The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
by Allison Chase on April 30th, 2009

So, you’ve sold a book. Finally, someone has told you that you did all the right things in the right genre at the right time, and all your stars have fallen into place. The next year or so will be one of the best of your life. Oh, there will be revisions to work on, new proposals to submit, but during those prerelease months, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be driving around in your car, or at the grocery store, or at sitting at work with the biggest, goofiest grin on your face, and sometimes you’ll even laugh out loud from happiness, making those around you ease away slowly.

Then, a few weeks before the big day, reality sets in. Or, rather, you realize the reviews will start coming in, and suddenly that confident smile wilts to be replaced by sweating palms and a budding ulcer. Oh. My. God…what if no one likes it? What if it’s totally panned? You find yourself forgetting all the wonderful reasons your editor bought the manuscript in the first place and second guessing things like…the hotness of your love scenes. Too much? Not enough? What about the hero and heroine’s first meeting. Does she come off as an air head? Is he a macho jerk? Can I please just make a few last minute changes?????

cinderella20with20birds

Yes, pretty much overnight I went from fairytale princess communing with the birds and little animals of the forest to one of those horror movies where the girl wanders off alone into the darkened woods as the scary music builds, and we wait, tensed and breathless, for the monster to jump out and eat her.

blair-witch-project-movie-poster

OK, turns out it wasn’t so bad. For the most part in fact, pretty darn good. There were a couple I’ve erased from my memory banks, but icky words like “mediocre writing” (for Dark Obsession) remain like smoking brands on my writer’s psyche. And then there was that “Meh,” although I forget which book that was for. Unlike joyful praise or scathing criticism, judgments of mediocre and meh imply that I simply failed to elicit an emotional response - and that’s the worst thing you can say to a writer. I’d rather the reader loathed me, ranted and raved about everything that drove her crazy, because then at least I’d know I struck a chord and got some passion out of her!

So my best comments…I can’t deny that the words, “Best Historic Romantic Gothic of 2008″ have gone a helluva long way in boosting my confidence and making me feel like I’ve come of age as a writer. The competition was stiff, I felt sure I’d never win and just being nominated is an honor… Well. Occasionally I still wonder if there’s been a mistake.

rt-award-web

But the comments that have made the most impact on me came from a reader who experienced what I can only call a horrific tragedy in her life, which I won’t go into, but she said reading my books helped her see that while events can snowball out of control, self-forgiveness is key to recovering and getting your life back on track. Not only was I humbled and touched that this reader chose to share her story with me, but it drove home the point that as writers we have a responsibility to present human emotions as truthfully and realistically as we can, because there will always be someone out there who has experienced, in some form, the nature of what we’re writing about. Yes, romance is foremost an entertainment genre, but fiction is a powerful medium, and as writers we should always respect the power of the words we set to the page.

8 comments to “The Best of Times, the Worst of Times”

  1. 1

    Congratulations on winning RT’s Best Gothic award!

    And I was thrilled to be able to be there to cheer you on!


  2. 2

    I can totally see me getting sweaty palms and ulcers, too, Allison!

    Huge congrats on the RT win, of course, but I understand why the reader comment means so much. Knowing that our stories touch even one person is absolutely amazing.


  3. 3

    Congratulations on your well-deserved award! That’s so great! I love it when authors I like get the recognition they deserve. See, I always think everyone should agree with me, and I feel all justified when they do. Yes, yes, all’s well in the Zitaverse, thank you very much. :roll:

    Now, just so I have this straight Ms. Cinderella~Blair Witch…what you’re really saying is that writers are bi-polar? :lol:


  4. 4

    Congratulations, Allison — not just on the win, but on having touched another life the way you did. I think all writers aspire to have that kind of emotional presence in our stories…well done!


  5. 5

    Congratulations and thank you. Sometimes I just long to escape the everyday stress and a good reading break gives me the reboot I need. Thank you for making those times pleasant.


  6. 6

    Thanks, guys, I’m still a little on cloud nine. Awards are great, but in the end it’s all about what readers think.

    Yeah, Zita, writers can be pretty flippin’ nuts. But with all those voices yammering in our heads all the time, what would you expect? By the way, a trip to the Zitaverse sounds like just the thing. How do I get there?


  7. 7

    Oh, yes, Allison, I’ve been on that roller coaster! But the highs are amazing. Congrats one more time on the award–you not only get to stay on the Island, you own it!


  8. 8

    I was so proud to watch you climb to the stage to accept your award. You gave a poised and gracious thank you speech to a well-deserved round of applause. As for reader letters, they’re what keep us going. Bringing comfort, escape, and entertainment to others is what makes this job meaningful. We don’t write for money; we write for the love of storytelling.


Leave a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Quicktags: