A strange thing happened on the way to the blog. I received an email out of the blue from someone I’ve never heard of. That’s not so strange in itself; I get enough spam to feed a spambot until it vomits flowery poetry.
What was strange is that it was a request for an interview. This wasn’t the usual, “Let’s fill out interview questions and share them on each other’s blogs to cross promote ourselves,” interview request. This was a straight up, “I want to interview you.”
It surprised me. The first thing I did was check the email address it came from. It looked legitimate. Then I skimmed (that’s what my eleven year old called it) her online. I Googled, found and checked profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, investigating if the person looks legitimate. She looked legitimate.
It was time for the, “Oh, uh, wow?” moment. Me? Why me? Out of all the authors out there?
Now I had to know. I’m not a cat, so hopefully curiosity won’t bring me to my swift demise.
I asked others on one of the author groups what they thought.
I contacted the young lady requesting the interview to ask those two big questions: Why me? - and - How did you happen to find me?
Honestly, I didn’t think I would be all that findable without specifically looking for me.
Her answers were simple. I’m an author and she got my information from the local writers’ guild, which I’m a member of.
Then I had a moment of terror. I’ve never had a real interview. I almost did once on a blog radio show, but it fell through due to technical issues. We, the interviewers and my fellow intervewee, spanned states and countries. Something went wrong and we couldn’t call in. The blog show failed after too, so there was no redo.
Why does that even matter? Because, I was in very near to a state of panic. An actual talking interview with people I have to answer on the spot. I can’t come back hours later when I think of something that I think sounds clever.
And now I’m panicking again at the thought of a face-to-face interview. I would have to try to be clever on the spot. I can’t do that. I can write, the words coming effortlessly and fluidly, and sounding marvelous. I can’t bloody talk. In fact, I’m pretty sure I sound like a complete moron when I talk. The words in my head just don’t come out the same way through my mouth. My brain freezes, I jumble, stumble, and stutter. I couldn’t do a speech with my eyes glued to the cue cards I’m reading mechanically from.
To truly live, you have to step out of your safety zone. I decided to swallow my anxiety and give it the old college try.
It made it easier that I wasn’t doing it for myself. I can’t count the times I opted not to do something because it was just for me. I’m not used to doing things just for me.
The young woman interviewing me is from McMaster University. She won funding for a research project exploring the connection between Canadian literature and identity. I was a stop on her trek across Canada interviewing authors about their craft and sense of identity as Canadians.
I went to the interview hoping that I would be of help, but still with that nagging doubt pulling on me like a toddler sized imp trying to whisper in my ear, “Why you?”
I survived the interview and she didn’t look ill listening to my jabbering. I have to say, the best part of the interview was the end when I gave her a copy of my latest published book, The McAllister Farm. She was actually excited I gave it to her.
After the interview, that same nasty little imp kept tugging on my shirt hem and whispering my doubts. Why me? There are a lot of authors out there, ones people actually heard of and know; authors who sold a lot book books and made bestseller lists, and everything. Telling me, “You don’t even feel like a real author.”
What does it take to make you feel like an author? Of course, the simplest answer should be, “You wrote a book,” or, “You published a book.” If only life were so simple for everyone.
In all the years I spent writing, I’ve always had that nagging doubt. I’m nobody. Unknown. Just some person with a story in her head (okay many stories) that need to get out. I’m not James Patterson or Stephen King. I don’t go by the moniker Dean Koontz or any other name anyone would recognize and say, “Hey, that’s an author!”
I always had the doubt, expecting anyone at any time to say I’m wasting my time, I’m not a “real” author, or that my writing stinks like the rancid breath of the partially desiccated reanimated corpse of a komodo dragon with a dead skunk stuck in its mouth.
Even after my first book, Where the Bodies Are, was published, doubts remain. It’s only one book, after all. But, it can’t be all that bad if someone else found it worthy of publication, right? I still didn’t feel like a “real” author; which is probably odd, since I would without question think of anyone else who published a single book as a “real” author.
Now I have a couple of books published, with Indigo Sea Press picking up not only Where the Bodies Are, but also my latest book, The McAllister Farm.
With published books I now have to count on more than one finger, I still don’t feel authorey; and yes, I did just make up that word.
To me, an author has always been that intangible person on the other side of the book. The magic behind the story. Funny, I don’t look or feel magic. Not mystical in any way. I’m just me.
If I had ten published books, I would probably feel the same way. I’m just me. Someone asked me to autograph my book she bought and it felt really weird. I very recently sold a few books to a few people I know and they asked me to sign them. It felt just as strange, awkward really, in a, “This is a joke, right?” kind of way. And these were all people I’ve known for years. I might get sucked into an abyss of weirdness in the floor if an actual stranger wanted me to sign a book.
I’m not sure what it will take before I feel like a “real author”. At what point this will happen, if ever.
I asked my eleven year old what would make her feel like a “real author”. Her answer: “If my books sold; lots. A lot of them.”
I asked my thirteen year old the same question. Her answer: “When a lot of people buy my books and are asking for them, and when I’m making a good profit. And, when I’m a New York Times bestseller, because all my books are New York Times bestsellers.”
I pose the question to you, and this is all about YOU, not for you to try to convince me that I’m a “real” author.
Authors: What made or would make you feel like a “real author”?
Readers: What defines a “real author” for you, as opposed to thinking, “Yeah, whatever, so you wrote a book, but you aren’t a real author”?
Let the game begin.
Can you handle a little darkness?
L.V. Gaudet is the author of the McAllister Series and Garden Grove.
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