“I can finally say I am a writer,” says the effusive Andrea Thome, a former broadcast journalist and longtime wife of retired major league baseball player Jim Thome, who just unveiled her first novel Walland. It is a love story set in the mountains of Tennessee, inspired by her travels with her husband to Blackberry Farm.
“Writing a book is something I’ve dreamed about doing for a long time,” Thome says. “For the past 12 years, I devoted myself to the job I always knew would be my most important; motherhood. While I’ve enjoyed almost every moment, this year, I gave myself permission to try my hand at writing.”
A natural storyteller, it was the death of Thome’s mother that motivated her to get her ideas down on paper. “My mother was a poet and had a gift for writing. When she passed, that really turned the hour glass upside down on me writing this book—time is fleeting. The first year after she was gone I was really consumed with grief,” Thome says. “But on January 1, like so many people do, I made a resolution and mine was to get this book done.”
Thome wrote the first three chapters in January and then stopped. “I don’t know what it was. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself, but I didn’t think the writing was that great, so I walked away from it.”
Two months later, Thome found herself on a plane to go and visit her husband who is now a special assistant to the general manager for the Chicago White Sox. “I really hate to fly and was looking for a way to distract myself from being afraid,” she remembers. So she opened up her iPad and decided to revisit the chapters she wrote. “I’m not sure what happened, but it was like the faucet was turned on. I started writing and couldn’t stop. For the entire month of March, I was writing six to seven hours each day. I’d sit out on my porch, looking at the yard, in my comfy sweater with my iPad propped up on my lap. It was a little crazy—almost a religious experience. By accident, I ended up finishing my book on my mother’s birthday. It was a tribute to her—she was with me from start to finish.”
Thome’s novel Walland features an intriguing cast of characters who embark on an adventure of love and personal exploration that takes place in the tranquil setting of Walland, Tennessee. At times, she borrowed from her own life experiences, leaving her own personal footprints as her characters came to life on the pages before her.
“I promise you that the book is fiction,” she says with a laugh, who had friends weigh in on some of the plotlines. “At times it gets a little steamy, but I wanted to make sure that this was still a book that I’d be comfortable having my dad read. My hope is that this novel is an escape for readers from all of the crazy going on in our world. It’s light, and I want people to feel good about themselves after they’ve read it.”
Thome was surprised to learn that writing her book was the easy part. “I had no idea how difficult publishing a book would be,” she says. “The process is lengthy,” admitting it took six months from submitting her draft to having a published copy of her book. Self-publishing with a company out of Portland and Seattle called Girl Friday Productions, Thome found the editing process a bit grueling.
“I was a little naïve about the state of my draft when I sent it off,” she says. “I worked so hard to make it perfect and when it came back to me, it was bleeding with edits. But those changes truly made the book so much better. I’ll know with my second book not to agonize over my punctuation or sentence structure. That’s what the editors are for.”
When Thome finished Walland, it became clear that the novel’s story wasn’t complete. “Walland is the first of a three-part series. The characters still had life that I wanted them to explore, so I have two more books that I know need to be written.” Her second novel is scheduled for release in the summer of 2017.
An added bonus of Thome’s writing is that all of the proceeds from her various readings have been donated to local charities, including Children’s Home + Aid, an organization near and dear to their family.
When asked if he has read his wife’s novel, Thome’s husband said he stayed up one night and read it all the way through. “It’s so neat to see your wife’s name and author in the same sentence,” says Thome’s husband Jim. “She poured so much hard work and time and perseverance into this book, I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve loved watching how our children saw her see this project through with a great deal of discipline and patience. Not everyone can sit down and write a book—I can hardly wait to read the second book that she just finished. What she’s done is very special.”