Footprints still stamp the screen on the narrow front window where burglars trampled it, clearly showing the brand of one pair of sneakers—Nikes. Molly Evans' usually friendly dog alternately barks at me and huddles behind her leg as she invites me in. Thieves invaded Evans' modest house in the Northeast Heights sometime between 10 and 11am on Monday, Nov. 25, while she was working her day job as a hospice nurse. Worried calls from a neighbor—who saw her dog milling outside while the front door dangled wide open—summoned the law and brought Evans racing home once her shift had ended.
When she got there, she screamed.
She never screams.
"Police [later] said they 'saw no signs of anything missing,’" Evans says, who notes that they left before she arrived home. "It was a total mess. Things were strewn across my floor, drawers missing from my jewelry box. All the electronics just gone.”
It wasn't the loss of her valuables but what they contained: 22 years of work as a published author.
Ironically, Evans writes about people who have lost everything—and find hope again—channeling her experiences into nine published medical romance novels. Her new paranormal series, The Resurrectionist, is about a Burqueña who raises the dead in order for them to seek the justice they were denied in life. Her 10th novel, the first of this series, comes out next year from Harlequin under the name Sierra Woods.
Evans' laptop with her new medical romance novel, under contract from Harlequin, was stolen, along with her iPad, all of her external backups and the fireproof case holding paper documents. Her manuscripts, her personal records and 10 years' worth of family photographs—
"I asked the officer, later, if anyone at the Albuquerque PD monitored Craigslist for stolen goods. He looked straight at me and asked, 'What's that?'"
So Evans put up a sign on her front lawn advertising an undisclosed reward, while friends helped her scour pawn shops and the internet for her belongings. She turned to her editors and agent to retrieve their latest copies of two of her books. But one of them was only the first 30 pages of a nearly-completed rough draft.
"It feels like someone snatched my children, like they took a hammer to my heart. My entire identity as a writer and artist is in there!"
But Evans refuses to be a victim, she says. "I'm not going to let this take over my life."
Unwilling to give up, she writes at coffee shops every weekend morning, busily reconstructing her lost novel. Now, Evans takes her computer with her when she visits patients, backs her work up to the online cloud using a SkyDrive and hopes that someone will come forward to claim the reward. Anyone with information can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She hasn't lost the mischievous sense of humor that permeates her recent writing, either, grinning as she tells me a story about the quirks of her trade:
"In … my second book, I had to take the word 'Starbucks' out and replace it with 'coffee shop.’ But I could keep a scene with a blowjob in. I guess you don't have to pay royalties on blowjobs."
Like many authors, Evans' elderly mother reads her published work. “She gives all my novels to her church reading group—and wanted me to stick a warning on that page [with the blowjob]. So I put in a sticky note with 'ooh la la, hot stuff!' over it.
“And, you know—every single church lady went right to that page."
It's a wacky business, too.
"The writer has very little control over what happens to their book once it leaves their hands—we end up being responsible for it with the readers, but everything at the house is driven by marketing," Evans tells me.
"An editor will come back with crazy things like, 'Change this to The Italian Surgeon's Pregnant Midwife Bride'—that's a real title one of my friends got stuck with. It's all based on buzzwords. Things with 'surgeon' in them sell better. 'Cowboys,’ 'firemen' … It's so strange. 'Brides,' 'babies,' 'pregnancy,' the more editors have turned younger, getting married, getting pregnant, the more they want those kinds of books from us."
Evans wrote her first romance in 9th grade, but only got serious about writing in her late 20s. She's also written several short stories and contracted for two more books with Harlequin over the course of her career.
The absolute best thing about being a writer, she says, is that, "I can be anybody I want to be temporarily."
And the worst?
"The neuroses. The insecurities. The days where everything I've written is just stupid. I've come to accept that that's a part of the process and that every other writer thinks the same thing. … Nobody turns in a perfect book."
She rolls her eyes. "I know, right? It was a revelation!"