Opening week butterflies

Posted in Miscellaneous.

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.

18 Responses to Opening week butterflies

  1. Kim says:

    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!

  2. @Kim: Catti is still at the foundling hall, although she’s almost of an age where she won’t be there for much longer. I admit the last two books (Silence and Chaos) have been hectic enough, and deal with very compressed events, that Kaylin hasn’t spent much on-screen time at the Halls.

    I have been contracted for three more Cast novels: The one I’m almost finished now, Cast in Chaos, and two others whose titles I don’t have yet because I haven’t started them :)

  3. Michael says:

    Any chance we can get a taste of Cast in Chaos? I mean, if you plan on reading bits of it at conven­tions anyway, maybe you could show those bits to devoted fans who can’t make make the trip to see you this year.
    What do you say?
    (If it will help, I am not above begging…)

  4. Ummm. Yes, but not now >.>. I prob­ably won’t read Chaos for either Conflu­ence or Worldcon because I’m not sure that anyone will have had a chance to read Silence, and since you have, you know there’s a bit of a state change in the lives of some of the regular char­ac­ters.

    Although for the most part the opening bit doesn’t neces­sarily spoil. Hmmm.

  5. Michael says:

    …Any chance *I* can get a taste of Chaos?

    I was giddy for weeks after reading “Angel” following last Conflu­ence. Just imagine how happy I’d be after this!

    ::Numerous para­graphs deleted to main­tain a scrap of dignity in the face of my Michelle addic­tion, though some of them were pretty funny, imho::

    Have a good conven­tion! If I’m lucky you’ll return next year, and (exple­tive, exple­tive) prelims won’t stand in my way.

  6. Kim says:

    Thanks for telling me about Catti! She is one of my favorites : ) (along with all my other numerous favorites)

    good luck on Cast in Chaos!

  7. wolfbaby says:

    I got my copy of chast in silence wed and was worried because i knew i couldn’t stay up all night reading because i had to work thursday so i was afraid if i piked it up i wouldn’t be able to put it back down and go to bed and all the way home from the store i was like.. “i’ll just wait till thursday cause i have friday off and it won’t hurt me if i stay up all night reading it.” Ya well best inten­tions and all.. *sigh* i did try to keep my hands off of it but alas I am weak when it comes to my favorite stories and in the end i had to pick it up and start reading. my husband recog­nized the signs and groaned as he recog­nized the signs and knew he was going to be the one making dinner for the kids. I was thank­fully able to put it down though it was late and i only got 4 hours of sleep and i did pick it up again thursday and finished it;)) The story was great as always and now i sit here slightly depressed as it is done and i now must wait a complete year for the next one caste in chaos.…..

    I don’t supposed you need any what are they called proof readers? i’d cheer­fully volun­tere.. though obvi­ously i couldn’t help with the spelling i can point out differ­ences in char­ac­ters and stuff:)))))))

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  9. Jenn says:

    Totally and shame­lessly unre­lated D: I noticed one of your tweets on the side spoke of fanart! And ever since I drew them years ago, I had imag­ined you seeing my pictures of your wonderful char­ac­ters, and I hadn’t even imag­ined you’d appre­ciate the anime/manga style I drew them in :P

    Since I don’t tweet at all, I’ll just put this link here.. http://​shironami​.deviantart​.com/​g​a​l​l​e​ry/ I wish I could throw only the rele­vant images in their own gallery, but I’m not even sure that’s possible :x There are 6, black and white, and near the top :)

  10. msss says:

    Well, it works for me. I managed to draw out the reading of Silence for a whole 24 hours, rather than gulping it down all at once, and it was beau­tiful. I think one of the things that I find so satis­fying about this series is that each episode has an ending. Even though I imme­di­ately want to read the next one as soon as I finish the last page (*insert shame­less begging*), this story is complete in itself.

    Thank you.

  11. Ericka says:

    I am re-reading Cast in Silence and loving it. I really enjoy this world and the char­ac­ters. Thanks for giving us two books this year :D.

  12. orannia says:

    I have Cast in Silence (CIS) waiting for me at the library! I can’t wait to read it, partic­u­larly since I ‘pimped’ the series to two work colleagues, one of whom has just finished CIS (and loved it BTW) and the other who is currently reading it (and also loving it).

    And I’m so happy there is a release date for City of Night…more Jewel! *happy dance*

  13. Alicia says:

    I really enjoyed Cast In Silence. I appre­ci­ated the look into why the rela­tion­ship between Kaylin & Night­shade exists as it does. I won’t lie however, I want more. Addi­tion­ally, I am curious if a point will come where you explore the possible romantic angle between the two or even Kaylin & Severn. But most of all I am wondering if you have a release date for Cast in Chaos? Thank you for your work, it brings me great joy.

  14. catherinepp says:

    j’ai apprécié chaque livre de la série au point de les relire plusieurs fois chachun, en anglais ou en français. Il est dommage que certain passage en français ne conti­en­nent pas autant d’émo­tions qu’en anglais.. j’at­tends avec impa­tience la sortie de cast in chaos, rien que pour voir réagir nighthade.
    je ne pense pas qu’il soit reelle­ment judi­cieux d’ex­plorer une rela­tion amoureuse entre kaylin et severn: il est humain,ce que ne va pas rester kaylin sauf erreur puisqu’elle doit devenir — selon les propos de nighthade — une sorte de deesse (confere tome 1). par ailleurs qu’elle mère pour­rait pardonner le meurtre de ses deux “enfants”…à un conjoint — même avec le temps? enfin, il me semble que leur parte­nariat reste sur un nivrau fraternel au moins de la part de kaylin…
    s’il vous plait, quelqu’un pour­rait ‘il me dire ce que veut dire erenne? après 5 livres,je ne l’ai toujours pas compris. est ce un prob­leme de langue?
    merci d’avance;

  15. Kel says:

    I found it very inter­esting that you’re nervous about readers not enjoying your books. I can honestly say that your Cast series is one that I’ll follow desper­ately even if a partic­ular book doesn’t speak to me as much as the others, simply because I’ve become so attached to the entire cast of char­ac­ters, and watching their inter­ac­tions change and grow fasci­nates me almost as much as the advancing plot.

    The whole series has become comfort reading — I read all of them before the next one just so I don’t forget anything, and peri­od­i­cally re-read them when I’m just in the mood for some­thing that engaging. I don’t know if you’ll get a kick out of it or not, but I’ve even consid­ered buying a second set so that I can re-read them even when I’ve loaned one out to a friend.

    So while I under­stand your nervous­ness, I can honestly say that I and everyone I’ve loaned them to is firmly in the “good expe­ri­ence” corner.

  16. Audrey boutet says:

    bonjour,

    j’adore vos livre, j’ai un gros soucci je parle pas un mot anglais,et grace à la collec­tion Harle­quin LUNA, j’ai pue vous devou­vrir hors, je viens de lire qu’il allait arreter la serie donc le quatrieme opus concer­nant ELANTRA (SERIE CAST) ne paraitra pas.
    Pour­riez vous me dire s’il existe une version française et quel editeur va le publier et surtout quand !!
    merçi de atten­tion que vous voudrez bien porter à ma demande.
    dans l’at­tente, d’une reponse de votre part.
    une lectrice française

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