I wasn’t the first to suggest AJ Jackson’s “adventures” would make a good book. Nearly everyone she came in contact with said the same thing. One of the major appeals of her stories is that she’s a regular person in an unconventional job doing things most people would find uncomfortable, even frightening. Don’t we all wish we had that kind of courage?
When we first met, we both worked for the same attorney – AJ as a private investigator/process server, and I as a secretary. She came in several times a week to pick up and drop off documents, and while she was in the office, she shared her newest adventures. While I listened, I would shake my head and say things like, “you’re kidding” and “my goodness” and “that’s crazy” in response to her latest I-almost-got-bit story or I-almost-got-shot story or I-almost-got-[fill in the blank] story.
After one especially exciting storytelling session, I offered to write her book. She didn’t say “yes” right away. When she finally did tell me she wanted to give it a try, my stomach twisted in knots. Writing AJ’s memoir would be a challenge. First, this was not my memoir, these were not my memories. And second, I wrote fiction (specifically science fiction and fantasy) and not nonfiction. But I’d committed to doing it, so I pushed through my doubts and fears, and began a practical approach to writing my first memoir.
AJ recorded her stories on a tape recorder, then I listened to her voice and let it guide me as I retold her adventures. The next six years were one cycle after another of outlining, research, writing and rewriting – with AJ proofing – and then more writing and revising. I finished a first complete draft in 2006. A professional edit of the manuscript brought the memoir back into seemingly endless cycles of digging deeper, reworking, rearranging, and rewriting. After six more years, the manuscript was as ready as we could make it for publishing.
And that’s where This New Mountain is now, in the hands of the publisher and waiting for (what we hope is) just one more round of proofing before going off to the printer and then distribution.
Though I wasn’t the first person to say AJ’s adventures would make a good book, I’m pretty sure I was the first to offer to write that book. Without her example of a no-comfort-zone life and stepping out of my own comfort zone, I never would have had the chance to know the exceptional woman who is Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson or start on my own publishing adventure.
Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone – and found a treasure because of it?