“I’m pretending to be an author, and you can too!”
This is the title I am contemplating for the book launch of my newest novel, Lily’s Valley. I feel it conveys just the right amount of fear and trepidation, while also begging people to believe in me enough to shell out eighteen of their hard-earned dollars for a copy of my book and a slice of my soul.
I always thought published authors rolled around in mossy fens of self-confidence, whilst blossoms of pride and ambition wafted their heady fragrance over the verdant fields of assuredness and fortitude… who was I kidding? Being a writer shrivels my gut. Publishing a novel is an act of vulnerability and torture. It’s like picking a scab off your most secret scars and then asking all your friends to come look at the mess you’ve uncovered, oozing and raw, hoping they’ll tell you it’s a beauty mark. Am I alone in this reaction? Are there actually confident authors out there who strut around feeling like the mountain has been climbed, the dastardly foe vanquished, the voyage home completed, or do they also just want to hide, with their weiner dog under their shirt, pretending they didn’t do it?
When people ask me about my novels, I invariably answer… “Oh yeah, I did that, but they’re just, you know, they’re not real books. Like, you know… real ? I published them myself, so you know, whatever… you want a free one?” And when I meet new people, or have an opportunity to promote my writing, I don’t. My Love tells people that I write, my kids tell people I write, if my weiner could talk he would tell people I write, but I say nothing. Because then they might want to read them. And that’s just embarrassing.
But I want people to read them.
I want people to enjoy them.
But I suck at promotion.
Lily’s Valley was a finalist in the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Writing Competition. So was my first novel, That Thing That Happened, in 2011. I have a handful of very lovely reviews on amazon for all three of my novels. (Thank you, darling reviewers!) I have been stopped several times in the grocery store by readers who have said very nice things about my books. Yet, I cringe every time I think about doing a reading, or a launch, and I am still amazed when the few stores that carry my print versions ask me for a few more copies.
They’re not real books, people. They’re just mine.
Putting a self-published book out into the world is like sending a feral child off to fend for itself in polite society. You’re terrified that its hands are dirty and it chews with its mouth open, scared that it might make bad smells and swear at nuns and policemen, but you’re powerless to bring it back in to tidy it up. You’ve let it go, and now that little brat is out there leaving a trail of peanut shells and used condoms in its wake and you just don’t want to stand up and say “Yup. That one’s mine.”
I am forcing myself to do a launch for Lily’s Valley, because it’s stupid not to. Right? I have copies of the book, I have to sell them, I want to get my work out to the masses… but it’s scary. All of my books have pieces of me clinging to their pages. I believe every author bleeds themselves onto the page, even the ones writing about aliens on other worlds, or vampires, or paranormal un-dead space monkeys… my novels are about people finding their way when the shit hits the fan. They’re about kids struggling with the stupid adults in their lives. They’re about laughing at the darkest moment, about finding that one person whose clothes you want to rip off, about being real people when death and despair are just a breath away. And invariably they are about a hairy man, because I have one, and he makes everything right. My books are about my horrible step mother, my crazy-wonderful big sister, my children who inspire all my madness, my students, my friends, my fears, my past, my future… but at the same time none of it is real. No single thing is one single thing, and no one character is one person or moment or memory. That’s why I love doing it. The writing. I love the writing. I hate everything else.
I have students who beg to be a character in my next novel. I tell them yes. Then I tell them they’ll be the character I kill off, and they think I’m joking. (I’m not, Colton.)
So, I’m pretending to be an author… and Lily’s Valley is available on kindle and kobo in print and ebook format. And I feel I have things to say about being an Indie Author, about self-publishing, about the things I have learned over the last three years of my writing life… I just don’t know if anyone wants to listen. So I’m going to launch Lily’s Valley, at a lovely little cafe in Liverpool called Memories, and I’m going to tell whoever shows up what I’ve done while I’ve been pretending to be an author. Then maybe they can pretend too, and we can all hold each other’s hands while we jump into the fields of delight that are the author’s life. I think maybe I’m just allergic to the weeds.