My first publishing misstep was my own fault––and somewhat fatal. I lost confidence in my vision and changed the intent of my work at the last minute.
Please don't try this at home. :)
In The Company Angels is a lyrical novel about the terrors of grace. It's the story of two Belgian nuns who find a Jewish child in the rubble of WWII and suddenly miracles begin to happen.
Angels did fine in the marketplace. It hit the extended list of the The New York Times and their reviewer said that reading it was like "inhailing fire"...which is great. However, in the end, the book didn't capture readers like another book about a dead girl which came out at the same time, The Lovely Bones.
I'm pretty sure that's my fault. I changed one single word and I believe that that changed the fate of the book. You see, Angels was never meant to be a story about a dead girl. The manuscript that was sold and was thought to have potential to go to the top of The List was actually written from the POV of God. Yes, that is edgy. But that's what I was going for. It was an edgy book with a profound moment at the end of it. It was the kind of book I love to read...kind of like The Life of Pi.
Unfortunately, while I was doing the final edit, my agent at the time finally read the entire book and said, "Do you think you'll loose marketshare if you write from God's POV?"
It was just a question, and a good question at that (one that I'll never know the answer to) but I freaked out and changed the word "I" to "He". (Which I also thought was the wrong thing to do because it assigned gender)
So when the novel was published it became a critically acclaimed work about a dead girl in a market that already had a critically acclaimed monster bestseller about some OTHER dead girl.
There's just so many dead girl books that the public is willing to buy.
If I would have stayed true to my original vision, the vision that Hyperion bought, I would now know if my edgy book would have sunk or swam on its own merits. But I was worried that the public wouldn't like me. So I played it safe.
I've not made that same mistake with my new story collection, A Travel Guide for Reckless Hearts (Borealis Books). The people in this book are wildy funny, wildly sad, wildly impolite and wildly flawed––they're who we really are. They all have reckless hearts.
And so...NEVER wonder what the market wants. Write what your own reckless heart tells you to write. A bestseller becomes that because the book speaks to a wide audience. You can give it to your grandmother or the babysitter.
A bestseller speaks to directly to the heart.
Causes Nicole Kelby Supports