Friday, October 11, 2013

Fan Mail

Whatchu been up to, DJE?
So I did something pretty nerdy last week. Almost as nerdy as hanging a signed photo of David James Elliot from the geriatric hit JAG on my bedroom wall. I fan emailed an author. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but I could’ve sent a heartfelt missive to Laura Ingalls Wilder back in the day without realizing she’d been dead for decades. (I hope she’s in heaven playing with a pig’s bladder as I type this).

Taylor Stevens is the author I fan girled all over, and you can check out her stuff here. She writes thrillers starring a female protagonist, Vanessa/Michael Munroe who is very similar to Lisbeth Salander of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fame. I actually like Stevens’ books better than Larsson’s for a couple of reasons. First, I am a little uncomfortable with a male author writing very voyeuristic sexual violence scenes featuring women. Maybe that’s sexist of me, but it makes me question the writer’s intentions when he is male and spending countless pages describing a very graphic rape scene. I also prefer The Informationist, Stevens’ first novel, because of the pacing. Larsson had some clever turns in his book but he was not an efficient, concise writer. Stevens spends time on the moments that matter and keeps the plot moving at an engaging pace. She also has a very interesting personal backstory. Stevens was raised in the Children of God cult and was only educated through the sixth grade. You’ve gotta love someone who can overcome crazy odds like that and successfully pursue the American Dream.

Gross excuse for a human, excellent director
While I enjoyed her first book, The Informationist, and am about to dive into the second, The Innocent, that’s not really why I emailed her. I did so because she’s who, in the best of all possible worlds, I’d hope to become. We write similar types of books, although mine have more of a supernatural twist, we’re both younger women, and we are both represented by Anne the Agent. If I could be in her position 5-10 years from now, as a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been published in 20 languages and whose first book has been optioned by James Cameron’s production company, I’d pee my pants right now in anticipation.

But that’s not where I am right now. I’m at the beginning. I’ve written a book I’m proud of, signed with an agent I admire and trust, but that’s just the first two steps out of dozens. And I’m not guaranteed any steps past the ones I’ve already taken.

Taylor (um yes, I’ve decided we’re on a first name basis) was very encouraging when I told her how hard it was for me to be patient with the process, especially knowing that a book deal is still a longshot. She told me, “If Anne is representing you then all I can say is that you’re in the best of hands. If there’s one thing I’ve learned to trust, it’s her judgment. She knows the industry, she knows books, she knows timing, and she knows negotiations. It’s hard, when you’re waiting to see if a book will sell, but if it’s any consolation, she sat on The Informationist for almost a year before she tried to sell it. I take that back, she had done a very limited submission at first—then the economy tanked and she basically yanked it off the market. Then she waited a long, long time before trying again. I took her advice on good faith seeing as she was the one who knew the business, and I have never regretted it.”

Don't you dare, Angie. Just walk away. Walk away!
I also asked her if I should be working on Book Two more consistently. Writing, both on the blog and on Book Two, has taken a seat so far back that…(I was going to make a Rosa Parks joke, but I just couldn’t. Probably for the best). I’m reading hundreds of pages of student papers every week. I just don’t feel like I have any creative, productive juices to spare. Unlike me who wrote a cliffhanger for A Fearful Thing, Taylor said she didn’t realize her first book, The Informationist, was going to be the first book of a series. When her contract came for two books instead of one, she was suddenly tasked with writing a series.

While she said technically there is time to write between inking a book deal and that book actually hitting the shelves, “If I could have done anything over or picked my battles, I would have continued writing. Even if it was a different book with different characters or whatever—even if I didn’t finish it—because what happens after the publication machine finally kicks in is all that time you used to have to write gets eaten away by other things and you never have that unmitigated freedom to just create. So my advice would be to create now. Get down drafts, work on projects—even different projects.”
So after hearing from Taylor, who was so kind to take the time to email me back and help provide some momentum for the first time in a while, I’m excited to dive back in soon. I still don’t have the creative energy to write just yet, but I’m planning on using school breaks like Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas break, to get that first draft out of my brain and onto the page.

In the meantime, I encourage all you writers out there who are feeling stuck or uninspired, to embrace your inner nerd and write emails to those you admire. Maybe you’ll hear back and maybe you won’t. If you don’t, at least you’ve put out some good writing karma by encouraging another author. If you’re lucky like I was, you might get an extra boost when you’re feeling alone, discouraged, and unimaginative. 


  1. This is adorable, Angie. (Also, I've been kind of avoiding Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for some of the reasons you mentioned. Maybe I'll pick up The Informationist instead.)

    1. Ha, thanks, Bethany. I purposefully excluded excerpts of my email to Taylor because it was so stinkin' earnest that it would make everyone uncomfortable. And I do recommend The Informationist over Dragon Tattoo if you're into that genre. The Informationist does depict sexual violence against women, but it's not so male gaze-y. To be honest, it took maybe 50 pages for me to really get into it, but I'm glad I kept going.

    2. Hi Angie, I found your blog via my friend Angel's blog. I once wrote to an author, too, and got a response. So cool! I'm so weird--I bet I could meet my favorite movie star and be all, Whatever. But meeting my favorite author, I'd be completely starstruck. It's the literary nerd in me.

      Good luck with your book!

    3. Thanks for commenting/reading, Amy. Somehow authors seem more accessible than say, Catherine Zeta Jones. I just can't imagine a big star taking the time to return an email. I'll be honest, though; I'd flip out if I met CJZ.