Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm Coming Out

by Kathryn Miller Haines

I have a book coming out, and suddenly it’s all anyone wants to talk about.

The problem is, while it’s all I can think about, it’s the last thing I want to talk about. For years, writing was my dirty little secret. I have three jobs (now that writing has become part of my income tax): I run a special collections library at an academic institution whose name rhymes with spit, I run and perform in a dinner theatre company, and I tell lies for fun and profit. I have always kept the day job entirely separate from the others, as though it wasn’t performing and writing I was doing in the evenings, but crime fighting under a secret identify. With the acting thing my logic was simple: I didn’t want anyone I knew to come to any of my shows because the minute I did the staid, responsible librarian would get confused with the girl who speaks with a funny accent, sings offkey and dances around in costumes that make my own husband say, “for God’s sake, put on a sweater.” There is no dignity in dinner theatre, but there is good money.

Naturally, one day those worlds collided and someone I knew from work (inadvertently) came to one of my shows. I am pleased to say she is no longer employed by said academic institution.

My reasons for not talking about my writing were more complex. For years I had nothing to show for it other than a stack of rejection letters and as we all know, those make for poor conversation and even poorer toilet paper (chaffing you know). I was convinced I was going to never get published and I didn’t want to face premature rejection by talking about a book that wasn’t finished with people who might not know any better than to voice their opinions. That was what my critique group was for. And they give me cookies along with their cold, hard reality.

When I got my agent and sold two books, I didn’t know how to adjust. Suddenly anytime I talked about the book deal felt like bragging. Worse, my already anxious persona was riddled by more anxiety: sure I got a book deal, but what if the publisher changes their mind? What if the book doesn’t sell? What if it gets terrible reviews? What if I get a slew of letters pointing out historical inaccuracies? What if I can’t write the second book? What if I die of spontaneous combustion right before my release date? It was easier to remain silent than to let all those fears creep into conversation where they’d either convince the listener that I was an ungrateful idiot, or reveal far too much about my tenuous grip on reality.

Word about the book has slipped out though, as it’s bound to do when you have an Italian mother, but I’ve still managed to keep the whole thing relatively quiet at my day job. I told two people – the folks I work directly with – and even then my announcement was framed in such a way that you would’ve thought I was informing them of some disease I’d been stricken with that I wanted them to know about just in case it caused problems in the future. Some of my student workers found out too (the little buggers have a way of eavesdropping on my phone conversations) but they know that if they displease me, they won’t get paid. Mistress Kathy doesn’t suffer fools lightly.

That’s about to change though. I know I need publicity to sell books, and I need to sell books because a gal can’t work three jobs for the rest of her life. So I’m trying to work past my discomfort and let the world know that I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT. I just hope I survive the experience.



Annette said...

Your critique group gives you cookies??? Huh.

OK, advice? First off, WHAT'S THE BOOK'S TITLE???

Congrats! Can't wait to read it. Whatever "it" is.

Working Stiffs said...

Heh. See you have to follow the links;) The book is The War Against Miss Winter.

We not only get cookies. Sometimes we get wine.

Tory said...

I wrote happily in my home office for almost five years, prolifically churning out, for example, a 400 page novel in 6 months (I was OBSESSED.) Then, the fateful day came when I said to myself, "I need to consider getting published." Total writers' block for close to a year! So, I emphathize with your dilemma, though haven't gotten to the point of actually experiencing it.

In terms of advice, if today's blog is any example, your wonderful voice (and I'm not talking about the one you sing with) should take you far in selling books.

And your links? Definitely LOL!

Nancy said...

It's SO HARD to plug yourself. And you can only do as much as your natural inclination will allow. But you've got to mention the title. And your own name. And mention the publisher. And provide links to MLB. And give the date of your launch party.

But most of all, you need to get over the idea that your writing is a dirty little secret. (I know, though. I told NOBODY but my husband that I was writing a book until it was finished.) The book sounds really fabulous. I can't wait to get my hands on it!


Joyce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyce said...

Kathy, welcome to Working Stiffs!

I agree--your book sounds great.
Like Tory said, you have a wonderful voice and if the book is half as good as your post, you don't have anything to worry about.

And Annette, in my critique group, we have WHOLE MEALS, including the wine!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the blog, Kathy, and congratulations on your book!

I understand what you're going through. I also try to keep my writing life separate from my working life, especially since I'm still working toward publication, and I don't want to get with the endless questions like "Is your book done yet?" or "Are you published yet"? Ick.

You're in a position now to do book promotion, and you're going to do great. We're here to help!


Working Stiffs said...

Thanks for all the great comments, guys. I just did an interview for the PG this morning and managed to survive.