Talk about a career change! We are so happy that Tracey Livesay left a life of law to come over to the XOXO After Dark side. Read on for her incredible story!
I loved working as a criminal defense attorney. Modesty aside, I was quite good at it. Not in a Matlock way–I didn’t win every case–but in making sure my client’s constitutional rights were protected. I always made sure my clients had everything they needed to make an informed decision, whether that included going to trial or taking the plea deal offered by the Commonwealth’s Attorney. I kept up with new developments in the law, argued cases in front of judges and juries and made sure the Commonwealth proved their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. It was an exciting field of work. One I thought I’d be in for many years to come.
In 2003, the trajectory of my life changed when I gave birth to my eldest son. With no family nearby and faced with the notion that the majority of my salary would go to daycare, my husband and I decided that I’d temporarily leave my job to stay home and raise our son. It was in those early days of feeling tired, cranky, out of my element and completely overwhelmed that I turned to romance novels. During the times when my son would sleep, I’d escape into a book and read about two people falling in love. The more I read, the more it rekindled my dream of writing my own. And not the ones I wrote for my friends in college. A real one. For publication.
After my children started school and with the full support of my incredible husband, I got down to business. Most people would think 20 years of reading these books would be all the experience necessary to write and publish one. They’d be wrong. Authors make it look easy, but writing a well-crafted and believable story is difficult, even more so when the ending is a given. I decided on a methodical approach, as if writing this book were a complex case I’d just been assigned. My strategy for success? I took online classes on story structure, plot and characterization, figured out my possible position in the marketplace and deconstructed best-selling novels in my same sub-genre to determine their common components.
Once the book was written, publication wasn’t guaranteed. Again, I tapped into my legal training and researched the industry. Which publisher best fit my voice and style? To agent or not to agent? What’s the best way to approach an agent: query letter, contest or conference? Were there any support organizations? Could I make a living in this field? Those skills of research, preparation and how to present myself in person and on paper helped me immensely. I sold the first book I wrote for publication.
Please don’t take this to mean I chose the easiest path. I did not. There are days when I question how I can possibly stand out in a field where there are already over 13 million books available? How can I write at least three good books in a year, promote myself authentically on multiple social media platforms, travel for book signings, panel appearances, conferences and conventions, all while trying not to take negative criticism of my art personally and still give quality time to my husband and my children?
On those days, I long to be back in a courtroom arguing a motion to suppress evidence based on an officer’s lack of probable cause to search a defendant’s vehicle. Or writing a brief arguing that officers should read defendants their rights in traffic stops when the charge carries the possibility of jail time. I wonder if I’d have managed to leave my work at the office. And where I’d be on my path to becoming a judge.
Those days are few and far between. As much as I loved being a criminal defense attorney, I love being a romance writer more. The line in my bio is absolutely true: I do find crafting believable happily ever afters more challenging than protecting our constitutional rights. I know I’ve made the right decision to follow my heart instead of my law degree.