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  • Kathryn R. Biel

I Saw the Sign

This one's long, but I think worth it. Buckle up.

The signs-- they're everywhere. Even in working on this blog post. You might call it coincidence, but there are way too many coincidences that this is simply chance.

Let's start at the very beginning. It's a very good place to start. Or so says Julie Andrews.

November 2019. I'd just released Seize the Day. Book number three had to come next. Except I dreamed a dream. And that dream had nothing to do with my UnBRCAble Women Series.

It was of a man bumping into a woman, being very friendly and outgoing. She was paralyzed by anxiety. But he makes her sing, and that brings her out. But singing was the cause of her anxiety to begin with. It took a little finagling, but quickly I came up with the plot for Take a Chance on Me. In December 2019, I did my character sheets, basically plotting out (which I never do) a large part of the storyline so that on January 1, 2020, I could start writing. I was hoping to complete an 85K90 challenge, in which I would write about 1,000 words a day to finish this book in 3 months or less.

I usually write without plotting or outlining, so going in, I had more structurally to this book than I'd ever started with. Here's what I had:

  • Small-town musical theater based on the real-life Mac-Hadyn Theatre in Chatham, NY

  • Coffee shop in town named Dean's Beans

  • Heroine suffered from PTSD as a result of a viral video her ex leaked.

  • The heroine and her ex were involved in musical theater, so this became a trigger for her.

  • She was moving to this small town to work with a therapist for EMDR therapy

  • The hero, based on Jeremy Jordan, owned the theater with his family

  • The theater was undergoing heavy renovations and was on the brink of collapse

  • Little bits of The Mac-Hadyn Theater would be sprinkled in, including their coffee house performances and the musical director named Josh (though the musical director is now Dave Maglione, when I first started going, it was a guy named Josh, so that's what stuck in my head. For a long time, my brother and I referred to Dave as Josh 2.0. Sorry, Dave).

I had the whole season plotted out for The Edison Theater. I was writing away, hitting that 1,000 word a day goal. Then, in late January 2020, this news story broke: Basically, an actor cast in the revival of West Side Story had previously been fired from the New York City Ballet for releasing nude photographs of his ex, another dancer in the NYCB, without her consent. You know, like the plot of Take a Chance on Me. Weird, but whatever.

I get further into the book, writing about this theater on the verge of collapse due to the massive financial undertaking renovations have cost. They must have a season, or they will lose it all.

Enter COVID.

The theater that I'd lovingly dedicated this book to (which was now over 80,000 words), was facing similar ruin. There would be no 2020 season. The renovations they'd started, unbeknownst to me, were put on pause because there was no money. Hell, there was barely enough money to stage another show. I finish the book, at 92,000 words on March 30, 2020. In the back of my mind, I knew there'd be another book set in this theater, but I wasn't sure yet who the main characters of that book would be.

My audiobook narrator picks up on the fact that the managing director, Henderson, uses the word, 'mate' multiple times. She asks if he's Australian and voices him as such. It had never occurred to me that he was, but I wrote him that way. Why? I have no idea.

I put Take a Chance on Me up for pre-order with announcements that I'd donate 1/2 the pre-order royalties to The Mac-Hadyn Theatre. Their managing director, James Rodgers, contacts me, and we set up a Zoom call and subsequent Instagram Live. He's from New Zealand. Not unlike The Edison's managing director, Henderson Quade.

Okay, are these signs or what?

Yeah, even this clip is a sign. Here's an excerpt from Take a Chance on Me, when Gloria finds her voice again:

A soft voice floats out from one of the back rooms. Dammit. Ria not only left the lights on, but the radio too. Doesn't she realize electricity's not free?
I halt, frozen, when I realize the voice is not only the radio, but Ria too.
I'd bet money she's a mezzo soprano.
I stumble back for a minute, listening to her voice, signing along to The Bangles, "Eternal Flame." She's not just singing, but doing the harmonies as well. Ria is a singer.
A damn fine one.
I quietly walk into the room, mesmerized by her voice. With the last chorus of the song, I can no longer restrain myself and join in singing. She looks up, a bit startled, but continues as our voices entwine and twist together, supporting each other. As the last notes drift away, I can't control the large grin from spreading over my face.
We sound perfect together.

Eternal Flame. I just noticed that today when I went to grab this video.

A small sign: I sell my books at a small farmers' market in my hometown throughout the summer. The Waterford Harbor Farmers' Market had their own brand of coffee, Harbor Joe, created for them. It was made by a company called Dean's Beans.

Fast-forward into 2020 (because who wants to spend any more time in that year than we already did?): I get asked to participate in an anthology. I know I'm going to write a book that ties into others for potential sales. I know Henderson is my man. I settle on Tabitha from Once in a Lifetime as the female lead and set about throwing together this grumpy-sunshine story. I intend my novella, Vision of Love, to expand into a full novel once the anthology is done.

For this season, The Edison has been asked to do a run of The Greatest Showman as a pre-workshop for Broadway. I totally made this up. I don't think this is how it happens at all. But the songs and characters from Showman run deep through Vision of Love. Grayson, the lead from Take a Chance on Me, will be playing PT Barnum.

The novella version of this book, 22,000 words in length, goes to my editor around December 7, 2020. Just into 2021 (which isn't seeming that much better than 2020), I see this on YouTube.

Again, I had no way of knowing this when I wrote Vision of Love. Jeremy Jordan, my Grayson Keene, is responsible for bringing The Greatest Showman to the screen.

Still think this is all coincidental?

I knew that the 3rd book in the series would be about the ballerina who was named Leslie Ann Moose. I'd written her first lines several years back, and I knew The Edison was the stage to bring her to. I told this to James Rodgers during our pre-interview chat.

I even made a cover, even though I had no book. I've never done that before. Here's what it looked like:

But I needed her love interest (hence the uber-generic guy on this first version). Though I was only mid-way through Vision of Love, I knew I had to start laying the groundwork for Whatever It Takes. I knew Leslie would be reunited with her first love and that she'd broken his heart as a teenager. I just didn't know who that guy was. Yet.

The next morning, my best friend called to tell me about her dream.

Mind you, I'm the one with the crazy dreams. So I had to listen. She asked if I had any characters named Josh. I laughed. "Yes, the musical director at The Edison." I tell her why he's named Josh and that Josh is now the title for all musical directors, regardless of their actual name. She then went onto tell me about her dream in which she was hosting a book party for me because my book was a "crazy best seller and was huge." She was driving all over the place, looking for Josh Wines because the main character in the book was Josh. We laughed, because while she said she would not, in real life, plan a party like this for me, but we both know, in real life, she wouldn't let anyone else do it either.

I can tell you right where I was in my car when I knew that Josh was the main character in Whatever It Takes.

Don't worry, I'm wrapping it up. I promise.

I'm starting to think that the signs really are pointing at Whatever It Takes being my breakout book. Right? What else could all this mean? I mean, why else would all other roads be leading me here? It'll be my 18th release and 18 is my lucky number. Also, let's not forget the fact that anyone who knows me knows green is my signature color. And not just any green, but this weird shade of grass green that most people hate but I love because it is MY COLOR.

This is the final cover for Whatever It Takes.

Yup, it's my green, and even though I've been trying for 18 books, it happened to land here. And you can ask my cover designer how many times I've tried for green. The answer is approximately 17.

Last coincidences: there are two television shows on right now about 90s girl pop groups reuniting, which is the plot of Once in a Lifetime. They are "Girls5Eva" on Peacock and "Queens" on ABC (premiers in October). There's also a show on Fox called "The Big Leap" about a small theater taking desperate measures to succeed. The books in this series are front and center on TV!

You know, there are probably more signs and coincidences that I've missed in this blog (but let's face it, it's long enough as it is). If you're a believer that the Universe is sending me a message, perhaps you want to check out my Center Stage Love Story Series. Whatever It Takes releases on October 4, 2021.

And, just to be careful, fingers crossed and throw salt over your left shoulder. I need all the help I can get.

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