Podcasts. I love podcasts. I’m listening to Aisha Tyler, episode 142, with Sara Gilbert.
Let me pause here for a moment to say this: I love Sara Gilbert. For good reasons–like, I love her acting, and she’s charming as hell on “The Talk”–and also for very dumb bone-deep reasons, like Darlene Conner was totally my first crush and finding out that your first crush (or the actor who played her) is queer is just stupidly validating. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m saying it happens to be true. For me.
I like Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy podcast because she’s funny and quick and clever, and she has on guests who are also all of those things. I also like that she’s just fucking hanging out, and it’s worth listening to. Not everyone can pull this off, but man, Aisha Tyler? Please. She rocks this format very, very hard.
In any case, Sara Gilbert talks about breaking your nature in this episode, and I can’t stop fucking thinking the line. Break your nature. Find the things that that exist in you so deep they aren’t even choices, and break them.
Man oh man, this gets me in the gut.
I’ve been writing since I was eleven. Serious writing. Writing with an aim of making a career out of writing. I wrote a novel at thirteen. I liked it, so I revised it. And then I wrote another one. I’m sitting here on a bed in the dark typing–this is my nature. The house is asleep, I’ve got headphones in, and I’m scribbling words into the void. I trade sleep for this, right here, because this feeds me.
(Yes, I know, sleep fans: not sleeping takes years off my life and leads to illness and blah blah blah. Tell it to my insomnia, yo.)
Until February? Only a small handful of people had ever read a word I’d written. I’ve been part of exactly two fiction workshops in my life. They were resoundingly “meh.” I put out The Scientific Method in a week because I got a bee in my bonnet about my day job. Until that week I figured I’d keep listening to all the self publishing podcasts and reading all the blogs for funsies, not for real, because these people felt like my people, even though I wasn’t one of them.
Then, all of a sudden, all that stuff I’d been reading and listening to coalesced. I did my homework. I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.
Sometimes I look at sales figures and it’s a bit too real. Or I get an email from someone who likes Hugh and Will and I’m like, Wait a minute, how do you know about them? They live in my head!
I’ve written millions and millions of words–sixteen, seventeen novels now?–and they all just went into the void. Writing now is intense. I’m writing the seventh book in the series, which I’m calling the last one even though I think we all know these guys aren’t going anywhere, and my brain’s like a snowball on fire, rolling down hill, picking up all the goodies it can find until it fucking explodes.
And I’m not Stephen King, man. I’m utterly blissed out by the folks who find my stories and anticipate the next one. That still feels like a miracle. And I’m only four months into this gig.
I always took myself seriously as a writer. Because I had to. I took myself seriously in self-defense because no one would read my stuff (“It’s too loooooooong!” “I only read nonfiction”), and because it was pop fiction trash, man. But it’s what I write. It’s what jumps out of my head. I attempted to write a literary story once so I could show my mom. (I finished it. She loved it. I felt like a fraud.) I never imagined having fans. I never imagined having relationships with readers. That was one of the most seductive draws of the self publishing community to me: the overt courting of fans, of community.
These days if an author is building community effectively I’m always shocked to discover they’re trade published. I know that’s a screwball asshole bias, but it comes from the old dream of getting an agent, then a publisher, then a book tour, and having minions to do all the pesky stuff like talk to people and answer mail. Now I think: so not what I want.
I want this. Right here. I want to build a list from scratch, with a psychotically high open rate, because if you’ve signed up for my newsletter, it’s cause you already like my stories. I want to explore all vendors to figure out where my people are, and where my people are reading. (Note to Google Play: there are no links in any of my descriptions. Also, I think you’re confused about the term “sexually explicit,” which appears to mean “includes the word ‘sex.'” If you tried to find my books on Google Play and couldn’t actually buy them, drop me a line and we’ll work that shit out.)
I did not fully understand how exposed I would feel, publishing these books. It’d probably be true of any book, any art, but these stories in particular are written in heartblood. And they pull back the curtains–or sheets, as the case may be–on some deep shit, themes that I write again and again and again, about trust and love and how humans express truth, which is not always through words (much to my–and Hugh’s–dismay).
It took me years to work up the gall to write Will Derrie exploring his personal darkness (which was maybe not as personal or as dark as he feared). If I’d thought for even a few weeks about other people reading it, I would have never have published it. I would have realized how fucking terrifying that’d be, and I’d still be sitting here night after night, typing into the void. Which wasn’t a bad life, at all. But man, this life–breaking my nature in order to find it–is so much fucking richer.