It can be easy, when you’re waiting for a book to come out, to let your imagination spin out realities where you become rich and famous. You think about what you would spend all that money on, if you become a mega bestseller. You think up all the sequels or prequels or related stories you will write when this book is the next big hit. You think about interviews on TV, about old friends who will suddenly be proud they know you, that your parents will suddenly relate to you in a different and better way. Your neighbors will offer you respect, and maybe your kids will, too.
But after a number of years of these kind of hyped delusions before the publication of a new book, I have learned to damp them down a little. And to think more carefully about why I write what I write. Why I think almost all writers write what they write.
I don’t think many writers write for money. They’d be crazy to, honestly. There are just so many jobs where you have more control over hard work leading to tangible results. You’d be more likely to end up a millionaire investing yearly money in the stocks. And it would probably take less time and energy.
I think that writers write ultimately because they want to connect with people. We write because we love books ourselves, and because we have books that matter to us in our lives, books that changed us, books that saved us, that made us feel like we had a place in the world. We know books that got us through a hard spot because they were sheer fun, and books that made high school English a little easier because there were some beautiful passages in them. We know books that we HAD to read the sequel to, and waited day by day for the release. And we want that for our books.
We want readers out there to love our books in the way that we once loved someone else’s book. We want to write a character who feels like she could step off the page. We want to make someone’s terrible life a little easier. We want to say, you’re not alone. We want to create a fictional world, at least, where people like us exist and find each other.
So today, as I think about my upcoming book, I am thinking about readers out there who need the character in that book, and who need to believe that the world of that book is a real one. As writers, we don’t have control over this. It’s always a mystery to me why people connect with certain books of mine and don’t with others. It can be a crushing disappointment when people hate a book that you wanted to connect with them. It’s not just that bad reviews hurt. It’s that they make you see that the book’s feelers reaching for that connection were severed somehow.
When a book does connect, it’s like a secret club of people who will find each other, not just the year the book comes out, but for the rest of their lives. In college, when their kids are on the playground, maybe even in a retirement home. That’s what I write for. I write for readers I have never met and may never hear from. I write for readers who need a connection, not to me as a writer, but to my world and to my people.