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Happy 5th Birthday, Swallow!

It’s been 5 years since I published Swallow for the first time! Wow, does time fly! Originally, Swallow started out as an eBook because I thought it would be easier to do that kind of publishing than a hard copy. I was wrong, as I found out later, but it was still such a good experience. I remember the euphoria of the pop-up screen announcing my novel had been published officially. I don’t remember who I told first, it was probably some of my friends or my mom.

Swallow is my most read novel out of the four published, but that’s probably because it was the first published and most of my family and friends have read it. Plus, I was a lot better at marketing myself back then when I was so eager to get things going. It's harder to focus on marketing when I have a full time job and a demanding social life.

I don't really want to talk about what Swallow is about, but reminisce about how Swallow was created and why it was. I was taking a short fiction writing class at Weber State University when I first started having ideas for this story. I carried around a notebook with me at all times, mostly because it was part of an ongoing assignment for my class, but really, I just couldn't stop writing. I was constantly writing scenes and jotting down character notes and working on dialogue in every page that I could scribble on. There were several instances of those early notebooks when I had to pause where I was at in a scene to rapidly write down another inside of that scene.

Just thinking about the way I was continuously writing, every free second I had, really makes me miss that person. But I also know that I wasn't a happy person during those times. I used Swallow as a way to put my emotions out there into the world and help myself get through some really hard shit I was going through. It was a very therapeutic project for me to create, but I honestly don't want to write anything like Swallow again.

Swallow's notes and scenes being put in my notebooks turned into a short story for a writing contest at WSU. We were all encouraged to enter it by our fiction writing teacher and my turn to be work shopped in the class was coming up before the deadline of the contest. Which was great to get some good feedback on the story to rework it. Everyone in my fiction class.... pretty much hated my short story. There weren't very many good things to be said about it and I went into rewrites feeling really discouraged. But I still kept working on it and made it fit into the contest parameters.

I didn't expect anything when I entered except the satisfaction of writing a short story and putting it out there. I certainly wasn't expecting to place 3rd in the fiction category! It was immensely satisfying to be the only person in the class to place in the contest and for it to be with a story and no one really liked. I was invited to a dinner with other contest winners and won $25 and a certificate for my work.

I had participated in National Novel Writing Month before, but never finished a novel during it even though I had hit my word count by the end of the month the other times I'd participated. Going into NaNoWriMo in 2013, I knew I wanted to flesh out my short story into a full novel. Swallow was so clear in my mind that it was easy to plot out the entire novel, first scene to last, within a few pages of my newest notebook. I've never had a plot line so clear in my head before and I haven't ever since. I completed the first draft of Swallow in 15 days. Everything flowed out of my brain and onto the pages and computer screen with ease and little doubt or rewrites.

When I was getting ready to publish my novel, I had a very clear idea for a cover in my mind and was able to execute it flawlessly within 10 minutes. My cousin, Katelynn and her friend, met me in my old high school hallway for the 10 minute break they had between school ending and play practice. I had specific elements I wanted to set up around them and our photo shoot was the fastest I've ever done. I don't enjoy covers that are good looking but make me struggle to relate the characters on it or the pieces of the cover to the story I'm reading. It was important to me to have a detailed set up in the photo that readers could connect easily to the scenes in the novel and I feel like I captured that, and I hope readers feel the same.

Swallow, in a way, was the height of my writing passion. It was a great story as a debut novel because it was full of raw emotion, characters that felt real to me, and a message I wanted people to find. The publishing process was easy even though it was completely new to me.

I've been struggling with my writing the past two years and it's been nice to reminisce about my first novel and the process I went through for it. If you haven't read Swallow, it's 30% off for paperback on Lulu and $0.99 in eBook form at most eReader sites!

-Jayna Ostler

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