Melissa Pimentel is the author of the newly published LOVE BY THE BOOK, which details her foray into following a different dating guide for a month in London and blogging about her experience. This “science experiment” eventually led to Melissa landing a publishing deal with Penguin Books! Melissa shares her whirlwind journey to publication with us below.
- First there was the idea. It was 2009, and I was single, living in London, and finding that, when it came to men, things seemed to be getting lost in translation. Frustrated by my lack of success on the dating front (and always in search of a funny story), I decided to turn my life over to the experts: every month, I’d follow a different dating guide and record the results.
- Then there was the blog. If I was going to do something as weird and potentially ripe with comic potential as follow dating guides like THE RULES, I figured I should at least share my experiences with the public (if only so they didn’t have to follow THE RULES themselves). I’d write up a summary of the book I’d be following each month and would then document each date I went on (and how the methods I used went down with my “test subjects”). At the end of the month, I’d write a little synopsis of the success rate of each book (my “findings”) and what I’d learned from it.
- Then there was the dating. Some of the advice was crazy – one advocated that a woman never speak too loud or express an opinion, another prescribed a diet consisting entirely of canned pineapple and cottage cheese. Some of it was useful (don’t get too attached too soon), some of it effective (play hard to get), some of it true (the person you’re meant to be with is the one who likes you as you are). I highlighted and re-read and made notes.
- Then there was the internet. I needed test subjects – as many as I could get my hands on (so to speak), so I signed up to a couple of dating sites. I’d tried going down the set up route but – unsurprisingly – most people didn’t want to volunteer their friends to unwittingly take part in a science project.
- Then there were the dates. Lots and lots of dates. A few of them were terrible – a date with a self-obsessed actor springs to mind. Some were forgettable – dull evenings spent eeking out the conversation over the requisite two drinks before politely slipping away. One or two were amazing – nights spent drinking and talking and laughing until the sun came up. All of them were useful for the experiment and, later, for the novel.
- Then I fell in love. Out of the blue, with one of my test subjects. The science experiment came to an end and I (reluctantly) let the blog fall dormant.
- Then came the editor. A friend of a friend – who also happened to be an editor at Penguin – had been following the blog and got in touch with me after I’d finished the experiment. Had I ever considered turning it into a novel? Err… I said. No. Novels are long and difficult and written by actual writers. Just try, she said.
- Then came the hard part. I wasn’t wrong: writing a novel was long and difficult. I procrastinated for vast stretches of time. I gave up. I started again. I stayed late after work to write, and cancelled weekend plans. I drove myself (and probably everyone around me) crazy. But eventually, much to my astonishment, I’d written half of a novel, and I didn’t completely hate it. I thought bits of it were actually kind of good.
- Then came the exciting part. Penguin UK agreed to buy my novel! I wrote the second half in three months, which involved more of the hard part, only this time under a deadline – eek! But one amazing Sunday, I wrote my last line. I sat back, turned to my partner and said, Let’s go to the pub. (This is the only sensible response to finishing a novel.)
- Then came the edits. Oh man, so hard. The hardest. But also the best, because I could see my novel getting better in the hands of the editors, and I could feel myself getting better thanks to them. But still. Hard.
- Then came publication! Nothing could prepare me for the twin senses of utter elation and complete, abject terror that comes with releasing your little baby bird into the air and seeing if it will fly. It’s pretty scary, I’m not going to lie.
- Now comes the rest! I’m now writing a new novel, this one not based on any weird past behavior of mine (well, not entirely at least). It’s still hard, but I’m so glad I ended up on the path I started on six years ago, when I thought to myself, “What would happen if…”
About Melissa Pimentel
Melissa Pimentel grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and, therefore, much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on PBS. At twenty-two, she made the move to London to do an MA in Modern Literature at University College London. She has lived there happily for ten years, though she still adamantly refuses to eat a scotch egg. Before meeting her fiancé, she spent much of her time trawling the London dating scene for clean, non-sociopathic sexual partners and blogging about it, which became the inspiration for her first novel. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing. Find Melissa on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.