Isn’t that a lot of work?
I’ve been asked multiple times why I wrote a book about Henry VIII. I usually answer, “Well, it seemed better than getting a real job,” because I am flippant. It’s my jam. However, the actual reason I wrote the book is that I honestly felt compelled to do it. There was all this information — facts that I found fascinating — left over after the publication of “A New Explanation of the Reproductive Woes and Midlife Decline of Henry VIII”. All the wonderful history just wouldn’t fit in one article. I had also formed strong opinions about people and events, which I really wanted to share. Writing a book gave me both the space to expound on all those nifty facts I had found and a place to argue the validity of my conclusions.
All my research into the Tudor court had also left me personally invested in people who had been gone more than 500 years. As an Aspy it was driving me batcrap crazy that misinformation about them was still skittering unfettered in the pages of other books. I needed to spread the good word that Anne Boleyn had NOT been a “honey trap” for Henry VIII. I was determined to add my voice to those crying out that Anna of Cleves was actually attractive and not a “Great Flanders Mare” at all. I was incensed that Kathryn Howard was called “promiscuous” and a “common whore” when her entire sex life consisted of precisely ONE other sexual partner prior to marriage. Inasmuch as untruths and slanders like these are the dragons in my mental dungeon, I had to slay them with the fiery sword of research and rescue the princess of accuracy from the peril of malarkey. (There is no point in using a metaphor if you cannot have fun with it.)
Would it have been easier just to make stuff up?
The compulsion to tell the story is even worse when you write fiction. I have several friends who are authors of fictional works. I know that entire fictional worlds and alternate realities and tales of daring-do and romance are 1) always bubbling up from the fetid stew of the author’s subconscious or 2) the whimsical gifts of the muses will pester the sanity out of an author until the story is finished. Moreover, if one does not write the narratives as directed by the subconscious/muses, one will be punished. The storyline will scamper back from whence it came, leaving one with the bitter ashes of what was a good book before the ending went to live in someone else’s id. Worse still is when the voices in a writer’s head stop talking altogether, leaving the poor author weeping and wondering where his or her “juice” has gone.
Added to all this is the dreaded Beast of Genre Snobbery. The maleficent Beast tends not to feast upon non-fiction works like mine. Perhaps it is scared off by hulking bibliographies. Perhaps the Beast finds over-complicated footnotes unpalatable. Who knows? Whatever the reason, the Beast of Genre Snobbery stalks fictional works more than nonfiction. Woe unto you if you write in the categories of science-fiction, fantasy, horror, westerns, or paranormal. That’s “popular culture” that is, and meat for the Beast. It’s even worse if you are caught writing on a topic not typically broached by humans whose genitals dangle instead of dip. Have you written a romance novel? Well, bring a towel because the most Intelligentsia (barring a few scholars who are defending your genre tooth and nail and writing serious academic essays about literary and contextual role of the Glittery Hooha) will spit on you, THEN throw you to the Beast.
Thus, even if your space opera about love triangle between a teenaged fairy and two Jedi knights who are in the midst of colonizing Avalon sells a bazillion copies, you can still be reduced to a blubbering pile of wounded feelings when some critic who only reads “arty” books about transgendered nuns in Victorian England sniffs at your work and calls it “rubbish for the unwashed”.
I remind myself of these things whenever I am tempted to try my hand a fiction.
But it is really cool to have a book published, right?
Yes and no. There is both ecstasy and agony in publishing your work. One one hand, there is the immense pride that your book is all grown up and going out into the wide world. On the other hand, you feel like you are sending a tender little lamb out among wolves, who may shred it with a one star review on Amazon with malice aforethought. There is also the fear that one’s book may be ignored, leaving it forced to wander, cold and unloved, across the frozen hellscape of reader rejection. It is all an author can do not to run amok, pressing copies of the precious opus into the hands of all and sundry, crying out, “Please love it! Please!”
So, why did you write a book?
In spite of these very real dangers, people continue to write. I think if you are a writer you can’t really help yourself. You’ve read too many books and now your thoughts want to scroll out into sentences, even if your gerunds are left swinging in the breeze.
Plus, being a writer is still better than having a real job.