Jocelyn Quinn was walking to class in January 2020 when she received a LinkedIn message from a Georgetown University professor asking if she had an interest in a creative writing class.
The professor told Quinn that if she could successfully write 12,000 words and pique the interest of his publisher, he would connect her with an editor and publisher. Eleven months later Quinn released her first novel, “Off The Record” – becoming a published author as a UNC junior.
“Off The Record” tells the story of young female protagonist Liz Mason, an investigative journalist and part-time bartender at Millie's, a popular surf and turf restaurant in Washington, D.C.The book covers Mason’s work as a White House correspondent, her uncovering of a military spending scandal, and her realization that she has a personal connection to the White House.
Quinn said she wrote from her own experience, weaving in references to rock and roll music, one of her passions, and including details about growing up in the U.S. Capitol while working at Millie’s.
“Most people write a book and then they pick the title,” Quinn said. “I actually picked the title first.”
She wrote the first three chapters in one night. Over the course of the semester, she worked with a small editing group and learned various techniques for brainstorming and overcoming writer’s block.
When quarantine struck in March, though, she returned home.
“Being at home made it really hard to write, so I had complete writer’s block,” Quinn said. “But what I did do was, I would drive around D.C., and I would pick the office building that Liz would work in, and then I would see how many blocks it was to the White House so that I could figure out when she would leave to go to the White House press conference from work.”
Quinn returned to Chapel Hill in July and continued to write. She soon completed the middle chapters of the book as well as the romantic storyline – which she said was inspired partially by her parents' meeting in Washington in the early 2000s.
Quinn finished the last few chapters in a 48-hour span of no sleep and plenty of coffee. Before turning it in, she picked it up, read through it and was relieved to find that it made sense. She then submitted the manuscript to her marketing and revisions editor, Kristin Gustafson.
“I think the book itself turned out very well,” Gustafson said. “Jocelyn came to me with a strong vision of her ideal end product, and I think we replicated that vision nicely.”
Quinn self-published the book in December. Though she did not initially plan on writing a sequel, she said she received overwhelmingly positive feedback from readers who enjoyed “Off The Record'' and wanted to know what would happen next.
“Not knowing much about life in D.C., Jocelyn thoughtfully intertwined important details about D.C. culture within the story to fully understand the experiences and emotions of Liz Mason,” junior biomedical and health science engineering student Emily Warren said. “The story is both youthful and charming — and a glimpse into life at the U.S. Capitol.”
Quinn’s goal for her next book is to have a contract with a publisher. Ultimately, Quinn hopes “Off The Record” and potential sequels will become a movie or TV series.
But before hearing all the positive feedback, Quinn said that she struggled with imposter syndrome and feared her book would not be good enough.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect in your eyes – people are going to be impressed, no matter what,” Quinn said. “You just have to make sure that you believe in it.”
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