Just before Christmas, I discovered that ENCHANTMENT was on the Best Books list for the SF Chronicle. Of course I was blown away and happy. But I also was brought to my knees. I had no idea that the book would be successful and was reminded—once more—that the world is out of my control.
The thought wasn't founded on nothing. Short stories are less in demand so it was low on the totem pole of the books that my publisher put out and didn't get a lot of "buzz." I'd also come out with a novel (HEIDEGGER'S GLASSES) two years before and reviewers--particularly online reviewers--were expecting another novel. Quite a few were disappointed and said so. I work hard to keep a kind of tunnel vision about marketing so it doesn’t interfere with my work. But I’d begun to feel entangled and told myself gloomy stories.
In a curious sense a book has two narrative arcs. The first is created by the writer and is the arc of the story. The second is created by the reader and occurs in the theater of their imagination—and even though there are ways to construct a story that readers will want to read, a great deal of this is out of the writer’s control. Sometimes readers find meaning the writer never intended, sometimes they want "more," sometimes they want "less,” sometimes they’re not able to dream at all and don’t finish the book. (Many one star reviews on Amazon are a testament to this.)
When ENCHANTMENT was published I thought it wouldn't inspire any dreams. As it got good reviews I began to feel feel the sting of curved balls I was barely able to catch--the surprise and even shock of the unanticipated.
Strangely, the journey of ENCHANTMENT reminded me of the birth of my son, who arrived five-and-a-half weeks early. We'd planned for a home birth and I was even--in a haze of hubris--going to get my hair done because I wanted to look good in the pictures. Yet this person who'd been building himself, cell by cell, decided to arrive early.
A hurried rush to the hospital. A few hours in labor. And many more hours in delivery because I kept resisting pushing always with the thought he can’t come out, he isn’t ready. Finally a warrior cry. And my son was alive in the world. He tested like a much older baby and the obstetrician and the pediatrician actually had a fight about when he was conceived. (He could not have been conceived early. My husband was away and he didn’t look like the milkman.)
My son taught both his parents a lot about living in a world that isn't under one's control; but I have to learn this again and again in the publishing world. The book ventures out with legs of its own, knocking on doors I've never seen to be read by people I've never met. The book becomes a kind of ambassador, an emissary. The rest is up to the reader.
Causes Thaisa Frank Supports
Kiva Doctors without Borders Care2