How Mary Kubica’s Secret Novel Became a Best-Seller


2016-05-18 Mary Kubica books

Mary Kubica remembers the moment she knew she wanted to write.

She was eight or nine years old. “My cousin had written this story,” she said. “I was mesmerized.”

Her startling realization: “People write books.”

“I think I started five minutes later,” she said with a smile. She’d come home from school, lock her bedroom door, and pound out stories on her typewriter.

Kubica told this to a Fort Collins audience at the Hilton on May 18, the day after her third novel, Don’t You Cry, hit book store shelves.

2016-05-18 Mary Kubica poster2

As a child, she was fascinated by the library and books. “I loved to get my hands on as many as I could.”

Creating characters and new worlds became her passion, she said. “I got to live out a lot of my hopes and dreams.”

Her cousin became an elementary school principal, but Kubica continued writing over the years, scribbling notes in secrecy as she honed her craft. After getting married and having her daughter, she wrote during naptime and after bedtime. Only her husband knew.

After five years, Kubica finally had a finished manuscript. She Googled the topic “What do I do with this book I wrote?” and came across The Writer’s Market.

As she queried literary agents, she’d hurry to the mailbox every day. One hundred rejections later, she decided, “I just need to love and enjoy the process of writing.”

She did receive a couple of requests to read the full manuscript, which she titled The Good Girl.

Nothing came of it, and she worked on other stories.

“But nothing grabbed me like The Good Girl,” Kubica said of her psychological thriller.

Two years later, in 2012, an agent emailed and explained she’d been brand new when she found the manuscript in the slush pile and spent all night reading it, but couldn’t get the rest of the team to agree. Now promoted, the agent would be able to get her colleagues on board.

The author spent a few months cleaning up the manuscript, and it was acquired by MIRA, a division of Harlequin. Best-selling author Lisa Gardner calls it “A twisty, roller coaster ride of a debut. Fans of Gone Girl will embrace this equally evocative tale of a missing woman, a shattered family and the lies we tell not just to each other, but especially to ourselves.”

Kubica accepted a two-book deal, which excited and terrified her. Her agent said, “It cannot take you five years to write a book.”

The proposal for her second novel, Pretty Baby, was rejected. Her reaction? “Oh my goodness, that was the only idea I had.” She was given another chance, but needed a new idea fast.

An image of a woman with a baby by the train tracks popped into her head. That scene became part of chapter one, and she wrote the draft in seven months. Her agent was thrilled.

Kubica tackled her third novel with enthusiasm and crafted “a big twisty ending,” but the concept “didn’t cooperate on paper.” She refused to give up, even laying the manuscript page by page on her basement floor at one point, thinking she could switch chapters around to salvage it.

Ultimately, the author was relieved it wasn’t published. She mentioned her admiration for William Kent Krueger’s decision not to publish a manuscript because he knew it wouldn’t meet readers’ expectations.

For Don’t You Cry, Kubica’s latest novel, she felt more in control; the result is a relaxed pace. “When you read it,” she said, “it echoes emotions I was feeling.”

Her next book will be published in spring or summer of 2017. And she’s considering writing a novel for younger readers. “My kids are 8 years old and 10 years old,” she said. “They keep begging me to write something they can read.”

Katherine Valdez loved Gone Girl and wasn’t wild about The Girl on the Train, but might see the movie adaptation (because…Emily Blunt!) And she looks forward to reading all of Mary Kubica’s novels.

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  1. I’m not a writer, but it was very inspiring to read about her success story. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I’m on your third book! You’re my favorite author! I can’t wait to read all your books. Very intriguing and I can’t put them down once I start reading them!!!

    • So glad to hear you love Mary Kubica’s novels, Dianne! Thanks for reading my coverage of her event, and for taking time to comment.

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