The Day Everything Changed

I’ve blogged before about important anniversaries. June 15 is the annual marker of when I hit publish for the first time. May 1 is the day I became a full-time writer.

But I’ve never written out the full story before, and maybe some random Sunday in October is the time to do that, rather than actually on one of those anniversaries. Because today, the day after I’ve found a new wave of readers via a BookBub deal, on a book in a series I started because of that fateful May 1st conversation, I’m feeling incredibly grateful.

It was the first day of May. First day of a new fiscal year at the university I worked at, and the last day—apparently—of my job.

“You’re fired,” is never something anyone wants to hear, but when it happens eighteen hours after you hit the New York Times bestselling list for the first time, and there’s a piece of paper on the desk in front of you with a decent severance package offer on it…

I only had one question. Can I write if I accept this deal?

This blog post is the inside story of how I became a full-time writer way before I was truly ready!

But first we need to back up eighteen hours.

Actually, zoom back four months before that, to when Cora Seton and I started talking about organizing a Navy SEAL romance boxed set. Three months before that day, we had a group of authors assembled and we all started writing something special for the set. Two months before that day I broke down in tears because my job was not what had been advertised, not a good match for my strengths, and I hadn’t had any luck finding something else.

The stress from the day job made writing my first Navy SEAL novella (Fall Out) so hard. Anne Marsh and Kimberley Troutte carried me through it with emails of encouragement and the most supportive beta reading notes ever.

One week before that fateful opportunity, SEALs of Summer was released and sales soared.

To this day, I don’t know if Human Resources knew I was writing romance books as well. I didn’t tell them. Until that week, I only had four other books out, the first four stories in my Wardham series, and they’d found me some amazing readers, but I wasn’t anywhere close to hitting any bestseller lists.

Eighteen hours before I was packaged out of a job that had failed to ever really exist as it had been intended, getting rid of that line item for the new year’s budget, the SEALs of Summer collection hit #6 on the New York Times ebook best-seller list.

(The screenshot says May 11, but this list was distributed in .pdf form via email on the evening of April 30, pre-publication, based on sales from the previous week)

The New York Times Book Review screenshot, E-Book Best Sellers

The New York Times doesn’t maintain this list anymore, and looking at it feels like a portal into another time. So much has changed in the last six years.

But I will never forget going into work the next morning, knowing I had a meeting with HR on my calendar that probably wasn’t going to go well, and also knowing at the same time that this had just happened.

I floated into the office.

I still cried when I was handed the package offer. I loved my time at the university, and was bitterly disappointed my final role hadn’t turned out the way I wanted it to. The role I’d been in before that one, for five years, had been a dream job, but I’d outgrown it.

Little did I know, I would outgrow the next one in the most unexpected way.

That very same day, I dragged my best friend to Best Buy and bought my first MacBook Air. “I’m a full-time writer now,” I told her with false bravado. “I’m going to write a million words on this thing.”

Six and a half years later, I’m on my second MacBook Air. Halfway to my second million words. There have been other rocky points along the road, and readers who were around in 2015 and 2017 probably remember the times I went dark for a while.

But there have been so many supernova moments, too, and none of them would have been possible if I hadn’t floated into that office, knowing just what I was capable of as a writer.

Since May 1, 2014, Zoe York has written fifty-something books on two MacBooks. She hit the New York Times again the following year, with SEALs of Summer 2, and has hit the USA Today list thirteen times between her two pen names (she also writes erotic romance as Ainsley Booth).