This is a long time coming. I scribbled down thoughts and reflections while I was in transit, forced onto the plane by police who were ordered to kick me out of their country. That was 2006, nearly 11 years ago. And now, later this month, some of those notes will be published in my first book—Illegal: a true story of love, revolution and crossing borders.
This has been a long journey. Much longer than I would have ever imagined. But here we are, on the precipice of publication. Finally.
I’ve always keep a journal, especially when I traveled. Somewhere, tucked away in my parent’s basement, there are dozens of notebooks filled to the brim. But there is one significant gap; and it’s a good chunk of this book. Ironic. When I first started sneaking across borders it was a crazy time in my life. Obviously there was the sneaking across borders thing, but there was also a woman I loved, a man trying to kill me and a revolution I fought for, then fought against. Sometimes I just forgot to put pen to paper, and I’ve been making up for it ever since.
The very first draft of what would become Illegal was written not long after, perhaps 2008. But, in retrospect, I had no idea what I was doing then. I was way too close to the events and didn’t have enough distance from them to see anything with clarity. I also had no idea how to write a book.
Skip ahead and I’m gaining perspective and skill, but again in hindsight, not nearly enough of either. I took some writing classes and eventually moved to England to attend graduate school to seriously pursue writing. I even started getting articles published in various places. Still, I was too close and not yet capable.
Skip ahead, all the way to 2016. I think I’m ready. I stumbled upon what I thought to be a really innovative publisher. I always try to encourage what I see as positive change. I knew enough about the traditional publishing industry to know I didn’t like it very much and thought Inkshares was a step in the right direction. I spent the better part of the year getting pre-orders to meet the crowd-funding threshold for a publishing deal with Inkshares. And we did it! 750 pre-orders! A huge accomplishment, and simultaneously something I hated doing—selling myself. But, then Inkshares changed management, got a lot less honest and a lot more greedy and tried to change the terms. And I made the hard choice to walk away (More on that saga here.)
I looked toward traditional publishing once more, but now with some urgency. I had promised hundreds of people that they would soon have a book in their hands if they lent me their support. And Donald Trump was elected president and talking about banning immigrants—which added motivation for me to show a different perspective.
I also kept working on the writing. Friends read drafts and gave feedback and I read and reread everything. Sometimes I printed it all out, taped the hundreds of pages around the walls of a room and locked myself inside, highlighting everything thematically to help me ‘see.’ It’s easy to judge the past and say it wasn’t good enough then. But nothing is every clear in the moment—it wasn’t then and it’s not now. I am sure it’s all improved a great deal. I think it’s finally ready.
Early this year I found an interested literary agent who wanted to take the project on. She estimated it would take at least two years to be published. Nothing about her or the situation, that’s just the speed of the industry. And that’s a best case. It’s also possible the timeline would stretch out or she would never be able to sell it to a publisher. And Donald Trump became president.
So, I decided to go my own way. Once you read the book, I think you’ll agree that this was the obvious choice all along. It’s been tough. There’s quite a learning curve to do it all on your own. But the finish line is so close. Right now, all I am waiting for are some blurbs from other authors who have read advanced copies. They might go on the back cover or inside the front one. I’ve set a hard deadline of Friday to finish that. I’ve hired a professional cover designer. She’s been attentive so far but once I pass her the last changes for the cover I’m not sure how long it will take to incorporate everything. Then I’ll create a proof, order it, make sure everything came out okay then, finally, make it public for the world to read. I’m confident that will all happen within two weeks—hopefully a few days under.
Thanks for taking this trip with me. We are almost there.