2021 In the Books
It’s time once again for my annual wrap up of the year: what I’ve been doing creatively and what I’ve been reading. It feels like I just wrote this post for the end of 2020, and if you scroll back through my very inactive blog, it sure looks like I just wrote it. Nevertheless, a whole year has indeed gone by, one filled with ups and downs.
The year began on a big high as I figured out how to publish the sweet romantic Nashville inspired audiobook I’d worked on so hard with songwriter Caleb Dinger and a cast of talented Nashville actors. We chose to go through Findaway Voices, and that made Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance available on every audiobook platform, the biggies being GooglePlay, Apple Books, Chirp, Kobo, Audiobooks.com and Audible. Yes, you can even borrow it from your public library.
Caleb and I got to do an interview on Today in Nashville, a local daytime news show, with a song from the show sung by our leading actors Jack Forte and Caylin Maguire. We got some wonderful reviews, and it was all very exciting.
We even did a “Listening Dinner Theatre” event in the spring where people bought tickets to enjoy a nice meal while listening to the 3-hour story. It was a blast, and I loved watching people react to everything and sing along to the song at the end.
Next, I worked on releasing Songwriter Night in ebook and print. It took a little revising because the story had originally been written in script format. I did a guest blog post about that process for Stacy Juba’s Shortcuts for Writers. The book version got some lovely reviews as well.
Once that came out, I took some time trying to figure out what to write next. I started and stopped three different novels. I liked the ideas behind all of them, but I was struggling with what my next steps as an author should be. The women’s fiction novel I wrote in 2020, Attitude of Grace, has gotten a couple full requests from agents and one publisher, but it hasn’t passed through the gatekeepers yet. I feel like that book will eventually find a home, and I want to have some solid foundation on another novel in the same genre to follow it.
In the end, however, my heart urged me to continue the love stories I started with my Nashville songwriters. So, I wrote a sequel called Songwriter Showcase. It was a blast to write because I had the voices of the actors from the audiobook in my head, and I could hear how they would read the lines. I also mined through the collection of songs I’d written in my twenties and used several of them in the story.
I released Songwriter Showcase with little fanfare in October and haven’t had much time to do any marketing for it. I’m hoping to fix that once we get past the holidays. (If you’re interested in review copies of either book, please let me know.) I also hope to record some of the new songs that I wrote for this story. It is a tremendous amount of work to record a full cast, musical audiobook, and this story is almost twice as long as the last one. I’m still trying to figure out a way to do it that will work. I’m toying with the idea of recording a staged reading of it, but I haven’t run that by Caleb or my actors yet. I’ll definitely let y’all know what happens.
In the new year I plan to revisit these characters once again to adapt Songwriter Night so that we can perform it as a live stage show. After that, I think I will go back to one of the novels I deserted last spring.
All of that seems exciting creatively, but I'll confess that my sales for all my books have been especially low this year. Nothing is working, and I’ve considered hanging it all up multiple times. I’m going to have to explore new ways to get attention to these titles. I’ve been trying to avoid it, but a TikTok account may be in my near future.
The theater side of me got to wake up once again after a long, long 18 months. My husband and I were asked to be in an original musical written by composer Michael Kurek called Dear Miss Barrett back in June. We were very proud to be part of this world premiere performance here in Tennessee. Immediately after that show, we FINALLY started rehearsals for the long-awaited Mamma Mia. We performed in August at The Larry Keeton Theatre, and it was SO MUCH FUN! I have never had so much fun doing a show, and there were so many tears at the end.
The woman playing Rosie to my Tanya in Mamma Mia was slated to direct the Christmas show, and she asked me to assistant direct and choreograph Miracle in Bedford Falls (a musical based on the film It’s a Wonderful Life). That turned out to be another magical experience that again left me in tears on closing night (only one week ago as I write this). I loved the show so much, and the cast was so delightful.
I’m not entirely sure what my theater plans are for 2022 at this point, but I have my fingers crossed for more opportunities to direct and at least one chance to perform.
And now for my 2021 Books of the Year list.
According to my Goodreads Challenge, I read 39 books, and I have two more I should finish before the new year. Once again, my reading genres were all over the place. I can’t help it. I like stories of all kinds. My list is heavier on audiobooks because I listen during my long commutes. I read a little YA, romance, women's fiction, some thrillers, and a couple non-fiction works.
Biggest Surprise: Girls with No Names by Sandra Burdick. Like usual, my biggest surprise came from plucking a book out of a Bookbub sale notice. This historical novel about the condition of life for wayward girls in 1910 was fascinating. It’s a heart-wrenching tale, and it had me captured from beginning to end. I listened to the audiobook for this, and it was expertly read by 3 different actresses. I highly recommend it if you like historical fiction.
Best Self-Published or Small Press Book: Okay, I deserve a little slap on the wrist for this, but I didn’t read many self-published or small press books this year. I know. As an indie, I should be ashamed. I will do better next year. The one I enjoyed the most was A36 by Teri Polen. It’s a YA science fiction/dystopian novel about a society that farms genetic codes from people and sells them. It’s very exciting with great fight scenes and a cast of characters that is multi-cultural and inclusive of LGBT characters. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.
Best Audiobook: This is hard. I’ve listened to so many good audiobooks this year. I’m going with Stephen King’s Billy Summers. I always love a good King novel, and I read 3 of them this year. The narration in this is fantastic, and the story zips along. It is not a horror novel at all but more of a suspense story. It’s interesting caring so much for a character who is also a hired assassin. If you love the TV show Barry, you will love this book.
Best Large Press Book: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This book is a prequel to The Hunger Games series and the origin story of President Snow. I know that a lot of people didn’t like it as much as I did, but I found it riveting. I also love when Santino Fontana narrates books. He’s amazing. I just wish he’d sung the songs instead of reciting them.
Best Book of the Year: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I suppose one of these years my favorite book won’t be historical fiction, but that genre always seems to score highest with me. It’s not often an audiobook has me weeping all the way to and from work while I drive. This one did it. This story about a family striving to survive the Great Depression tore my heart out and left it raw. Beautifully written and so epic. I can’t recommend it enough.
Have you read or listened to any of these books? What did you think? What were your favorite books of the year? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment. And, of course, if you’re looking for something fun to read to start off 2022, pop around my website and see if any of my books appeal to you.
Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s a happier, healthier one!
D. G. Driver
Award-winning author of books for teen and tween readers. Learn more about her and her writing at www.dgdriver.com
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.