Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Advice Given to a Brilliant Debut Novelist.

Wiley Cash -- if you don't know his name, you will. He's got a big debut novel lined up for this spring. (Check out his site for more on his first novel, A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME.)

I dropped him a line when he friended me on Facebook because I recognized his name -- heard it around... He said he was nervous about the book coming out and asked if he was crazy.

This was my answer, more or less:

1. it's socially awkward. people will think you're uppity, publishing a book, or will be weirdly competitive or just awkward. don't base any changes on your relationships based on the way a friend responds to this book. people don't know how, for the most part -- unless your friends are all in the industry... then expect some weirder stuff. people will surprise you both ways.

2. it's out of your control and yet it feels like it's in your control and other writers will tell you that there "so many things you can do" -- from your tour schedule, you're doing those things...

3.protect your relationship with the page. right now, you're forming that relationship in a new way. meaning -- do you still write when you're going through this weird public part of your life? the page wants to hear that you are. b/c between public self and the private self, the relationship with the page is the one that matters and needs protecting. keep the two separate.

longer answer than you asked for, i guess. but these are things i wish people had told me ... annie lamott -- heard her in some PBS thing telling an audience that they think they're crazy now, but after publishing their first book they'll be so much crazier. my husband dave tells people that it won't fix their lives. it's all this out-there stuff, in a job that's private.
[I'd like to note that it's weird that I write lists and number stuff
even when writing a casual FB message.]

What I'd like to add is that it's hard to go public with this very private endeavor -- this thing that lives in the drawers of your desk -- no matter how long you've worked toward it. And the catch is that you won't be able to complain about it. People won't understand. You got what you wanted. You're a published novelist. Shut up. But that only makes it feel more isolating. There is a very strange rearrangement of cells -- or, at least, that's what I felt and still sometimes feel in this process of going public, of opening up to large-scale judgment. We're artists after all; we got into this business, many of us, because we observe closely -- out of necessity or instinct or need -- and feel things sharply.

From what I can tell, it's Cash's abilities as an observer and translator of things felt sharply that makes his debut distinctive. (Can't wait to find out for myself.)