by Patry Francis
Okay, I admit it. I’m a little sensitive about my age. When JT first sent out a request for birthdates for the Killer Year press kit, I delayed as long as possible. I’d seen those photos of fellow classmates like Dave White and Jason Pinter, and I figured their ages just about matched mine–if you combined them, that is.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the oldest living first novelist (there was that woman in her seventies who released a lifetime’s worth of stories in one massive thousand-page epic a while back, wasn’t there?) But I’m not Marisha Pessl either. For anyone who’s been living under a rock, Pessl is the woman who hit the bestseller list with her first novel, SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS. The novel, which I recently finished, is a great read, but the media has frequently focussed more on Pessl’s youth and good looks than her book.
So I guess you could say publishing a first novel over forty has its advantages. You won’t have to waste any time defending yourself against the jealous mob who might claim you only got your deal/your great reviews/or your media attention because of the photo on the book jacket. Nor will you have to deal with your spouse’s insecurity when you get nominated in the next “hot author” contest because hey–you won’t.
So all in all, being a “seasoned” author isn’t that bad–providing you get a little of the wisdom stuff along with the wrinkles. I was beginning to accept my lot, maybe even be a little bit proud of it. A lifetime of experience had to be worth something.
Then yesterday I was trolling around on line and I found an article about an eleven-year-old Chinese girl who got a million dollar book deal. And how did she pull off this feat? Why, she just e-mailed her novel to an editor at HarperCollins, of course.
Suddenly, all the years I spent poring over my dog-eared copy of THE GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS, or sending out dozens of polite, carefully-crafted queries flashed before my eyes. And we won’t even talk about the money I spent in postage–though it probably could have put a couple of my kids through college.
When my husband came in from work, he found me crying in front of my computer screen. And when he asked what was wrong, all I could do was mutter incoherently, “A million dollars…to an eleven-year-old…”
Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
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