by Joyce DiPastena
My very first novel arrives, hot off the iUniverse press! With the strength of ten very excited writers, I drag the hefty box of 20 free copies over my front door’s threshold, and somehow wrestle it into my living room and up into a rocking chair. With the speed of twenty fleet-footed writers, I dash in the dining room to retrieve a pair of scissors and back into the living room to pry open my precious parcel. I rip off the packing paper, and staring up at me I discover…my beautiful, blonde heroine with streaming dark brown hair.
Uh-oh. Somebody made a mistake, and it wasn’t me. (I was very specific about the hair color on my proof forms.) With the annoyance of thirty…well, you get the picture…I carry a copy of my defective prize straight to the computer, where I immediately pound out an email to my Publishing Services Associate, whining…I mean, politely explaining about the mistake. I receive a prompt apology, promising a correction of the error. In the meantime, I’m stuck with twenty “wrong” heroines and furthermore, my book has been put on hold and is no longer “hot-off-the-press” available for anyone to order.
I don’t remember praying for patience lately, but apparently the Lord thinks I could use more practice anyway. I take a deep breath and examine my “first book” more closely. Aside from the brown hair and the not entirely authentic medieval attire, the cover isn’t all that bad. (As in, it could have been much, much worse.) They’ve done a nice job of portraying the title (Loyalty’s Web), and it is pretty cool to see my name on the cover of a book. With fresh excitement, I open it up to my dedication. Wow! That’s kind of cool, too.
I flip to a random page…and slam the book shut. Oh my gosh, those are my words inside. What are they doing in there??? I peek at a different page. A tingle of almost horror steals down my spine. Aren’t those the words I slaved over for years, typing faithfully into a computer to be printed out on crisp, white, loose-leaf paper? What are they doing in this foreign format, staring back at me from off-white pages, bound inside a book?
One more wary try. I crack the object open one more time. My horror only grows. Those aren’t just my words. That’s me in there! No, I didn’t write about myself. I didn’t imagine myself as any of these characters, and I certainly haven’t had any of their medieval experiences. But nonetheless, there I am, inside that book. Those words came out of me. Out of my mind, out of my heart. (Dare I say, out of my blood, sweat and tears?) How did I delude myself all these years that my writing was something somehow “apart”? That it somehow existed in it’s own little world, with only the most tangential relationship to “me”. Only now do I see how inextricably intertwined my words and I are.
I can’t explain how or why, but there’s no denying it any longer. Yes, that’s me in there. And there are only two words to describe how it feels:
Panic soon joins the Twilight Zone feeling. I’ve written this thing, I’ve self-published it…and now I’m supposed to sell it? Total strangers reading my work, no problem. But what about people I know, people who know me…or who think they know me? “Little Miss Quiet”, “Little Miss Shy”. Nobody except my family and a few writer friends knows anything about this side of me. Only a very few people have ever even stumbled across the fact that I have a “vague” interest in the Middle Ages, and I’ve told nobody, but NOBODY, that I like to write. How will they look at me now? The thought is slightly terrifying. If I’m inside that book, will people see me there? Will they see the part of me I want them to? Or some part of me I haven’t recognized. Or, worse, will they see a “me” who isn’t there at all?
Or will they only see the story? I hope they only see the story! Because although I am in my book, I am not my story and my story isn’t me.
(Is that a conundrum? A paradox? Where’d I put that dictionary?)
Trying to explain my convoluted thoughts is making my head spin, so I think I’ll stop for now. As for my future readers, those who claim to “know me”…I can only hope that when they read my book, they don’t come away shaking their heads and thinking: