Making the Transition from Hopeful Writer to Published Author
by Breeana Shields
When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, I was emotionally excited, but physically miserable. Some women have delicate, pretty pregnancies. They get an extra glow in their complexions and a charming little baby bump in front, and otherwise their appearance is unchanged; from the back, you might not even realize they’re expecting. Not me. My ankles swelled, my fingers got fat, and I’m confident if alien life forms had been keeping watch on our planet, they would have been able to tell I was pregnant. From space.
I couldn’t find any position that would let me get a good night of sleep. I couldn’t eat without feeling uncomfortable. I couldn’t even take a full, deep breath so that I could properly execute an exasperated sigh.
I got through my busy days at work by daydreaming about how magical life was going to be once I was un-pregnant. And not just about my new baby boy—I’d already been excited for him for months—but about mundane things. Sleeping for more than an hour at a time. Wearing my wedding ring. Eating chocolate without getting heartburn. Talking long walks without feeling like a self-conscious duck. Painting my toenails. (I’d be able to reach them again!)
Once this baby was out of my body and in my arms, everything was going to be perfect.
And then my sweet son was born and my little fantasy fell to pieces.
Sure, I could easily find a comfortable sleeping position—I was so tired, I could have drifted off standing up— but I was responsible for a tiny human who needed to be fed every two hours, so quality sleep still wasn’t happening. My wedding ring still didn’t fit. And most days I didn’t even have time or energy to take a shower, let alone paint my toenails. My rosy vision of the future started to look more and more naïve.
And yet, those early days of motherhood were still filled with some of my most blissful memories. Midnight feedings, the house silent but for the rhythmic swallowing sounds of my little boy as his wide eyes locked on mine. The way his tiny fist would curl around my finger. The smell of his skin right after a bath. The way his eyelashes looked resting on his cheeks while he slept. The first time he laughed—the way it made a bubble of joy expand in my chest, a happiness so huge it hurt a little.
As I’ve made the transition from hopeful writer to published author, I can’t help but draw parallels to becoming a mother.
When I was in the querying trenches looking for an agent, I was sure nothing in publishing would ever be more miserable. I was certain that once I had a book deal life, professionally at least, would be perfect.
Perhaps I’m a slow learner. Or maybe it’s just that humans always see that just-out-of-reach next step as the one that will pave our way to a life of bliss. If only.
Like becoming a mother, becoming an author has been a dream come true. Holding a book with your name on the cover feels exactly as magical as you would expect. Chatting with excited readers in a signing line is unalloyed joy.
There are also things that I wasn’t quite prepared for. I thought querying had toughened me up for rejection. I knew that reading was subjective and not everyone loved everything. Of course I knew that. What I didn’t take into account was that agents, generally speaking, are lovely people who are well aware that writers are sensitive types. Their rejections tend to be gentle and encouraging, and therefore, didn’t prep me in the slightest for the first “this sounded good, but then it SUCKED” review on Goodreads. I wasn’t ready for the way I could read twenty glowing reviews and then come across a snarky one that would ruin my day.
I also wasn’t prepared for the fear and the pressure. The anxiety about sales. The constant worry that I’ll never be able to sell another book, that my career will crash and burn before it’s really gotten started.
The difference between the fantasy and the reality was like imagining a post-pregnancy outing in nice fitted jeans and a fashionable top. Perfect makeup. Baby dressed in an impossibly cute outfit. And instead, finding yourself wandering through Target in a pair of sweats with unwashed hair that has been so coated in dry shampoo, you’re worried if you sneeze, you’ll be engulfed in a toxic cloud of powder. The baby is even more adorable than in your fantasy, but he’s still dressed the in footie jammies he slept in, because you didn’t have the energy for the cute outfit (for either him or you). And then in the checkout line, you realize the cashier is staring. Not admiring your sweet infant, but studying the suspicious stain on your shoulder. Which is most definitely baby vomit.
With both books and babies, the reality is not nearly as glamorous as the fantasy.
I’m a published author. I wrote a book and my name is right there on the cover for all the world to see. People are reading it. A lot of them are liking it. Every once in a while, the truth of that will hit me square in the chest and fill me with delight. It’s a dream come true. But, like all wonderful things in life, the reality is a little bit messy. A little bit complicated. A little bitter mixed with the sweet.
But I wouldn’t change it. Not for the world.
Breeana Shields is the author of Poison’s Kiss (Random House, 2017) and Poison’s Cage (Random House, 2018). When she’s not reading or writing, she loves traveling, eating good food–especially if it’s pasta or chocolate–and spending time with her husband, her three children, and an extremely spoiled miniature poodle.
A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like– a poison kiss– and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard.
Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It’s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.
Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.
This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Thank you so much to Breeana for sharing her insight into being a published author! It may not be as glamorous as we all believe it to be, but it definitely comes with some wonderful benefits, love, and feelings of accomplishment to overshadow the negatives. =)
As always, thank you to all who have participated in this feature. We greatly appreciate your enthusiasm in helping writers, and your words never go unheard. We’re so grateful!
We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!