Bit of obvious background - I'm what is commonly known as a professional writer. What my English editor called, probably with a distrubing amount of truth, as "being on a treadmill" - a writer with (at least) one book under his or her belt, and who is now expected to keep producing.
I dabbled for a long time, working at this writing lark while doing other things, with a greater or lesser degree of success; back in the early nineties I submitted a story to London Magazine, a literary mag of noble pedigree and hoary age, the kind of market that the kind of relatively raw newbie unknown like me should not even have dreamed of - but hey, I get attacks of chutzpah sometimes, and this was one of them. The story, after a bit of hiccup at the start (I think I've told this story before - if I haven't and you want me to lemme know and I"ll add it back in...) got accepted. It finally got put not into the magazine but into the hardcover anthology volume marking the 30th anniversary of LM's publication. The anthology's editor introduced me to a London agent. The london agent sold my first book, the collection of fairytales published by Longman in 1995 as "The Dolphin's Daughter and other stories". In the same year I published the autobiographical "Houses in Africa", with a local New Zealand publisher and a print run of 1500 copies. (The Longman book, incidentally, was reprinted nine times and is STILL out there; the autobiography, well, kind of vanished rather fast after a couple of surprisingly good reviews...) Then, in 1999, I collaborated with rdeck on the contemporary email novel - two characters' email correspondence - "Letters from the Fire" blazed like a comet, submitted in March, accepted in April, delivered in June, in bookstores by September of that year. It actually earned back its advance, and made a modest profit. But by this stage I was still doing Other Stuff - I freelanced as an editor for the University Magazine in Auckland, in New Zealand, and I was doing travel journalism and stuff like that. I also did stints as a first reader for Harper Collins New Zealand, and when they began a new fantasy publishing program I was handed a MS to report on. I gave it a good report, and then said, "I have a book of my own." So they looked at "Changer of Days" and published it, in two volumes. They came out in NZ in 2001 and 2002.
In the meantime, I came to America, and got married, and rdeck said, bless his cotton socks, "You write, I will do the rest."
Less than two years after I moved to Florida, I was writing "Jin shei". It took me three and a half months to write 200 000 words of manuscript, and then I handed it to an agent who loved it and went to bat for it, and the rest if history - ten languages, more than twenty countries, and still counting. It was my sixth book (if you count the three-story "DOlphin's Daughter" book, which was never really published *commercially*, as a start) but my first real INTERNATIONAL success, and with it came things like an honest to goodness book tour - and I"ll never forget flying into New York City that summer of 2004 as a Harper Collins author who was there for a book signing in a Barnes and Noble in the city. It was completely heady, a little bizarre, it felt like I had drunk too many glasses of champagne too fast and the world was swimming a little and I was fizzy and oh, so proud.
I haven't been doing any of that other stuff I used to do, for a long time. I've been writing books. My seventh is out Down Under and soon in the UK and shortly thereafter in the Netherlands and we're still talking other editions. My eigth is thet pile of copyediting on my desk right now, in the process of Becoming Book. My ninth is half-written, a literary ghost in my machine, haunting my computer until I have a chance to get back to it. My tenth, the third book in the YA trilogy, is contracted, and waits to be written following this one.
Other things are roiling in the clouds and I cannot talk about them yet.
My point is this - I have always been conscious of what a privileged life I lead. I have always been conscious of there being people out there who don't know me from the proverbial bar of soap who might pick up this child of my mind and my heart and who might either find something to love in it or might despise it - and there is never a guarantee, and the fact that there are as many kinds of readers as there are writers only works in the writers' favour, even if one of those readers is NOT a fan of what I myself might put between covers. WIthout readers, we writers would not exist.
Well, we might be here, and we might be writing anyway, at least I would, but we might as well be standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and yelling our stories into the wind.
The point of writing and reading is that connection between two people who haven't met, who probably never will, but who might recognise one another in the shared world that one of them created and the other has consented to visit. To all those who visited my own various worlds, to all those who have picked up a book with my name on it on faith, even not knowing whether or not I would be their cup of literary tea - to all those who TOLD me what they thought of the book, as well as to many more who did not and never will - I would like to take this opportunity to simply say thank you. You make my dreams real, and my worlds live - without you, it's all just a dead letter on the dead page. Without a reader who loves it, a book is no more than a pile of paper. With that reader, it's a passport... to ANYWHERE. Thank you, to all those who chose to alight from the train at my station and linger there for a while.
I believe that publication is a privilege, and one that has to be earned; I know the odds against success sometimes seem impossibly high. I can't help being proud of the fact that I've managed to achieve this. I am also humbled by it, especially at places like covnentions' dealers' rooms where such achievement is put into pragmatic context by seeing all those OTHER books that are out there, other worlds, other passports to places wildly different to your own worlds or so dangerously similar that you wind up breathless with the fear that THAT one might in fact be better than YOUR one, and how are you supposed to tell anyway? I honour all those who are undaunted by that sight and who persevere in pursuing their dreams - I was, after all, one of those myself, not so very long ago. There are young writers climbing the ladder behind me, and they are good, and it's all I can do to stay *as* good if not keep trying to be better because that place on the ladder is earned by merit alone and easily lost. I try to pay it forward, as it were, and help the new generations in whatever ways I can - I am far from being the ultimate authority but I am given some by having successfully navigated the shoals and quicksands of the publishing industry not once but several times and I apply that to teaching, or simply to talking to colleagues younger in experience and sharing the things that I have learned. In that context it does come out that I am published and they are not - but I have never held that against someone in terms of pulling rank. If someone like ROger Zelazny once treated me as a fellow writer whose only distinction from himself was that I had had nothing published yet, then I can go forth and do likewise, and I hope that if I ever got OBNOXIOUS about the "I am published and you are not" situation I have a particluarly blunt younger colleague waiting for me out there who will tell me so. But I dreamed this dream for too long, and worked too hard to grab it, not to be proud of what *I* have done - and although I am more than happy to talk about a colleague's work adn brainstorm problems and do whatever it takes I also can't help talking about my own. It comes back to a recent discussion of self promotion on larbalestier's blog - once published and out there, especially if it's yoru first-born, you can't NOT talk about it. You owe it to the book for its existence to become known in the big wide world, and the person who knows it best is you. Publishers rely on your doing this thing these days. Publicity machines can crank out only so much promotion - you're on your own for the rest, especially if you're published by a small press with a limited budget. The difference between promoting your book and basically marching up and down convention corridors and consuite parties interrupting other people's conversations with phrases like, "yeah yeah, all that's fine, but look at MY book.." should be painfully obvious, but not always easy to deal with from the inside, as it were, and it's the writer who needs to draw a line that will not be crossed. Yes, you do need to yap about it. No, you don't need to have no other topic of conversation. Being a human being before being an author is usually a good rule of thumb.
Hoo boy this turned out long and convoluted. If you've got this far and are not terminally confused... well... the bottom line is this. We're all in this together. Writers write. Readers read. Thank you for everything.