On Tuesday, my first novel hits the shelves. It's something I've dreamed about for a very long time, certainly since high school, but most likely even before that. How does it feel? It feels good, of course. It feels like I've accomplished something. It feels like the end of a journey, but also the beginning. I'm anxious, but it's the kind of anxiety that is a privilege, so I'll savor it rather than complain about it. Mostly, I just want the day to come already.
I'm also feeling nostalgic. Reflective is the best way to put it, I suppose. I'm thinking about my old house, the little room with the IBM computer, typing away on that fantasy novel that nobody bought (hell, I couldn't even get an agent to read the thing). I'm remembering waiting in front of the IBM for an email to pop up that would tell me I had finally made a pro sale. When it finally did, I felt a momentary twinge of pleasure and got back to work, wondering what it would feel like to sell a novel one day. I imagined myself running around the house, screaming my head off. I imagined a release of every tension I'd ever pent up, my eureka moment, my salvation from a world that was increasingly boring and scary to me. When we moved to the new house, I started selling more short fiction. I felt momentum building, even while I saw so many holes in my ability, my stories, my craft. I sold a story to Ellen Datlow for her Haunted Legends anthology, and this was the closest I ever came to my eureka moment. I ran to the door and hollered for my wife. She came running because she thought I'd been injured. I was barely able to get the words out, to tell her that I'd sold a story to the anthology that everybody wanted to be in. This was a turning point. If I could write a short story that Ellen Datlow wanted, I could write a novel that one of the big six wanted. It was probably a little irrational, but that's how I saw it at the time.
When I finally did sell the novel, it wasn't like I expected it to be. There was no single moment when everything changed, but rather little ones that allowed me to gradually get used to the idea my book was going to be published. First there was the call from my agent. An editor wanted to talk on the phone. Does that mean she wants to buy the book? I asked. Maybe. Maybe not, she said. Then I was asked to rewrite and resubmit. I did. An email came. The editor was pleased with the changes. Does that mean she wants to buy the book? I texted my agent. Maybe. Maybe not, she texted back. When it was finally official, I was ecstatic, but I didn't run all over the house screaming my head off. Instead, I sat in a chair in my front yard (this was almost exactly a year ago) and soaked it all in. I was thankful. I was excited. But I also wanted more. I'd heard about this sort of thing before. Wanting more, never being satisfied. I believe it was John Rector who first told me that there's always another novel to write, always another goal, and that I should just enjoy the ride of the first one because it would never happen again. He was right, even though I think I've worried far too much over the course of the year to actually make a case that I've been "enjoying the ride." But it's not to late to start is it?
Four more days. I'm going to enjoy all of them.
After that I'm going to get that next novel finished.