Pssst. I have a secret to tell you. Come a little closer. That’s it. Are you ready? Take a deep breath, because this is very, very important.
Authors are real people.
What? You gasp, shocked. How can this be? They seem so two-dimensional on the book flaps and tend to have their head at a slight angle, which is the universal posture for profound wisdom.
I know I’m breaking the rules here, telling the truth to the masses, but the reality is that authors, editors, agents… They’re all people. Just like you. Even like me. Did you know that JT Ellison’s agent used a bad word? In the comments on that post, Neil Nyren said, “And, yes, we in New York — the OTHER another side — we’re very real!”
Well, if Neil Nyren says so, it must be true. So why am I so nervous about attending Harrogate Crime Festival next week?
I guess the answer is obvious. God is going to be there. Have you read all the commentary on Thrillerfest? BookBitch said, ”I looked up to find the beautiful M.J. Rose lounging outside the coffee shop with Lee Child. There were a few other people there too, but let’s face it, meeting Lee Child just sort of stopped time for me and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even remember who else I met there.”
I can relate. Let’s face it – we all have people we really respect and admire. Some people just conceal it better than others.
Almost three years ago, I did something that changed my life. I went to a concert on a work night. Even stranger, I went with my brother-in-law. My husband sat at home playing X-Box, my sister was busy with something… Just Martin and I.
When the show was over, we watched the line start to form. Dozens of young girls, dressed to impress, buying CDs and anxious to get them signed.
Martin asked what we should do. Eventually, we decided we had to get in the line. If we waited until it tapered off, we’d be there all night.
When we got to the front of the line, the format was to pass over the CD with your name on a sticky so that the musician could sign it, then he looked up, handed it back, said a few words, and on you went.
Except for us.
As Martin’s CD was being signed, he slid a tape across the table and said he guessed the musician hadn’t listened to it in a while.
The musician picked up the tape and stared at it for a moment, mouth hanging open. Then he looked up, and that light of recognition dawned in his eyes. He was on his feet, shaking Martin’s hand.
Martin had played trumpet on that tape, the tape the musician had cut back in high school when music was the dream. Now, here he was, following a concert, signing CDs for adoring fans.
The musician was in for a surprise when Martin said, “See who’s with me?”
It was the first time I’d seen Deric Ruttan since he left for Nashville ten years earlier. We’re distant cousins but went through high school together. Same homeroom, same English teacher.
Deric had the music bug, even back then. He could take to the stage and do a rendition of Credence Clearwater Revival songs that had everyone on their feet, clapping along. He knew how to perform. It was in his blood.
Buying his first album was such a thrill. This was someone I knew, from smalltown Ontario, who’d achieved his dream.
Deric asked us to hang around, which was great. We caught up on all the years, and Martin and I tried not to laugh when girls came up and asked Deric to sign their chests.
Well, tried not to laugh too hard, anyway.
And truthfully? He was more down to earth than ever. The only thing that had changed was he had a much better poker face, didn’t react at all to the signature requests…
A lot of things changed for me that night, although I didn’t realize it then. I read the liner notes in Deric’s album, that talked about struggling to put food on the table for years in Nashville, watching people come and go, but knowing this was what he did, it was who he was and that he wasn’t going to give up.
It was that perseverance that impressed me. Water on a seed planted in parched soil. I was still working through a creative writing diploma program, still dreaming of writing, still working in special education.
A year later, the first drafts of my first two books were done.
I owe a lot to Deric. He was the busiest person I knew, yet he still emailed and encouraged me to persevere. Sometimes, I wonder if he has any idea just how much that meant to me… But then I think of what he said in his liner notes himself, about meeting Steve Earle, who treated him like a peer instead of a nobody and encouraged him to keep at it.
It’s the power of what a hero can do for you when you’re still dreaming.
I had that experience about a year ago when someone I admire encouraged me to pursue my writing. It made a huge difference for me, at a point where I was getting discouraged.
Recently, I had a surreal experience, one that helped put things in perspective for me. Someone emailed me a link and told me to check it out. I did.
It was a link to a blog, where a person who’d been struggling with their writing was talking about getting an email from someone who told them not to give up. It was such a moving post, I was sitting here, teary-eyed, thinking how nice it was that this person had been encouraged to persevere.
And then they mentioned the name of the person who’d emailed them.
It was me.
I’m just a person. I have hopes and dreams, experience disappointment and discouragement, just like everybody else. Not-so-secretly, some days I still feel like the kind that’s crashed the party, everyone looking around, wondering if someone will show me to the door.
I can honestly say that the people in the industry I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have never treated me this way – I’m just surprised, some days, that I’m seeing my dreams become a reality.
Thinking about all of this has helped me reach a few conclusions. One is that I never want people to think I’m unapproachable. There’s only one difference between myself and an aspiring author: twenty-some-odd pages that form the legal contract for my publishing deal.
The other is that I’m not allowed to drool over my idols at Harrogate Crime Festival next week. They really are just people. In some cases, people I’m fortunate enough to call friends.
This means I really do have to stop calling Ian Rankin God.
At least, publicly.
** I will be at Harrogate Crime Festival next week, which means I won’t be blogging on Wednesday. CJ will be here instead. The plan is, provided I have internet access, I’ll blog live from Harrogate on Friday with an update on the festival.
And on that note, because of Harrogate, I will be posting something on my blog tomorrow that will be essential for people who want to recognize me at Harrogate… Yes, a picture of me, in color, without my hair straightened.