My goodness, how time flies. I could swear it was just yesterday I was sitting in my parent's kitchen, talking with my mom, scared to the brink of vomiting at the thought of publishing my debut novel, Inside the Outside. Sitting across the table from her in the middle of the night, I asked, "What if nobody cares?"
When I was writing the book, riding the wave of confidence that comes when there are no expectations, no outside pressure, nobody looking over your shoulder, my only concern was making the book as good as I could make it. In my mind there was no doubt that, as long as I gave it my best effort, readers would find it and enjoy it; and, really, that's all I wanted was for readers to like it. As any author can tell you, a novel is like your child. It comes from you, out of you, and, for years at a time, you nurture it, watching it grow and develop. You become proud when it takes on a life of its own, taking its first steps, becoming independent.
And then, one night, while your sitting in the kitchen with your mother, you realize it's time to let it go. It's time to send it out into the world, where you won't be there to protect it if it get's bullied by reviewers or teased by bloggers. You want to be there, standing by its side, fighting its battles, only you realize you can't. All you can do is make sure you've written the best book you know how and then you wait and watch and hope for the best.
So, it's funny how before that night in the kitchen, I'd never considered the question: "What if nobody cares?"
All along I assumed people would care, one way or another. I figured readers would love my book or hate it or have ambiguous feelings that they couldn't quite articulate—but I'd never factored in the possibility of people not caring. Worse yet, what if nobody noticed? What if I published my book and nobody bought it? What if it simply got lost in the vast library of books already out in the world competing for the attention of readers?
"Well, you know we'll buy it," my mom said. "That's at least two."
It was sweet and it made me smile, but I still couldn't get past that one looming question. However much it weighed on my mind and however many times I considered turning back from that cliff, I realized I would never get over the regret of not publishing Inside the Outside.
So, on July 9, 2011, that's exactly what I did. That was one year ago today and, boy oh boy, what a year it's been.
Within a few weeks of publication, Inside the Outside broke into Amazon's Top 100 Bestsellers in Horror, peaking at #58. And during that same span of time, it also raced up Amazon's Top 100 Hot New Seller's in Horror, reaching #3.
And then the reviews started coming in...
"It’s not just the best indie novel I read in 2011; it’s the finest novel I read overall, and that distinction might carry back a couple of years besides."
"It was torturous trying to read faster, to turn the page quicker..."
"I picked this story up, and I literally could not put it down. I was reading it at work. I was reading it at a party last night. I fell asleep in bed with it in my hands at 2AM two nights in a row. I was totally hooked, and reading at every possible second."
"I classify Inside the Outside with books such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Patrick Süskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer—books that may have violent content or a disturbing premise but appeal to a much wider audience."
Before I knew it, Inside the Outside was a critically acclaimed bestseller. It had (and continues to have) an enthusiastic and growing base of loyal and vocal fans. I got invited to make personal appearances at libraries and prisons and high schools and universities where I read from my novel, talked about writing, signed books, and posed for pictures. It was all just so much and I really couldn't have hoped or asked for anything more.
And then Inside the Outside started winning awards...
- Paris Book Festival: Grand Prize Winner (2012)
- Hollywood Book Festival: General Fiction Winner (2012)
- San Francisco Book Festival: General Fiction Runner-Up (2012)
- New York Book Festival: General Fiction Runner-Up (2012)
One year in and the experience of publishing Inside the Outside has already exceeded all of my expectations. Of course, it hasn't yet exceeded my wildest dreams. My dreams for this book are pretty big and this first year has only served to increase my expectations for what it can still accomplish. But if it were all over today, right now—poof!—no more, well, I'd have nothing to complain about. This past year has been such an exhilarating ride and, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everybody who's helped make this dream of mine come true.