Writing My First Novel (or how I rediscovered my first love)

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You never forget your first.

The year was 1993. I had just graduated from college, and I was determined to be a hot, young literary sensation. I spent every evening writing my opus, a 65,000 word masterpiece about friendship and living in the AIDS crisis. When I finished it, I spent my evenings submitting it to every English-language publisher in the world. They all rejected it. I traveled the world. I lost that manuscript and wrote others. I became a bestselling author of lesbian fiction. I thought I had moved on.

Then I reconnected with an old friend. He said he had my manuscript, a photocopy that he’d kept shrink wrapped all these years. The manuscript that I’d thought was lost to time, that I thought meant nothing, was so important to this person because he had a several paragraph cameo.

He gave me back my first love.

I rewrote it with the gift of hindsight. I was a good writer then. I’m better now. I strengthened the plot and removed irrelevant, and occasionally offensive, details. The AIDS crisis, filled with death and few options, had morphed into an ongoing epidemic with expensive treatment and prevention available to those who could afford it. I told the same story with different eyes. In 1993, I wrote about my present. Now, I wrote about my past. Life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards.

Publishing Tested: Sex, love, and friendship in the shadow of HIV in 2016 was the best thing to ever happen to my 23-year-old self. Every time I sell a copy, every time someone tells me how much the book means to them, my 23-year-old self heals a deep wound I didn’t know was there. This book tells a story that I needed to tell.

So that’s the story of my first novel. It wasn’t the first I published, but it was the first I wrote. It was the first love that wouldn’t stay lost. I thought I had moved on, but no one ever truly moves on from their first love.

Elizabeth Andre is the bestselling, award-winning author of the Lesbian Light Reads series. Sign up for her email newsletter and get a free copy of Love’s Perfect Vintage, Lesbian Light Reads 1.

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