SJ Rozan, a life-long New Yorker, is an Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero and Macavity winner, as well as a recipient of the Japanese Maltese Falcon award. She's served on the boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and as President of Private Eye Writers of America. She leads writing workshops and lectures widely. Her latest book is ON THE LINE.
by SJ Rozan
I have a book coming out next week, ON THE LINE. It's my 12th, the 10th in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series. You might think I had this down by now. Send the announcements, write the blogs, do the events, ho-hum, same old same old, what a yawn.
Every time, EVERY TIME, what's the same are the jitters. The nervousness that keeps me up at night, gets me jumpy and distracted, makes me wonder whose dumb idea this writing wheeze was anyhow. No one will notice it. If people do notice it they won't buy it. If they buy it they won't read it. And then, the one it's really all about: if they read it, they won't like it.
Has this been my experience? Thankfully, no. People do generally read my books, not in Dan Brown numbers but satisfyingly many. And they do seem to like them, or if they don't they generally keep it to themselves. So what's my problem?
Well, I think it's this: when I started this book -- and the one before it, and the one before that, etc. -- I had an idea. A vague but luminous vision of what this book was going to be. What it was going to accomplish. The heights it would scale. The thing about these kinds of visions, though, is that they only stay luminous when they're vague. Before you start the actual, you know, WRITING, anything's possible. Once that first word's down, those possibilities are narrowed. It may be the most brilliant word in the world, but it's that one word, it's no longer potentially all words. It's no longer potentially anything. It's concrete and real.
Yes, of course you can always change it. It's metaphorically concrete, not set in real concrete. That's not the point. The point is, whatever it is, it IS, and as you go on, adding more words to make a sentence, more sentences to make a chapter, more chapters, you keep narrowing the possibilities, closing doors. The door you take and the path it leads you down might end at a work of pure genius (that would be nice...) but still, it's THAT work, and all the infinite other possible works you saw glowing in that vague luminosity as you began this book are not written.
So in an odd metaphysical sense, this book -- every book -- is a disappointment. Which has nothing to do with whether the book's actually any good. Just, it's THIS book, not all the other books it might have been.
This disappointment is, I think, what I'm projecting onto readers as the launch date nears. I'm afraid they'll feel it, too. Readers, of course, don't feel it. Readers come to the book knowing it's THIS book, and they judge it on whether THIS is a good book. I know that, and I'm grateful for it.
I always get the jitters, nevertheless.
-- SJ Rozan