A Novel Side Hustle now a new career for two West Hartford women – We-Ha
The debut novel by Addison McKnight, which is the pseudonym of West Hartford residents Nicole Moleti and Krista Wells, was published by Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing on May 10.
By Ronni Newton
Neither Krista Wells nor Nicole Moleti had “written a psychological thriller” on their to-do lists, but somehow, in the midst of their already busy careers and personal lives, and everything managing the schedules of the six children they have between them, “An Imperfect Plan” was hatched.
As the May 10 release date approached, the culmination of a journey that went far beyond two friends teaming up for side hustle, the two first-time novelists said in an interview that they felt that they needed to pinch themselves.
“We met at the barbershop,” Moleti said. “She had foil in her hair.”
The friendship between the two women blossoms. Moleti, who is a make-up artist, did Wells’ make-up for a military ball. Moleti’s husband coached Wells’ son’s baseball team.
Both have extensive experience writing non-fiction, Moleti as an author of a humorous parenting blog and Wells as a blogger for the military spouse community.
Wells was working on his blog one day when Moleti came to visit. “She said something shocking to me, and I said if it was true, I would write a book about it,” Moleti recalled. One thing led to another, and very quickly, they collaborated on “An Imperfect Plan”.
In between, Moleti and Wells now have six jobs, including the newly launched fiction writing career under the pseudonym Addison McKnight (a nickname they chose with the help of their editing team, who suggested that the surname be a bit dark). Moleti got her real estate license when she needed a backup plan because no one was wearing makeup during the pandemic. Wells is a life coach and writer for the military spouse community.
Both have long been interested in what drives people to do what they do.
As a makeup artist, “I’ve dedicated my life to making people look perfect,” Moleti said. When a woman wants to wear lipstick even though it’s not the right color for her, it can be a red flag indicating an underlying anxiety.
As a life coach, Wells works to make people feel better, to focus not on the lack of something in their life but on what is good. “The common denominator is that people try to strive for perfection,” she said.
“All it takes is a lie to make the best-laid plans go awry” is the first line of the description of “An Imperfect Plan” on the back cover of the book.
The story follows the lives of Collette De Luca and Greta O’Brien, women from very different backgrounds, strangers both grappling with past traumas and following diverse paths on their journey through life and towards maternity.
Hope, disillusion, despair, deception, and a shocking event bring their lives together and force them to come to terms with the choices they have made.
“The emotion is visceral, the grief and suspense are almost unbearable, and it all leads to a stunning ending,” bestselling author Luanne Rice said in her review of “An Imperfect Plan.”
The idea and the research
Wells, whose four children are aged 12 to 19, had experienced secondary infertility after having her first child and had a conversation with Moleti about the research she had done on the subject. “There are so many ethical decisions. What do you do with the eggs… how extreme do you go… I could relate to that feeling of wanting a child at all costs.
The novel is not only about infertility, but also about mental illness. There are stigmas associated with both, and dealing with these subjects, in the context of a thriller, sets the story apart.
The writing of the book quickly became very consuming.
Wells had already done her own extensive research on infertility, and once the two decided to co-write the book, she did extensive research on the courts. Craig Raabe, a West Hartford attorney, was extremely helpful with advice, she said.
“I love the research side,” said Wells, who admitted to approaching police at places like the grocery store and peppering them with questions. “I once approached a woman in Hall’s Market who worked in a burns unit,” she recalls. “She was buying Triscuits,” Wells said, but wore a badge and provided valuable information used in the book.
Tennis is also a big theme in the book, but it didn’t take much research since both play.
Wells, who has a degree in industrial psychology, said she mostly reads non-fiction – lots of business and self-help books.
Moleti said she is a fiction reader. She has always loved the novels of James Patterson, and after reading Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” she became addicted to the psychological thriller genre. “I want to be shocked,” she said.
They worked every moment they could spare from January to April 2019. They kept writing, to get the story published, but once they got a publisher, “it helped us a lot,” Moleti said. .
Two voices combined, and where they come from
Moleti is the voice of Collette and Wells is Greta, but it’s not clear that each character was written by a different author. They edited each other’s chapters – ruthlessly at times – and the collaboration was a success.
Greta, a wealthy hedge fund manager who lives in Greenwich, is an amalgamation of many people Wells and Moleti know, and was easier to profile. “She’s like the people we know in upper-middle-class towns in Connecticut,” Moleti said.
Colette, who has a dysfunctional upbringing in a rural part of Connecticut, is totally made up. Moleti said she and Wells had long discussions about the specifics of Colette’s lifestyle, right down to the type of shampoo she used. “I said I don’t put Suave on my character,” Moleti said, after Wells objected to her benchmark use of Pantene. They contented themselves with “shampoo”.
The book is mostly set in Connecticut, and West Hartford readers will be happy to find a few local references – like Iris Photography, the Delamar Hotel, and “Beachland” (though it’s a tennis club, not a park). The names of the characters Nellie and Chelsea come from people known locally, but not in the same roles.
Naming characters was actually a challenge, and they took it very seriously. “We name our characters like you name your babies,” Moleti said.
find the time
Writing a novel and getting it published doesn’t happen overnight. Each step takes months or even years.
“You have to let things go,” Wells said, like home-cooked meals or laundry. They continued to persevere until the writing of the book, writing during free time, on the sidelines of sporting events, while waiting to pick up the children from school.
And then there was the rejection.
“We have to overcome this,” repeated Moleti. “And since we got 55 refusals from agents, I kept saying that’s no excuse not to do it.” A local author suggested attending a writing conference.
“So we went to ‘ThrillerFest,'” Moleti said. “It’s a pitch-fest, like speed dating for agents.” She said it was terrifying.
But that’s where they found success, with eventually 13 of the 15 agents they cast wanting the book. They signed with Victoria Sanders & Associates, in July 2019, then when the book was almost ready, COVID hit, and their agent, Bernadette Baker-Baughman, suggested they wait.
They sold the book — quickly — right after President Biden’s inauguration in 2021. Not only did they sell “A Flawed Plan,” but “We got a two-book deal,” Moleti said. Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing.
“None of this feels like work because we’re doing what we really love to do,” Moleti said. They find time for writing, but also their other jobs and activities. By the day of the interview, the two had been working, and Wells said she still finds time to play tennis and curling, a sport she learned a few years ago.
Addison McKnight’s second book is in the works.
“It takes place at Martha’s Vineyard,” Moleti said, a place where the two previously lived, but in very different capacities.
Moleti ran a nonprofit called “Time for Life” that brought people to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer. “It seems like an idyllic island, but it’s not always what it seems,” she said.
Wells visited the vineyard this summer with his family, but knows there is a high incidence of domestic violence and substance abuse there that no one talks about. During the pandemic, the incidence of both has skyrocketed.
The book is similar in style, but a completely new story, Wells said.
A draft of the second bop has been reviewed by the editor of a Martha’s Vineyard newspaper and the wife of a police officer, and so far the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
They also found a movie agent, who is currently buying “An Imperfect Plan”.
“An Imperfect Plan” was released on May 10 and can be purchased online at amazon.comas well as through target.com or barnesandnoble.com. Moleti and Wells are planning local signings, including an event on May 25 at the Wampanoag Country Club.
Moleti and Wells will return to ThrillerFest in a few weeks – this time as rookie authors. They also plan to attend a writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard.
They both have kids in school and say writing fits in well with their lifestyle. What started as a side hustle is now much more than that.
“We pinch ourselves sometimes,” Moleti said.
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