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Original Essays | September 9, 2013 5 comments
Editor's note: Chris Bolton is not only a former Powell's employee, he was also once the primary writer for this blog. So we are particularly proud... Continue »
Keeping Perspectiveby Jacqueline Carey
Let me provide some background. I live in a small town in Michigan. It's a quirky little place; a resort town, an artist's community, a gay and lesbian mecca. I've lived here since I was 10 years old, so I'm very nearly a local. You have to be born here to be a true native, but I come close. I know a lot of people, and a lot of people know me. I've even been pointed out to tourists as a local attraction. Of course, they didn't get the joke when their guide shouted out, "Hey, it's the lady who wrote those Harry Potter books!" but that's beside the point. In my hometown, I'm known to be a successful fantasy writer.
By and large, people here are proud of me. They're happy for me. They're tremendously supportive. They know how hard I've worked to get where I am, and they know how difficult it is to make a living in any artistic medium. I do my part by trying to stay grounded. I don't often blow my own horn, figuring in a small town, I can rely on others to do it for me.
That's not to say I'm prone to false modesty. I am proud of my writing, and, yeah, the degree of success it's found. The first time one of my books hit the New York Times bestseller list, I was walking on air for days. Still, I generally manage to stay level-headed and keep things in perspective. After all, there are a few bazillion copies sold separating me from the lady who wrote those Harry Potter books. Heck, I'm not even the most famous author in my tiny hometown. Julee Rosso, co-author of The Silver Palate Cookbook, moved here and opened a B&B years ago. Her cookbooks are in more kitchens than I can count.
But the other day, I lost my perspective.
I was checking out at the grocery store. The cashier was a friendly woman I knew by sight, but not by name. (People assume everyone in a small town knows one another, but it's not necessarily true.) I'd seen her attending a meeting at our local library earlier in the week. As she rang up my purchases, she said, "So, I hear you're a writer." I smiled and nodded as I swiped my debit card, wondering who had sung my praises to her and mentally preparing to accept with gracious thanks the gush of "That's so cool!" sure to follow. Instead, she said, "Why aren't you in our writers' group?"
I blinked and stared, scalding diva thoughts racing through my brain. Because I don't need your piddly little writers' group! Because I am already a successful author! Because I am slightly famous in certain warped circles! And worst of all, Don't you know who I am? Out of my mouth came a stammered, "Um... I'm pretty well established." I winced inwardly at the implicit condescension and tried to make things better by adding the truthful but lame, "And I tend to work best in isolation."
But it was a good reality check to get as I prepare to head out on tour in support of Kushiel's Mercy, where I will meet some of my most excellent fans (and I really do have pretty awesome fans), many of whom will inform me with bleary eyes that they stayed up all night finishing the book and demand to know when the next one's coming out. At least I hope so. It's a book I'm proud of. It's a book that brings both Imriel's journey and the entire series to a close, bringing the long arc of story around full circle. There are twists, turns, quests, battles, dire magic, and profound ironies along the way. Oh, and sex, of course.
And if my excellent fans love Kushiel's Mercy as much as I hope they will, and tell me nice things that threaten to swell my head, I will remember that the cashier at my local grocery store has no idea who I am or what I've written. I will remember that I'm very, very lucky to be able to do what I love for a living, and I will rejoice in that fact. I will remember to be grateful. Nobody wants to meet their favorite author and find out he or she is a total diva. I know I don't. So I'll do my best to be the author I want to be in every way; the author I'd want to meet as well as the author I'd want to read.
And I will keep my perspective.
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Jacqueline Carey's previous publications include various short stories and essays, the nonfiction book Angels: Celestial Spirits in Legend and Art, and the nationally bestselling Kushiel's Legacy series.