When I set out to write a novel from the point of view of a 50-year-old woman, I expected a little bit of trouble. Not so much with the writing, mind you. I’ve written from the point of view of a woman numerous times. And when I finished writing “Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears,” I was pleased with the results, in particular the main character Katie-Lee Fontenot (when I wasn’t hating myself and the book and writing in general).
But when it comes to getting a book published, the writer’s opinion on his own writing isn’t exactly relevant, especially if said writer hasn’t been anywhere near a best-seller list. I knew this. I knew there’d be some worrying about a guy’s name at the bottom of a book that can be seen as, depending on your definitions of the genres, Southern women’s lit, commercial women’s fiction or even the much-denigrated but extremely lucrative chick lit.
When it comes to selling my books I’m somewhere between a pragmatist and a shameless pimp. If someone had asked me to drop my first name and go with K. Wheaton — or hell, Liz Wheaton (remember that?!) — I would have considered it. If someone suggested I have an arm-wrestling match with Jennifer Weiner, I’d definitely do it.
Not a week goes by without someone mewling about independent book stores or the “plight” of the book as if some great dark age is upon us. This sort of thing drives me crazy, because it’s completely divorced from, you know, reality. There are more books available now than ever. More fiction than ever. More nonfiction than ever. More people making more money doing it than ever.
Well, except for some of those independent book stores. Two things. 1: It’s a business. And if you need to rely on donations and pledge drives to keep your business afloat, then you’re doing something wrong. 2) Barnes & Noble (and then Amazon) might have hurt your business, but don’t pretend that those two companies haven’t delivered more books to more people who couldn’t previously get them. Having lived in one of those parts of the country that doesn’t have many independent bookstores — with the exception of hard-core Christian ones — I’ll argue that Barnes & Noble is a veritable Library of Alexandria for the parts of this country.
With the publication of my second novel, Bacon and Egg Man (Nook), a number of people have reached out to me expressing admiration and mild jealousy. Some of them I knew were writers. Others were a surprise. Still others were completely imaginary and I’m using their imaginary questions as inspiration for a blog post. But the message tended to be the same. HOW do you do it? You must be so disciplined. You have a non-academic, year-around day job and still find time.
While I like a good ego stroking, I always feel a little guilty about this. Because in my head, I’m a lazy, unproductive turd of a writer. I read about these lawyers who had full-time caseloads AND a full-time family AND they wrote from Junior’s bedtime until 3 in the morning, then woke up, went to the gym and then went to work. Or even those full-time writers who lock themselves in a basement all day, coming up only for coffee and cigarettes.
Deep down inside, I feel like I should be on my seventh or eighth novel by now. I’m turning 40 this year and I have two published novels, one unpublished one and one in progress. I beat myself up about this constantly. Which just goes to show! (That I just can’t be satisfied with what I have.)