How Taylor Swift Influenced My Novel

It was seven years ago when I first conceived the idea for my novel Not Famous. I’d had a rough idea of the plot and the main characters… but almost all other details got fleshed out during the writing process. Some nights I’d lay awake in bed pondering plot points and dialogue. One key aspect of the story was that the main character (named Nick after Nick Hornby) would find himself pursuing a young singer/songwriter playing acoustic gigs in coffeehouses and bars and such.  Naturally, I spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of songs she would play… either her own songs or cover songs. At this point in the planning stage, I wasn’t ready to discuss ideas or seek advice from others about what artists were similar to who I was envisioning to be Nick’s love interest. I spent a lot of time on Google searching for answers my questions. I can’t exactly remember what query I put in, but something directed to me to a YouTube video of an acoustic performance by Taylor Swift. That’s it! I thought. She’s the ticket.

I knew of Taylor Swift, of course (I have two sisters, after all)  but I’d never actually listened to her music before. I’d actually kind of avoided it. At the time of this discovery I was a bit more open-minded state (in other words, desperate for inspiration), so when I listened to the song I found myself so impressed that I wanted to hear more, and eventually, some aspects of the Alli Conwell character was inspired by Taylor Swift—and in the novel she is a fan.

Now, would I consider myself a Taylor Swift fan? Well… I’m not going with my sisters to any concerts anytime soon, but I do enjoy some of her songs, and I am truly grateful for discovering her music during my writing process because it helped me get in the head of the Alli Conwell character.

If you’re reading this you might be asking “What was the Taylor Swift song you heard?” Well, I’d like to tell you, but the song itself influenced the creation of a character and a plot point in the novel, so if you really want to know you’ll have to read it. Several Taylor songs get mentioned in the book, but the song that so profoundly changed the course of the novel is the last one featured, and happens in a pivotal scene.

So, if you’re a book blogger or reviewer, and you’re a Swiftie, I’d encourage you to fill out this form and request a review copy for when they are available.

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Interested in a Review Copy of My Novel?

Are you a book blogger, Amazon reviewer, or just an avid reader who has a large audience? Well, I’m looking to recruit people interested in receiving a free Advance Review Copy (ARC) of my forthcoming novel, Not Famous, and reviewing it on their book blog, Amazon, Facebook page, etc.. I want honest reviews from people who feel the book is something they’d like to read. If you’re a science-fiction or a crime novel fan, my novel isn’t for you. If you like contemporary fiction in the realm of coming of age and romantic comedy, you may want to give it a shot.

Electronic ARCs should be ready November 2018 and the book launch is planned for January 15, 2019. This will give reviewers two months to read the book and have reviews ready for the launch.

So, read the book description below, and if you’re interested in giving it a shot and are willing to review it on your site and/or Amazon please click here and fill out the form.


For fans of Nick Hornby and Mike Gayle, Not Famous is a heartwarming and humorous tale of love, music, and the unexpected.

Nick Forrester thought he would spend the rest of his life with his girlfriend, Lauren—until he proposed. Instead of engaged, he ends up humiliated and alone. Then he meets Alli Conwell, a socially awkward nineteen-year-old barista, and Nick has hope again. Alli is trying to make a name for herself as a singer/songwriter and might just be the next Taylor Swift. She’s ambitious, talented, and determined to succeed on her own terms.

But all is not what it seems. Is she “the one” or just “another one” who will break his heart? Alli has secrets about her life before moving to the city, and her innocence has left her unprepared for the temptations of Boston’s indie music scene. As their relationship blossoms, so do the tensions created by the past she’s trying to hide and the heartbreak he’s trying to forget. Is he too damaged to trust her? Is she hiding too much to let him?

Writing The Headline for My Novel’s Blurb

[NOTE: Updated to reflect further revisions.]

So, while I was focusing on trying to figure out the book description for Not Famous, I’d forgotten something… the headline!  It seems like most books now have a headline above the description and it had completely slipped my mind.

So, I did some research. I looked up sample headlines from books and authors within my genre and sought to figure out how to approach mine.

I looked at the Amazon listings for High Fidelity and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby as a starting point.

Here’s the headline for High Fidelity:

From the bestselling author of Funny Girl, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down, a wise and hilarious novel about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll.

Here’s the headline for Juliet, Naked:

From the beloved New York Times– bestselling author, a quintessential Nick Hornby tale of music, superfandom, and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love.

At least 50 percent of these blurbs are devoted to pumping the author… because, obviously, Nick Hornby is an established, bestselling author.  I’m neither. So, when we break these down to the actual novel pitch, here’s what we get “a wise and hilarious novel about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll” and “tale of music, superfandom, and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love.”

I also checked out headlines on books by Jon Rance, Mike Gayle, Jonathan Tropper, and others in the genre. Here’s the headline on About Us by Jon Rance:

It’s about life. It’s about love. It’s about us.

When I compared these and other, similar headlines, I noticed that they basically adhere to the same formula. They pick three primary themes to sell the story to the reader. High Fidelity is about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll. The headline for Juliet, Naked gives us two simply stated themes (music and superfandom) and a third theme that is a bit more complex to explain (the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love) though you could probably boil it down to “communication.”

The headline for About Us  presents us with the themes life, love, and us. What makes this one particularly clever is that the that it simultaneously incorporates the title of the novel, and informs the reader this is a story will be relatable to them. It’s short and sweet and works very well.

Here’s what I came up with after my research:

A heartwarming and humorous tale of love, music, and the unexpected.

After showing this to my first beta reader I was advised to put more of a hook in the headline, something that draws upon the tension that is central to the novel’s plot. She suggested: Is he too damaged to love her? Is she hiding too much to let him? This was perfect, so I tacked that on to the front of the headline, and adjusted it to the following:

Is he too damaged to love her? Is she hiding too much to let him? Not Famous is a heartwarming and humorous tale of love, music, and the unexpected.

This really works for me. The relationship between the two main characters is the primary story, which is clear from this headline. The main themes are presented, and it establishes that the story has emotion, humor, and a twist. After some more tweaks of the headline and the previous verston of the blurb, here’s what I came up with:

For fans of Nick Hornby and Mike Gayle, Not Famous is a heartwarming and humorous tale of love, music, and the unexpected.

Nick Forrester thought he would spend the rest of his life with his girlfriend, Lauren—until he proposed. Instead of engaged, he ends up humiliated and alone. Then he meets Alli Conwell, a socially awkward nineteen-year-old barista, and Nick has hope again. Alli is trying to make a name for herself on the local music scene and might just be the next Taylor Swift. She’s ambitious, talented, and determined to succeed on her own terms.

But all is not what it seems. Is she “the one” or just “another one” who will break his heart? Alli has secrets about her life before moving to the city, and her innocence has left her unprepared for the temptations of Boston’s indie music scene. As their relationship blossoms, so do the tensions created by the past she’s trying to hide and the heartbreak he’s trying to forget. Is she hiding too much to let him? Is he too damaged to trust her?

So, what do you think? Am I on the right track?

The Latest Rewrite of the Blurb for “Not Famous”

While I’ve been busy with my latest round of edits, I would like to share the latest version of the blurb/book description for Not Famous. This version is the result of input from Jon Rance, who was kind of enough to read the previous version and make some suggestions.

Nick Forrester thought he would spend the rest of his life with his girlfriend, Lauren—until he proposed. Instead of engaged, he ends up humiliated and alone. Then he meets Alli Conwell, a socially awkward nineteen-year-old barista, and Nick has hope again. Alli is trying to make a name for herself on the local music scene and might just be the next Taylor Swift. She’s ambitious, talented, and determined to succeed on her own terms. But all is not what it seems. Nick learns that Alli has secrets of her own about her life before moving to the city. As their relationship blossoms so do the tensions created by the past she’s trying to hide and the heartbreak he’s trying to forget. Is Alli “the one” or just “another one” who will break his heart?

For fans of Nick Hornby and Mike Gayle, Not Famous is a full-of-heart romantic comedy about finding true love against all the odds.

What do you all think?

Editing… Tweaking… And Romantic Comedies…

So, a lot has happened recently. Just to recap, I now have had feedback from three people about Not Famous, and I’m currently in the process of editing and tweaking the manuscript to incorporate their suggestions. It’s been a slow process, mostly because I’ve been allowing myself extra time between editing sessions to help see it from fresh eyes each time.

There’s also something else. I shared my book description with author Jon Rance to see what he thought. He sent back some suggestions, which were great. (I’ll reveal the next iteration of the book description later, btw.)  The last line which he wrote did get me thinking though…

Not Famous is a funny and full of heart romantic comedy about finding true love against all the odds.

“Romantic comedy” is not a genre I had been thinking about because I didn’t really think of my novel as a comedy. I see it as a serious story with some humor in it. Anyway, I decided to look into this “romantic comedy” genre a bit more. So, I went to Wikipedia, where it defined romantic comedy as “a genre with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles.”

The basic plot of a romantic comedy is that two characters meet, part ways due to an argument or other obstacle, then ultimately realize their love for one another and reunite. Sometimes the two leads meet and become involved initially, then must confront challenges to their union. Sometimes they are hesitant to become romantically involved because they believe that they do not like each other, because one of them already has a partner, or because of social pressures. However, the screenwriters leave clues that suggest that the characters are, in fact, attracted to each other and that they would be a good love match. The protagonists often separate or seek time apart to sort out their feelings or deal with the external obstacles to their being together, only to later come back together.

Now, this doesn’t describe the plot of my novel by far, but it definitely still fits the basic tone and some key elements. I’ve been hung up on the word comedy a bit too much, I think. Further down I read a subsection discussing more serious-toned romantic comedies, something called a “meet cute” situation, and I’m starting to think this is actually the genre the book belongs in.

Of course, while I’ve written several lines of dialogue and situations meant to be humorous, I do think that to earn its rightful place in the “romantic comedy”  genre it might need to amp up the humor a bit. Of course, it might more accurately be considered a “romantic comedy-drama” (yeah, that’s a thing, see the entry for Silver Linings Playbook) but I think by putting in a touch more humor might make me comfortable with labeling Not Famous a romantic comedy-drama.

So, yeah… Jon Rance, you were even more helpful than you realized!

Beta-Reader Update #6

When Jon Rance reviewed a few sample chapters of Not Famous for me a while back he told me, “One of the first things I was told by my publishers is that most of your readers are women. You need to appeal to women as well as men.”

So, I decided to find another female beta-reader. It took a while to find one, but I did, and she is currently reading the manuscript and has already given me some great feedback.

After reading the prologue and first chapter she said she was “intrigued,” which I considered a great sign.

After reading more, she told me, “You are really spot on with dialogue. It reads as people speak. So hard but important.” She also commended my descriptions of the characters.

She did recommend cutting/changing an interior monologue by the main character she felt disrupted the flow and recommended using that time to have the main character focus more on his waiting for his love interest to show up at Starbucks where she works.

The prologue of the novel goes into the main character Nick’s failed marriage proposal to his longtime girlfriend, but, my new beta-reader told me “I know that he isn’t happy with the outcome of his proposal, but I haven’t gotten a sense of the depth of that disappointment. Even if he doesn’t know it yet, we should have an idea. I know you have completed it, but I want more from him.” I will have to address that.

One thing I’m glad I haven’t heard is any complaints that the main character wasn’t likeable enough. Both my first beta-reader and Jon Rance felt that was something I needed to work on, so much of the changes in this current draft addressed his unlikeability. I am hoping this means I was successful in achieving that.

Beta-Reader Update #5

So, my second beta-reader has given me some quick, general feedback. The most significant one being that I need to axe some adverbs. It appears that I’ve overused several and need to cut a bunch out.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Adverbs like clearly, obviously, actually were frequent and numerous, and I’ve cut out probably 90 percent of them. It’s crazy to use the Find function in Microsoft Word and see just how many instances of these offending words are.

This is what’s great about beta-readers… They catch things you don’t see, and different readers find different things. Keep in mind I still haven’t given my manuscript to the person who will actually be editing.