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.