Life After Receiving “the Call”

(Originally published Aug.1, 2007).

This week, I filled out a questionnaire for an on-line interview with ‘Fallen Angel Review.” One of the questions was: “How has being published changed your life, if at all?” I thought long and hard. Here’s my reply:

Oh, if only I could brag about a sudden whirlwind of celebrity, adulation, and autographs, a windfall of royalties, a movie contract, a summer home in Monte Carlo. Truth be told, fame and fortune have not gone to my head, mainly because hardly anyone has ever heard of me, and my royalties have not come close to covering my expenses. In fact, little has changed. True, most people I meet are slightly more interested in my profession than during my previous life as a management consultant. New acquaintances no longer sidle towards the door, shifty-eyed and evasive, for fear I will regale them with sprightly anecdotes involving business process re-engineering, data modelling, or integrated systems. Instead, they drag me into a quiet corner to describe the book that is throbbing and bubbling inside them, waiting for the perfect moment to be born. Who knew this planet contained so many budding authors?

A friend once warned me that when an author sells a book, the hard work has only just begun. At the time, I thought she was referring to the editing process — until I sold my book. My edit was relatively painless, so I’m guessing my friend was referring to the dreaded ‘P’ word — PROMOTION. Like many authors, I’m an introvert. The thought of networking a crowd of strangers causes me to break out in a cold sweat and develop a series of nervous tics that scare potential readers. Some days, I would rather gouge my eyes out with a blunt stick than collar total strangers in a bookstore and convince them to part with their hard-earned money for the pleasure of reading my book.

Nevertheless, marketing and promotion are vital, and sometimes even fun, components for establishing a presence in a competitive marketplace. In my opinion, the best part of promotion is standing in front of a group of new writers and delivering my workshop entitled ‘Beginners’ Mistakes: Some Things Books Tell You About, and Some Things They Don’t (Based on my Own Blunders)’. Turns out, surprise, surprise, that I love dispensing wisdom and sage advice. Did I mention I used to be a management consultant?

Another change I have noticed is my attitude towards writing. Before being published, I thought that writing the second book would be easier than the first. I’m not alone in this misconception. Apparently, everyone thinks the second book should be easier than the first. A piece of cake. Child’s play. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Giving birth to the second book is infinitely more painful than the first.

Here’s the thing. With my first book, ignorance was bliss. Unaware of the hordes of rules surrounding writing romance, I blasted merrily ahead, never second guessing myself and allowing my creativity to follow any path it chose. Goals? Motivation? Conflict? Never gave them more than a passing thought. Character archetypes? Never heard of them. Cause and effect? If I got ‘em right first time around, it was sheer luck. Avoiding backstory in the first four chapters? My first four chapters were nothing BUT backstory (I dropped the offending chapters in subsequent drafts). This time around, I am trying to get everything more or less correct in the first version, maybe the second, but definitely before the twentieth.

Seriously though, whether or not I ever write a best-seller, I’m having the time of my life. I never dreamed life could offer so much fulfillment.