Kerry Rea is a 2017 and 2019 #Pitchwars mentee. Her work has appeared in Seventeen Magazine. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and four dogs. The Wedding Ringer is her debut novel.
In this post, Kerry discusses the process of writing her debut novel, The Wedding Ringer, why she decided to write about the end of a lifelong friendship, and more!
Name: Kerry Rea
Literary agent: Jessica Watterson of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Book title: The Wedding Ringer
Release date: November 9, 2021
Genre/category: Women’s fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: When Willa’s offered a job as a professional bridesmaid, she seizes the chance to save up and leave the memories of her cheating fiancé and best friend in the rearview. Developing a friendship with the bride—and a flirtation with the hotshot best man—is not part of her exit strategy. Now she must decide if some people just might be worth sticking around for.
What prompted you to write this book?
I got the idea for the book around the time I turned 30. A lot of my friends were getting married, and it seemed like I had a wedding to attend almost every other weekend in the summer and fall. By then, I’d done my share of bridesmaid duties, including catching the bouquet (at three weddings) while the DJ played Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” (at every wedding).
At one reception, a tablemate remarked that she'd have trouble picking bridesmaids if she got married because she would inevitably offend whomever she didn't pick. I wondered, what if someone had the opposite problem? What if someone didn't have enough close friends or loved ones to be her bridesmaids? Curious, I researched the concept of a professional bridesmaid, and thus the character of Willa was born.
I knew I wanted female friendship to be a central theme of the novel, because I’ve always been fascinated with the huge role that a woman’s friendships play in her life. It struck me that we see a lot of stories about romantic breakups, but not many about the end of a friendship, and I wanted to explore what it would look like for a protagonist to experience friendship loss. At the start of the book, Willa’s dealing with the end of a lifelong friendship, and I wanted to unravel how that would affect her and impact her ability to move forward in life via the backdrop of a wedding.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I wrote the manuscript over the summer of 2019 and submitted it for the mentoring program Pitch Wars. Author Susan Bishop Crispell selected me as her mentee, and I spent three months polishing the manuscript with her guidance. I signed with my agent in February 2020 after the Pitch Wars showcase and was lucky enough to land a book deal that March. So the process from writing the first draft to publication in November of 2021 was about two and a half years.
The idea didn’t change much during the process, but my understanding of how to convey the emotional journeys of the characters certainly deepened.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I was surprised by how slow the publishing process can be! It’s every writer’s dream to sign with an agent and get a book deal, but few people realize that the timeline between signing a contract and seeing your book out in the world can take years.
Throw in a global pandemic and a lot of well-intentioned relatives repeatedly asking, “Hey, is your book ever coming out?” and you’ll be forced to develop a newfound level of patience.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
This is the third novel I’ve written, but it was the first time that I sat down and outlined the entire plot, including filling out a beat sheet, before I started writing the manuscript. I was shocked by how quickly the actual writing of the novel came to me after that.
For previous manuscripts, I had a clear idea of where I wanted the story to start and end and a rough idea of how I would get there. For The Wedding Ringer, hammering out most of the plot before I started writing gave me an outline I could reference whenever I got stuck.
I now consider myself an ex-pantser turned plotter, and I’m never going back!
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope people will laugh a lot as they read, because we could all use more laughter these days. I hope The Wedding Ringer will remind readers that a truly great friend—the kind who knows all your flaws and loves you even more because of them—should be cherished and hugged a little tighter.
And I hope readers will remember that it’s never too late to make or become that kind of friend. Mostly, I hope the book reminds readers that even the hardest of times won’t last forever, and that they’re never truly alone.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Keep going! Writing, like anything, requires persistence. I wrote two novels before I got into the Pitch Wars mentorship program for the first time. Only after writing a third novel—and participating in Pitch Wars for a second time—did I find agent representation.
Also, be open to feedback! Your story is your own, but if an agent or established writer offers you feedback, be receptive to it.