October 22, 2011 at 1:54 am | Category: blog
Okay, if you’re thinking “Debbie Does Dallas,” you’re on the wrong blog. This is a whole different kind of story.
When my daughter was a teenager, she was madly in love with the Backstreet Boys (especially Howie). I could relate, since I felt the same about the Beatles when I was growing up (especially our Pauly). My husband and I never made it to a Beatle concert, so we made every effort to take Jessica, and sometimes her friends, to see BSB in concert. My son, almost four years younger than she is, talks as if he really suffered when we insisted he come along, but we all had a great time.
We did BSB tours of Lexington, KY and Orlando, FL. We brought Mother’s Day flowers to Howie’s mom and met his dad – he passed us on the highway later and honked and waved. The guys in BSB were great, and my husband and I became almost as big fans as Jessica was.
She also liked ‘N Sync, especially Justin Timberlake, and I accompanied her to one of their concerts. On the other end of the spectrum were two friends of hers (whose mothers were friends of mine), who were as crazy about ‘N Sync as Jessica was about BSB.
Jessica and her best friend Brittany were also into fan fiction, especially BSB fan fiction. They knew I was interested in writing, and showed me the sites online. Believe me, those girls (and sometimes boys) were NOT writing G-rated stories!
I was intrigued by the idea and started writing a fan fiction starring Jessica and Brittany and the Backstreet Boys. By the time I finished, it was a novella. I had it printed and bound and gave it to her as part of her 16th birthday present.
And then I sent one of the bound copies to my garden editor as a joke. She received the package at 10:30 in the morning. I got a phone call within the hour.
“I just came out of a meeting where we were told to look for authors who could write with a teenage voice.” She paused. “How would you like to write a book about ‘N Sync?”
I was speechless. (No, really!) “You did see my story was about the Backstreet Boys, right?”
I could picture her nodding vigorously. “Yes, but we already have a book about them. We need a book about ‘N Sync. Do you want to write it?”
“I don’t know a whole lot about them. Can my daughter help?”
And so it began. ‘N Sync was so popular at that time, they were doing interviews by conference calls open only to select journalists. (New York Times, Rolling Stone, that sort of thing.) Even with a big New York publisher behind me, I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to talk to them one on one. So what next?
What came next was a major learning experience. I was advised that previously published interviews can be quoted, with source references, as long as the quote was under a specified number of words. To be safe, we cut that word count by a third. I wasn’t happy about it, though – I wanted our book to be at least somewhat original. Only one drawback – we had less than two months to write it.
It was 1999, but Jessica and Brittany already knew their way around the internet. They set up email loops, contacting fans on all the ‘N Sync fan sites they could find. We put together a questionnaire for any fans who were interested in participating, asking them about their close encounters with the band, their ‘N Sync tattoos and all kinds of random things. We got a huge response, but we wanted more.
Next we spread the word at the high school that all serious ‘N Sync fans were invited for a pizza party at our house. They arrived loaded with ‘N Sync magazines, some imports, some really obscure, and let us pick their brains. We tossed out ideas for quizzes for the book, and tried to come up with questions that hadn’t been used in other books or fan magazines.
The two friends I mentioned earlier turned out to be a great source of information. These fans were hard core (they’re mentioned in the acknowledgements) and they put us on the right track. We were ready to go.
The publisher had its own photo library, and they Fedexed a couple hundred pictures. At that stage no one knew which they were going to end up using, so we had to write captions for them all. Jessica turned out to be more of an ‘N Sync fan than I realized – she could look at a picture and tell at a glance which concert venue it had been shot at. The task of writing captions went to her. It was a lot of work, and my editor agreed to put Jessica on the cover as a co-author. My publisher had just been purchased by Barnes & Noble, and for a brief time Jessica, at age 16, was their youngest author.
I immersed myself in everything ‘N Sync. I read every book, every article, every blog and web interview I could find relating to the band. Finally, right on deadline, we were ready to go.
Somewhere during that process, I had to select a pen name. My real name was on my garden books; this book was COMPLETELY different. I wanted a fun, funky name with a young feel to it. After many, many false starts, I settled on Lexi Martin – using my husband’s first name as my pen-surname. (You may notice I did that trick again when I started to write fiction…)
Long story short, the book came out and it was a success. I was paid a flat fee (and paid Jessica an agreed percentage of my check). It was less than I made from the garden books, but we had so much fun pulling it all together, I didn’t even care.
The highlight for the girls (Jessica, Brittany, and the two friends who were hard-core ‘N Sync fans) was when we were all invited to be on a local TV morning news show. Johnny Bench was in the green room with us prior to the show, and one of the girls’ fathers poked his head in. “Johnny Bench!” The dad was practically speechless. “You don’t understand–this is Johnny Bench!” (He was very nice to us, in spite of the fact none of the girls had ever heard of him.)
We got our pictures in the paper. The high school library and the local library featured copies of the book – and the girls and I all autographed the copies in the school library.
Since I was paid in advance, I never saw the sales figures. A friend in the marketing department told me the book was published in 10,000 copy print runs, and reprinted five times. That sounds like a lot, and I have no idea if it’s true.
The book came out in 2000. Jessica is all grown up now, and has her own blog: Don’t Call Me Jessie. Justin Timberlake is more famous than ever, but most people have forgotten the names of the rest of the band. (Not me!) The Backstreet Boys are back (sort of) and Jessica just bought Howie’s new release.
And here’s a surprise: ‘N Sync by Lexi Martin and Jessica Davis is STILL IN PRINT. You can buy it at Barnes & Noble for $8.98.
Hmmm. Maybe they really did print 50,000 copies…