My fairy tale book launch for Norah: The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th-Century New York was two weeks ago. Held in a castle built in 1905 that contains a fireplace from The Tuileries Palace, it was a magical venue to introduce a historical novel. A musician friend, Julia Forbes, played period music that included, Norah, the Pride of Kildare, By the Sad Sea Waves, and Home Again. She also composed Norah’s Dream Waltz. There were Irish musicians and Irish dancing, along with delectable amuse-bouches. Approximately 100 guests celebrated the release of my third historical novel, my first novel for adult readers. It was one of the most enchanting and special days of my life. People I love and enjoy surrounded me, as well as new friends I met that day. I felt a sense of completion. After four years of research, grueling and laborious editing, and receiving more than fifty rejections, this was my Queen for the Day celebration. Norah McCabe had hounded me for years to tell her story of famine, survival, hope, loss, and love. While querying publishers and agents, I learned that there was a real Norah McCabe who left Ireland in 1847 to travel to New York City. OMG! Was I writing about a real person of the past? It felt like it. I felt her ghostly, and sometimes ghastly, presence while I struggled to be rid of her at times. I started researching for my next novel, a story of a Native American woman who lived long ago, but Norah wouldn’t have it. To be honest, there were times I hated her. But because a protagonist becomes so entangled in the heartstrings of an author, I couldn’t leave her!
And then she waltzed and jigged into a beautiful and real hard cover book! And people have been dancing with her since they met her at the castle. They’ve called to tell me that they love this girl. And I want to step aside and give Norah all the glory. I am so damn idealistic and romantic (no, I do not have visions of grandeur) that I want Norah to tell a story of suffering that isn’t in vain. To inspire people of today who have endured horrific sorrow to not give up and to commit themselves to dreams of beauty.
The Carolina wren out my window has a two note chirp and it sounds to me like, “Give up…give up…give up!” This is why I don’t have a gun in my house. I would be tempted to shoot that bird right now, as well as the all terrain vehicles going down the trail behind my house. No, I would be very careful to not shoot the rednecks riding them, because I would aim for the tires. But, it wouldn’t work. Gosh, I’d have to be a redneck, too, and have as much practice shooting at beer cans in order to shoot the tires out and not kill one of the drivers. And if that was so, I wouldn’t care about shooting their tires because I’d be out there on the trail with them. Yeah, they were with me while I worked in my lab with the dead body parts of the past (Great Hunger, Irish Need Not Apply, gang violence, poverty) and created a novel that became something other than what I had originally intended for it to become. It started coming alive in ways I never expected. But I was pleasantly surprised, not frightened in thinking I had created a monster. The following quote describes how Dr. Frankenstein in the famous novel felt about his creation when it came to life:
After giving the monster life, Frankenstein is repulsed by his work: “I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” Frankenstein flees, hoping to forget what he has created and attempts to live a normal life.
I am not going to relay in this blog what I’ve come up against that makes me feel this way only two weeks after Norah was at her ball. The publishing industry is rapidly changing and many people can’t tell the difference between a poorly written vanity press novel or a small press novel (at least on the shelf, if the books are lucky enough to go on a shelf). Laura Miller wrote an article titled, Author, Sell Thyself and quotes Amanda Hocking (self-published author who became a millionaire): “This is literally years of work you’re seeing,” she advised. “And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.” To the New York Times, she said, “I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.”
I don’t want to write paranormal romance novels. And I don’t want to play this publishing game. And believe me, I couldn’t shoot a redneck (or a tire). But I do want Norah to live. I’m just feeling a little like fleeing, hoping to forget what I have created and attempt to live a normal life. But I’m too Irish to give up. And besides, Norah won’t let me.