I’ve always been a writer – not counting before the age of 11, of course. But from around sixth grade on I knew I wanted to write books. (Okay, so it took me a while to finally get in print.) What I didn’t know was the changes it would make in my life once I became published. I’m not talking about becoming instantly rich. At least for me, that did not happen. But there were other things.
The life I had before I sold THE CLEANER was different. Sure, I wrote, and I went to my day job – both things I still do today. I also sometimes did things with friends, the same friends I sometimes do things with today. Where it’s different is that in addition to the communities of my old life (my workmates, my friends, my family), I’ve added a new community. It’s a community where of people who think like me. People who understand the frustrations of writing “book 2.” People who are interested in the ins and outs of the publishing world. People who laugh knowingly when you talk about your process for naming a character. Writers.
For years, writing was a solitary act. Living in L.A., most of my friends who wrote were working on screenplays. That never really interested me. I wrote prose. I wanted to write a novel. They couldn’t relate. It got better when I found a writing group dedicated to writing books. Finally I had six or seven people who understood. But when I finally sold my novel, that six or seven turned into hundreds.
Now when I walk into a book store, when I see books on the shelves, I look for titles by people I’ve met. I see their books and don’t think of them just as a product but rather as the work of a friend. It’s weird when I stop to think about it. It’s an unexpected by-product of that dream the sixth grade version of me had.
Everyday now, I get emails or phone calls from authors who are now my friends. It’s great to talk about writing and process and (lack of) progress. It’s great to talk about anything at all. For once in my life I guess I finally have peers, not just friends that I work with. I don’t mean that egotistically like I have no peers in my day-to-day life. It’s just that my day job has always been just that to me. A job. Not a career. I could do it my whole life and it would never be a career. Writing, though, writing is my career. And in a career you have peers – people who understand and know what you’re going through.
Last night, I attended a book signing at Borders in Torrance, California. It was for Tess Gerritsen. The main reason I went is that she is a wonderful writer and a very nice person. I also wanted to thank her in person for the incredibly kind blurb she gave me. I didn’t go to the signing alone. Fellow Killer Year member Robert Gregory Browne met me there, as did authors Brett Ellen Block and Jennifer Colt.
Tess did not disappoint. She gave a great talk on the question of where authors get there ideas. After, we each went up and had copies of THE MEPHISTO CLUB signed. Though we’ve never spoken before, Tess recognized me before I even reached the table. She smiled. She talked to me for several moments, and asked if I was going to ThrillerFest next summer (I am). She made me feel like a friend. With Rob, she talked about book 2. How it was the hardest one to write. Writers talking about writing in a way non-writers wouldn’t understand.
After the signing, Rob, Brett, Jennifer and I (the male Brett) went out for dinner and spent almost 2 hours talking about writing, publishing and life. I love my friends, and I love my family, but the conversation the four of us had at dinner was one I could have not had with anyone except another member of our writing community. There was a short hand, an understanding, a common bond.
I guess it’s that bond, more than anything, that represents how my life has changed. I am no longer alone. I love it.
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