Note: This summer, we’ll occasionally be bringing back some of our favorite posts.
~ By Eileen Rendahl
A couple of weeks ago, I received an advanced copy of my new novel, Dead on Delivery. Generally, there aren’t too many surprises in an advanced copy. By the time we get to that point of the publishing cycle, I’ve read the book so many damn times I can do the dialogue in my sleep. I’ve seen mock-ups of the cover. I know who blurbed it. Sure, it’s a nice moment (is there anything better than that new book smell?), but it’s not a surprising one.
This time, there was a surprise. Right there on the lower right hand corner of the cover, it said “From the National Bestselling Author of Don’t Kill the Messenger.” While I was well aware that I’d written Don’t Kill the Messenger, I hadn’t had any indication that I’d achieved any kind of bestseller status, much less a national one.
I emailed my editor and got back a somewhat sheepish “Gee, did we forget to mention that?” response. Turns out that Don’t Kill the Messenger hit the trade paperback bestseller lists for Barnes and Noble, Borders and Bookscan when it came out. Last year. A little anticlimactic, but darn gratifying nonetheless.
Now, I had been working on revisions of another book that I had been referring to as a steaming pile of . . . well, I’m sure you can fill in the blank. Suddenly, that book didn’t seem so bad. The words on those pages were the words of a Nationally Bestselling Author. Me. Obviously they were much more credible words now.
Except, they’re not. I’m not saying I haven’t grown as a writer. I think I learn and grow and change with each book I write. But I was pretty much the same writer that afternoon when I sat down to work as I had been that morning before I emailed my editor.
It all reminded me of something that happened to me not too long before my first book, Do Me, Do My Roots, came out. I was at Kinko’s photocopying eleventy bazillion copies of my book. I think I needed two for the publishing house, one for my agent, one for my Aunt Joni because she really wanted to read it, one each for my sisters because I’d based characters on them and wanted to make sure they would still speak to me after the book came out and one for my mother because she’d be irritated with me if Aunt Joni got to read it before her. As I was copying and collating and rubberbanding, I heard a man behind me say to his friend, “I bet she’s copying her novel to send off.” Then he laughed. Not a nice laugh. A mean laugh. Because that’s funny, right? We should all make sure to laugh at people who have the courage to try to pursue their dreams.
I ignored him.
He made a few more cracks to his friend about people trying to write books and how pathetic that was. I still ignored him. Then he ended up behind me in line and he finally addressed me personally. He asked if I was photocopying a book.
I turned around, told him I was indeed copying my novel and that I had a two-book contract with Pocket Books and this novel would be published in the spring. All the sudden, he was all impressed. I was no longer some loser nobody. I was a published author. He wanted to know my name and about the book and had the decency to look a little abashed.
Here’s the thing, though. A few months before, I didn’t have a book contract. I was exactly what he’d thought I was. Just another person with a dream and the willingness to sit her ass down in front of her computer and nothing about that had really changed except for a really fabulous phone call from my agent.
I’m thrilled that Don’t Kill the Messenger did as well as it did. I am slapping the phrase “National Bestselling Author” on pretty much everything from sig lines to permission slips for my kids. I might even get it tattooed on my lower back as a tramp stamp (it’s that or a diagram of a caffeine molecule). But I’m trying not to let it fool me because I don’t ever want to stop being the girl with a dream and a willingness to plant her ass in the chair in front of her computer, because that’s what a real writer is and bestseller or not, a writer is what I want to be.
In addition to the Messenger series, National Bestselling Author Eileen Rendahl is the award-winning author of four Chick Lit novels. Her alter ego, Eileen Carr, released her first romantic suspense, HOLD BACK THE DARK, in 2009, followed by VANISHED IN THE NIGHT in July 2011. Both Eileens will be releasing books in 2011 and live in Davis, California.