My Debt Story

For the last two years, I’ve been working on my novel, The Georgia Rules. It’s less about rules and more about Georgia, a sad, clumsy woman, who always finds herself in ridiculous messes. We follow her as she tries to scrap her way out of the depths of debt, while also trying to deal with personal problems surrounding unreliable men, a stagnant career, and her dysfunctional family.

The premise came to me at a time when I didn’t know what to do with my life. I had only been in Costa Rica a few months, and I was newly married and unable to legally work. Every day, I was working on my Spanish, determined to get fluent. But that damn subjunctive tense, and all of its tedious forms, had a sedative effect on me. So I took frequent breaks and watched stand-up comedy specials on Netflix and YouTube. While my Spanish languished, my appreciation for good comedy writing grew. I love comedy, whether in the form of stand-up, sitcoms, movies, short videos, or books; and watching those stand-up specials inspired me to write again.

I don’t have the grit to write and do stand-up, but I do love fiction, especially the kind you find at airport bookstores. I thought, Maybe I could write something funny…one day. And that sat with me. Then one night, the idea for a story came to me, and over the next few months, I worked out the plot. After that, it took me a year to write the first draft, another six months to do the second, then another three months to complete the third. I’m editing it now, and it’s taking me much longer than I’d anticipated. Whenever my brain needs a break, I just work on my website, which is a whole other job. This endeavor has been a lot of work, but I’ve never had more fun applying myself.

This novel, no doubt, is a huge departure from my first book. Loonie to Toonie was not the book I had always fantasized about writing. For one, it’s all about finance, a subject that’s hard to understand if you were never taught it. Secondly, I’m not a financial “expert.” It took me a long time, and many courses, to figure it out. When I finally did, I was motivated to write the book I wish had existed when I was starting to learn about investing: something comprehensive yet easy to understand and reference.

After publishing it, a lot of people approached me to talk about money. From these conversations, I learned two things: 1) reference books, though useful, aren’t for everyone, and 2) most people are curious about investing but can’t invest because they have bigger problems to deal with first, like their own personal debt crisis.

I felt I couldn’t ignore this problem, so what do I do? Another book on debt reduction? There are already countless books and websites on that specific topic, yet debt continues to plague so many people. I realized it was necessary to examine the contributing factors—the ones that go much deeper than just rising prices and living in a credit-crazy, materialistic world. I wasn’t interested in writing a self-help book on scrimping and changing your spending habits, but I did want to write about what it’s like to personally struggle with debt. I grew up with it. I know how difficult it is to live with debt and how much harder it is to get out of it. My novel isn’t about me, but as I wrote it, applying humour enabled me to confront and reconcile a lot of deeply-buried personal issues that were still affecting a lot of my financial decisions. And that’s the magic of comedy—it makes it easier for us to look at our lives without getting so depressed about it. My hope is that others who are struggling financially can have a similar experience—and a good laugh—when they read the book.

I’m looking forward to publishing my novel very soon, but I’ll surely miss working on it. The best cure for that would be to start thinking about the next story to write. More “rules,” anyone?

Author: Donna Fernandez

Author of contemporary fiction.