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On Monday night, I spoke publicly about my novel for the first time when Chapters — a book club in Hot Springs, Arkansas — invited me to preview my novel.

Oil and Marble doesn’t technically go public until March 1st — the official publication date. But to me, Monday was the day my book stepped out into the world.

Of course, I’ve talked about my novel to my husband, my parents, agent, manager, publicist, editors… And those people have read the book, too.

But not a single “outside” person (who didn’t give me notes on my early draft or help get the book published in some way) has read it or even heard me talk about it at length. I’ve kept it so close… Now, it’s out there.

And it’s a great feeling.

I loved seeing the eyes of those book-clubbers spark with surprise when I told them that Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were not only contemporaries, but rivals and that the Mona Lisa and David were created in the same town, during the same years. And I loved seeing others nod knowingly along — they already knew the story, but seemed to find pleasure in seeing me tell it… and they leaned in, wanting to know more.

They asked insightful questions — some I had anticipated: how long did it take you to write (the answer varies between 20 and 4 years, depending upon what you mean by “write it”); Is it all true? (Yes and no. It’s based on real events, but of course I made up the dialogue and took artistic license to tell a good story). And some questions I didn’t expect: why is Mona Lisa so famous? (I have a theory, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is); and You’re a TV producer; produce your own trailer! Give me some exciting teasers to make me want to read it! (I did my best to answer without giving too much away)…

It was a special moment for me — and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that house or that group of women. They helped me launch my novel into the world.

Two other things happened this week to prove that my novel has officially gone public. My long-time idol, Dr. William Wallace, one of the top Michelangelo specialists in the world, read my novel AND endorsed it:

“Vividly evoking the turbulent world and ferociously competitive spirit of Renaissance Florence, Stephanie Storey transports the reader to one of the most creative and exciting moments in the history of that remarkable city.”

Reading that blurb was a mind-blowing moment for me. I still don’t have words.

The second thing happened yesterday. I was pitching my novel to reviewers (my PR team at my publishing house does a lot, but in this day and age, authors have to do much of their own work, too. I’ll write more on that later). One of the most important places — to me — that I pitched was the Historical Novel Society. A couple of hours after I reached out, I received a response that they’d already requested an Advanced Reading Copy from my publisher, it was already slated for review in the May issue, and they wondered if I was interested in being profiled as a debut historical novelist…

That was all bubbling beneath my feet, and I didn’t even know it.

Oil and Marble is out there. With or without ME.

One woman at the book club asked if I was nervous. I know I should be nervous; I should be worried about how people will receive my work, whether anyone will read it, if it’ll get good reviews… But as strange as it sounds I don’t feel nervous.

I feel a lot of other things. I feel pressure to do as much PR and outreach as possible so people will know the book exists; I want to give Oil and Marble a chance to be read. I feel ready for people to be able to read it and tired of having to tell people who are genuinely interested that they’ll have to wait until March 1st. I feel proud of the writing I’ve done in the pages of Oil and Marble, in the PR work I am doing to promote it, and of my friends and family who are being so supportive. Sometimes, I also feel so lost in the pages of my next novel that Oil and Marble seems like an earlier lifetime.

Mainly I feel blessed. Grateful. Like the luckiest girl in the world. Because I’ve had the privilege of writing Oil and Marble.

It’s been nothing but a joy. I love the story, the characters, the art. I loved getting to live in that world for a few years, of getting to disappear there every night and morning. I am lucky that this story decided to share itself with me…

Yes, it’s nice when people embrace it… The ladies in Chapters are going to add my book to their “to read” list and will be discussing it this spring. I couldn’t be more proud to have a club full of brilliant, empathetic, cultured women reading my book. They will discuss it and see it however they do… and that’s the glory in all of this. My novel is going out into the world and taking on a life of its own.

It’s Michelangelo’s, Leonardo’s, and Lisa’s story now. I can’t wait to stand back and see what they do… and feel lucky that I got to be a part of the ride.