Debut author Darby Baham is a writer and senior editor at a New York City non-profit, with personal blog posts that have appeared in the Washington Post Solo-ish column. She signed a three-book deal with Harlequin Special Edition. Her first book follows a group of college friends and where they land in work, friendship and love seven years later. This is her first novel–ever! Congratulations, Darby.
Harlequin: Tell us about yourself. Our readers want to know!
Darby Baham: I like to jokingly say I’m a New Orleans girl making her way through New York streets, but honestly, that tells you a lot about me. I have always loved writing, probably have a shoe addiction, and am a lover of big laughs; but at my core, I’m a woman who gets her passion from her birth city and her inspiration from the city she’s lived in for more than 4 years now.
H: Why did you want to become a romance writer?
DB: Honestly, I never saw myself as a romance writer. I just knew that I loved telling women’s stories, particularly those of women who look like me. But love is what drives everything—whether we are searching for it, reeling from a lost one, or happy in the relationship we’re in, or anything in between. So, when I write about romance and love, I see it as part of the revolutionary act of simply telling those stories. And it’s something I cherish having the opportunity to do.
H: What were the major steps in your journey to becoming a published author? Was this story the first manuscript you submitted?
DB: Wow, there were so many steps on this journey. I started writing a version of The Shoe Diaries more than a decade ago. Along the way, there were plenty of stops but also what I like to call God’s whispers that I was heading in the right direction. In 2008, I began featuring short, personal shoe stories on my blog that were a hit with my small but dedicated audience. Then, I met an editor at a blogger’s conference and had the opportunity to get his uncensored feedback on my manuscript at that point. I won’t lie; it was discouraging when he didn’t like it, but once I got over my disappointment, I took his advice to heart and reimagined what The Shoe Diaries could be. After that, I met Lisa Bonos of The Washington Post, and she gave me the opportunity to write for their relationships column, what was then called Solo-ish. My first piece was about a perfect date dress I’d had in my closet for years, worried that I’d wear it on a less-than-perfect date and sully it. I realized, as I often do when I write, that I’d been living my life like that dress, and that’s when I knew I had to incorporate this idea into The Shoe Diaries as well. From there, I rewrote and edited the manuscript for several years until some editor friends of mine reminded me that I could never get it published until I let it go. So, after months of pitching it to many agents, Latoya C. Smith changed my world when she said she was interested in representing me. I think I quite literally went outside of my office building so I could scream. It was Latoya who brought me to Harlequin and Gail Chasan.
All that to say, technically, yes, The Shoe Diaries is the first manuscript I’ve submitted to a publisher, but it’s probably gone through at least 10-12 full rewrites at this point.
H: What one piece of advice would you offer aspiring writers?
DB: Don’t sacrifice your dream for perfection. There were so many times I thought about quitting and figured maybe being a published author just wasn’t in the cards for me because I couldn’t get the story perfect. But each time I considered stopping, I couldn’t. Whether it was a close friend or family member reminding me of what I believed in, a conversation with a stranger telling me how much they needed to read a story like the one I was writing, or just that still, small voice encouraging me that perfection was not the goal—authenticity was—those moments kept me going. So, if you feel that being a writer is in your bones, don’t stop working on it because it’s not perfect yet. Keep at it. Put your whole self into it. And it’ll be just right.
H: What did you do when you got the call from Harlequin?
DB: I’m pretty sure I stared at my phone in disbelief for several minutes! Then, I called my mom and told her the amazing news. And then, I cried (and let me be clear, I hate crying lol). But I got the call from Harlequin in the midst of very some troubling times for our country. Not only was New York still battling COVID-19, but the news had just come out about George Floyd’s death, and I didn’t know how to process such a beautiful personal moment and such collective pain at the same time. Thankfully, my mom was there (virtually) to remind me that my joy is an act of protest. And so, I celebrated as we do in 2020: with champagne and wine on Zoom with my friends and family.
Now let’s hear from the editor, Gail Chasan!
Darby’s voice spoke to me immediately with its fast-paced, friend-centric, and contemporary style. I found it reminiscent of Sex and the City and the Shopaholic series in the best possible way. Her stories are a lot of fun and yet she still tugs at your heartstrings. A line from her book stood out to me… “It’s high time those shoes get out of the closet, risk be damned!” That sort of told me all I needed to know….Gail Chasan, Special Edition Editor