Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thoughts on the First Year After the First Book by Steven John

How did I find out about this debut author and his novel? And why did I track him down and ask him to write a guest post for us?

It all started when I saw the novel on the new books shelf at the library, liked the creepy cover art, and liked the synopsis even more. I'd just finished Three AM. when I took part in a blog challenge called: Did I Notice Your Book? Blogfest.

I contacted Steven and invited him to send me a post anytime he wanted. I'm very pleased to have him as our guest author this weekend.

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Thoughts on the First Year After the First Book by Steven John


On March 27th of the venerable year 2012, dinner party and/or friend-of-friend conversations became remarkably less nerve-wracking for me. On that day, my answer to the dreaded question “So, what do you do?” could finally be a confident “Me? Oh, I’m a writer.” I could have said the same before that, mind you—could have said it for years. And it would have been true, in the sense that we’re all lovers or dreamers or cooks, but we’re not all, in fact, Casanova, John Lennon, or that cook guy who yells at people on TV. (I think his name is Gorgon Ramses, but I may be getting tripped up by some mythology and Egyptology there.)

You see, when you say you are a writer, you are usually met with a specific type of skepticism. It’s not that people think you’re lying, exactly; it’s that they automatically assume you’re just kind of… bullshitting. Behind the slightly furrowed brow you can almost see the mental cogs turning, the thoughts forming: So… you mean you’re unemployed? So… you mean you work for peanuts? So… wait, did I leave the oven turned on? And so forth.

Occasionally, though, people will take a genuine interest in other people, and will even ask a follow up question before they begin to ramble on about themselves. More often than not, when this follow up interrogative comes subsequent to the “I’m a writer” declarative, it is in the form of “Anything I would have heard of/read/seen?” (Amazing how often people refer to books as things they would have “seen.” You might do this yourself, in fact. Be honest.)

Prior to 3/27/12, my answer to that question was “Em, well, urp, you, um… no. No.” But post-3/27/12 it became “Well, um, my novel Three A.M. maybe, but probably not.”

And you know what, I don’t much care if the person to whom I’m speaking jumps out of their boots/sandals/loafers and shrieks “You’re the author of Three A.M.!? That’s my favorite piece of speculative fiction I read in the past nineteen weeks!” Now, full disclosure: this has never happened to me, this jumping and yelling, so I may in fact have a taste for it I’ve simply never refined. Check back with me later to see if I am still so casually dismissive.

The point is that while I have always been humbly proud of much of (note that qualifier) my writing, now I can be humbly proud of it and even talk about it in public, if only just a little bit; if only for a minute or two before it’s my turn to try to think of something—anything—to ask other than “So, what do you do” before I ask “So, what do you do?”

The year that has elapsed since my debut novel hit shelves has been minutely but constantly affected by its release. It has gone beyond those brief conversations in countless ways, and all of them are charmingly small. (I really do feel that way, I didn’t mean to be facetious just then.) When I say “minutely but constantly” and “charmingly small” I mean to say that I know I have at least one ace in the hole when talking to a prospective mark—er, manager—at a company about a writing assignment for which I’m being considered. I know that when I enter a library, there is a slight chance they will have a copy of my book on the shelf (and maybe even that it will be checked out—that is one of the greatest pleasures, when I punch “Steven John Three A.M.” into a library computer and see their one copy is checked out! And yes, I do check in every library I enter). And I know that while I have always enjoyed writing and have always loved reading, there is a slight chance, a statistically slim chance, sure, but a chance, that right at the moment I am working on a manuscript, someone is reading one that I already finished.

I went to a reading of Middle Men by Jim Gavin last week, and as I stood there beside a friend, at the very back of the gathering (yeah, I got there a bit late, but because of parking, not timing), I was struck by how clearly I remembered standing at a podium just like Gavin was, reading from my book, just like he was, and yet by how foreign it seemed, as well, to imagine being on the other side of the lectern. It was like watching something I had done in a dream. And frankly it was nice to be a bystander, too—I can hardly express the anxiety you can feel when you start to forget people’s names as they ask you to sign a book. Or at least that I felt. A year has been long enough for me to settle fully back into a life spent writing for hire, working on fiction when I can, still loving it, and now with a slight inner glow kept warm by that thing that I had done a year before I watched another doing it.

People regularly ask well-intentioned but poorly formulated questions lacking the possibility of a good answer like “How’s the writing going?” or “What’s new with the writing?” and I answer as pleasantly as possible, then deflect the conversation (“How’s the software programming going?” or “How’s the aquatic landscaping industry?”). But I know in my heart of hearts that, no matter how this writing thing “went” that day or that week or whenever, that at least on one day about a year ago now, it crossed a little threshold, and I could at least be asked vague, answerless questions about something I love, and I could share it with people, if just for a moment, before asking them something—anything.

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Thanks so much for staying in touch and writing this guest post for us, Steven. Your book is in libraries all around the world, so you should be pretty darned pleased. I know because I sneaked a look on World Cat. This site only includes the libraries that subscribe to the service, so your book is also in a lot of places not listed there.

And for those of you who like creepy speculative fiction with nice twists and turns, I recommend Three A.M. It was one of my most favorite reads of 2012. The last time I looked, the hardcover was on sale at amazon.com. The novel is also now available as an e-book.

The author's website and blog are a work in progress. You can find his bio here.

2 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Steven.

Steven - There is a real change that happens isn't there once you've had a novel published. You have a whole new identity. Thanks for sharing what that year's been like and I promise not to ask how the writing's going. ;-)

Mason Canyon said...

Patricia, I can see why the book caught your attention. Thanks for hosting Steven so we could meet him.

Steven, congratulations on the book.

Happy Easter to you both.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress