By Dame Kaz
I make no secret of my love for Stacia Kane. Not only is she an amazingly talented writer – and I mean that 110% – she is also a friend of mine. She is a goddess: loyal, passionate, honest, and damned funny. 🙂
Ladies, gentlemen and fellow Dames, I give you our latest Dame for a Day… Dame Stacia Kane:
Pressure…pushing down on me
Years ago, before I was published anywhere, I remember hearing writers complain about pressure. Deadline pressure. Performance issues. And I remember thinking those writers were just a bunch of whiners.
It creeps up on you, you see. You approach your first sale like an Olympic hurdler, confidently bounding over the obstacles. You’ve trained for this. You can do this. You keep working and working, polishing and polishing, until you have something you’re proud of. Something that sells. And yeah, it feels good.
Maybe you write another book; maybe the second in a series, or a new book, and it sells too, and you feel even better. If you’re anything like me you don’t feel great, because you wonder in the back of your head what sort of insanity possessed the editor, but you feel good. Because you thought that book was all right. You envision a career, now, stretching ahead of you like an empty highway, waiting for you to zip along it while the sun rises behind you.
And then Donald Turnupseed appears out of nowhere, and you’re spinning into darkness, your confidence shattered.
What does it? It’s different for everyone. Maybe it’s a tight deadline. For me it’s performance anxiety, just like a teenage virgin.
See, I liked PERSONAL DEMONS. I thought it was fun. I was excited when an editor liked it too, and bought it. And I started writing DEMON INSIDE shortly after it sold, and I liked that too. I thought it did a pretty good job of expanding the world. I thought I managed to keep the tension between Greyson and Megan going, and slip in a pretty damn hot sex scene right about 2/3 of the way through the book. I was pleased with it, overall; not thrilled, because the books never live up in reality to what was in my head, but I was pleased.
Then I got this new idea I was all excited about, and wrote UNHOLY GHOSTS, and loved it. Again, not what I pictured, but I was really happy. And it got me signed with an agent. And it sold to Del Rey. And I was thrilled. There was that highway, and if I could just keep steering straight I could make it to the beach. Or whatever.
All was rosy. Until PERSONAL DEMONS was released. And people liked it.
I know it sounds crazy, to suddenly feel scared and bad because people liked your book. But I never claimed to be sane. All I know is, the book was greeted so warmly. So much more enthusiastically than I’d expected. And…can I be frank?
It scares the hell out of me.
Suddenly there are expectations. People who loved the first book—and if you’re one of them, thank you so much, seriously—are excited about the second. They think it will be as good as the first. Maybe even better. Is it? I don’t know!
And what about people who are looking forward to the Downside series in November? The two series are very different. What if people hate the new books, because they’re so much darker? What if readers who pick up the new books go back and read the old ones and decide I’m a hack? What if I can’t please them? What if I really am a hack? I know I am, deep down. I was hoping to keep them all from finding out, but soon they’ll read the books and they’ll know. They’ll all know. It’s like that dream that nobody ever really has, where you go to school in your underwear? Only this is no dream, it’s real. There are real books out there, with my name on them, and now I have to keep producing them and pleasing people, and I want to so badly, and I’m lucky to get the chance to try—I know that—but it’s terrifying at the same time.
Because I’m asking real people—strangers! Not just my mom or someone—to spend their money on something I made up. Worse than that, I’m asking people who liked the first thing I made up to read another thing I made up, and if they loved the first thing they’re putting their faith in me to give them something else to love.
But I’m just me. I can’t make them all happy. And they don’t owe me anything. I owe them something, every one of them. But they owe me nothing. If the book isn’t good, I don’t deserve a pat on the head and a “You’ll do better next time.” Why would I? This is the real world, and those wonderful readers who spend their own money on my books have a right to expect something worth that money.
And that’s the pressure, right there. Deadlines can be tough, yes. They loom, deadlines do. But what really gets me is the fear of letting people down. The fear of letting readers down. It’s there, lurking beneath everything. I can put it out of my head while I’m actually writing, and serve the story as best as I’m able. But once it’s done, and turned in? The closer we get to release date the more terrified I get, until all I want to do is hide with a bottle of bourbon.
Because I know I’m never as good as I should be. I’m never as good as readers deserve me to be. I want to be. I try to be. But that fear never leaves. It hides under my bed like a crazy ankle-slasher in a bad horror film, ready to leap out at me and suck me into the blackness below, screaming “You stink! You STINK!!” in a high-pitched, shrieky kind of voice, and raise its meat hook high above my head while I—
Oh. Um. Sorry, I got carried away there, at the end. Never mind. The point is, there’s a type of pressure I’d never thought about, and that’s it. And since DEMON INSIDE releases on Tuesday, it’s very much on my mind these days, so I’m passing it on to you. Something for you to think about. Maybe in the middle of the night, when you’re trying to sleep but you just heard a noise that sounds an awful lot like the sound of a meat-hook scraping against the bedframe?
Don’t worry. It’s probably just me under there, with my bourbon.
Thanks again to Stace for such an awesome post, and she’s also agreed to give away a signed copy of her new release, Demon Inside, to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment answering this question: what is the pressure that scares you most? It can be writing-related, of course, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. There’s not much time to get your name in the hat for this contest – I am posting on Monday next week so I’ll announce the winner then. You only have until 11am Eastern Time in the US (4pm here in London, UK), Monday 27th July. I will then post my entry and include the winner of Stacia’s giveaway. Get commenting!
You can visit Stacia Kane at her sexy new website where she blogs regularly, and is currently running a series about critique partners, groups and beta-readers.