With honesty and humor, Andria Gaskins’ debut novel captures the joys and frustrations of getting older, starting over and falling in love for the second time. A Second Helping is a steamy love story about Michelle Taylor, a specialty food store owner and single mom who is jumping back into dating. Michelle’s sumptuous cooking plays a supporting role throughout the novel, and her recipes are included in the back of the book.
Andria on choosing SPARK Publications
“I choose custom publishing because I wanted to maintain full control over the direction of my story. I had a vision for what I wanted to say, and I didn’t want to compromise that. Custom publishing allows me to maintain all the rights to my story and to work directly with the extremely talented people at SPARK Publications during the layout and production of my book.”
What inspired you to write this book?
About three years ago, my husband published a short story with a traditional publisher, and I thought if he could publish a story, then so could I. He encouraged me to enter a writing contest, and I found a romance short story contest. I’d never read a romance novel, but I entered the contest with a 5,000 word story. I didn’t win the contest, but I liked the idea of writing about love. After a little research I realized that I didn’t connect with a lot of the stories out there. So I decided to write a story that I could relate to, a story about someone like me—an educated mature black woman who wanted a happily ever after without strings attached.
What is your primary goal for the book?
I want my book to be a bestseller. I think A Second Helping will resonate with a broad audience of readers looking for a positive and uplifting story that celebrates love and commitment. Also, I want to adapt the book into a screenplay and pitch it to DeVon Franklin, vice president of production for Columbia Pictures, and Tracey Edmonds, president of Our Stories Films. The nature of A Second Helping falls in line with the types of movies these Hollywood executives produce. It is a family-oriented story with tremendous heart and can easily incorporate a faith element.
What surprises did you encounter on the road to writing and publishing the book?
I was surprised by how someone’s extremely negative critique of my story actually made it better. I’d had several people read my third draft, and they gave me some constructive, quality feedback. But one person had a visceral response to my story and trashed it. She didn’t like my main character, she didn’t understand the food references, and she hated my previous title. After the initial shock and disappointment wore off, I went back to my readers with specific questions and asked them about improving the story. They stood by their initial reviews but were able to guide me in certain directions they thought the story should go that I hadn’t thought of before. I also found an editor who helped me share more of myself in order to develop a better story. And I came up with a new title that I actually liked better.
As far as publishing the book goes, I was surprised by how long the process actually was. I underestimated the amount of time that went into everything from coming up with a cover concept to the actual photo shoot for the cover to all the rewrites and revisions that went into making the story better. I wanted my book published now but had to accept that it wouldn’t be ready until later.
Do you have any advice for other authorpreneurs?
Stay true to your vision. Only you can tell your story. Surround yourself with people who support your vision. And don’t try to do it all yourself. There are resources out there that can help you along the way regardless of your budget.
How is your book part of your broader professional goals?
Ultimately, I’d like to write a series of books that take place in North Carolina about women who, despite all the mess that life throws at them, they never give up on themselves or love. Since cooking is one of my loves, I will always have a food element to connect the characters in my stories. My goal is to also adapt each book into a screenplay and pitch them for the big screen or television.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the companion cookbook to A Second Helping. I also just started writing the first draft of my second novel, which I plan to finish by February 14, 2016.