I never thought I’d be a writer. Â At least not of mass-market stuff. Â I thought I might write a book, eventually, about Philip Roth or Martin Amis and 27 people would read it. Â That said, 27 was an optimistic estimate. Â I have no illusions about academic publishing.
Then I wrote Tempest Rising. Â It was fun. Â It was really satisfying. Â Much to my surprise and delight, when I queried agents (giggling to myself about my audacity), they actually asked to see a little bit. Â Then they asked for more. Â Finally, the most brilliant of them (Hi, Rebecca!) took me on as her client. Â After what felt like FOREVER (but was actually just a month) I had a three-book deal.
It was the stuff of dreams. Â And now, apparently, of anxiety-ridden nightmares.
The thing is, it’s felt like a big joke until now. Â I kept waiting for Orbit to say, “Ha! Â Just kidding!” Â There’s part of me that doesn’t feel I deserve this. Â I know that, rationally, I have worked my entire life at all the things one works at to become a writer: writing and reading. Â I’ve never not had a book attached to my face and I’ve been writing since shortly thereafter. Â It was rarely fiction, but it was writing.
But I haven’t spent years in creative writing courses, or years working on a manuscript with a writer’s group. Â This makes me feel strangely inadequate, not least because the people who have actually read Tempest Rising can be counted on one hand.
And now I’ve been told by a writer whose book I worship (Stacia Kane, Personal Demons), that she’s reading MY book. Â She’s got the bound galley, hopefully to give us a positive blurb. Â I had no idea they’d be out so fast. Â I don’t know, right now, who else may or may not have one. Â I really, really want to throw up.
I didn’t expect to feel like this. Â Don’t get me wrong: I’m excited, chuffed, can’t wait to see the box of ARC’s waiting for me. Â I may bathe in them. Â I’ll definitely take them out to dinner first and murmur sweet nothings in their little ARC ears. Â But I also feel terrified.
I am a pretty bolshy person. Â I remember when I was about seven, and my mother’s very good friend Barbara Pielet said, “Honey, do you know what chutzpah is?” Â When I shook my head, she said, “Well, you have it.” Â I am used to exposing myself (not in the nudie sense, thank you) to classrooms, to lecture halls, to conference audiences. Â I talk about the role of heterosexual sodomy in the philosophy of D.H.Lawrence to sophomores in college. Â I should be virtually unembarassable.
Turns out I’m really not. Â Because I’m terrified. Â I started to get fairly nervous when I was told that what I thought was the copyediting manuscript were actually the ARC’s (thanks, Jaye!). Â I started to get concretely nervey when I signed the contracts. Â And for some reason, getting the author photos really brought it home to me that not only was this real, but I had no control over it. Â I couldn’t get embarassed if someone said I was pretty and post a different picture of me dressed in something ridiculous to illustrate that I don’t take myself seriously, in that way. Â I just had to choose a picture that would go on the back of a book that random people could wander by, look at, and use to judge me. Â And I found that I really do take myself seriously, in that way. Â Because I wanted the picture to be pretty, and to illustrate the personality of “Nicole Peeler, Authoress,” to people who didn’t know me from Adam, who would never know me, and who had no reason to want to get to know me.
In other words, I want them to like me. Â And I’m not like that. Â I usually have one middle finger in the air while the other waggles people away. Â My personal life is filled with people, but it’s not with just anybody. Â And suddenly I want to win Miss Congeniality?
That’s when I hit on my issue. Â I don’t really care if people like Nikki, the woman only a few people know, who grew up in Aurora, Illinois, who likes opera and new brit pop, who has an unseemly affection for dairy products, etc. Â I want people to like Nicole Peeler, Author, because I want them to like my book. Â I feel I owe Jane something. Â I owe all of Rockabill a good send off. Â I can’t get in their way. Â I worry I wasn’t ready to mother them. Â Maybe I should have sat on my idea, and done some time in a writer’s group. Â Maybe they’d be stronger, more able to fight for themselves.
I know I sound like one of my pregnant friends, but that’s how it feels. Â I gave birth to something, I love it, and I now have to send it off into the cruel, cold world. Â A world very ready, it seems, to spring on it before it can even be read.
So I’ve got to get over these feelings. Â And I will; I am; I have. Â I’m dealing. Â I always think I’m faintly ridiculous, and this experience is no exception. Â Not least because all of these emotions are tempered with how honored I am that my book was chosen over so many others and how proud I am of its getting published.
That said, I also know it’s going to be an incredibly rough ride. Â And that I may need to bring along a bucket. Â And a flask.
The Muse never whispered to me about the bucket. Â Fickle bitch.