How TJ Newman went from flight hostess to writing his first novel


On a red-eyed flight from Los Angeles to New York several years ago, flight attendant TJ Newman suddenly had a thought: what if someone kidnaps the family of a pilot and demanded that the pilot crash the plane in exchange for the safety of his family?

Unable to shake off the thought, she posed the hypothetical question to a pilot she worked with a few days later. His response was not reassuring.

“The expression on his face terrified me because I knew he didn’t have an answer,” Newman said.

“And that’s when I knew I had a book to write.”

The story of the thriller “Falling”

The result of Newman’s dark thinking about this red-eyed robbery is “Falling,” a detective story to be released on July 6.

In “Falling”, 144 passengers are on a flight to New York, unaware that the pilot’s family had been kidnapped 30 minutes before takeoff. “For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way for the family to survive is for the pilot to obey his orders and crash the plane, ”the synopsis read.

The story arose from the completion of this red-eyed flight how much everyone’s life depended on the pilots in the aircraft cockpit.

“I was standing at the front of the cabin, looking into the plane. And it’s dark and it’s cold and it’s calm and everyone is sleeping, ”Newman told The Arizona Republic.

“I just have this thought that their life, my life, the lives of my teammates, all of our lives, are in the hands of the pilots. So, with so much power and responsibility, how vulnerable does that make a commercial pilot? “

The “Falling” post involved 41 rejections and 30 drafts

Newman, 36, made history on her days off and on napkins as she worked with red eyes. Although she had written partial stories over the years, she had never completed a novel until “Falling”.

“When I started writing this I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Newman said. “I convinced myself to start writing this book because I made a deal with myself and said, if you don’t want to, no one will ever read this.”

When she finished the story, Newman realized that even if this was a “terrible first draft,” it could be a book.

TJ Newman worked at Changing Hands Bookstore and as a flight attendant before publishing his first detective novel, "Fall."

In the end, it took over 30 drafts for it to become worthy of publication, she said.

Around 2017, she decided it was time to “buckle down and get down to business” on the story. Over the next two years, she studied a top-level creative writing textbook and learned to hone her writing.

Reading “The Essential Guide to Publishing Your Book,” Newman realized that the next step to seeing the story published was to find a literary agent.

TJ Newman went from flight hostess to major book deal

Newman encountered 41 agent refusals before an agent from The Story Factory agreed to work with her in 2019.

“I just had to convince myself to keep going,” Newman said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt each of these rejections; it was not a painless effort.

However, she is used to “brutal” rejection. Her Broadway career attempts ended, in her own words, in failure when she was in her twenties, after studying musical theater at Illinois Wesleyan University.

This is how she ended up with her parents in Mesa – “I am a proud product of the public school system in Mesa,” she said – with the impression that she “did not” of the future “. She ended up working at the Changing Hands bookstore, where she reconnected with her artistic and creative impulses.

“I’ve been a lifelong reader and writer, but my time at Changing Hands was when those dreams of being a published writer became real goals,” Newman said.

But being a flight attendant is “a family affair” (her mother and sister also held the position), so she quickly found herself faced with an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She quit her job and went to San Francisco for training to work for Virgin America.

She worked as a flight attendant for 10 years – including being on leave for most of 2020 (she spent that time writing) – before resigning by signing a two-pound contract with Simon & Schuster this year.

TJ Newman, a former employee of Mesa's Changing Hands bookstore, wrote a detective novel

“Falling” could become a movie

Shortly after the Associated Press published an article on the Seven-Digit Book Affair in February, a dozen movie studios reportedly entered a bidding war for the rights to transform “Falling” in a movie.

Within a week, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Universal Pictures had purchased the rights for $ 1.5 million.

“I’m still working on figuring this out,” Newman said. “It still doesn’t seem real, if I’m being totally honest. “

It might start to feel real when she celebrates the book launch with a virtual and in-person hybrid event at Changing Hands in Phoenix on July 5.

“My friends and family will be there and it will be a place that I love and my old place of work,” Newman said. “This will be just the most surreal moment in the circle, and I can’t wait.”

What’s next for TJ Newman

Although Newman is no longer a flight attendant, the profession is still close to her heart.

“I made lifelong friends because your teammates become your family almost instantly,” Newman said. “There is a level of trust and support that is almost inherent in the job. “

That is why “Falling” is dedicated to those who work in the airline industry.

“I’m very proud to present a counter-narrative to the more stereotypical portrayal (of flight attendants),” Newman said.

“I hope when flight crews read ‘Falling’ they see this respect and reverence I have for what we do… being a respected and valued member of a crew whose purpose on board is safety and passenger safety. “

Newman’s career as a flight attendant is behind her as she sets her sights on her second book, which will also be published under Simon & Schuster’s Avid Reader Press.

“I play the second volume as close to the chest as the first. But I will say that I don’t think I used all the stories, ideas and experiences of a 10 year career as a flight attendant in one story.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4968. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.

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