Nicole Trope writes page-turning, addictive thrillers that have sold over 1 million copies worldwide. She is a USA Today and Amazon bestseller in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada, yet it took years before her first book was published. Here, she shares how she turned her dream of being a writer into a successful career, including her lessons learned.
Every character in a novel has a backstory. What’s yours?
I was a reader long before I was a writer, as all writers are. In high school, I always had a novel under my desk that I was surreptitiously reading. Sometimes I felt like I was watching my life from afar, narrating to myself as I observed others. I am interested in the things people are not saying in a casual conversation; in the truth about who they really are.
For me, becoming a writer was inevitable, but getting published took a long time. My day job was as an English and Drama high school teacher. While teaching, I earned my Masters in Children’s Literature and wrote my first novel. It was about a teenage boy who befriends a homeless man. It was very short and needed a lot of work, but I found an agent for it, and that meant that I knew I could, at least, write a novel. In the end, they didn’t publish it, so into the drawer it went. I kept writing books until I finally wrote the one that got published.
It takes courage to pursue your dreams. Did you always dream of being a writer?
I thought I wanted to be an actress first, and I loved acting, but at university, I realised that I enjoyed the creation of the play, not being in it.
I have never not written. In high school, I wrote stories and poetry; I did the same thing in university, writing for the university magazine. When I was teaching, I wrote through the school holidays, and then when I had my first child, I wrote while she napped. I have always fitted it in wherever I can.
It took many years to get my first book published. By the time I wrote the novel that found a publisher, I had many novels that had been very close to being published but had never quite made it over the line. Each book taught me how to be a better writer, and I still learn with each novel I write today.
What was your first published novel?
It was The Boy Under The Table, a scary story about a child being kidnapped. I didn’t want to write it because as the mother of young children, and I found the idea terrifying, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I knew I had something when my mother couldn’t wait for the next chapters. I sent the synopsis and first chapters to numerous agents worldwide and got many requests for a full manuscript. I settled on an Australian agent, and she sold the book to a major publisher. I heard via email that they wanted to publish the book.
I have to admit; I didn’t celebrate much, moving straight into fear about what readers would think of it. The first reviews were wonderful, but inevitably, some people didn’t like it, and I had to learn to live with that. The publishers immediately asked if I had another novel available. I was working on one at the time because I always worked on a book.
At the time, I thought I had finally achieved the dream, and everything would go smoothly from then on. But the publishing industry is a brutal business, and it has been an interesting journey.
In what way is publishing brutal? What challenges have you faced as an author, and how did you overcome them?
I’ve had to learn to read bad reviews and accept that not everyone will love my novels. Readers can be nasty and insulting, as though the person who wrote the story is not a human being. But they can also be so lovely, and it’s those readers that I pay the most attention to.
The rise of digital publishers has completely changed the publishing landscape, and my current publisher, Bookouture, is among the best in the world. Until I signed with them, I had to deal with relying on paperback sales in stores that sometimes neglected to put the books on shelves. It was very disempowering.
While I live in Australia, all my novels have sold better overseas, something the previous publisher didn’t know how to manage. They did very little marketing; it was more a case of hoping that readers found the book. My experience publishing with Bookouture is very different because each novel is treated and marketed as a potential best-seller.
During your journey as an author, did you ever experience imposter syndrome? How did you address it?
All the time, and I know that every author feels the same way. The blank page can be daunting, and then when you look at a first draft, it’s hard not to just dismiss it as awful. First reviews can be soul-destroying because there will always be someone who doesn’t like your work.
My publishers have a Facebook page for their authors. I find it very helpful to read through posts from other authors, especially authors selling millions of books, talking about their struggles to believe in themselves. Women, in particular, seem to struggle with accepting their achievements, and I remind myself of this when I am questioning my work.
Who has been your biggest champion on your journey as a writer, and how did they help you?
My mother has always read and appreciated my work. She’s the first person I send a manuscript to, so I can get a feeling about whether it’s working. My family have always been supportive as well.
You maintain a phenomenal pace, producing three books a year. How do you manage the pressure to keep delivering best sellers?
The novels come out around every four months, and although that does seem very fast, it’s not, because I am always working ahead of schedule. I get edgy when not working, so I enjoy the pace. And not all of my novels are best sellers, so it’s always nice to have the next one to look forward to. I try to make each one better than the last. I love my work, and even when I decide to take a break, I find myself trying out stories in my head.
You juggle working from home full-time and raising three kids. Do you have any ‘tricks of the trade’ for work-life balance?
I am very structured in how I run my life. I stick to a strict routine so that there is space in between to let ideas flow. Domestic work engages my hands, but that frees the mind to work, so essentially, I am always working. If I’m on a deadline, I also work at night and on the weekends. There’s no point in worrying about work that has to get done while you are relaxing, so I just get it done first.
Tell us about your latest novel. What is the inspiration behind it? Where do your ideas come from?
The Truth About The Accident is a family drama and a mystery. It begins with a man running across the road in the middle of a rainstorm and getting hit by a car. No one saw what happened exactly, so accounts of the accident differ. The reader is then introduced to three women, all involved in some way with this man. The novel explores what happened to him and why.
My stories have multiple sources of inspiration. For instance, the male character in this novel is very handsome and charismatic. He was inspired by my experience some years ago when a man I encountered in a chemist who was so good-looking I got tongue-tied and started giggling! I was also inspired by an image of a man running across a busy road. I wondered why he was there, and from that, a story developed.
What career achievements/milestones are you most proud of and why?
Getting published was the first milestone.
Hanging in there, even when I had to find a new publisher, is another.
My novels have now been top 10 Amazon bestsellers in Australia, Canada, Germany and the USA, and I’ve sold over 1 million books. I have one book, The Boy In The Photo, that’s in development for a movie, which is lovely but a prolonged process, so I just enjoy the fact that someone loved it enough to write a script for it. Many novels are optioned, and only a tiny amount is made into movies or television series.
I am grateful for these achievements, but there is something special about getting a message from a reader who says they loved my book or tells me they feel like I’ve understood their lives.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have left my old publisher earlier, but at the time, I imagined it would be impossible to get another publisher. That was imposter syndrome at work, and when I did start looking, I was amazed at the level of interest from agents and publishers.
For women who want to pursue their dream profession, what are your top 3 lessons learned?
© Laini Bennett, MBA