Guest Post from Author Carol Mason
My new novel, The Love Market, I am told, has just hit the shelves in stores across Canada. I love that expression! I only have to read it to feel that the entire hair-pulling, teeth-grinding ordeal of a year spent writing a novel was all worth it. Of course then I rush to my local bookstore and fail to see the book anywhere. Or it may happen to be in a box, amidst a pile of other unpacked novels in the corner of the store, even though theoretically it’s supposed to be proudly occupying its well-earned space on some up-front and centre shelf where the world can see it and buy it.
Then reality kicks in, and I remember one thing: no dream is ever as perfect as we imagine it. If it was, life would stop the moment we got what we wanted.
I will never forget finding out that I had finally got bought by a top publishing house, that my book would be published in many different countries, I was being paid a slightly more than respectable salary for what I’d accomplished, and what’s more, they were buying a second book off me – one I’d not even written or conceived yet! I must be pretty fantastic, right? Surely after everything I’d been through I could allow myself to think myself fabulous just this once?
It had not been easy. (understatement of the century) I’d given up a well-paid job to write full-time. I’d initially given myself a year to get published and that year had turned into five. I imagined, because I was so gung-ho (and clearly deluded), that I’d make it with my first book. That one book turned into three unpublished attempts that still lurk in the bottom drawer of my desk, because I’m sure one day I will revive them and they will go on to be bestsellers. Actually it was five unpublished attempts. I forgot to count the two novels I wrote ten years previously that I was too lazy to back up on my computer, and my computer got stolen, and the novels went along for the ride. Surely I had earned my stripes?
“Are you sitting down?’ My agent asked me on a phone call from London. I had just woken up. It was 7AM Vancouver time. Then her next question was, ‘Do you have a bottle of champagne in the fridge?’
The thing was, I had become so conditioned to the concept of failure that imagining myself a success no longer ever crossed my mind. I disbelieved her when she told me that Hodder & Stoughton had just made a lovely offer on The Secrets of Married Women. What was she playing at? Is this how my agent got her jollies? I had to consciously sit there and reason with myself: Hang on Carol, she has no reason to make this up. Maybe it’s true.
I didn’t have a bottle of champers in the fridge. But by the end of that day I was eating sushi with Dom Perignon. The high I felt was like none I’d experienced before. I had done something that countless people told me I would never do: Even if they never came out and said it, it was there in their faces. I had gotten published. On a big level. Way to go me!
Mysteriously, I became all fixated on death after that. I didn’t want to die before I saw my first novel hit the shelves. Not that, until that moment, I’d ever imagined myself dying. I was in perfectly good health and a reasonably sane driver and I didn’t think I had any enemies who would be following me with a hatchet down a dark street. But after hearing my so-called “job” of writing had been validated by a big publishing house, and I no longer had to feel I needed to make excuses to people about what I did, I had a heightened sense of my own need to self-preserve. All I wanted was to walk into a big bookstore and see myself right there, next to whichever brand name author had a book out at the same time – then I could die happy. Or on a shelf filed next to whatever greatly successful writer bore a last name beginning with M. In my case, it always seems to be Carole Matthews. Seeing a table-load of my novel in Borders on Oxford Street made me want to rip off all clothes and dance naked on top of them. Not only had I hit shelves, I’d apparently hit tables too! I started lurking around the edges of bookshelves, watching to see if anyone would actually buy my book off that table. I never saw it happen. Then I fantasized about seeing someone reading my book on a bus. That never happened either. But then my moment came. I was skimming a British newspaper and saw a photograph of a WAG (Footballers’ Wives And Girlfriends) sitting on a beach reading a novel – and the book was none other than The Secrets of Married Women. A WAG was reading me! How cool was that?
Of course sometimes “hitting the shelves” literally means there is one copy, spine out, under the letter M. A pretty deflating sight to see. Especially as you tend to know it’s not because there’s only one left, but because there never was more than one in the first place. But still, I will always take my “one” copy to the most prominent position in the store, and place it right there – surreptitiously, like you never really saw me do that. But hey! If Carrie Bradshaw can do it, why can’t I?
So this weekend, Olympics fever over in Vancouver (almost), I will do my routine of driving to as many stores as I can hit and signing copies so that the sales team can stick pretty little stickers on them. As hard as it is to be published and to keep on being published, this thing I get to do when new book hits the shelves makes me remember why it is I started writing in the first place.
Signed by Author? Yep, that’s me.
Post written by author Carol Mason, who’s novel The Love Market is now available on Amazon.ca