SUMMER ON FIRE, my debut novel, will be released in one month. People tend to consider the release date the birth of the book. If this is the case, some books have a hell of a long gestation period! SUMMER was a seed in my belly on November 1st, 2003. I started to feed that seed on that very day. It was my first NANOWRIMO novel.
I did not finish Nanowrimo that year. The object is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I wrote about 25,000. I was disappointed that I did not reach the goal…but then I realized that the goal of Nanowrimo isn’t really the 50K word count. It’s more about BIC (Bum in Chair) time. Nano is about dedicating time to writing…and getting that BIC and working. That’s what I did in 2003. I sat. I wrote. By the end of the month I had something I was really excited about. The beginnings of a story of three boys…and their search for a firm moral ground to stand on in the midst of the chaos around them. I put those boys through some tough times. But I had faith in them…I hoped that I raised them with enough gumption to get to the end in one piece. But once you raise them and let them go into their own stories, you never know what’s going to happen. You hope you gave them the right tools to work with. You hope you taught them—wait! These aren’t children. These are characters.
I took it slow and easy with SUMMER, after the initial Nanowrimo marathon. It actually took me several years to bring the boys to the end of their story. But with dedication–and the help of a wonderful critique group–I got them there! And then I edited their story. Then I edited it again. Then I edited it again. And again. I really worked hard on this story. Thanks to that critique group, I took a very minor character who appeared in one chapter and I worked her into the rest of the novel. The group of eight writers (and friends!) asked for more and more of this character. So she became a savior of sorts for my three boys.
To continue with the birthing analogy, SUMMER had several births. Every pass I took through this novel was another birth…and every one had birthing pains. Contractions at the thoughts of losing parts and contractions while inserting new parts. It’s all a patchwork quilt that you hope is at its finest on the eventual (hopefully) actual birth date. PUBLICATION. I think I did my best with Summer. I kicked and screamed along the way. I laughed. I cried. I begged for the pain to stop. I wept with joy each time I arrived at the end and looked into the eyes of my baby. I screamed at my muse a few times, saying, “DON’T COME NEAR ME! DON’T TOUCH ME!!! YOU DID THIS TO ME!”
Now it’s time to get to the delivery room. The final birthing pains are about to arrive. The anxiety of wondering if the baby is going to be fully and completely there. I will be looking for 10 fingers and 10 toes. I will hope for eyes and ears and hair and elbows. I will look at the umbilical cord and struggle with the thought of cutting it…of letting my baby go off into the world unattached to my core. It’s a hard thing, this birthing. It fills one with a great wall of fear (Will people love my baby, or will they scoff at it? Will they embrace it, or will they kick it to the curb?). But it is also a wonderful occasion. You always wonder what your baby is going to look like. And like it or not, it doesn’t always feel real until you can hold it in your hands.
In one month, I will finally be able to call myself an author. And I have SO many people to thank for that. Too many to mention. But I love them all. For one reason or another, they believed in me. And with the backing of friends and loved ones…you can achieve anything. Even the great miracle of birth!