Writers are an insecure lot.* So when I was at Killercon, I showed up at my reading a few minutes early, figuring I’d catch the end of the previous slot’s reader. Well, no one was reading. I slipped into the nearest row. People were sitting there waiting. I asked the woman I sat down next to what everyone was waiting on.
“We’re here to hear you read.”
That moment when you realize the room of people are there to see you. That moment when you realize it’s not just your wife and best friends making up the audience (ftr, my wife was off riding roller coasters). That moment when you sit down at the autograph table and people actually line up. There’s no real comfortable way to talk about the adjustment without sounding like a world class douche canoe, so I’ll just jump in.
I know that’s what we as writers dream of happening and work towards happening, but let’s face it, life rarely lives up to the dream. One of the reasons I eschew signings and readings is because I didn’t want to be “that writer” who sits at the table with a stack of books, lonely and desperate, eyes begging each passer-by to at least stop by and validate me with some casual interest in the product of my intense labor.
Okay, the reality is that no one escapes being “that writer,” it’s part of the deal. There’s no point in playing things “safe” as you’ve already done the bulk of the risky stuff: pouring yourself onto the page. But we live in the shadow of our dreams: of fans lining around the corner to see you, of producing work that people respond to. The reality is that after going through the motions endless hyping of themselves, calling themselves the next “Stephen King”, they are confronted with no one at their table signing almost always sparse to empty book signings, especially for the first few years. But we go out, talking to that one fan who shows up (or in my case, I end up fixing them dinner in a fit or inappropriate gratefulness).
Adjusting to rising popularity tends to screw with that image. It’s hard enough saying (admitting) that I have fans without bursting into laughter at the ridiculousness of the idea. I’m glad I have friends like Brian Keene and Wrath James White who continue to challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone (even if their idea of “pushing” looks a lot like being smacked upside the head or being thrown onstage naked).
In the meantime, the hardest book deal to get after your first is your second. So I’ll keep working away, dreaming of that breakout novel.
*I sooooo wanted to say a superstitious lot