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Abby Jimenez's journey from baker to bestselling author

Abby Jimenez has a sweet tooth for love.
abbey jimenez
Courtesy Ryan LaPlante

Abby Jimenez's fans devour her cupcakes and her romance novels. The author of "The Friend Zone" and her most recent, "Just for the Summer," is at the top of her literary and culinary games.

“These are my hobbies. Baking was always a hobby for me, writing was always also a hobby for me. I just happen to be able to do things that other people like, which is great,” Jimenez tells TODAY.com.

The winding tale of Jimenez's twin careers begins in 2007. At the time, Jimenez was working as a retail manager when she got pregnant with her third baby in three years. Six months later, she lost her job and found herself scrambling to earn enough money to pay the bills.

"I decided to take some cake decorating classes at the local Michael’s just to distract myself from how depressed I was,” Jimenez says.

What was supposed to be a band-aid on a temporary financial hardship became the foundation of Jimenez’s success.

On launching her baking business

Jimenez never intended to start selling her baked goods, let alone open and operate a brick-and-mortar bakery. But the bills kept piling up and so she saw only one choice: to launch Nadia Cakes, named after her middle child, from her house.

For two years, Jimenez baked and sold assorted cupcakes from her California home while her three children climbed on her as if she were monkey bars.

Jimenez, who says that she was chronically exhausted, ended up developing carpal tunnel in both of her hands. “My nerve damage was so bad in my right hand that (the doctor) said ‘surgery on Friday,’” she says.

While Jimenez was recovering, she found herself on the brink of a mental and financial breakdown.

“I told my husband, ‘I can’t keep doing this.’ People who do this either have a bakery or they have a daycare,” she remembers saying.

Jimenez was operating both, all while descending into deeper debt. Her husband casually suggested that they open up a formal bakery, an idea that Jimenez says she gawked at. Yet she found herself begging a local bank to offer her a loan.

After securing a $5,000 loan, Jimenez recalls the “scary” moment when she and her husband charged $125,000 additional opening expenses to their credit cards.

“We were so broke. We were like, ‘this is really all or nothing.’ We’re either going to be successful and have a bakery or we’re going to lose our house, our cars, we’re gonna lose everything,” she says.

If Jimenez’s life was a fairytale, this next moment would be one in which she’d be garnished with pixie dust and sent to step into her new fantastical life.?

In 2009, she opened the doors to Nadia Bakes in Palmdale, California to “instant success” with “lines wrapped around the building.”

The bakery made a name for itself with its geode cakes, which looked like they were cut from the side of a crystal. One cake broke the internet for its resemblance to a certain body part.

Jimenez says that she couldn’t keep up with the demand, so her husband quit his job as a retail manager to join her formally as CFO, handling the financial and logistical side of the business.?

Within six months, she was cast on TLC’s “Fabulous Cakes,” followed by Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” where she won $10,000 for her Rose Bowl-inspired display of cupcakes.

At that time, she found herself ready to open a second location, but the oversaturation of cupcake shops in California encouraged her to look East.

“We really wanted to move somewhere where there were seasons. So we took a five-week cross-country trip with all the kids in the car and drove through 23 states. When we came to Minnesota, we were like, ‘This is nice,’” she says.

Within three months, her family packed up their California home, trading in palm trees for parkas in The North Star State.

abbey jimenez
Courtesy Ryan LaPlante

On stumbling into her writing career

After opening not just one, but two locations in Minnesota, Jimenez once again found herself itching for something new, so she turned a page and picked up a romance novel, her go-to genre.

“I was chasing a certain kind of romance and I had a really hard time finding it. I wanted something that was funny, but also had depth. I wanted to read stories that felt realistic, like they were people I would know. I had such a hard time finding exactly what I wanted and I was like, ‘You know what, maybe I can write my own romance,’” Jimenez says.

It’s at this point that I decide, if given the opportunity, I would be hesitant to accompany Jimenez to an amusement park. She strikes me as someone who only moves at one speed — which is faster than humanly possible — and never looks back. But she corrects me.

“You know, I am really not a risk-taker actually. I’m very risk-averse. My husband is the one that’s like, ‘No, you can do this,’” she says.

The self-proclaimed risk-averse writer decided to write what she describes as a YA dystopian novel that was “absolutely terrible.”

After receiving some advice from a literary agent, she decided to try her hand at writing a contemporary romance novel. Again, Jimenez submitted the book to a new literary agent, who decided to take her on as a client.

If you’re reading this and thinking that Jimenez was born under a rainbow and sleeps on a pot of gold, she’ll be quick to correct you too.

“It was not all sunshine and roses after that. After that, everything was hard,” Jimenez says.

She says she was in submission to publishers for so long that she had enough time for her to write a draft of her second book, "The Friend Zone."

“Nine months into this, we ended up getting an offer for a three-book deal and I got two offers on the same day,” Jimenez says. Now, you may start to reconsider that pot of gold.?

Jimenez’s sixth book, “Just for the Summer,” will be released on April 2, 2024 but she’s well on her way to doubling her batch.

“I have two more books after that that I have book deals for. I don’t think I’m ever going to stop because I love it too much.”

In some ways, her writing process hasn’t changed since those early dystopian days. Success has meant that she now has a lake house she can retreat to when she needs to “bust out 10,000 words” but most of the time, you’ll find her writing on the sofa in her living room with her laptop resting on her body.

She likens her home to an “international airport,” with three teenagers and four dogs passing through at any given time. “It’s very distracting and not conducive.”

Still, Jimenez says she has a tendency to complete her drafts a few months before deadline. “If I’m turning my book in on deadline, I feel like I’m late,” she says.

On learning about life in a love stories

Jimenez’s books, which are all interconnected, fit squarely into the romantic-comedy genre, with funny scenes bordering the steamy ones.

Don’t call them light, though. Her books have more serious threads stitched between the pages with characters who are dealing with anxiety, domestic abuse and infertility.?It was an intentional choice, but not an immediately welcome one, Jimenez says.

Her newest book, “Just for the Summer” touches on “the effects that your childhood can have on your relationships as an adult.”

“One thing that I heard a lot of during the rejection period was, ‘We’re looking for lighter fiction. We’re looking for lighter romance right now,’” Jimenez says.

She says those responses were frustrating.

“I can’t picture writing anything that doesn’t have these more important themes because romance takes place in the folds of everyday life. These are the real things that happen to real people when they’re falling in love,” Jimenez says.

Jimenez believes that her inclusion of real-life situations is her strong suit. “Every single one of my books now is run through a rigorous beta read team and rigorous sensitivity read. I find advisors for important themes in every single one of my books, which is why they feel so authentic and they feel so accurate,” Jimenez says proudly.

I think a lot of people learn how to be in healthy, non-toxic relationships through reading the right kind of romance.

ABBY JIMENEZ

At the same time, she’s found that the stigma around romance novels has changed. Readers and publishers alike know more than to expect romance authors to present a fluffy manuscript that can be read in one sitting, then tossed aside.

“When I started writing, there were bookstores that simply didn’t carry romance. I find that less and less now. It’s very rare now that I walk into an indie bookstore and can’t find a romance section. Not only are publishers taking the genre more seriously, I think that sellers are taking it more seriously," she says.

“I think a lot of people learn how to be in healthy, non-toxic relationships through reading the right kind of romance.”


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