Children the Impetus of Block Island Buddies
Lisa Cafferty, and her husband, Tristan, were meandering through the gallery of young students’ work at an open house. Her son, Aidan, was in fourth grade at time. They stopped and giggled when they saw a young artist’s rendering of her parents, bellied up to a bar, drinking beer. It turns out the artist was Marie’s daughter, Emily, who was in the same grade as Aidan. The subjects were Marie and her husband, Dan. The funny thing is Marie hardly drinks. “We said we wanted to be friends with the people in that picture,” Lisa says. Today, Lisa and her husband Tristan, are Marie and Dan’s very best friends.
Lisa, Team Jack CFO, knew Marie and husband Dan because both couples had kids the same age. Lisa and Tristan have Aidan and Ailish and Dan and Marie have Emily and Jake. Aidan and Emily were in the class of 2013 and Ailish and Jake will graduate in 2017. The four kids are like first cousins to each other. Tristan was Jake’s T-ball coach, and Lisa met Marie when they attended the games as well as other kid-focused events. The parents realized they had things in common, too, and friendships were born. They joke that Dan and Tristan are “brothers from another mother.” They are so similar in many ways.
Back in 2005, Lisa was 30 and a CPA who had recently left the public sector, where she’d spent her career up until that point, to go to the private sector. Marie was still director of communications for a national organization in Virginia but worked remotely from her home in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
After a series of positions that worked for a while but soon lost their luster, Lisa was losing her professional luster as well. But Lisa had two kids and college tuitions to think about. Marie noticed Lisa’s unhappiness with her work, and jokingly asked why she wasn’t working for her when they were on the beach in Block Island during their annual family vacation in August of 2013. Lisa didn’t think much of it until Marie made a formal offer in September. In November, 2013, she started working as Team Jack’s full-time Chief Financial Officer. Initially Lisa worried about mixing friendship and work and the potential impact on their friendly families. And it’s just never been an issue, she says.
“This work environment can’t get any better,” she says of her unfounded fears. She’s delighted to work for a friend, from home and have flexibility in her work life. “We work in our yoga pants and our sweatshirts every day.”
It took Lisa months, however, to get used to the work-at-home model. In the meantime, she got up early every day, showered and dressed and sat in her at-home office. She’s not like Marie, Holly and Isabel, who jokingly can work at pool-dot-com and bed-dot-com. (Perhaps some Team Jack training is needed.)
Initially, Lisa recalls, she didn’t know about Marie’s romance-writing aspirations back in 2006, when the Cafferty and Force families started taking their families on vacations together. Marie had grown up going to Block Island with her family on her father’s boat. Tristan also had a history and love affair with the island. He grew up in Connecticut and his parents vacationed there. They still do. The Caffertys and Forces stay in the same place Tristan’s parents have stayed.
Over the early years of their friendship Lisa learned about Marie’s writing. Marie would sneak off to a bedroom during their beach vacation to take advantage of some free time. Later, Lisa, like several others close to Marie, read drafts of her books printed out on computer paper and fastened with binder clips.
Marie was very protective of those pages, cautioning people to keep them safe and secret. She didn’t want her intellectual property compromised or available to the public yet.
Oops. One day Lisa was reading it on the beach one minute and the next the pages were literally out of her hands.
“I’m dying and Marie’s laughing, and I’m thinking the one thing she said was, ‘Don’t lose those papers,’ and here they are blowing in the wind in front of us,” she remembers with a laugh.
“I had never read any romance fiction and I’m a true accountant. I’m good with numbers and organization and statistics,” Lisa remembers of reading those early manuscripts. Marie laughs at her, she says, because it takes her an hour to compose an email. Lisa is amazed by the copious amount of writing Marie completes regularly. And it’s not just any writing. We’re talking New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today award-winning writing.
On one trip to Block Island Marie learned she finally got a book published—after receiving hundreds of rejections. While she was pleased with getting published, Lisa says, she was not pleased with the paltry advance. But Tristan told her that amount was more than she’d woken up with earlier that day.
Today, Lisa says, the Forces, Dan in particular, still live like the unpublished Marie Force in many ways.
“This is a woman who’s sold five million books and Dan is recycling the Ziploc baggies so they could be reused. And the screen door. They have a big tie in the middle of the screen door so nobody walks into it. That’s what I would expect of Marie and Dan. Dan’s got duct-taped winter boots that he’s had for 20 years. ‘Those are going nowhere’ he tells me.”
The future holds nothing but continued success for Marie, Lisa says.
“The thing that is so crazy about Marie is there’s nobody that knows this business better than she does. I always feel like she’s two steps, or ten steps, ahead of where the industry is going. I’ll read an article or I’ll see something and I’ll send it to her and it’s something that she’s already implemented or we’ve already been talking about it or it’s something she’s already well aware of. Even though I knew she was writing and I knew her as a person, I never realized her vision, she has her finger on the pulse of everything that’s going on, both externally, in the publishing and contemporary romance and erotic fiction arenas, as well as managing all aspects of her business.
When she first started self-publishing for instance, she was formatting all her books (including her back list), uploading them to retailers, monitoring sales, marketing and a host of other tasks. Oh yeah, she also had a full-time job. And two kids.
“It’s just crazy.”
written by Cheryl Serra, Marie’s director of publicity—and one of her bridesmaids 23 years ago