The authors copies of my eighth novel, My Sister Rosa, arrived today. It publishes in the US and Canada in less than a month. I’ve been through this eight times, eleven times if I count my non-fiction book and anthologies, yet it never stops being exciting and it never stops being scary.
All I ever wanted to be was a novelist. Every time a new book of mine is published I have a moment where I hold my breath and ask myself if this is real. Did I dream every book I ever published? Then I hold the real, solid book in my hands and let the breath out.
It never gets old.1 I doubt I’ll ever stop being delighted that something I wrote became a real, honest-to-goodness book!
It never stops being scary either. What if everyone hates it?!
It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve already published, that moment of showing what you’ve written to someone else for the first time is nervous-making. My Sister Rosa has already had multiple positive reviews in Australia and New Zealand, and now in the USA and Canada, but I’m still nervous about what’s going to happen when it publishes here on the 15th of November.
One of my superstitions is that there’s a correlation between how much I enjoyed writing a book and its reception. This despite the fact that my best-selling novel, Liar, was tough to write and the one I had the most fun writing, Team Human with Sarah Rees Brennan, sold horribly.
I struggled to write My Sister Rosa. It took me more drafts than I care to think about to nail the voice of the main character. I also got sick with pneumonia and missed several deadlines. All of which makes me nervous. So far, it’s done well in Australia and New Zealand. Fingers crossed for North America.2
I’m aware it’s an absurd superstition. People who read our books don’t know what we were going through when we wrote them, and even if they do, they soon forget as they get engrossed in the book or put it down cause they hated it. Mostly readers don’t think about the author; they think about the book.
I used to wish that one day I’d stop being nervous about what other people think of my books. That one day I’d stop caring. I no longer wish that. Partly because I’ve toughened up: I now enjoy many of the bad reviews in a way I certainly didn’t for my first four or five or six books. But mostly because I enjoy having an audience.
It’s true that I’d keep writing even if I never sold another book but it would be tougher without an audience. I not only care what the people who read my books say about them; they help shape the next books I write. I pay attention to what people liked, what they hated, what bored them, what made them laugh, what drove them up the wall, what made them cry. All those responses add to my next book. Even the ones I completely disagree with.
I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the people who read my books, who edit and critique and review them, who write me or tell me about them. My books would not be as good as I can make them without all of you.
Thank you. I’m very grateful.