Jennifer Probst: Making the Genre Leap

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst speaks about putting a five-year pin in her latest novel and being reminded that even experts need advice.
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Jennifer Probst is the New York Times bestselling author of the Billionaire Builders series, the Searching For... series, the Marriage to a Billionaire series, the Steele Brothers series, the Stay series, and the Sunshine Sisters series. Like some of her characters, Probst, along with her husband and two sons, calls New York's Hudson Valley home. When she isn't traveling to meet readers, she enjoys reading, watching "shameful reality television," and visiting a local Hudson Valley animal shelter. Follow her at JenniferProbst.com.

Jennifer Probst, Credit Matt Simpkins Photography

In this post, Probst speaks about putting a five-year pin in her latest novel, being reminded that even experts need advice, and more!

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Name: Jennifer Probst
Literary agent (if one): Kevan Lyon
Book title: Our Italian Summer
Publisher: Berkley
Release date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Previous titles: The Sunshine Sisters Series (Love on Beach Avenue, Temptation on Ocean Drive, and Forever in Cape May); The STAY series (The Start of Something Good, A Brand New Ending, and All Roads Lead to You); Billionaire Builders Series (Everywhere and Every Way, Any Time, Any Place, and All or Nothing at All)
Elevator pitch for the book: New York Times bestselling romance author Jennifer Probst makes her women’s fiction debut with Our Italian Summer, featuring three generations of Ferrari women who set out to heal the broken pieces of their lives and find themselves on a trip of a lifetime through Italy. Booklist calls it “Under the Tuscan Sun meets Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

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What prompted you to write this book?

I embarked on an epic trip to Italy with my niece, my Godmother, and my mother, who was turning seventy. Along the way, I was inspired to sketch out an outline of a book about three generations of women who go to Italy to heal themselves and their fractured relationship with one another.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

When I returned from Italy, I outlined the book and wrote the first three chapters. But I was on back-to-back deadlines and knew I couldn’t write the book at that time. I put it away for a future date.

Five years later, I was desperate to write the story. I contacted my agent and told her I wanted to put it out to publishers with a partial. I was thrilled when Berkley loved my vision for the book. It changed a bit—we went from four characters to three but didn’t change the core of the story.

After they bought the book, it was published a year and a half later.

(Women’s Fiction or Romance? The Differences, and 5 Reasons Why They Matter)

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I believe there are always surprises in a publishing journey! First, I was expecting a massive number of edits but I’d written a clean story that impressed my editor. That was a gift and an amazing surprise! I’m also reminded of how long the process is to publication and all the steps in between. So much goes into promotion and marketing, from giveaways to ARCS to booking ad and social media spots and virtual signings. You really do need a long time ahead to make sure the book reaches as many people as possible.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Yes, but that what makes writing magical for me. My characters changed along the way as I developed them, and I was drawn in by the connection of the tour group and the resulting romances between two characters. The biggest surprise for me though was dealing with the rough draft. The first half was torturous. I struggled to figure out the problem and confided in a close writing friend. She said it seemed like I was trying to change my voice to fit what I believed was better for women’s fiction rather than romance. She advised me to write the story my way instead of trying to do it the right way. Novice advice for an author of over forty books, right? But I needed that reminder. I was able to finish the book being authentic to both myself and the story, and that made all the difference.

(5 Excellent Tips on Writing Women’s Fiction)

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I truly hope my readers will find an emotional journey that digs deep into the relationship of women, especially family. These roles we inhabit are only surface and quite limited—mother, daughter, grandmother, etc. But a daughter usually doesn’t see anything more than a mom, and vice versa. With the gorgeous backdrop of Italy, I want everyone to enjoy the exploration, a bit of romance, and some laughs for a hopeful, feel-good read that lingers.

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If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Never give up, and play the long game. If you want a career, you need to have numerous roles today. We are our own CEOs, but the writing always comes first. Don’t let one rejection, one failed book, or one misstep define you. Perseverance is an underrated virtue and key to success.

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