OK, I didn’t actually hate him. I hated the sight of him.
Those were the days when a lot of agent queries happened via snail. Each time I saw that battered mail truck creeping along my street, I had a sick feeling he was bringing another rejection. While my natural optimism had me picturing sunshine and rainbows and good news most of the time, there were still days I wanted to shoot out the tires of that truck with a dart gun.
Those days passed after I got an agent, but a new set of fears arrived after that. When we began submitting my work to editors, I got nervous each time I saw my agent’s name in my inbox or on my caller ID. It was still a fear of rejection, but a different sort. I fretted that each time an editor said, “no thanks,” it pushed my agent that much closer to wondering what drugs she’d been taking when she signed me, and whether she could acquire enough to endure the misfortune of keeping a dead-weight client around.
After the book deal came through, I began wondering what my next big fear would be. Bad reviews? Poor sales? A disturbing fungus contracted during a book signing at a nudist resort?
I actually hadn’t put words to my current fear until Friday afternoon when I was getting ready for an event at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. I mentioned to my agent that I was nervous, and she asked why.
She probably expected me to express a fear of public speaking or that no one would show up. I probably should have feared those things, given my foot-in-mouth tendencies and the fact that most people have better things to do on a Friday evening than drive to a bookstore to listen to an author yammer.
But what really bothered me was knowing I wouldn’t be able to spend quality time with the people who did show up.
Having survived a similar book signing event before, I already knew the difficulty of trying to connect with everyone. As much as I want to hug all the attendees until their eyes bug out, there just isn’t time (nor does everyone enjoy being mauled by strange authors).
I want to make eye contact with people when I’m reading or answering questions, but I get distracted and end up staring at the weird guy in the back row wearing a fedora and an apron.
I want to chat for hours with everyone who hands me a book to sign, but I can’t seem to pull it off. I’m not saying I’ve got giant lines of people winding halfway down the block, but even a handful of people can get bored and meander away if the author spends too much time gabbing with others about traffic and giant purple vibrators. When I see people leave the line, I panic. Do they hate me? Do they think I’m a snob?
Or more likely, did they mistakenly believe it was the line for free popsicles and now they’re forced to make a hasty exit before things get awkward?
When I was at RWA Nationals, an author pal with a fairly recent book deal was approached by another writer who wanted to go out for drinks. Exhausted and overcommitted, the author politely declined.
“So you think you’re too good to hang out with unpublished authors now?” the other writer snapped.
That story breaks my heart because I know with absolute certainty that’s not how the author was feeling. I know what it’s like to be exhausted to the point of delirium, and I know that’s the state she was in that evening.
But I also know how things can be perceived, and I hate the thought of people perceiving me that way. Am I a snob because I seldom respond to blog comments like I used to? Am I a bitch because I’ve dropped the ball on a handful of interview requests in recent weeks?
Er, don’t answer that. There’s seldom a right answer to a question that begins “am I a bitch?”
I am curious about the subject of fears. What was your biggest fear a few years ago? How has that changed today? How do you expect it to change in the future?
I should probably go apologize to the mailman for the dart thing, huh?