Recently an author friend wailed online about the often hopeless feeling one can have writing books and casting them into the great, white, beyond.
Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
I’ve been asking myself that for nigh on 18 years. Crazy, but 18 years is how long I’ve been writing speculative fiction.
You see, I can’t seem to do things in a straight-forward, timely manner. I got my first professionally-published pay rate for a short story in Strange Horizons in 2000. (The Valley of Darkness) It took me another 9 years for Strange Horizons to publish another one in 2009. (Sometimes We Arrive Home) Of course I was having children and moving from the West Coast to Japan and back again during that time, but those are only excuses, right?
Then I wrote a novel. And it sucked, big time. No, seriously, it was terrible. Way too many ninjas. So I wrote another novel that only sucked a little. And then I wrote another novel, Tiger Lily, which I thought actually was entertaining and unsucky, but that probably wasn’t the most commercially viable genre (medieval Japanese fantasy with gender-bending characters anyone? Anyone?)
And then I found myself in Portland, Oregon. And there were other budding, neo-pro authors nearby who liked to get together at downtown patisserie/hippy bars and hang out and encourage each other. And there was artisanal chocolate to eat. I decided to write another novel, this time Urban Fantasy because I had discovered Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Kelley Armstrong, and Jim Butcher and loved this genre with my whole heart. I wanted to marry this genre.
But again, not a straight-forward, chocolate-less, boring old regular Urban Fantasy--it couldn’t have vampires, nor were-wolves or ye olde incredibly beautiful Orlando Bloom-as-Legolas fae. My daughters were experiencing life as biracial Japanese-Americans, so it was natural to turn to baku, kappa, Snow Women, and kitsune legends for my fae.
Cue dramatic music: I was then diagnosed with breast cancer. And while it was only stage 2, I had to do the whole slash, burn, and poison treatment. (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) For the first time in my life I couldn’t write. There was nothing at the heart of me, it was all burned up. I existed in a fog of swiss-cheese brained day to day life. Even chocolate held no allure.
About a year after the last radiation treatment, that spark, that restless desire to write, ignited again. It was a slow, painful process. There’s nothing worse than sitting down in front of a notebook or computer with that story-restlessness wiggling around inside your skin and no words to release them. Out of desperation, I returned to Tiger Lily and started writing a sequel (The Straw Doll Cries at Midnight), bashing out the words as best I could.
And then WWP editor Rhonda Parrish contacted me about that Portland Urban Fantasy novel, and said she was interested in publishing it. (And there was great rejoicing.)
And that felt like a lovely affirmation. Weirdly enough, when Dream Eater hits the stands on April 4th I will be with my family on our annual trip to present my daughters to their Tokyo grandparents. I’ll be in Japan which is almost like coming full circle since my writing history is so tied to that country. And Koi Pierce, the heroine of Dream Eater is biracial Japanese-Caucasian much like my own daughters.
But it’s not full circle. I’m still on my long, winding road as an author. I’m writing a sequel to Dream Eater wherein my main characters head over to Japan to visit the tomb of Jesus (that’s like an actual real thing, Google it, I dare you) in Aomori. And there are other projects simmering away in my brain.
So I’m excited to see where my path might take me (besides Japan, I mean, there’s really no escaping it for me).
So the moral of the story is, it kind of doesn’t matter if anyone is out there. What matters is that you don’t give up on your creative spark, whatever it is. It might take you a long time. It might go on the back burner if you have children or illness or a social life, but wherever that restless urge to create takes you, go there. I promise, it will be fun. And there might be chocolate.