I was so honored to be asked to start off this wonderful blog tour for the newest book by Lish McBride. You might know her as the William C Morris Debut Nominee for 2011. She was also YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults in 2011 and ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2011. This is quite an accomplishment for a debut author!
So seeing that she is no longer a freshman author I wanted to ask her a question that I figured most authors don't get asked. And luckily for me she answered it!
NECROMANCING THE STONE, Lish McBride. Will be released tomorrow!
How difficult was it writing a sequel? What were the expectations like? What exactly was your writing process? Did you hem and haw and panic? Or did you really just want to pull the hair out of your head?
For those of you that don’t know, I wrote my first book, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer as my thesis to graduate from the University of New Orleans’ MFA program. Though it was crazy and I was locking myself in my office by the end of it just to make sure I was producing enough pages, it was fun. I could do almost whatever I wanted, because no one was really going to read it and the worse thing that could happen was that I wouldn’t graduate. Which, thinking on it, would have been a pretty bad thing.
But then we sold the book. People did read it. And let me tell you, friends, it’s a little disconcerting. It is also amazing and wonderful. But I think there will always be a part of me that looks at my book sales and wonder if somehow my mother isn’t buying all those copies.
Then I had to write book two. Here’s the thing about book two—it sucks. At least writing it sucked. I’m not saying I sobbed uncontrollably into my laptop or anything, but I certainly thought about it. I’m positive that I whined a great deal to my friends. I’m a pretty whiny person.
Every writer I’ve ever asked has agreed that the second novel is like rolling naked in thumbtacks right before you belly flop into a kiddie pool filled with lemon juice. (I might be exaggerating.) Some of them even tried to warn me. I listened, but really, there’s nothing you can do about it—you just have to hold your nose and dive in. Maybe somewhere, out in the big, wide world, there is a writer that thought their second book was a cakewalk. I would probably call that person a liar. To their face. It would quickly devolve into a schoolyard scuffle. There would be a great deal of smacking and name-calling, and no good would come of it, but that wouldn’t stop me.
You see, after book one, there are expectations. You have readers now (hopefully) and reviewers, and bloggers, and librarians, and booksellers and so on and they all want a new book, they want it now, and they want it to not suck. All of these expectations are wonderful and justifiable, but they can send a new writer into a panic. You sit in front of your keyboard and think, “What if I can’t do it again?” Before you know it you’re rocking silently in a corner sucking on your thumb.
My first book was literally my first book. I’d never tried to write a novel before. In fact, it’s a little scary. There are so many pages to fill. So many characters and places to create and you want them all to be absolutely perfect. The whole time you keep thinking, “What if I’m doing this wrong?” There is no right way, not really. There is only your way, but it takes you a little while to figure that out.
So by book two, you’re amazed you made it through the first time and that things went well. Which of course meant there was a tiny voice in my head whispering, “It can’t possibly go well twice. What are the odds? Maybe you should just walk away while you’re ahead.”
I hate that voice. It’s obnoxious and should be told to stand in the corner with its nose to the wall.
Between deadlines and expectations, there’s a lot of pressure. Pressure you can’t really get away from, because every time you talk to someone they ask, “So, when’s the next book coming out?” or “How’s book two coming?” and they don’t know how twitchy these questions make us. They are just trying to be supportive and show interest in your life. I started getting these questions three days after book one. And while I absolutely love that people want to know, it also makes my eye twitch. If you’re lucky, books come out once a year. So far, my readers aren’t lucky.
I work well under pressure usually, but book two wasn’t working out that way. I felt like I had to fight for every word, like I had to tear it out by its teeth. I kept thinking of my deadline and feeling low-level panic and worry that I wouldn’t get it done in time. Frustration and stress were getting to be constant companions. On top of that, I had a character in my head that was not related to the book I was working on and she was shouting for attention. I wanted to work on something else (I always do. This is not a reflection of how I feel about the Sam books.) and I couldn’t.
Finally, one of my smart friends (my friends, man, what amazing people they are) looked at me and said, “You need to write something else for a few days.” And I’m sure I spluttered and said, “But, I have deadlines! I need to be professional! This is due! I can’t go off and write other things. What do you know, anyway?”
She just looked at me and said, “Uh-huh, you need to write other things.” And I’m sure we glared at each other until I broke and we started talking about something else.
Of course, she was right. And if I’d thought about it, I would have realized that. Even though I had a deadline for my thesis/novel, I still had to write other things. I had short stories and screenplays due for class as well as editing for the school journal. I was all over the place, and you know what? I was more productive. Somehow, while writing book two, I had convinced myself that I had to only write one thing. Sometimes, I am bone-headedly stupid. I was holding onto a pattern that wasn’t working for me based on nothing. I had to take a deep breath, remind myself that I was new and still trying to figure out how to do things, and that it was okay to be a bonehead sometimes. Just not all the time.
For a few days I wrote from the POV of another character not connected to Necromancing the Stone in any way and I felt better. It was great for me to get that movement going and remember what that felt like. Things got better on NTS after that. Plus I got that new character to shut up for a little bit. (They get loud sometimes, like toddlers with pan-lids, banging and yelling and causing a general ruckus simply because they want to be heard.)
Obviously, I worked my way through it. Book two is hitting the shelves. So now I know that I can do it again, and hopefully it will meet some expectations. It probably won’t meet all of them, because you just can’t please everyone. But I am happy with Necromancing the Stone. And now I get to add my voice to all those other authors. I get to say:
Writing book two sucks. There’s just no avoiding it if you want to keep writing.
It’s okay to be stressed, frustrated, and freak out a little.
You’re going to be okay. The book is going to be okay. You can always fix things in editing.
Trust yourself. Trust your editor. They wouldn’t put out a crap book, right?
Listen to your friends if their track record has proven time and again that they’re smart.
Cut yourself some slack. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes, and your book is going to take as long as it takes to write. Remember to go outside, take a day off, and recharge. You need to stay sane if you want to make it to book three.
Some important links for you!
—Lish McBride is part of our Fall 2012 Fierce Reads campaign and she will be going on a multi-city and multi-author tour this month, 9/18 thru 9/23. Details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/FierceReads/events
—We’ve also got a new Fall Fierce Reads trailer which Necromancing the Stone is included in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiSWgzz9dJU
—A chapter excerpt of Necromancing the Stone can be read on our Fierce Reads Fan Page: https://apps.facebook.com/fiercereads/Exclusives
—A free Fall 2012 Fierce Reads chapter sampler for e-readers is available for download, which includes Necromancing the Stone: http://us.macmillan.com/fiercereadsfall2012chaptersampler/GenniferAlbin
—Last year, Lish McBride wrote a free e-short story, entitled Necromancer: http://us.macmillan.com/necromancer-1/LishMcBride
—Lish McBride’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeamDamnation
—Lish McBride’s Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lish-McBride/164438753667937
Also, make sure you attend tomorrow's blog tour:
Tuesday 9/18 http://janasbooklist.blogspot.com/
Here is the rest of the schedule!
Wednesday 9/19 http://www.sithereandread.com/
Thursday 9/20 http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/
Friday 9/21 http://www.gonewiththewords.com/
Monday 9/24 http://www.themidnightgarden.net
Tuesday 9/25 http://www.goodbooksandgoodwine.com/
Wednesday 9/26 www.katiesbookblog.com
Thursday 9/27 http://www.almostgrownup.net/