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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Author anxiety syndrome

At Bouchercon a few years ago, a huge mystery conference, I met a very successful mystery author. I looked her up afterward, and she had a list of well-received books that I envied. She was waiting for the reviews of her newest book, and she was a nervous wreck--biting her fingernails and twitching. I checked a few weeks later, and the reviews were fine, very positive. It was a puzzle. With her track record, what was there to fear?

Now I understand. When my first zoo mystery, Night Kill, was ready to hit the shelves, I learned what an anxiety attack was all about. Public speaking? Job interview? Getting married? Nah, if you want panic, publish a book. At least if you are me. Visions of humiliation, public contempt, vicious attacks on my writing, plot, and zoo information arose vivid and unbidden. I slept poorly and contemplated changing my name and moving to Belize.

I shoulda seen it comin'. This whole author gig is an emotional roller coaster. Writing is a joy. Then come the rejection letters. But at last, an agent! Whoopee! But can she sell the book? Ah, yes--more rejection. The book sells! Whee! Oops, then it gets published... And so it goes. It's exhausting. But maybe that's part of what I'm in the game for. I'm not one for boredom.

I saved all the reviews of Night Kill, even the bad ones, and recently re-read them. Turns out the bad ones weren't so bad and the good ones were really nice. (Take a peek at those nice ones here.) I'd forgotten most of the positive comments but remembered every one of the negative observations. Go figure.

Now I'm at it again. Did Not Survive is due out in late July. No reviews yet from the big guys: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, or Foreword. Will they love it? Will the rest of the world love it? Will animal rights activists picket my house? How much property can I afford in Belize?


Carol Chapel said...

You might consider Philomath. That is if you really want obscurity.
I still think Night Kill would make a good movie.

Ann Littlewood said...

You are too sweet! Yes, Philomath would make a great place to hide out.

Deborah Ross said...

We talk about this in the science fiction/fantasy community, too. There's a strong feeling that even negative reviews help sales, which are after all the bottom line. In fact, controversial negative reviews might be the best of all, laughing all the way to the bank. However, anything that damages an author's confidence in her muse is to be shunned. Shunned, I tell you!

L. Dean Murphy said...

Ann Littlewood is a master mystery writer on par with Nevada Barr, whose bestselling Anna Pigeon series can have a handful of people in an unlikely setting, and still be a complex mystery. Littlewood furthers her skills by making this second of the Zoo Mystery Series (following NIGHT KILL) a social statement about endangered species, the intricate beauty of nature and the intricate workings of a zoo, without being esoteric.

Ann Littlewood said...

Aw, Dean, you are so sweet!

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