That time I thought I was J.D. Salinger.
Salinger has been on my mind a lot these days. Not just because as a literature major I’ve read The Catcher in the Rye almost as many times as I’ve read Beowulf. (Fun fact: The only way I’ll ever read Beowulf again is if I have a limitless supply of mead prepared by Grendel’s mother.)
No, Salinger has been top-of-mind because he’s in the pantheon of writers I’ve always hoped to join.
Now before you think I’m delusional enough to believe I’ve penned The Great American Novel, let me clarify. The group I’m talking about is authors of the one-hit wonder.
The Emile Brontes. The Margaret Mitchells. The Joseph Hellers. The lone-book wolves of the world.
Writing a book was something I could relate to. Aspire to. When I finished Protocol, my first thought was, “There. I wrote my book.”
Singular. As in, “That’s all she wrote.”
I didn’t expect my book to be a hit, mind you. I simply hoped that my book would provide what I expect from the novels on my own nightstand: entertainment and escape. When I wrote “The End” the overriding feeling was one of closure. I’d done it. I’d written a book. Delivered my one and only bookish brainchild.
So color me surprised when Henery Press, my amazing publisher, wanted two more novels as part of a series featuring my protagonist. I wanted to say, “I’m sorry, but haven’t you mistaken me as someone who has more than one book in her?”
But I started writing, gamely going along with the plan to write additional books not only because it was in my contract, but because they believed in me.
Turns out, I have more to say.
No one was more surprised than I.
It was a revelation that unfolded along with the new story, a realization that bloomed in my mind and on the page. Characters appeared. Subplots emerged. Dialogue rang in my ears and traveled down to my fingertips.
Of course, the real gift wasn’t in the genesis of the book, but in the recognition that I continually underestimate myself. Blame a recessive self-confidence gene or the psychological battery life doles out to us all. I’ve always been the one to follow “I want” with “I can’t.” To two-down instead of one-up.
I have a feeling I’m not alone. I have a feeling many of us don’t just avoid tooting our own horn, but forget we’re part of the band. This isn’t just about writing. It’s about working, doing, playing. Living.
Having a publisher who knew I could do this was a huge boon. It didn’t make me believe in myself, but rather gave me permission to get out of my own way and do what I really wanted. Period. End of story. Or, rather, end of story number two.
At this writing, I have a scant three chapters to pen before I write those three little words: The Freakin’ End. In the immortal words of Clark Griswold, “Hallelujah. Holy sh*t. Where’s the Tylenol?”
What were you able to do to that you never imagined possible? Run a race? Bring a baby into the world? Change the toner cartridge in the printer? Please share. No matter what it was, I applaud you. You’re in the pantheon of those who believe we can.
I think Salinger would approve.