Last night was my book launch at the Tattered Cover! I had a blast every minute. Got lots of great questions, too. Here's the talk I gave.
Thanks everyone for coming, and thanks to Tattered Cover for having me tonight. I love indie bookstores. You know, indie bookstores still sell mostly books rather than t-shirts and posters and pens? I love that.
When I went to see my friend Stuart Neville in Belfast last summer we didn't even have to talk about it; it was understood that he was taking me to No Alibis, just like we came to Tattered Cover the first time he visited me. Your being here tonight means you're supporting an indie bookstore, and I really believe they do more for writers than any other facet of the industry. So thanks for coming and if I'm late to the bar afterward it's because I'm shopping.
Writers live story. It's tough for me to think about life in any other way. Even driving down the street or seeing kids walk home from school, I think about other people and wonder what their story is. So I've always thought about a book as not only being a story, but also having a story. I'm going to talk tonight about Exile's stories.
First a little about Exile being a story. I think Exile tells its own story best. This is the opening.
(I read the first scene, which can be found here)
Eight years ago I wrote this book. I really liked it, but it had problems. It was a portal story, but nothing so cool as a wardrobe. The main character's name was Sean Kelly, named after a boy I had a crush on in high school (sorry, Honey, but he was really cute.) He was an MI6 agent. I'm pretty sure early drafts started with Sean waking up, talking on the phone, and examining himself in the mirror. All rookie mistakes. I think the writing mostly didn't suck, though I've always had problems
with pronouns and making sure characters get their clothes back on
after they take them off.
At its heart, the story was the same though. Sean's wife had been brutally killed, the murder had been pinned on him, the real killer ran away to Akrasia. The main character wanted revenge and he was willing to risk everything to get it.
This is a scene that's remained mostly unchanged since early drafts, a scene I think shows the lengths Draken will go to, the risks he'll take. He hates the gods, but he'll retain their favor if they'll let him get revenge.
(Second scene, found here, last scene in the first chapter)
Risk is a big theme in the book, I think. Draken is going after what he wants. It's not noble and won't bring his wife back, but he wants revenge just the same and since he's pretty much decided life isn't worth living, he risks everything to get it.
Funny enough, he served as a really good example for me, though I didn't realize it until I was trying to figure out what to say tonight about this book.
The first thing Exile did was made me realize I was serious about this writing gig. Wanting to make Exile a better book caused me to search out Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. That brought me to my critique group, the Boulder Inklings. RMFW and the Inklings were my first risk that paid off. They taught me all kinds of things, like how to actually start a novel effectively (no phone calls, no mirrors, no waking up). It also led me to Electric Spec, which I've edited for 7 years with Lesley and Dave. They were just getting it off the ground when we met. Having a slush and being part of Electric Spec taught me as much about writing and stories as actual writing did, and it gave me the courage and the street cred to start doing panels at conventions. The presenter's badge was like armor for my psyche, and that gave me the courage to talk to other writers (back when I was under the impression that they were scary, magical people). Other writers, who aren't scary but are the most supportive breed on creature on the planet and usually work in their jammies, gave me the confidence to start talking to agents and editors, who, believe it or not, gave me the confidence to keep writing and submitting, even an eight year old manuscript called Exile.
Fast forward to World Fantasy 2011. I heard there was this cool Night Shade Books party with some people I knew. I rode an elevator down with a guy who had a beer in his hand. The beer had a book cover for its label. If you know me, you know it must have been a sign from God. I think I forgot to mention to my agent that I wanted a book cover beer label written into my contract.
But I played it cool. I told him: Hey, that's a great book. You should get a copy to go along with your beer.
And he said funny enough, he already had one. Because, you know, he was the owner of Night Shade.
He apparently thought the whole thing was funny because he told the story to an editor, Jeremy Lassen, as he introduced us, though of course Jeremy and I had already met in the bar the night before the con started. But that night over drinks Jeremy asked me if I had anything to submit to him. All I had was this epic fantasy Exile with a bunch of rejections (though I'm sure I put it in a different light, totally sold him on the idea, right?) and he said Sure, he liked epic fantasy well enough, send it on.
So I sent it to him, just to keep my name in his radar, really, until I had something great to send him. To my shock he offered me a contract.
And here's this book Exile, and that could have been the end of the story. But it's not. The influence of the book on my risk-taking was about to go exponential. When I got the offer, I called, like, EVERYONE I knew for advice. And those friends led me to Angie Hodapp for contract advice, and Sara Megibow. I had, in fact, met Sara at World Fantasy, briefly, and I knew Angie through RMFW. Sara read the book and we met and agreed we could work together, and ever since she does all the important business things that I suck at, so I can concentrate on writing.
But with all that, with signing with Sara and the book deal, and all the friends I've made, you know what the best part is? I got to tell my ever-patient husband, "SEE? Partying does pay off!"
Really though, it's risks that pay off. I've never regretted a risk I've taken in writing, in putting myself out there, sitting on panels, meeting people, taking on too much work, including tonight. You all made tonight's risk worth it. Thank you.