Audrey Princeton’s experiences as a children's party princess for hire in the new novel Party Girl is the sum total of eight New York women’s stories, but the lion’s share of the character's emotional journey and growth is ripped from the pages of author Erin Shaw's real life.
Shaw started doing fairy tale party princess gigs when she moved from California to New York in the autumn of 2008. Quickly, in the span of a few months, she went from primary princess to business owner, with seven other party princesses on the payroll.
The weird and funny experiences that she and the women she worked with shared formed the basis for Party Girl, which Shaw spent two years writing, editing, and self-publishing.
Here are five lessons—both academic and emotional—that Shaw learned along the way.
1. There's no shame in self-publishing. “I published Party Girl [using] CreateSpace, which is Amazon’s self-publishing outlet. I thought about approaching different indie publishing firms in New York, but honestly I was kind of afraid to send it out to people because I knew it was a really good idea and I’d never seen another book on the market like it.”
2. Going through a break-up, or just having a hard time? Use it on the page. “When I started the first draft I was three months out from a major break-up [and] when I first started writing the anger I felt towards my ex for breaking my heart made its way into the story. As the months went along, I started to feel more whole and hopeful [so] I went through and pulled a lot of that anger out. It was interesting how Audrey held my hand during this time. Writing about Audrey was a process that I used to heal and put myself back together.”
3. Forget focus groups. Just send your manuscript around to your friends. “As I was working on the original draft I sent pages to a friend of mine who is a straight guy who reads sci-fi because I knew if he liked it then I was on the right track. I knew that I could speak to women and gay men, but he was the one I wanted to crack.”
4. A good editor will break your heart a little. “When I got the initial email after [my editor's] first read I wanted to cry, but she explained that there were issues that needed to be tackled and if her notes and criticisms felt harsh that was a normal and necessary part of the editing process.
5. And finally… Let it fly. “By the end of the writing and editing process I was so sick of my characters that I wanted them to get hit by a subway train, so I needed to get them out there and self-publishing allowed me to do that. I am terrified to read the book again because I am sure I will find some mistakes. I talked to [my editor] about this and she reassured me that even New York Times bestsellers have a missing S because it is impossible to write something that is perfect and because the story is there that is what people will enjoy, so I had to just let it fly.”