An author friend of mine told me a couple of months ago that she called the publication process "Crazy Town." As in "You are now entering Crazy Town." I can attest to this.
I think I've said this already, but at the risk of repeating myself, I didn't really expect getting published to be, you know, that big a deal. I mean, I knew it was a good thing. A very good thing. That I'd beaten all kinds of crazy odds achieving this particular milestone. But I figured the book would get published, and I'd move on to the next thing, whatever that would be. That it wouldn't leave any particular imprint on my psyche. All that had already happened. I'd gotten an agent. Gotten a deal. Next!
Well, not so much. This has been an utterly life-changing experience. After years of doing creative projects that generally went no further than me and a few of my closest friends and relatives, of mostly staying behind the scenes, working for other people, all of a sudden, it's me out there. I've been calling it "My Big, Giant, Head." Like, I go to some website, and I mean, something big, like, the LA Times Book Blog, and there it is: My Big Giant Head.
It's...pretty cool, overall. But disorienting.
And, you know, the downside. You get...reviews. Most of which have been really positive and thoughtful. And I totally accept that not everyone is going to like everything that I do. Intellectually, I accept this.
Emotionally? It's not always the easiest thing.
You know, most writers are introverts. A lot of people who know me are surprised to hear me say that I am one, because I can be pretty social (and I used to sing in a rock band and stuff), but I am. I've always kept a pretty strict zone of privacy. My very own Fortress of Solitude. It's weird being public, even on the small level that I am. Weird being judged for things that are pretty intangible at times, or at least highly subjective.
Mostly it's been great. The totally cool part is suddenly connecting with all these people I don't actually know, having created something that they've responded to, that means something to them. That's been really awesome. I am amazed and astounded by the thoughtful book people out there populating the Interwebz, so many that I'm reluctant to start a list for fear of leaving someone out (rapid mumble "the Rejectionist, Moonrat, Kingdom Books, Dirtysexybooks, all the awesome people at BookBrowse, Sia McKye, Danwei, That's Shanghai, That's Beijing, Susan Kason, Crime Spree, Mysterious Writers, Mystery Scene, oh shit I KNOW I am leaving people out, just go to my Facebook Author page, where I post all this stuff!")
...Er, where was I?
Oh yeah. These are folks who by and large do this out of passion for books, because they give a damn about books and readers and the larger world. With the mainstream media's coverage of books shrinking daily, the work these volunteers (and I mean "volunteer" like you guys are the cultural version of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade) are doing is vital, and important, and I bow to all of you.
And by this, I don't mean to slight the professional book reviewers, at Publisher's Weekly and the New York Times and the Miami Herald and the LA Times, and...you know? I just can't summarize in a few sentences the value of those people who are hanging in there and fighting the good fight for literature and culture and books and maintaining a space for thoughtful analysis in the face of a business environment that doesn't much value these things.
And then...there are the bookstore owners and workers. Oh, man. I meant to write about my experiences on the mini-tour much earlier. I went to some amazing bookstores. Mystery Books and Book Soup in LA, Village Books in the Palisades, M is for Mystery in San Francisco, Poison Pen in Phoenix, Murder by the Book in Houston. A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego...what these institutions and the people who own and run them and the customers who support them do for authors is absolutely remarkable. They create communities. They take chances. Without them, the literary world would be a much poorer, narrower place. I had such a wonderful time meeting these book people, fellow authors, and readers. Thank you. Every one of you.
I'm not sure exactly what point I'm trying to make here. I guess this is more of a summing up of my thoughts and experiences over the last couple of months.
Right now, I'm struggling through the creation of my next book. And, yeah, I'd heard of "Second Book Syndrome" and all of that, but it's another one of those things that, until you experience it, you might think you understand it, but you really don't. Well, maybe you will, but I didn't.
The irony of it is, the better Book #1 does, the greater the expectations for Book #2, and the greater the pressure. At least that's how I've experienced it.
Book #2 is coming along. I've come to the realization that for me, the writing comes out of some dark places, and as much as I don't want to go there at times, that's where the book is hiding. In dark corners, underground.
Maybe this is why I always carry a flashlight.
(Apologies for not providing links to all of the wonderful folks listed above. I'm kind of tired. Please check out my Facebook page for those, or if you want any further details, just let me know)