Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Aiming High, Finding Self

I'm going to sound awfully vain right now but hey....

I expected Wind Follower to be on a lot of best of lists. Now, part of this is normal writer expectation. When writing, most honest writers truly believe they have written the best book in the world. (Hey, you have to be conceited enough to survive in this publishing world.) The other part is that, well, I was a literature major in college. That's all I did. In fact I never took any writing classes. So reading all those wonderful literary works, one gets this idea in one's head that one day one will do a great work also.

Well, Wind Follower was on a few best of lists. A few. Several reviewers placed it in their top ten favorite books of all time. Some included it in their best of the year list. Some liked certain aspects of it.

But the resounding universal praise for it just isn't there. (Okay, I'm whining...and I know it.) One reason for this is that many people still haven't heard of it. Another reason is that the book, like all books, isn't to everyone's taste. Very few books, great or not, are liked by everyone. If one considers all the lists out there -- in this case, all the speculative fiction lists-- very few books are on ALL those lists.

At first I was feeling a bit forgotten, rejected and alone. But then I got sane. Or as sane as a writer can be. I'm a debut author, after all. I have to aim high. And herein lies the big decisions: Lord knows what aiming high actually entails. Many reviewers loved the originality of my setting. Question: should I aim for another original setting? Many reviewers loved the beauty of the language. Again, the same question: should I try to repeat that in my next work?

The search for the perfect reader, I'm beginning to realize, can be a self-denying self-thwarting search...especially for people-pleasers with rejection issues. What if I don't want to write another story like Wind Follower? At least not now? What if something grittier, less lovely, less fantastical calls me? What if something within me wants to write a book about sexual healing in contemporary time? Would those who love my original setting follow me into contemporary realms? Would those who love beautiful language want to hear harsh urban sounds? Would those who like its Christian elements turn against me if I write a book that is frankly very political and racial?

I've asked my hubby and friends who they believe my perfect readers might be. They tell me that all my stories are very heart-felt, barebones emotions, aching. They say that my core readers will be people who like to be taken on a devastating, but truthful, heart ride. There will be concentric circles and tangential circles filled with other kinds of fans: those who like Carole McDonnell stories when she writes about black issues, those who like Carole McDonnell stories when she writes high fantasy, those who like Carole McDonnell stories when she writes about religion, those who like Carole McDonnell stories even when she has a miserable noble failure. Etc, Etc. And there will be circles completely far from these circles: those who do not like Carole McDonnell stories at all.

The thing for me to do, however, is to write...and to see clear...and to create only those stories that God and my soul need me to write.

So...come what may, come new story -- whatever you are-- Onward. And welcome to those of you who will be my core fans. -C


Trudy Chun said...

You express what alot of writers feel here. We write out of the best that is in us, but success cannot be truly measured on best seller lists. I believe true success is in obedience to Him. Through obedience, He will bring your writings to the right readers and impact lives -- maybe just one critical one, perhaps countless. Regardless, in that obedience of writing what He is called you to write, you will impact your world for Him.

chrisa511 said...

I say to write what comes natural this time; write what comes out. I'm by no means a "genre reader". I used to be. I used to strictly a fantasy guy, but that's changed dramatically over the past few years. I read a book for it's content now, not for what section of the bookstore it's found in. I have no doubt, Carole, that whatever you write will be powerful and will that core element of you in it. Honestly, I think it would be fun to read something totally different from Wind Follower, though at the same time, I'd love to be taken back to Wind Follower all over again ;) I'm making this real easy for you, huh?

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