Where is the line? You know, that line you can step over and become an AUTHOR, one whose pronouncements must be listened to. I'm curious about this because I recently got firmly put in my place.
A writing acquaintance and I were chatting online in a group of other writers. He asked a fairly basic question about grammar. I answered it. Then a Published Author chimed in with the wrong answer. Completely wrong. And the curious thing is that because the author was published, the chat room immediately decided the PA was right. A couple of them even made jokes at my expense as to perhaps my grammar skills were the reason I hadn't sold a book. (Later the questioner emailed me and said I was correct. Imagine that.)
I've had many poems and many articles published. I have credits in Freestar, Byline Magazine, Nautilus Magazine, OKMagazine, In-Tune Country Music Magazine, etc. Contemporary Drama Service published two one-act plays that I co-wrote with Crystal. I've had two full-length plays produced, one of which I also co-wrote with Crystal. But no book sales.
I've written three books and am currently at work on the fourth. But those first three – despite many encouraging rejections and even one cancelled contract for which I got a $500 kill fee – haven't made the grade yet. Or haven't got the lucky break. I don’t know for sure. I think they're good, but what do I know?
Admittedly, most of the chat room participants have no idea of my publishing credits. But I don't think it would have mattered if they did. Because the book's the thing. I've certainly been guilty of book worship myself. You want to touch the published author because maybe the magic will rub off on you. Or maybe the author will introduce you to his/her agent, thus launching your best-selling career. Or maybe he/she will give you that secret that only published authors know, the Masonic handshake that will open all the closed doors.
I try to avoid learning about and/or meeting my favorite authors because I don't want to end up disliking them. The late Jack Chalker was once so rude to me and several other people that I gave his books to the library and never read him again. I got to see an interview with Orson Scott Card, a writer whose work I had admired for years, and discovered he was a jerk of the first order. I haven't read him since. On the other hand, Carolyn Hart is truly charming, one of the nicest authors I've ever chatted with. The same goes for Marcia Preston and Laura Kinsale. I've read Holly Lisle's blog for a while now and still enjoy her work. (Note: I don't mind authors believing differently than me. But being rude or mean or cruel is unacceptable behavior, no matter how much they might think their genius excuses them.) But I think we're taking our chances when we meet any author -- they might not live up to our expectations. Is that fair? Probably not. But it happens anyway.
(Sidenote: Fans can be jerks, too. They often make authors miserable with their demands. At the far end of that, Mercedes Lackey had to have the protection of the FBI because some dangerous dimwit who took her books way too seriously threatened her. Chalker and Card might have been having bad days. It happens, but with all those authors out there, readers have plenty of choices.)
A friend of mine, when he found out that I had exchanged some emails with Carolyn Hart, said that I should show her my mystery novels. He didn't understand why I wouldn't consider it. It's just not something I could do. Maybe it's pride. I want to succeed on my own. And maybe that attitude will keep me from succeeding, but listen, when you're papering your house in rejection slips, you need pride and belief in yourself to keep going. It ain't easy, and don't ever think it is.
Those chat room participants worship book publication, and until I have a book published, I shouldn't expect any of them to nod at my altar. But still I was right. There's probably some moral in this, but I can't see what it is.