your insight.

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