Chasing Nirvana is in the can. It's edited, designed, locked into a publishing date, on Amazon pre-sale and booked for a blog tour. All that's left is to pick out the wine for the launch party, plan some high school visits and mail a few paperbacks to magazines and newspapers. That sentence made me kind of sad. The book comes out November 3rd and has been an enormous part of my life. By the time publication rolls around, I'll be editing Stealing Baby X, my historical fiction novel.
I'm not a huge fan of people who call their novels their "babies." I have children. There are much harder to control than books. They rarely, if ever, progress in a reasonable narrative arc. Books are hopefully unpredictable. But they must make sense. Any parent of teens will enlighten you on the predictability of children: zero. Life plans? Ha!
Nonetheless, since I'm one year from becoming an official empty nester, there is something familiar about a book making its way in the world. Chasing Nirvana will get its first bad review. Someone will take exception to my portrayal of Aberdeen or teenagers or Nirvana. I once had a critic take me to task for mentioning Oprah too many times. I'd love to have a conversation with that person and explain why Oprah popped up in Family Secrets but that's not how reviews work. The review phase for a novelist is like sending a kid off to school knowing they're going to get beat up. Or at least scratched.
Critics criticize. It's their job title. Believe me, even if I don't read reviews, someone will bring it to my attention. A barista. A neighbor. They'll think they're doing me a favor. It's like being around someone whose favorite topic is highway fatalities.
Stealing Baby X will become the story I struggle with, talk about and finally shape into something I'm proud enough to send off. It's a wonderful, terrible process. I live with fictional people that are more real to me than some people I encounter every day. It's a weird life that is impossible to explain except to other writers. We bond over the imbalance of possibly enjoying our own company a little too much. So here's to the people who put up with us and the readers who enjoy our work. You're very kind and patient.
Ellyn Oaksmith is the USA Today bestselling author of the upcoming Chasing Nirvana (November 3, 2017) 50 Acts of Kindness and other books. She lives in Seattle.
How do I find ideas?
They find me. We date for a while & if things work out, we marry. For one year. Best books for writers? Stephen King On Writing Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.