I started thinking about writing a book shortly after my sister was murdered and it became apparent that her murderer was not going to be arrested and no one would be charged with the crime anytime soon. However, life got in the way. I was young, newly married, and starting a career. That would have been plenty to keep me busy but my family needed my help in the aftermath of the murder. All of our physical safety was the initial concern, followed by gaining custody of Sheryl’s three children. I used all my spare time investigating Sheryl’s death. This would ultimately help the custody case and might aid in an arrest and charges being brought against Greg.
Before I knew it I had a child of my own which meant that extra time was even more sparse. Having experienced the unexpectedness of death, I struggled to balance my career with my desire to be a good mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.
Thoughts of my book were fleeting.
By the time I had my second child, I didn’t even think about writing anymore as the time, and now the energy to do so, was nonexistent. That went hand in hand with the thought that Greg would never be arrested for her murder. I had resigned myself to be ok with knowing that while Greg may not be held accountable on earth, judgment day would ultimately come for him.
When the State’s Attorney contacted my sister back in 2015 wanting DNA from Sheryl’s boys I actually thought about a book again. This 25 year plus journey to justice would certainly be worth writing about. I took notes during the trial knowing I would look back on them later. I got serious about writing after the conviction but I had no idea what was involved in writing a book and I had no idea whether I was actually capable of it. So, I did what I was taught to do – research, read, and learn. I literally started googling, “how to write a book”. In doing that I came across a writing conference in Chicago. I signed up, eager to soak up every tidbit of information I could.
I decided for the heck of it to “pitch” my book to a literary agent at the conference. Knowing very little, and having written nothing more than the “pitch”, I had the agent in tears and collected her card at the end of my ten minutes. I learned the day of the conference that if an agent gave you a card at the end of your pitch they were interested in your book and were requesting your proposal for special consideration. I was so shocked to get a card. She asked how many chapters I could give her to look at, I stumbled before I quietly admitted I hadn’t even written one chapter. She was surprised. I could have sold her on the story with nothing in writing. I told her the book had been being written in my head for years. I just had never written it on paper. She was disappointed but told me to contact her if I ever put anything on paper.
After that I had renewed energy – I had a story others were interested in hearing if I could tell it. I left that conference, did more research, and bought an hour of time with a literary consultant. I learned a lot in talking to her but more than anything she made me realize how very little I knew about actually getting a book published and sold, let alone written. I was discouraged but I didn’t give up. She recommended someone who might work with me and teach me how to write. I was willing to work hard and learn. I read recommended books on writing and I wrote an essay for review. It was hard to do and not very good. More discouragement set in.
I called Rod Englert, an expert in Sheryl’s case who had become a friend. He had written a book and was supportive of me writing one. I asked him how he did it because I was struggling. He told me he used a “ghostwriter”. That was a new term to me. But he told me the ghostwriter and he worked together to write his book. The ghostwriter interviews you and talks to you and you pass drafts back and forth. He said the method worked well for him.
Rod gave me the name of a ghostwriter he had interviewed but did not use. I reached out to him. He was interested in ghostwriting with me. More encouragement. But still, even if I wrote something how would I find a publisher? I decided I needed an agent. I called Rod again. He told me who his agent was and that he would reach out to him and see if he would talk to me. Rod did but I didn’t hear anything. I wrote to the agent directly with an introduction and short “pitch”. The agent called me. He was willing to provide me some help. I told him I really needed a ghostwriter as I couldn’t see myself being able to write the book on my own. A year and a half had passed already since the conviction. I had gone back to the same writing conference and “pitched” the story again. This time I didn’t get a card.This time I was told it was not my story to tell. I was so discouraged.
Rod’s agent gave me a list of ghostwriters – 4 women and 1 man. I looked at the list and dismissed the man without any more thought other than a man couldn’t write this book. Then I researched each of the women. I didn’t feel a strong connection to anyone on paper. I decided to at least research the man. To my amazement, he sounded like the perfect person to write this book. He had ghost-written several books. He had ghost-written true crime. I ordered a book he had recently published and read it. I liked the way he approached the story. I wrote to this guy. He promptly replied. We talked and I immediately felt a connection. He also had worked with Rod’s agent and would reach out to him and figure out how he could make this all happen. The next thing I knew, I had signed a contract with the ghostwriter and the agent. We came up with a game plan and were ready to write.
We started the process on January 1st with interviews and drafts starting to be passed back and forth. In February, the ghostwriter visited me in person. We toured around and met with the first state’s attorney, the one who tried the case, and one of her assistants and gutted out the entire story.
Over the next couple of months, we worked hard on the book. As planned we turned the draft in on April 30th – my birthday. I breathed a sigh; the book had been written but then I had to take another breath.
There is still a lot to do to get the book ready to be published and to market. The marketing and editing process is just beginning. While it is time for another round of learning, it’s all very exciting to know the book is on its way to be published.