Humber grad Shari Lapena's latest novel and first thriller, The Couple Next Door, is due out this summer. The book has been sold in 28 territories and has received rave reviews. Shari told us a little bit about this overnight success... after sixteen years.
I’d always known I wanted to write novels, but I did a lot of other things first. Finally, I got serious about it.
I’d heard about the Humber School for Writers, specifically the correspondence program. I loved the idea of being paired with an established writer who would read and critique the novel I was working on. As a new writer, you live in such a vacuum.
At Humber, I was matched up with David Adams Richards as my mentor. This was intimidating because I’d admired him for about twenty years, but it was also a thrill. He was very encouraging. He worked with me on the manuscript of my first novel, Things Go Flying, and encouraged me to seek publication. It was published by Brindle & Glass in 2008. I was very fortunate to have Lynn Coady as my editor. She is a very talented, committed editor, as well as a great writer. She also has a wonderful gift for comic writing, so it was a good fit to have her edit that particular book. I learned a lot from her, especially about structure. My second book, Happiness Economics, was published by the same publisher three years later, and was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.
But then I wanted a change. I’d always wanted to write a thriller, and I actually had a couple of agents tell me I should write a thriller, and I said, “I’d love to, but I don’t know how.” I was intimidated by the plotting. But one day I started tossing around some ideas for a thriller and I came up with something that really grabbed me, the premise for The Couple Next Door. I wrote it in six months.
I sent it to the agent I wanted one night and she got back to me the next morning. Within days there was a pre-empt in North America, and then it sold in another twenty-odd territories over the next few weeks. The response was overwhelming.
It might look like overnight success. But it took sixteen years of writing to learn the skills and craft I needed to write that book. My writing journey started at Humber, but now, who knows where it will end?