"Get used to it"
— on the pin and needles and other nervous ailments of a writer's life
My fifth novel, The Shadow Queen, will be published on April 8. I am astonished even writing that. Fifth? Why am I on pins and needles? One would think I would be used to it by now.
First, there are the physical challenges of meeting the pubic: nails, hair, face, clothes. As an author giving a talk, one is in front of a group for some time . . . long enough for everyone to make a careful assessment. Think of the last time you went to a reading. Did you check out the author's footwear, his or her "look"? Confess!
And then, more importantly, there is what I will actually say. In the years between publications, I go into writing solitary, and then suddenly I'm thrust onto a stage and expected to be coherent.
It has been over six months since I dipped into the pages of The Shadow Queen. Since then, I've been writing The Next Novel—and that's where my writer brain is focused. But now, with publication approaching like a fast-moving freight train, it's time to open The Shadow Queen and have a look, time to make a list of questions that might be asked, prepare answers, consider various selections for reading. And practice, practice, practice.
But the one thing that makes me the most anxious is the possibility of universal indifference toward my new novel . . . or condemnation of it. I'm not sure which is worse. I tell myself not to take reviews to heart—to not even read them—but that's hard to do.
Before I was published, before I even had a finished manuscript in hand, I consulted Jane Urquhart, who was writer-in-residence at the University of Ottawa at the time. We talked of many things, including my never-ending attempts to get published, my discouragement over constant rejection.
"Get used to it," she told me. "If it's not rejections, it's reviews."
Wise words for all writers, aspiring or published. Get used to it.
And now, suddenly, I have in my hands an actual book: The Shadow Queen. Whatever pins and needles I'm suffering, it all seems worthwhile, for it is simply beautiful. I doubt that I will ever "get used to" the amazing satisfaction of this singular moment—but as for the rest of the publishing process, the judgment and assessment of my labor of love? I'm still trying to get used to it.
Sandra Gulland is the author of the Canadian bestseller Mistress of the Sun as well as the Josephine B. Trilogy, which has sold over a million copies in seventeen languages worldwide. Her fifth novel, The Shadow Queen, will be published in Canada and the US on April 8.