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Inside the Mind of an Author a Week Before Her Book Publishes…

Flickr Creative Commons: Kim [1]
Flickr Creative Commons: Kim

How’s that for a title? But then, it’s not really a title so much as a statement of fact, a warning perhaps, that this post may be complete higgledy-piggledy, self-absorbed author neurosis. I had every intention of not subjecting you, great reader minds and esteemed unboxed writers, to the behind-the-curtains peek at my obsessive underoos. I had an entirely different blog charted out: a composed, erudite, literate essay on my three years of fictional archaeology while crafting the dual narratives of my forthcoming novel The Mapmaker’s Children [2].

But when I sat down at my computer to write, all I could think was, “Bollox, my book is coming out in a flippin’ week!” That’s 7 days, 168 hours, or 10,080 minutes, depending on your level of countdown compulsion. (I’ll let you guess what my craze-o-meter is set at.) I beat my knuckles against my keyboard for a few hours attempting to thump into existence the aforementioned essay when it dawned on me: This is Writer Unboxed. I am the definition of a writer come completely unboxed! So I’m giving it to you uncensored.

I would place the week before an author’s book publishes up there with weddings, house moves, and child births in the top most stressful events in an individual’s life. Why? Because the author has just spent God knows how long (4 years from idea to shelf for The Mapmaker’s Children) nurturing relationships in a story world, carrying the weight of the characters everywhere she goes, and feeling each kick and heartburn of the book’s gestational development. So in that sense, when release day finally arrives, she is the celebratory bride, the moving man, and the doting mother all in one. Sure, there are those who might find each of those singly enticing, but all three simultaneously? That’s a maelstrom of anxiety.

[pullquote]Publishing a book is like giving the world sudden X-ray vision. Everyone sees my inner bits and is invited to judge them.[/pullquote]

Being writers, there is also a general proclivity toward being an introvert. The spotlight is not our preferred modus operandi. I champion my quiet nest, my home comforts, my hours of makeup-less pajama parties of one. Publishing a book is like giving the world sudden X-ray vision. Everyone sees my inner bits and is invited to judge them. That’s the very nature of our business. A book is not merely a collection of words bound together in paper and glue. It’s an author extending herself to the universal reader population saying, “Here—I give you my creation. Please come, walk the streets I’ve created in this imaginary realm. Discover its nooks and crannies. Solve the mysteries. Love and/or hate its people. Love and/or hate the story. Love and/or hate me.”

Ahem. That last part is not what we want to believe, mind you. We want to see our novels as unconnected to our private lives. That they objectively venture out into the world on their own wee, magical book feet. But, come on. Let’s be real. Let’s get unboxed here. Anything you’ve poured your heart and soul into, committed your life and time to, deemed worthy of losing sleep and friends and tears to, is extremely personal. Isn’t that the truth?

An author wears many hats! [3]
An author wears many hats!

It called to mind an interesting discussion I had at a recent book festival. We were chatting about how writing and publishing a book today is a far different animal than it was a decade prior. Not having been a published author ten years ago, I could only relay my experiences in the current publishing milieu where it is expected for authors to wear the hats of Artist, Social Media Maiden, Co-Captain of Marketing and Publicity, Chief Cheerleader, Event Hostess, Travel Agent, Chauffeur, and Self-Therapist, to name a few. And that’s just work, not counting the hats of partner, parent, sibling, friend, etc. My fellow authors and I were exhausted from the conversation alone, but no time for a weary waa-waa, our Smartphones were chirping tweets to be Twittered, emails to be sent, Facebook facing to be booked. Don’t hear me wrong. We love connecting with readers, and we love that technology has made that easily available to us now more than ever!

Circling the maniacal mandala back to my headline (i.e. an author on the brink). This modern openness makes us, writers, vulnerable to every sigh of loving championship, constructive criticism, or otherwise in the social media-hiccuping universe. We lie down on the literary operating table and allow ourselves to be sliced open with everyone welcomed to poke a finger and explore. In fact, we’d be disappointed if no one showed up to dig around in our guts. Still, we’re tender. We grimace through the painful prodding and pray that our bones are solid enough. That our blood is red enough. That our flesh and spirit are pleasing to the masses.

I know, I’ve gone horror on you, but it’s a kind of fright that we must battle through to the good stuff: meeting readers so moved by our books that they bring tears to the eyes; champagne with writer friends for having lived through the launch operation; and that blissful moment when we actually do see our books walking around on their own. Then, everything inside warms. The aching muscles and stitches are totally worth it. And we feel the tingle of another secret world budding within. Another beginning…

Weddings, moving, childbirth—isn’t that what they all have in common? Unknown starts and hope that life will be kind to our creations.

And now over to you. If you have run this gauntlet before, what was your experience? If you aspire to it, what aspects do you dread or look forward to the most?

About Sarah McCoy [4]

SARAH McCOY is the New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children [5]; The Baker’s Daughter [6], a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central [7]; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico [8]. Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post [9] and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an orthopedic sports doctor, and their dog, Gilly, in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with Sarah on Twitter [10] at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page [11], Goodreads [12], or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com [13].