Aaron asked, in the previous comment thread: Do authors get nervous when their works become accessible to the masses? With this book, perhaps less so, considering this is a series work in progress with an avid readership. However, I can’t help but wonder if you (in particular) get butterflies the first “opening days” of your releases.
Since I was more or less thinking about writing about this very thing, it’s the perfect question at this time.
But first, the usual very strong and very relevant disclaimers. I can’t speak for authors in general. No author can. Writing process – from start to finish – is so individual that what works for one author perfectly will cause another to seize up and wordlock. This is true when writing a novel; it’s true, as well, in the ways we react to the entire publication process.
So although it’s never charming when someone is speaking in a way that is “all about me”, this is, in fact, all about me.
I think for the first book there is a huge amount of excitement because it’s the first book, it’s a real book, and it’s often the end-product of years of work; years of learning to write well enough to tell the story, and then years of honing, learning about the business and submissions, finding an agent, etc. There is something enormously special about holding that first book in your hands, because it’s what you’ve been working toward for so long. There are also a lot of nerves. The usual “what if no one likes it”.
For me, this has grown stronger, rather than weaker, with the passage of time. It is not as exciting to hold a finished book in my hands — but it’s still pretty darn close.
I’m always slightly nervous when a book is released into the wild. I am nervous because writing is an act of communication, and there’s no actual communication in isolation, since in theory you need at least two people in order to communicate. Yes, it’s my story; yes, it’s a story I want to tell. But I can’t be certain that I’ve told it clearly enough that it speaks to other people until other people read it. My editor, of course, helps with this, as do first readers. But ultimately, they see the book in so many stages that it’s almost as easy for them to become lost in the process as I am. It’s hard to read each iteration as if they’ve never read it before.
It’s impossible for me to read any of it as if I’m a reader.
When writing a continuing series, like the Cast books, I think the anxiety actually gets stronger, rather than weaker, as the series continues, because the book or the story can go in directions that some of the readers who did like the first book might not enjoy nearly as much.
So, yes, I do get butterflies. I get excited, and I get nervous, and they really can’t easily be separated. Every writer has to tell the stories they can tell, the stories they love, but readers are in no way obligated to love those stories in the same way. As a reader, I don’t feel that sense of obligation when I buy a book or begin one; if the book fails to engage me, I don’t immediately feel that the fault lies with me.
Nor do I feel that the fault lies with the reader if the book they happen to bounce off is one that I wrote. Sometimes, the reader wants things that I’m simply not writing — and that doesn’t really hurt all that much. There are many, many books that I simply have no interest in reading; to demand that readers behave in a way that I don’t as a reader is just impractical.
However, when someone who did love the first book suddenly hates, or is bored, by the second, or third, or one of the subsequent books, that does sting a bit, because I clearly did manage to both engage them in the world and then lose them as it progressed.
At that point, I can sit in a corner and try to enumerate all the things that I might have done wrong – which is often pretty paralyzing – for hours at a time. And it’s not terribly productive, because in the end, I can’t write to a single, specific reader or opinion or I second-guess the book for the entire duration and it slowly gurgles to a grinding halt. Fear, which is not my favourite of human emotions, saps both the joy and the heart out of the book; I can’t write when I feel that inhibited. I can’t spend time thinking about what people will think of me every time I type a sentence, because what ends up on the page if I do that is so horribly superficial I might as well write a book about the weather. Or cooking. Or gardening. (I choose these things because they are not hobbies of mine, so any conversation I have about them is entirely social pleasantry. Or horror story, if you do happen to be an expert.)
This doesn’t mean that there are things that I couldn’t change as I go. Sometimes people have complaints not with the story itself, but with small elements in the way it’s told, and those, I try to keep in mind when I’m moving forward.
And, I suppose I should add that I am overjoyed when the book works for people, and they love it — but, because I’m a writer and all writers are somewhat neurotic, I then look at the work-in-progress and think “but…everyone will be so much more disappointed in this one.” No, this is not rational.
But, it keeps me honest.
So, yes: Butterflies.
I love it, Michelle! It’s fantastic. I mean, I was a bit apprehensive — not that I wouldn’t like it, but with the grim summary, I was scared of a terribly grim story. The title didn’t help. Silence just doesn’t sound like a good thing.
But I do love it, and my fears do not seem realized.
I know you told us this, but I’ve forgotten… do you already have the next book contract (for cast), or are you getting it?
and I was wondering what happened to Catti, if you can tell me.
but even if you can’t tell me anything about the next books, or catti, or, well, anything, I love your books, and I love Cast in Silence!