Authorial Fears

This morning, I was too tired to go to a ballet class. Instead, I slept very late. When I finally got dressed (jeans, black t-shirt), I had to take a trip to the very last place I wanted to go, which was the mall. Because, as I may have mentioned before, I hate shopping. I came back with two cardigans, because in Boston, in winter, I live in turtlenecks and cardigans. There were plastic Christmas trees and Christmas shoppers, and incessant music.

The blog post on being an introvert comes sometime next week.

(I realized, a while back, that I have a uniform: jeans and a black t-shirt. When you have those, and a cardigan, and a pair of black ballet flats, what else do you need? For winter, substitute boots, a black turtleneck. Add pearls and a pair of marcasite earrings. And that’s pretty much it. Well, maybe a black skirt for going to the ballet in the evenings. But you don’t really need anything else.)

Then I had to recover from going to the mall, which involved sleeping for another couple of hours. And now I’m awake but still tired, and writing this. Which is not, I promise, a rant on how much I hate shopping, or malls. Or on how you can spend the rest of your life in jeans and black t-shirts, although I may write that blog post yet.

This, by the way, is the uniform:

I must have taken this picture several months ago? I think I was having a conversation with someone about what to wear when you’re teaching college classes, and I said that I wear jeans (although not all the time of course), and then I think I took a picture to prove it (in the mirror of the bathroom next to my office, on my way to class). So it’s silly posting it here. But there you go.

No, this post is about authorial fears. Remember the blog post I wrote a couple of days ago about writers and authors? Several comments mentioned that some people want to be authors without being writers, and I thought, why ever would they want to? Because writing is the fun part. You get to sit in a nice, quiet room, perhaps with classical music playing in the background, and make stuff up. Being an author is scary.

The Thorn and the Blossom comes out in January, which means that people are starting to talk about it, and of course they’re talking about the format. Recently I saw a blog post at a website called Novel Chatter that said the following: “Not sure what this book’s story will be like, but the concept is pretty quirky. Watch the video, see what you think. The Thorn and The Blossom, by Theodora Goss, is out in January, 2012, and I hope it’s not all ‘quirk.'” And you know what? I hope so too.

In other words, I hope people actually like the story. When you’re a writer, you’re responsible for the story. Of course, you didn’t write the story entirely by yourself. There’s an editor involved, but no reader is going to say, “Wow, I think the editor totally messed this up.” No, the responsibility rests with the writer. (For the record, my editor was the utterly lovely Stephen Segal, who did a great deal to improve the story. The flaws in it are entirely mine.)

So the book is coming out, and I’m going to have to be, not just a writer, but also an author. Meaning that I’m going to have to do readings, interviews, all those sorts of things. Which sound so glamorous, but are actually difficult, at least if you’re an introvert (blog post definitely coming next week). I think my first reading will be at the Boston University Barnes and Noble in early February. I’ll let you know when! And what if you schedule a reading but no one shows up? At various points in my writing career so far, I’ve read to one person and I’ve read to more than a hundred people. But you know what I find even scarier than readings? Signings. Because at least at a reading I’m giving the reader something, some value for attendance. But seriously, why would anyone want my signature on a book? Once a reader buys the book, I don’t matter anymore. It’s no longer my story. The reader writes it in his or her head. (And now I have discouraged anyone from attending one of my signings, ever.)

These are all things you have to do, because you can’t just sit in a dark room writing, much as you may prefer to. You have to let people know the book is out there. But it can be difficult, and it takes time, and even the most successful event drains your energy. Even tonight, trying to write a post through the tiredness, trying to connect in this way, I feel drained.

Time to go back to sleep, or perhaps just sit in a quiet room, reading a book.

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6 Responses to Authorial Fears

  1. E.C. Myers says:

    I totally sympathize! I’m starting to have the same fears (my first book’s out in March). But you are a fabulous writer and Stephen showed me the book this week and it is beautiful. Really, just a lovely object in itself, and the story sounds amazing. I will definitely pick it up and I know I will love your words as much as the way they are presented, and if you do a reading or signing anywhere near NYC or Philadelphia, I’ll be there.

  2. John Barnes says:

    1. If you don’t have one already, practice a big, flowing, readable signature. People like that and your arm won’t cramp as easily.

    2. Nowadays I always have a scheduled line of retreat: no matter what I will be away from this event and alone by time X. Does wonders for my composure, and it’s relatively easy for everyone connected with the reading or signing to be on program with. (Of course I also have a wonderful spouse who is quite capable of knocking down an entire NFL defensive line, five archbishops, and a small building to get me to my sanity break on time.). (Slightly more seriously, “I need to leave by” as a firm requirement is something bookstores & organizations tend to like — writers who overstay their welcome are apparently more common than those of us who flee on schedule, and we tend to be appreciated because people get to clean up and go home, so I have found it’s an easy deal to get if you need it.

    3. I read “plastic Christmas trees and Christmas shoppers” with “plastic” modifying both nouns, and enjoyed it excessively.

  3. Dear dear Theadora–Fear not–I’m sending you a big hug for your special being–
    http://blog.onbeing.org/post/14060260675/the-wrappings-of-love-in-enveloping-arms-an-advent

  4. Sofia says:

    Sometimes getting a book signed is not actually about the signature (although personally I like signatures; I like handwriting). It’s often the only excuse a reader has to go up and talk to the author. You know, you get your book signed and then you get to say hello to this person you admire immensely, and maybe even ask a question! A wonderful “in,” especially for nervous and shy people.

    Lots of them are probably as scared as you are. 🙂

  5. Alexa Duncan says:

    I know exactly what you mean – I wish I could just be the writer and have some kind of doppelganger who would go out and be the author for me, then come back and tell me about it later while I sat around in fuzzy socks with unbrushed hair.

  6. I’m just speaking from the reader’s perspective, so I can’t say I can 100% empathise with the feeling of being terrified of greeting an empty room while on a book tour. But what I can say is that if I were lucky enough to be that one person in the room at your signing I would feel incredibly privileged and very excited. I’m a huge admirer of your work and would be at those signings if I didn’t live across the Atlantic Ocean. Next time you think you might be faced with an empty room, think of all us people across the world who only wish we could fill that space in front of you.

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