BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — After more than a decade in the making, Christy Diegel finally fulfilled a lifelong goal in February.
The Maumee resident is now a debut author, with her first book, Septembers, available for purchase on Amazon.
Diegel, who works as a claims adjuster for an insurance company during the day, has always had a passion for reading and writing. She majored in English at Bowling Green State University, but over time, her plans for the future shifted.
“Things happened in my life that steered me in another direction, and I like where it’s gone. I’m very happy, but I thought it would be cool to see what would happen if you chose a different dream, went another direction,” Diegel said.
In her book, the story follows Jamie and her childhood friend, Ben, who grew up in the tourist town of Leland, Mich.
The novel follows the two over many years, to see how their plans have shifted and their dreams have changed.
The idea behind the book was slightly inspired by the band Sugarland’s song “Hello.”
“It was in three stanzas, and it talked about September. It seemed like she was talking about going back to this one place when she was young and then when she’s middle-aged and then when she’s older and how she remembers that time,” Diegel said. “I thought that would be fun to go back to a certain time of the year and see what happens in this person’s life.”
From that, Diegel wrote a short story, which she presented to her husband, who encouraged her to expand upon the story, revealing what happens to her characters.
Diegel lost the motivation to continue her story when her father passed away, but with gentle nudges from family and friends, and ultimately herself, she picked the story back up several years later.
“I work from home, so I don’t have a commute, and I just started to carve out time to write over lunch or after dinner, or on the weekends,” Diegel said.
Her writing process for Septembers was not nearly as organized as she would have liked, but it worked to get the book completed.
“I had no idea what was going to happen until I got maybe halfway through,” Diegel said. “I knew kind of how I wanted it to end, but I just kept writing as I thought of ideas. I added more chapters after I had finished the draft.”
Once she was ready, Diegel then passed on pages of her book to friends and family, who helped her find any errors she may have missed and asked questions a reader might want answered.
“If you don’t have an editor, it’s very helpful and important to ask friends and family who love to read or know you to give you encouragement and feedback, too,” Diegel said. “Feedback is so important.”
She sought help from friends with a writing background and from people who were familiar with the town of Leland, where the novel is primarily set.
Diegel, who had grown up visiting her family in Leland during the summer, wanted people to be able to easily picture the quaint town, with the bluff along Lake Michigan and the local shops lining Main Street.
Those familiar with the town, she said, were able to understand what places she was describing, and even caught on to the little Easter eggs she placed in the book – the names of family and friends, certain stores or places.
Once the novel was nearing completion, Diegel shopped around, trying to decide her best method for publication.
“Writing is one thing and publishing is something else. It’s a completely different animal,” she said.
She chose to self-publish through Amazon, as it had been recommended as the most user-friendly method, but the process was still completely foreign to Diegel.
The debut author spent her free time searching ISBNs and how to format a book. She joined Facebook groups for support and called her aunt’s friend in Leland to take pictures of the town, specifically in September, in order to create a cover.
After Diegel completed the formatting, the book was sent off to Amazon for a quick review. Then, she was holding her first book in her hands, flipping through the physical pages of a hard-earned dream.
“It was surreal,” Diegel said of the moment. “I was talking to my mom when I got the copy and my husband was there to celebrate.”
After that, the next step of the journey began: marketing and promotion.
Diegel isn’t one for self-promotion, she said, so she called in reinforcements. A friend with experience in marketing helped her launch the novel.
It’s usually her family and friends who champion the book, passing out bookmarks and using word of mouth to spread awareness.
“I am not surprised by the support from my family, but I know my book isn’t all their cup of tea, but so many of them have read it and told me how much they love it, which is just so nice,” Diegel said. “Also, the outpouring of support on social media is such a nice surprise.”
While Diegel’s biggest tip for future authors is to write the books they want to read, to write for themselves and no one else, the other thing she has learned is the importance of seeking support from others.
“I had never shared my book with anybody at the beginning, so once I started doing that and giving it to people to help me get to the finish line, it was very helpful. I would recommend that to everybody,” Diegel advised. “Don’t keep it to yourself. Ask for help and support.”
That advice is something Diegel is keeping in mind with her next book, too.
She’s already started work on her second novel, which she sets aside time to write for specifically each week, and she has friends she keeps updated on her work so they can offer support or help throughout the process.
With her new novel, her writing process is different, she said. She is more organized and has a plan for the storyline.
The schedule and more disciplined approach works for this novel, which means Diegel is hoping to have a second published novel sooner rather than later.
“It’s nice to have more organized thoughts and have a goal. I didn’t have a goal with the first one, but with this one, I’d like to have it written by the end of the year and maybe even have it finished a few months after that,” Diegel said. “A lot can happen in that time, of course, but that’s the goal.”
Diegel’s debut novel, Septembers, is currently available for purchase on Amazon.