Elizabeth Joy Arnold
You've seen that look in your parents' eyes, or possibly reflected in the reaction of your school counselor. You simply mentioned, ‘I want to write novels for a living' and you were met with a furrowed brow and a skeptical gaze: ‘Well, now, maybe you should have something a little more solid to fall back on,' they suggested.
Elizabeth Joy Arnold no doubt saw and heard similar responses when, as a teen, she talked of her passion for writing. After all, she was a star science student in high school; a whiz at chemistry and physics. Wasn't her career path quite clear?
So she followed the formula-paved trail that must be her destiny, though her heart remained with books, pens and her keyboard. After earning a graduate degree in chemistry from Princeton University, she ultimately worked as a consultant to pharmaceutical firms.
But it seems Arnold's destiny was not determined by chemistry textbooks, but a very different book altogether. In 2007, she left the lackluster lab behind when her first novel, Pieces of My Sister's Life, was published by Bantam to great critical acclaim. The following year her second novel, Promise the Moon, hit the shelves. Arnold was officially a chemist turned novelist.
"I always wanted something more creative outside of chemistry," explains Arnold, who lives in Pennington. "After I left grad school, I couldn't find a job because it was in the middle of the recession in the 90s. I was doing temporary secretarial work and I was so miserable that I wanted something more fulfilling on the side. That's when I started following my dream of becoming a writer."
During those years, and while she was a pharmaceutical consultant, Arnold wrote and shopped around seven complete novels while also working a full-time job. Publishers rejected all seven. She paid her dues, as most writers do, a sacrifice she says was well worth it.
"The process of getting accepted for publication is much harder than anyone realizes," says Arnold, who just submitted her latest novel to her editor, due out next year. "For fiction, there is so much competition. Just getting a foot in the door is hard. Agents get hundreds of requests a day to represent novelists and they can only take maybe between five and 10 a year. Almost everyone goes through years of rejection. I kept at it because it was a passion. I had this feeling in me that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I'm going to keep plugging away until it works--and it did."