Writer and superdad Jerry Mahoney chats with us about his new book based on his popular blog, Mommy Man, and his experiences blogging on WordPress.com.
A Blog-to-Book Adventure: Mommy Man’s Jerry Mahoney
Jerry Mahoney and his partner, Drew Tappon, wanted a family. After searching, they ultimately found an egg donor in Susie — Drew’s little sister. With Susie as their donor, Jerry and Drew were able to pursue their dreams of fatherhood — and have a life they never thought they could have.
We chatted with Jerry about his blog, Mommy Man, his new book of the same name, and blogging on our platform.
How did your blog, Mommy Man, come about?
I’d written a Modern Love column for the New York Times about my family. I got a lot of attention for it, and it convinced me to turn the entire experience of how my partner and I became dads into a book. I found an agent and wrote a book proposal, but it didn’t sell. Despite the exposure from the New York Times, I was still relatively unknown, with no way to prove I had the tools to promote the book.
I knew I was going to write the book anyway, and my agent told me that the number one thing I could do to help sell it was to also build an online presence. So, I started the blog. It ended up being a great way to find my writing voice and to connect with readers who liked the way I wrote.
Along the way, I found that the blog was much more than a promotional tool. I really enjoyed writing it, and I loved the connections it helped me make. I found other outlets for my writing, I discovered a ton of amazing bloggers, and I even made some friends. A couple of people I met through blogging gave me quotes to put on my book jacket, which was a huge help.
How have readers responded to your blog?
Readers have been awesome. It’s easy to be fearful of what you’ll encounter online, because commenters can hide behind their anonymity and say really nasty things, as anyone who’s read YouTube comments can attest. But it’s very rare for those kinds of trolls to make it to my blog. Most people hear about my site because someone they know and trust shared one of my posts or because they’re in some kind of forum related to the topic. So they come to my site wanting to like it, and if they do, hopefully, they’ll engage with me and other readers, too.
The times someone has left a nasty comment on my site, my readers usually shoot them down before I even get a chance. That’s the great thing about having such a supportive and engaged audience. They feel protective of me, which is very sweet.
One of my most-commented posts is called “8 Surprising Facts About Egg Donors.” It’s over a year old now, and I still get lots of comments from women who are interested in the process. Either they’re considering donating eggs themselves, or they’re uncomfortable with the idea for one reason or another. They’ll post some very thoughtful questions and very personal reflections, and other commenters will often jump in to respond to them. It’s kind of taken on a life of its own, which I love.
Tell us about your book deal.
My agent was able to use all of this to hype up the book and find a publisher. My original title for the book was “Where Do Gaybies Come From?” but the publisher liked the blog and its title so much that we changed the book title to match the blog.
What was the blog-to-book process like?
Unlike a lot of other blogs that have become books, my book is 100 percent new material that’s never appeared on the blog. The book is all about how I became a gay dad, and the blog is about what life has been like since then. I guess you could say the book is a prequel to the blog. I wrote them concurrently, and I think of them as two separate but related projects.
Did your blog — or any aspect of blogging — help you to prepare for writing a book?
Absolutely. The great thing about blogging is you get such an immediate reaction from readers — or, in some cases, you don’t. Posting really gave me a sense of what people liked and didn’t like, what made them laugh and what they found interesting or useful. I’m constantly trying different things, and if a post gets virtually ignored, that says a lot to me. If it gets a ton of comments, shares and likes, then I know that’s an avenue I should pursue more.
With a book, you can’t count on that immediate response, and you also don’t have the opportunity to go back and make changes once it’s published, so you need to anticipate what’s going to work months and even years in advance. All of this helped me decide what to include in my book and what to leave out. I allow myself to go down a few avenues I might’ve avoided because I feel like people will appreciate them. Some are very personal (almost uncomfortably so). Mostly, blogging just convinced me to take more chances, because people tend to appreciate writing that’s bolder and doesn’t play it safe.
Thanks for chatting with us, Jerry!
Jerry’s upcoming appearances:
- June 9, 2014: Book Soup, Los Angeles, California, 7 pm
- June 16, 2014: Barnes & Noble, Upper West Side, New York City, 7 pm
- June 19, 2014: Anderson’s Book Shop, Larchmont, New York, 6:30 pm
- July 18, 2014: Barnes & Noble, Pittsford, Rochester, New York, 7 pm
For details and updates on these events, visit Jerry’s Appearances page. For more on Jerry’s book, visit the Mommy Man — the Book! page. If you’re a new reader and aren’t sure where to dive in, check out Jerry’s favorite posts from his archive.