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Sunday, June 28, 2009
Split Personality by Sandra Parshall
Sandra Parshall was born and raised in South Carolina, and the first job that paid her for writing was that of weekend obituary columnist on her hometown paper, The Spartanburg Herald. She eventually became a reporter -- after putting together a feature on her own initiative and giving it to the editor to prove she could do it. From there she went to jobs on newspapers in West Virginia and The Baltimore Evening Sun. She covered everything from school board meetings to a mining disaster, health care in prisons, poverty in Appalachia, and the experiences of Native Americans living in the city.
Sandy has written fiction since childhood, but didn't find the genre she felt comfortable in -- mystery/suspense -- until a few years ago. The Heat of the Moon was her first attempt at psychological suspense. Her friend Babs calls it "Sandy's pecan pie dream book" because the entire story came to her during a fitful night after she had overindulged in holiday dessert. With its publication, she’s setting off on a new phase of life, and making a lot of new friends along the way.
She has lived for many years in the Washington, DC, area, and currently shares a house in McLean, Virginia, with her husband, a long-time Washington journalist, and two unbelievably spoiled cats.
DISTURBING THE DEAD--Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist
THE HEAT OF THE MOON--Agatha Award winner
Split Personality by Sandra Parshall
When I see the beautiful pictures Kaye posts here of her mountain home, part of me feels an almost irresistible urge to pack up household, husband, and cats and move immediately to some remote spot where I would be surrounded by nature and spared the intrusion of most humans. But another part of me holds back, listing all the advantages of living in the Washington, DC, area and asking if I really want to give up all that.
I want both. I can’t have both.
And that, I think, also defines my feelings about being published and being required to promote what I’ve published. I want everyone to read my books. I want everyone to know my name. At the same time, I want to live in seclusion, spending my days writing with never a thought for selling.
When I have book signings scheduled, I dread them in the same way I might dread major surgery. How can I, with my fundamentally shy, retiring personality, spend two hours in a bookstore, begging people to buy my books? I’ve done it before, but I can never quite recall how I worked up the nerve. Each time feels brand new. But personal contact with booksellers and readers is important – and if I’m having a good day, and people are buying books, after the first hour I’m no longer anxious and I’m actually enjoying the event. I’m still exhausted by the end of it, though, because it’s such an unnatural exertion.
I experience the same contradictory reactions when I attend Bouchercon. I’m relaxed about Malice Domestic because it’s local (I can come home at the end of the day) and relatively small and many members of my Sisters in Crime chapter attend. I see friendly faces everywhere I turn. Bouchercon is another story. It terrifies me. I am the littlest of little fish in that enormous pond. I am as starstruck as any other fan when I pass famous authors in the halls or stand in their signing lines, and if I ever end up on a panel with Big Name writers (that hasn’t happened so far), I probably won’t be able to utter a coherent sentence. Observing the stars of the genre from a distance, I find myself wondering what the heck I’m doing there. Who do I think I am, presuming to mix with such people? The reclusive side of my nature takes over, and I flee to my room for a period of restorative solitude. After a while, I start wondering what I’m missing, and soon enough I’m in the flow again, feeling lucky to be there.
I know other writers who are torn between a need to be alone and the need to get out into the real world and sell their products. And I know some who are so outgoing, who have so much fun at appearances and conferences, that they’re reluctant to return to the hermit-like existence required to write a book. Still others move freely and happily between their public and private lives. The notions I used to have about “the writer’s personality” went out the window when I started meeting professional writers and realized that they’re as different from one another as people in any other line of work, and no label fits all of them.
The label I would give myself is Split Personality. Like a cat, when I’m in, I want to be out, and when I’m out, I’m yearning to be in. It’s a little late to change my basic nature, so I’m learning how to pace myself at conferences, how to avoid doing so much promotion that I can’t get back into the mood to sit alone and write, and how to enjoy both halves of the writer’s existence.
I’ll probably never run off to a mountaintop to live like a hermit, but I’m learning how to create my own little oasis and retreat to it when the world overwhelms me.