Back the winter of 2011, I got my agent. And so it began–the real work. Over the last 2-1/2 years, I’ve heavily revised one manuscript, completed two more, started a fourth and experienced the highs and lows of two book releases. Sounds like a lot, right? Between you and me, a lot of professional writers would consider me a slacker.
Along the way, there have been undisputed highs; the most obvious and thrilling being the day I saw The Trouble With Fate on the spinning circular stand, one row below Lee Child’s latest release. Can’t beat that for an oh-my! moment. And then, there’s the delighted, bashful quiver I experience every time I meet someone who’s read my work and actually liked it. Best example? At a signing at the RT Booklovers Convention, one woman came over, flattened her hands on the table, stared at me for a second (very nose-to-nose) then said, “Thank you for writing Hedi.” Then she spun off before I’d finishing processing the facts: (a) she means me no violence (b) she liked Hedi (c) wow, she really liked Hedi (d) there’s a story in her eyes and (e) Son of bitch, she’s leaving.
I never found out why she really liked Hedi so much. I wish I had. And I wish she hadn’t pivoted on her heel and left as quickly as she’d arrived. (Readers–never be shy to express why you liked a book. Writers are applause whores.)
And there have been decided lows. The first time I was sucker punched by a terrible review. The panic of meeting my first deadline. The despair of deeply revising a manuscript that I’d poured my heart into. The moment I realized I wasn’t going to make my third deadline because I’d fouled up PROMISES with a scene stealing secondary character. The intrusion of sales numbers and the God-awful character twisting effects of having to work promotion.
Of all of them, I dislike the last the most. Because there is a popular conception that promoting your series requires takes the thing you love–the word spinning, the story telling–and turning it into a product that must be “branded.”
I really hate that word. Don’t fucking brand me. Don’t tell me I have to keep inside the urban fantasy genre specifics, don’t tell me I have to present my fantasy world in any manner foreign to what I understand it to be, don’t expect me to tell the same story except differently.
I will not.
I will tell Hedi’s story, the way I meant it to be written–as a coming of age story hidden inside a fantastical world.
I’ll do this to the best of my ability. Not to satisfy my critics, not to hit some sales projection. But because I want the reader to see and feel what I am when I’m trying to put that scene down on paper. Writing is sharing the inside of your gut, your heart, your imagination, your fears, your failings, your joys, your tenderness, and those central beliefs that shape how you see the world, and people, and history. It is the transference of the essence of every blessed and awful thing that ever happened to the writer during her life.
I’ve still got a shitload of learning ahead. But buck up, buttercups. The more I write, the better I’ll get. TROUBLE was my first book, THING the second. Odds are, I’ll be close to hitting that sweet spot in another ten or fifteen books:-)
But in the meantime, here are my thanks.
1. To my publishers, for paying me to write Hedi’s story, giving me the time to learn, and providing me with the opportunity to complete her journey as I wish. You have never threatened me with the branding iron. You’ve let me be me, and I am grateful.
2. To the kid in this picture, who walked into Creemore’s Curiosity House Bookstore. She loves words, the way I once loved words. Talking to her and watching her face light up when she talked about writing was a reality check. I drove to that bookstore thinking about promoting my ‘brand’, and I left as Leigh, who loves to tell stories. I left “the brand” behind. I hope they swept it up and dumped it in the garbage.
3. To Marie, who wrote so eloquently of why The Thing about Weres spoke to her.
And there we go. I’ll still blog because I like blogging. I’ll still facebook because I like following your lives and clicking on those links you post in your feed. I’ll tweet because sometimes I want to post pictures of my cats and bitch about being out of coffee. And I’ll definitely do more bookstores because I met the kid there and look how that changed me. And I’ll go to conventions because I’m just a big of a fan-girl as my readers. (Kim Harrison’s going to be at RT 2014!!)
But I’ll do it without a brand.
I’ll do it as Leigh.
Overall, there have been few of those. Most have been balanced and fair. But a few have chewed into skin that past life experiences left susceptible to injury.