Bestselling Author J. Courtney Sullivan Talks About Writing

Writing chapters

chapters2Earlier this week we attended the WiCi Awards presented to rising stars in communications by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI). New York Times bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan was among the honorees.

We sat down with the Brooklyn resident to hear how she juggled a day job with writing as well as rejections (yes, even bestselling authors get rejected).

MediaJobsDaily: So many of our readers have a day job and a novel inside them trying to bust loose. How did you originally pursue your path?

J. Courtney Sullivan: When I was writing my first novel, Commencement, I worked at the New York Times, I was a researcher for Bob Herbert, one of the op-ed columnists there. I wrote for the paper and I also had previously worked at a women’s magazine, Allure. So, I still wrote for Allure and a lot of other women’s magazines, freelancing. My fiction writing was something I really only had time to do on the weekends, sometimes at night after work and it was really just kind of like a labor of love, it was something I had to do on my free time.

It wasn’t until that Commencement was published and that I had sold Maine to my publisher that I then left and since then it’s been my full-time job. I wrote all of Commencement and the first half of Maine while I had a full-time job.

MJD: How did you deal with rejections?

JCS: I’ve had no rejection ever, just kidding. Rejection is just part of the game and it never ends. I think all of the earlier rejections you get are toughening you up for later on.  I think they’re really important. I submitted countless short stories to literary magazines, never did I have one published. I received so many rejection letters I can wallpaper this room with them. I still have a lot of them and the difference between a form rejection letter and one that was written by hand, “We like this but it wasn’t for us, keep sending us things” — that would just make your week.

There’s good rejections and there’s bad rejections. I would have those good rejections – I still have them in a box under my bed. But even now I’ve published three novels but I pitch things all the time – a magazine story or a newspaper story that just doesn’t work for some reason. Or I write a whole section of a novel before I realize these 100 pages just aren’t going anywhere.

You can add to that bad reviews or any level of rejection. There’s never going to be an artistic experience that’s totally positive, that everyone loves and adores. You just have to kind of accept it.

MJD: Let’s talk about your book, The Engagements, being made into a movie. Any involvement with it?

JCS: I’m really not involved. Occasionally they’ll ask me a question but for the most part, I have nothing to do with it which I’m actually pretty happy with. I’m primarily interested in writing fiction and I’m excited to be onto the next novel. I’m excited to see what they do with the book. I don’t know when it’s coming out yet but I think it’s the kind of thing where — being a lover of books and movies and seeing so many movie adaptations of books, some great and some not so great — I think you kind of have to give it over and just know it’s a totally different thing.

MJD: What’s your next book about?

JCS: An Irish Catholic family in which the matriarch has passed away and her six kids and her long-lost sister all come back together and drama ensues.