The act of writing isn’t hard – well, isn’t always hard – but telling your relatives that you like to write is. Most often, the easiest way to relate with that tidbit is to come back with an acknowledgement that someone else also writes. “You know, Mary Anne also likes to write.” You have a book? they ask rhetorically. Mary Anne has five.
Or better, I also have an idea for a book. Let me tell you the saga of its people.
I lead with this not as a complaint, but to frame my reservation to announcing my publication. Because publishing a book carries two very distinct stereotypes – that a gatekeeper in New York is FedExing me money for my young adult novel, or that I wrote a story about a dog detective in three days and haven’t yet used spell check. To most people, I am Mary Anne, an anecdote in conversation without real context.
I started writing my book, The Late Lord Glass, in 2011. The previous year I had written a novel for my undergraduate thesis, featuring time travel and absolutely no plot. It was atrocious and I highly doubt my thesis committee read it in it’s entirety. I would not. In fact, if time travel were possible, I would use it to stop that committee from ever forming.
After college, I was teaching English in Turkey, isolated in the southeastern part of the country. I spent several months overhauling my thesis (adding things like, say, a plot) and began fiddling with a story about someone coming home after being away a long time. You can see a connection to real life: in Turkey, part of me was becoming afraid that because of my separate, bizarre experiences – and because I was missing all the experiences shared by my old community – that I wouldn’t fit in when I came back. That’s where The Late Lord Glass came in.
Obviously, presenting only the existential experience is boring. So I added things I liked: pirates, princes, swordfights, conspiracies, more pirates. I wrote the book I wanted to read, one that stole from other books like Captain Blood and The Count of Monte Cristo and Princess Bride (it was a book first).
Over the next three years, the book came off and went back on a shelf as I learned things about life and how women think (the early version of the female lead was not very accurate). The book was also read, front to back, by a dozen people, each with grammatical and thematic suggestions. Finally, a few months ago, the book seemed whole to me.
It’s on Amazon now, for ninety-nine cents. I earn thirty-five cents for every one sold – so, this will never make me any money. However, it’s not the exercise of a whim, either. It’s just something I’m passionate about and it felt sad to never share it, like the story never existed in the first place. So judge for yourself. Don’t let yourself hear it first from your uncle.