We're also giving away a copy of Melanie's latest fairy tale retelling, The Captive Maiden. You can find details at the end of Melanie's story.
A debut novel is a dream come true. In my case, as is usually the case, it was the culmination of many years’ work, of studying the craft of writing, of researching and learning about marketing and the publishing industry and the different genres, and especially, writing. Writing, writing, writing. Hours, days, weeks and years. And when that first novel was finally published, it was a glorious thing.
At least, that’s how I presumed it would feel. In fact, I’d heard authors say that whenever they got their box of author copies, they cried tears of joy. They stared lovingly at the cover. They danced and celebrated ecstatically. So that was how I expected to react too. But the truth is, it wasn’t quite like that for me.
When the UPS man came and brought my box of books, I was excited. I tore open the box and stared at the identical copies of MY BOOK with MY NAME right on the cover. But rather than joy, I felt an excitement that was maybe more akin to terror than anything else. People were actually going to be reading this book that I had written, this piece of myself. Strangers—who knew how many, but hundreds, at least—would read these words, MY words and MY story. It was an unsettling feeling. No, not just unsettling. It was nauseatingly terrifying.
I had laid a copy of The Healer’s Apprentice on an end table in our living room, thinking I would enjoy having it in a prominent place where I could see it, since the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach would surely go away soon. For the next several days, every time I walked by that end table and saw that book lying there, I felt queasy. Nauseated. Terrified. What if everybody hated it? What if my friends read it and decided I was a freak? What if it got scathing reviews on Amazon for the whole world to see? Even the thought of one scathing review was horrifying.
But the first several reviews I got were not scathing. In fact, most people seemed to really like it. Whew. What a relief!
I did have to face my first 1-star review. And then another one, and then another. That was a process of learning to focus on why I was writing and who I was writing for, which took at least a year or two to work through, but I won’t go into that. I suspect all writers deal with it in different ways, and most decide NOT to read their 1-star reviews.
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And I did eventually get over that feeling sick when I thought about other people reading my book. But I did have a very amusing thing happen with my debut novel.
In my book, Peter Brunckhorst is the name of the villain. He is ugly and evil, and at first, the reader thinks he is only a wool merchant who wants to marry the heroine. Later on, you find that Peter Brunckhorst wasn’t his real name at all and that he is not at all what he seemed. He turns out to be a real nasty piece of work, a conjurer of demons, no less. So, you can imagine my surprise one day when I happened to check my email, and in my inbox was a message from PETER BRUNCKHORST!
I was in shock. Was someone playing a joke on me? Or was there really a person named Peter Brunckhorst who had read my book and been extremely offended that I could use HIS NAME for such a horrible character!?
With great trepidation, I opened the email.
It was not an angry message demanding I make a public apology for maligning his good name in my pretentious little novel. (Thank goodness!) Rather, it was a very polite message from a man named Peter Brunckhorst who lived in one of the New England states. (I forget which one. I think Massachusetts.) He explained that he had been researching the genealogy of his family name, Brunckhorst, and he has been unable to trace it farther than the 1500’s. He had noticed my book was set in Germany in the 1300’s, and since his family was originally from Germany, he wanted to know whether I had found the name in my research as far back as the 1300’s.
Whew! Is that all? But I did have to admit to him that, although I usually get my characters’ names from a census list from the time period and the place where my story is set, I had not found the name Brunckhorst that way. (In fact, I had found it on a package of ham, but I didn’t tell him that.) I thought the name sounded delightfully interesting and kind of hard-edged, and once I confirmed that it was German, I decided to use it for my villain, who had actually invented his name. So I had to tell the poor man that I had been unable to find it that far back either.
But it was really weird to get an email from my villain a few weeks after the book came out. Really, really weird.
So when you end up with a debut novel of your very own, I hope you enjoy it AT LEAST as much as I did. ;-)
Because we love Melanie and we want her to be able to keep writing books, Go Teen Writers is buying a copy of The Captive Maiden to give away to one lucky person. You can enter below:
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About The Captive Maiden:
Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke's son, Valten---the boy she has daydreamed about for years---is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.
View The Captive Maiden on Amazon.com