The great thing about being published is that you never again have to answer the question: So, Susan, anyone interested in your book? The bad thing is that you have to deal with another bone-chilling question, which is: “So how’s your book doing?”
The short answer is, okay. As far as I can tell. It’s been two months and The Fiction Class is still in the front of a lot of bookstores and my amazon rankings, which I shouldn’t be looking at, but do, because my husband keeps telling me, which is another story, have been quite good. My editor and agent return my calls, which is always a good sign. Of course, I could do the obvious thing and ask someone in authority, but people in authority make me nervous and I’ve discovered that when there is something very bad or very good to tell you, someone always does. (My next book is going to be titled, My Life as a Coward.)
But the point I am making my way toward is that, the reason I know, in my heart, that my book is doing well is because I’ve been getting fan mail. And by fan mail, I don’t mean that people drop a line and say, “Nice book.” I mean that people, often women, often of about my age—I can tell—write me long, long emails telling me about what The Fiction Class means to them and how they relate to Arabella and how they’ve always dreamed of being writers themselves. Is there any better feeling than to know you are connecting with the people who are reading your book? This is why we become writers, right? Because we think we’re strange and we have to put it all down on the page, and then it turns out that everyone feels that way and they are so relieved to find out they are not alone.
Of course I always write a letter back to whoever sends me email, and, I always send bookmarks. Both because I like the idea of doing something physically to say thank you for reaching out to me, and also, because I like to imagine little TFC ripples going on all around the country, with people saying, Have you seen that book with the apple on it? Here, take a book mark! (I get a kick out of tracking where the letters are coming from. They started off in New York, and then a lot came from Virginia and then it started to move west and yesterday I got one from Washington. I picture The Fiction Class seeping its way across the country. ) Seeping and rippling! That reminds me of an exercise I used to do with my class in which you’d write a paragraph about making love but you could only use cooking verbs.
Which reminds me that I have a writing exercise contest. You can get the info on my web site (www.susanjbreen.com), but the key things to know are that it’s free and every month the exercise changes. This month the exercise is to write a page or two of a story starting with the line, “Why are you wearing that?” Then email it in to me and I’ll pick the best one and post it. (You can check out previous winners on my site.) The winner also gets a free copy of my book!
So what about you? Who do you imagine will connect with your writing?