Coming Out Of The Closet

There’s a tweet we’ve had out on the IBC stream (which, naturally, I can’t find this morning–blame it on the sinus drug haze) that one of my co-founders put in–something to the effect of “Do your family and friends know about your book?  Come out of the closet!”  I’ve kind of ignored that one.  See, my husband (obviously) knows about my books.  His parents, his aunt, his cousins, and assorted other family members on that side have all read and loved it and are enthusiastic supporters of what I’m doing without needing to know every small detail of my business plan.   They’re happy and excited for me, which is what they’re supposed to be as family, right?

No one in my family, as in my blood relatives, actually knows anything.  I’m not particularly close to my extended family, so it’s really not all that weird that I haven’t said anything to them.  We don’t really talk much.  But I haven’t told my parents.  Dad would probably react with a baffled “That’s nice dear” kind of response and leave it at that.  Which would be fine.  He’s not a reader at all.  I can remember him reading MAYBE one John Grisham book that EVERY BODY was reading as I grew up.  It’s my mom I’ve deliberately kept quiet to.

Why?  Let’s rewind to a little over 3 years ago and The Good, The Bad, and The Prudish.  This would be about 9 months after I finished grad school, after I’d decided to make writing a priority, because, by damn, it’s what I want to do for a living and has been SINCE I WAS TWELVE.  I’d plowed through and finished the book that had been lingering for nine years–yes, count ’em, NINE YEARS–which my MIL and husband read and loved (it was actually a train-wreck, but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this discussion).  So I went out on a limb and casually mentioned it to my mom that I’d finished.  Got no response at all.  Then later she asked me why I write romance, which disintegrated into a discussion that proves that a) she doesn’t get the entire point of romance, b) she thinks all romance is bad because it has pre-marital sex (join this century, please), and c) she was completely unable to move past her prejudices against the genre to give me a single word of encouragement, interest, or anything, and never even asked to read the book so she could judge its merits on its own.  She apologized later (because, being not blind, she could see I was REALLY angry and upset), and I asked, “Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?”  That was a big fat no.

So I returned to my previous policy of just not talking about my writing with her at all.  A policy which was previously instated in the 9th grade when she read my completely sarcastic and satirical essay “Me And My Temper”, which everyone, including my English teacher, thought was hilarious, and which my mother read and thought I was a miserable child and offered to get me therapy.

Growing up my parents always knew I could write well.  They heard it from all my teachers, but it was always a pat on the head, “that’s a nice hobby” kind of attitude.  When I suggested I wanted to go into journalism in college, their reactions were staunch disapproval and discouragement, which led me to go another path (never mind that the bottom has fallen out of the newspaper business in the last decade–their objections were not to the stability of the job but to the fact that “writing is not a reasonable way to make a living”).  My entire educational career was spent pursuing other fields so that I could get “a real job”.  It was radical enough that I didn’t go into business or law school like they wanted.  So I spent 18 years of education doing what other people wanted because writing isn’t a reasonable way to make a living.

Then the indie publishing movement came along and it was like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  This was a way I could start to prove myself without a traditional publishing contract. And I admit it.  I’ve concocted this very vivid fantasy of taking my earnings spreadsheet from the first year I make a living wage at writing (as in equal to my current evil day job income), printing it off and putting it in a box with all the books I have written up to that point, and giving it to my mother.  See, you CAN make a living as a writer and I’ve DONE IT.  This would be incredibly gratifying to me.  Given that I have a very busy schedule that limits my annual production, this eventuality will be a few more years in the making.

Why is it such a thing for me to be able to say “I’ve done it” rather than “I’m doing it”?  Well, because my mother is not a risk taker.  She is a grade A, champion worrier.  She can’t look at any situation for what it is without tearing it apart with every single possible thing that could go wrong.  It goes so far beyond making an educated choice that it approaches a crippling, clinical anxiety and that’s simply not how I live my life.  Ever.  So my anticipation is that being able to say “I’ve done it” will bypass all the attempts to poke holes in my business plan or reasons why it’s a bad idea (because I fully expect that she will be unable to just say “that’s great and I’m proud of you” like any other mother, and will immediately jump in to why it is a bad idea, as if I’m going to quit my assorted jobs tomorrow like a dumbass because despite all those 4.0’s to the contrary, I obviously don’t have a sensible, intelligent brain in my head).  And there’s that edifying “Ha!”

Yes, I realize this is completely and totally juvenile for someone of 30. I have issues.  I know that.

So all that brings me to Thanksgiving where a bunch of my husband’s family, who have all read Forsaken By Shadow will be in and probably asking about my next book–in front of my mother who knows nothing.

My options are to either send out some kind of mass warning to the family not to talk about it or to finally suck it up and tell my mother.  Because having it come out over the dinner table where she’s going to get that injured, hurt, martyr look is really not how I want to spend my Thanksgiving.  And it’s really not the place to get into it about all the reasons why I didn’t tell her.  So coming clean seems like the thing to do.

I haven’t made a living as an author yet.  But I’ve only released one tiny novella.  One novella that’s been out less than a year and has already sold 2200 copies and earned out more than the average novella advance from New York.  It’s a good beginning, and I’m building a solid foundation of sales and reputation that’s going to carry me to that ultimate goal of making my living as a writer.  And I have the examples of fellow indies like Amanda Hocking, Karen McQuestion, and now my CP Zoe Winters (who has freaking earned a 1/3rd of my annual salaries ACROSS THREE JOBS in November alone) to hold up as examples of “yes, you can make a living at this if you work hard enough.”  I will work hard enough.  I am working hard enough.  It just takes time.

The fact that I am an incredibly hard worker is the one thing my mother does get.  I just hope she’s able to support what I’m doing and accept that even though it’s not what she would do, that it’s what I want, what will make me happy.  And that she’ll be proud of me for going after my dream and respect that I’m doing what I’m good at.

Keep your fingers crossed.

34 thoughts on “Coming Out Of The Closet

  1. This was a great post, K. You know how proud I am of how hard you work. I think you’re absolutely doing the right thing by “coming clean.” It will mean less stress for you in the long run, and who knows? Maybe your mom will surprise you and, once she has a chance to get used to the idea, be your staunchest supporter.

    <3

    • I’m thankful to have supportive parents, even if they don’t get the dark slant of some of my writing. But, I come from a family of readers, so if it’s a book, ‘it’s all good’ to them, even if they don’t read much of my writing or have much feedback on it after correcting typos. My takeaway from your post is the reminder to nurture my own kidling and always support her dreams and goals. I always want her to know that I am here for her no matter what path in life she takes. Keep on writing…and remember that it’s for you…not for your family members. I’m a galaxy away from making a living by writing, and my parents still wish that I’d become a pharmacist or some other rock-solid professional.

  2. I can so relate to this. When I told my mother I really wanted to write and be published, her response was, “You know who should really write? Your sister. She’s got a lot of talent.” Ouch.

    I’m 50, mind you, and new to writing, but age doesn’t dull the need for parental approval nor the devastating blow when it’s withheld.

    • Kait Nolan

      Ok you win. That’s worse. The whole thing just drives me crazy and even thinking about talking to her about it makes me want to curl up into a porcupine ball of defensiveness.

      • I dunno. I’m not published like you are. If your mother has sowed so many seeds of disapproval that you still fear she would not be proud of your achievements, which have taken you far beyond hobby, then shame on her. But I do hope she surprises you and you have the best Thanksgiving ever.

  3. Oh, darling, I am keeping all cross-able appendages crossed. I do know how you feel. It took me over 2 months to tell my mother that I quit my job of nearly 13 years. She thinks it’s because my father in law died & Hubs needs assistance with the house & estate. What she and all of my relatives don’t know, is the real reason. Which is, after nearly 30 years as a legal secretary, I came to realize that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I decided to start a jam and marmalade making business. My husband & friends love and support the idea, but like you, my family will never get it. Unless I sell a recipe to Kraft for a zillion dollars. You’re only 30 – I’m over 50. That particular family dynamic never gets better. So, go ahead and bite the bullet, Kait. That’ll be one stone lifted from your heart.

    • Kait Nolan

      Oooo, jam and marmalade! I LOVE jam and marmalade! Will you/do you have a website?

      It’s particularly weird for me because I can look at this situation both from the inside and out. I can see it as a clinician and how I’d tell someone ELSE to deal with it is not at all how I FEEL like I should deal with it while I’m in it, you know? Part of me would like to write the whole thing out and end with “the appropriate response is That’s great. I’m proud of you. No further commentary needed. Which is unreasonable because she has the right to think or feel however she thinks and feels and I don’t have any right to say how she must respond. But it would just be EASIER that way, you know?

      • I do know. I have rarely had any kind of personal level conversation with my mother (to this day) that didn’t disintegrate into a shouting match. She says that I’m secretive, and I say she’s judgmental, which is why I never tell her anything. Look – Over 30 years ago, I had a clerical job with the county, which I left after 2 years to go into legal. If I had a nickel for every time over the last 10 years that she said, “You should never have quit the county. If you still worked there, you could retire with a pension by now,” I’d be a freaking millionaire. Literally. I know she wants her children to be secure, but there’s a line. It’s not about her. It’s about you. While she’s absolutely entitled to her opinion and her feelings, yours are equally valid. And, oh by the way, you happen to be an adult, with your own family, and not living at home (I assume). While it would be great to get the “That’s wonderful, dear – I’m so proud of you!” response, if it doesn’t happen, the only opinions that really matter are yours and the person (people) you go home with. She’s not a Times book critic, nor does she pay your bills (I assume). 🙂

        And yes, I will have a website – soon!

        • Kait Nolan

          Oh yeah, adult, married nearly 8 years, own our home and vehicles (well us and the bank), work 3 jobs, put husband through school, pay own bills, etc.

  4. Wow – fantastic post. I was nodding my head through most of it – my mom is the same way – just insert Fantasy for Romance and she could be your mom’s twin. I have a short story coming out next spring and finally got enough courage up to tell her. And I got “Huh. I guess that’s nice. I never understood that fantasy crap though.”

    That being said, I’ll never tell my partner’s family either. They’re the type to burn the Harry Potter books for witchcraft. So I’m just out of luck 🙂

    Good thing I have all my writer friends on the internet and a very supportive partner!

    Good luck with thanksgiving – whatever you decide to do!

    • Kait Nolan

      Oh man, I didn’t even touch on how she’d react to the paranormal side of things. When I came home with the Encyclopedia of the Occult for research in high school, mom thought it meant I was going to JOIN a cult. :headdesk: Yes mom, the black and red cover means I’m going to stray from my quasi Baptist, Methodist upbringing and become a devil worshiper.

      YAY for supportive partners!

  5. My mom is very conservative and religious. She does NOT like that I write sex, or bad words, or demons. But, she’s still proud of me and brags about me, LOL.

  6. I think maybe when your mom starts to see the income flowing in, she’ll be proud, too.

    • Kait Nolan

      I still really really want that HA! moment.

  7. My parents pretended that I wasn’t a writer until last year. What I discovered is they were waiting on me to 1. write a whole book 2. make money from said book. All of a sudden my mom was into it and read Glimpse and bought a bunch of copies to send to my relatives. My dad asked me if he should read it and I said, “Absolutely not!” I appreciate their newfound support, but am pretty mortified that they actually want to read what I write now. 🙂 I wish this problem upon you.

    • Kait Nolan

      God I really don’t think I want her to read it. I realized recently that almost all my heroines have either serious mother issues, abandonment issues, or a dead mother. It really wasn’t intentional beyond the fact that it made for more complex heroines who had bad stuff happen to them, which led to current story issues, but I dread to think what she’d read into that given what happened with that essay all those years ago.

  8. I’d just get it over with and not engage with her about it. I guarantee that when your husband’s family start bigging you up, it’ll be all my daughter, the writer this and my daughter, the writer that. 😉

    I won’t let my mother read my stuff because I know she will take every word as fact. She has no concept of fiction. I remember her burning stories I wrote when I was a kid because they were lies, all lies! *Mass hysteria*

    You know you’re a writer, you know it’s making you happy and you know that it is worth your time so just smile and nod and think of the cheques heading your way. 😉

  9. This is one reason I advocate NEVER getting both sides of the family together. LOL
    Seriously– I understand completely–and I’m 20 years older than you are. My first short story last year was a cute zombie love story. He told me he could get through the entire thing because he wasn’t into that stuff. My dad can read two books at one time; he reads popular authors like James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell etc. My mom loves to read–she thought it was an odd story. They LOVED my writing in newspapers, and I hated writing them. LOL Sigh. My husband’s family doesn’t get it–I think they will if I get into print, but digital is too out there for them.

    I’m not sure we ever stop wanting a “good job” or a “I’m proud of you.” from our parents. One thing I do though is make sure my kids know I’m proud of EVERYTHING they do.

    Your writing rocks by the way– and you will make money–though I love your writing even without the monetary fame:)

    • Kait Nolan

      You know being a household name would be great and wonderful, but I can totally live without that. I would just love to be able to support myself doing what I love. I’ve spent a lot of years paying for other people and working for other people, and I feel like I really deserve the chance to do what makes me happy because I’ve already lived for everyone else.

      Thanks for the compliment.

  10. Vicki Keire

    I think maybe we’re all related, or perhaps our mothers are. I’ve spent my entire life trying to strike a balance betweeen other’s expectations and my own need to be a writer. A Ph. D. in English Lit seemed like such a clever compromise. I love the lit part, but when I sit down and try to write two-hundred plus page dissertations about obscure dead white men, everything comes out fiction instead. I literally cannot force myself to do it anymore- my teaching suffers, I’m cranky and ill. So I stopped fighting it, and plan to release my first indie novel next month. I don’t put the word “fiction” in front of “writing” around my mother. In fact, I try to mention writing as little as possible around her. There are some people I just don’t discuss that aspect of my life with. They don’t get it. But some do, and they can be wonderful. One thing I love about being a “real writer,” even more than selling books (eventually), is the freedom to be a little quirky. Creativity can be so fragile. I can usually tell within a minute or two of talking to someone about books/art/music whether I’ve found a teammate or not. Unfortunately, it seems to take double the positive creative experiences to cancel out the negative ones.
    I wonder, Kait. You mentioned that your husband’s side of the family knows all about your book and from context seem supportive. I think it would be more than a little eye-opening to watch my daughter being treated like a “real writer” by others, effortlessly tossing out shop talk about deadlines, rewrites, beta readers, and sales rankings while she passed the dressing. Especially if she hadn’t warned me before hand. And whether I approved or not, I’d at least see others treating her with the respect she deserves.
    I loved your post, btw. I just discovered your blog. It practically vibrates with much-needed upbeat energy.

    • Kait Nolan

      Oh lord, so many people didn’t understand why I didn’t go into English. WHY would I major in something where OTHER PEOPLE tell me what to read, and it’s mostly dead white guys, and I have to write soulless academic prose. NO.

      You do make a good point, and if that’s how it would go down, it’d be fine. I’m mostly afraid of how I’m going to react and would rather do so in private because I tend to turn into an instant porcupine around my mom. I’m going to TRY not to because it’s not productive but biting, sarcastic remarks seem to just fly right out of my mouth with no toll booth operator to stop them when she makes me angry.

  11. I’m lucky in that my mother loves my books. I’ve not let her read Starfane yet because of the sex, but she keeps asking, so I guess I’ll let her read it. LOL

    I’m never going to come completely out of the closet. My close friends and family know who I really am, but I have to be careful with people who I go to church with. There is sex in a couple of the books (not really graphic) and “almost” sex in others. And I know one man who found his daughter’s copy of Twilight and threw it away. I have sex AND vampires, so….

    • Kait Nolan

      I’m totally of the opinion that if you don’t like the sex, skip those pages. That’s only like 2 of out of the whole book, you know? Don’t criticize an entire work because of your own personal issues with a genre.

      • The problem is that these people would freak out if they knew I even wrote about premarital sex. I could be in some really hot water over it. Seriously.

        My mom doesn’t mind that I have sex in my books. It’s just embarrassing to me when she reads it. LOL

        • Kait Nolan

          I figure I crossed the greatest bridge when I discussed love scenes with my HUSBAND’S MOTHER. If I could survive that conversation without turning crimson, I think I’m good.

  12. I just stumbled upon this site through Twitter (while procrastinating at my writing) and I’m soooo glad I did. I’m excited for you and I understand the desire to not say something until you’ve already made it.

    Rest assured, there are many ways of making it full time as a writer. While I’m not living my dream in book sales yet, I do write full time with a good income. What helped me cope your dilemma as I fling myself into my life and love, is to just separate myself from what others think of my work or my life. I’m dealing with this right now with my love life, as we blog about our crazy romance. http://kinradekarpov.blogspot.com/

    I just remind myself, if I’m happy, and I’m not hurting anyone else in pursuit of that happiness, then who cares? Even my parents can’t take away from that. They don’t have to approve, or understand, because it’s not their life.

    So good luck this Thanksgiving. I’ll be thinking of you as I deal with something similar in my life.

    By the way, I don’t write romance exclusively (though it creeps into my books) but I love the genre and will be checking your book out! Can’t wait to read more of your work and posts. You have a new fan!

    • Kait Nolan

      Honestly I think romance is in all books to some degree because life is about relationships when you get down to it. Good luck with your stuff too!

  13. When i first embarked on being an author i was first always told that no matter the secondary education one thing that can’t be taught in any institution is imagination and the means to translate it, it’s somthing your got or you don’t. I love the bases of your book and will enjoy reading it as i have just bought a copy, it sounds as unique in stroyline as my own series.

  14. I should probably make my own post about this sort of thing. *chuckles*

    Until just recently, I wasn’t able to talk to my father much about my writing. He viewed it as a hobby and while he knew I was serious about it, he didn’t really support me much with my choice to write. Granted, he knows I have a day job as a massage therapist and that I love doing massage therapy as well, so there wasn’t that worry that I’d never be able to support myself, but he was always very distant and never wanted to hear about my work. You could just tell from the way he held himself and the way he would give that disapproving look that it wasn’t what he would have chosen for me.

    Matters were made worse by my writing primarily M/M Romance. My father’s brother (my uncle), Larry, was promiscuous back in the 80s and contracted HIV. He was diagnosed with AIDS and Kaposi’s Sarcoma and eventually died from pneumonia. (I hope that wasn’t too graphic. >.> ) Given that past, however, my father has always blamed the homosexuality. It’s been difficult to talk to him at all about my fiction for that reason.

    To make a long story short, he recently got back from an intense bout of counseling out of town, and he admitted to me that he hadn’t approved outwardly of my fiction because he was trying to be high and mighty to disguise his own faults. He apologized for being a distant, disapproving father and, man, I’m telling you, I’ve never heard him be more open and vulnerable with me. It was that moment that I was able to tell him why I love what I do and finally get that “It may not be something I personally want to read, but I love you, I support you, and I’m so glad you found something that makes you happy.”

    I just wanted to share my own experience so you know you’re not the only one out there… and to let you know that sometimes there really is that light at the end of the tunnel. I really hope your ‘coming out’ about your fiction goes well with your mother. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for the good things in life, and those should include a daughter who has found a passion in life and is pursuing it in a way that brings her joy.

    Good luck!
    ~Kris

  15. My mom won’t read my books, because there’s sex in them. My covers (which I love) embarrass her. And I really don’t think she takes my writing seriously yet either – it’s a nice side-hobby, but not a real job. Oh, and every time I see her, she wants to write a book “someday”. But not now, because she’s too busy.

    My MIL is supportive, but not a reader, which is perfect. She’ll get my books, but not read them – best of both worlds. My BIL thinks he want’s to write too. A fan-fiction that publishers will want, due to the subject matter, of course. And he always has suggestions about my novels, characters, etc. Very helpful (not).

    Needless to say, while my family knows I write, I don’t talk about it much around them, and never with them if I can help it. Less frustrating for me.

    Good luck with your mom, Kait – I’m sure it’s better to have it out in the open, just insanely hard to actually get there. I hope Thanksgiving goes better than expected. 🙂

    • Kait Nolan

      At this point I’m just anxious about the whole thing. No idea how to start this conversation or what to say. Can’t seem to think of calm rational means to approach it that doesn’t devolve into me being a snarky smartass. :dreads:

  16. This all sound so familair. I’ve been pursuing a writing career since I was 16 without the support of my family, but it was just recently that I indie published my first book. I wasn’t to worry about my family reading it, or mentioning it because of the above reason. Then my sister raved that it was the best book she’s read to my mom and grandma. Apparently they both went out and bought it.

    I thought that was the end of it until my mom calls with a “I read your book.” I felt like I was in sixth grade again, getting a lecture on why my writing wasn’t good enough, what I should have done better, and why ghosts are not an acceptable story topic. She seemed surprised that she liked the book and couldn’t put it down, but…apparently she’s sending me the book she bought with red marks on her corrections and thoughts of what she thinks needs to be changed. Her biggest complaint was the sex. LOL. What did she expect of a romance.

    I hope that everything goes well with you mom, and if it doesn’t just remember you’re in-laws and a whole community of writers are here to lend support. We’ve all gone through or are going through some of things. Good luck, Kait.

  17. I’m sure you’ve gotten some really good advice and encouragement, but can I add one more thing?

    You’re 30, Kait. Stop worrying about what your mother thinks and live your life openly. Trying to show her up or prove anything to her is counterproductive.

    In 30 more years you’ll see how fruitless it was. I was where you were 30 years ago. Believe me, it’s not that big a deal. It only looks that way right now.

    The bigger a deal you make out of it, the more you’ll feed the animosity. Talk about your work, but don’t defend it. You’ll find if you don’t give her ammunition she can’t shoot you down.

    Good luck.

  18. I must admit that I feel somewhat out of place commenting on a subject with a group of serious women writers who are, truthfully, professionally more advanced than myself. However, I am likely to put a book into publication soon and Kait, you are a woman who has gained my respect for your dedication and openness. I am experienced in communications and writing is a vocation which I have always felt a deep affinity with. Most of my work centers around the work of women as my website should indicate. I have seen too much disrespect for the ambitions of women in my life and having a mother who struggled hard with four sons and made them successful gentlemen… It just doesn’t set well with me. I am interested in the arts as a whole and I have just registered with an organization to gain legal access to content from professional people in the entertainment industry. I feel I need to get even more serious about how I present myself online and give artists all the respect they deserve. Of course I follow the work of male actors and other men in the industry and make contacts with some of them; such as Robert DeNiro, Johnny Depp, Rodney Dangerfield, Ian Flemming… some of the older men I guess you’d say. I am an older man myself, having retired from a career before the age of 50 with a full retirement. I won’t tell you my age because fair is fair and I don’t ask women their’s.

    I started the website to help promote the work of writers because I found there were so many who wanted to publish their work and found it was much more difficult than it should be with the technology we now have in place. The developement of ebook reading devices has helped a great deal, of course, and I think the writing profession has benefitted by that.

    As it turns out, the content on webevlog.com has come mainly from people in the music and acting communities with some emphasis on photography, news, and other arts. I am pleased that the advertising includes ads from publishing companies and educational organizations with provide courses for writers also. I welcome content from writers, especially fiction writers, and I intend to continue that focus. I hope I will be able to enjoy an affiliation with those of you who wish to have access to a resource which will give some exposure to your work. As I explained to Holly Marie Combs’ agency, I render the highest respect to artists and am open to their needs.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read my comments. I look forward to seeing your successes now and in the future.

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