“Distinctly in my mind, I remember going to the Galleria Barnes & Noble,” recalls first-time author Spencer Margaret of Edina. “I’ve been a huge bookworm ever since I learned to read, and I was really frustrated because all the options I found that were uplifting and that involved women going through positive changes were all either supported by, or for the end goal of, romantic love.”
So, without previous experience in writing long-form fiction or any formal training, Margaret set out to write the kind of novel she wished to see on bookshelves; “I essentially said, ‘let’s see if I can do this.’”
Margaret’s novel The Anchor House centers around Winnie Spade, a young woman set adrift in the world. “She hitchhikes across the country and by chance lands in this small town of Manitou Lake,” Margaret says.
“There, she discovers this community, led by a woman named Eleonor, who live out on an island. Eleonor helps [Winnie] work through trauma and toward self-acceptance,” Margaret says. But just as things are turning around for Winnie, outsiders conspire to take over the island and Winnie must fight to defend the community that took her in.
Margaret says her background as a reader served as a strong foundation for the fundamentals of good storytelling.
But the process of writing your first book—or your fifth for that matter—teaches as many do’s as don’ts. “I wish I would have known that every part of the story needs to be adding to the plot or to character development in some way,” Margaret says. “That would have saved me some time for sure.”
All told, the process of writing and revising took Margaret two years. After a full day at her digital marketing job, or during her free time on the weekends, Margaret would sit down to work on her manuscript. “I didn’t watch too much Netflix for a while,” she says. “And I didn’t read for a long time either, which was kind of a personal sacrifice.”
Margaret says she found the writing process cathartic. “I drew upon a lot of things that have happened in my real life and a lot of the most important people in my life ...” she says, adding, “It forced me to think about things and process things in new ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the process.”
Once she finished her manuscript, the next question became how to get her story into the hands of readers. She considered traditional publishing channels, but feared the seemingly insurmountable roadblocks. “Getting an editor is one of the most difficult things in the world,” Margaret says.
Instead, she hired two freelance editors and explored self-publishing. “I think one of the most amazing things about the explosion of self-publishing and self-published authors is that there are so many resources online that you can utilize, and so many people that are willing to help,” says Margaret.
Margaret’s debut novel won the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Inspirational Fiction.