First things first, I just discovered this gem. It’s so good. And, confession, something about the vocalist reminds me of Tracy Chapman. Weird! But it’s lovely and brooding and pensive. It makes me want to break up just so I can have a bit of drama. Haha!
So, anyway, I’ve been thinking about how working on a book now, for me, is different. Like, oddly different. Other-worldly different.
When I first wrote Feed, it was built on a short story called “Life Feeds.” I liked the damn thing so much, I wanted to do more with it. So I did. It was great. No one was waiting for me to finish. No one cared but me. I could write at the pace that worked for me and I did. I only had one kid, a baby, and when he napped, I could scribble off a thousand words no problem. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
I published it when it was done and didn’t do any marketing at all. I had no idea how to even approach that. I didn’t research that stuff because I didn’t know that marketing my indie book was even a thing!
So, because of that, it made absolutely no splash. It slipped into the water like Greg Louganis: nary a drop. Hardly anyone read it. It snuck under the radar and pretty much stayed there. Forever. Even now it only has something like 15 reviews on Amazon.
But that has never deterred me and it didn’t then. So I began working on Blue Hearts of Mars right after that and worked hard on it, sometimes feeling like someone else was doing all the work because it came so effortlessly to me. I loved the story and I just did what felt natural.
I published Blue Hearts a year after Feed. And I didn’t market that one either. It was January, and I put it up for a short free period on Amazon. That helped a bit. But not much.
Then, I met my friend and author Megan Thomason, because her YA book Daynight was also running a free promotion and Blue Hearts couldn’t knock hers out of the number one free spot. So of course I emailed her to razz her for beating me (I’m competitive like that). Well, she’s awesome and went out of her way to teach me about marketing and much of what I learned for her I’ve implemented. It helped with Blue Hearts, but that’s still the only book of mine I’ve ever pushed.
Why? I don’t know. Confidence, maybe. I’m still insecure about my abilities and my stories, despite loving the hell out of them. At this point, I’m working on a sequel to Feed even though I never planned one.
Feed ended in what some have called a cliffhanger. I get it. In today’s world, it seems like a cliffhanger because everyone writes sequels, and the best way to do a sequel is to leave room for one. But Feed is a dystopian story, modeled after something like Eugene Zamiatin’s We, which was one of the first dystopian books, along with Jack London’s The Iron Heel and E.M. Forester’s “The Machine Stops.” If you’ve read We, you know that the end is just sort of mundane. There is the hint of hope and change, but it’s not totally certain. Nothing is. The protagonist is ruined by the One State and the real hero is revealed to be I-303.
When I wrote the end to Feed, I saw that I left hope for the reader. My original ending was that [****former plot spoiler alert****] Ramone died, but the resistance lived on, which is hopeful, right? Well. A few people read it and got REALLY REALLY REALLY PISSED. So I changed it.
People are still pissed. It didn’t seem to help that I altered the ending. Some people still find reasons to get pissed! It can be discouraging.
And so, here’s what I’m getting at: I like the world and the characters in Feed, so I thought, what the hell. I’ll write a sequel.
That’s what I’m doing.
But I’m still torn about how I’m responding to readers. Lord knows I didn’t want them to hate the ending of Feed, either of them, the controversial death included. I want to them to appreciate the story and feel something: rage, relief, whatever. I don’t want them to hate me for not fulfilling them in some way.
The rub is: I’ve learned that I can’t make everyone happy. Or anyone, even, possibly. Maybe? I’m experiencing a bit of external pressure to perform, to write the story and do it well and keep it exciting and thoughtful. I’m not sure I’m doing that. They always say, “Write for yourself.” “Write what you know.” Nice little pieces of advice, those are. But what the hell do I know? And what does that even mean? If I’m writing it, you can be damn sure I’m writing for me.
But that just doesn’t change the pressure and the knowledge that people are waiting. Patrick Rothfuss wrote his first book over the space of something like ten years. And it went viral (can books go viral?). Working on the second was a huge ordeal for him. He’s published some of the emails he’s gotten where people beg him to finish the second and tell him to get to work rather than playing around with his son and such, which just show that some people are huge dicks. Where do they get off telling him to write his book and how fast? That’s not helpful.
Luckily no one is really doing that to me, either because my fan base is the size of a sample cup at Costco (not to diminish how awesome my fans are! I love you guys!) or because they’re an unusually quiet bunch. Whatever reason, I’m not under direct pressure from them. Just from what I perceive, I think. I want to be past this. I want to move on. But I’m in this limbo spot where I have to tie up loose ends. I can’t move on. Not yet. I have to do something first.