Earlier today I shared coffee with a writer friend whose first novel is coming out in October. “I feel like I have imposter syndrome,” she said. “It’s as if I’m leading someone else’s life.” It’s a familiar feeling many of my author friends and I share: a belief that we’re all frauds. Maybe it’s the nature of creating stories that causes writers to feel like imposters. If we write fiction, we’re writing something that isn’t true. It’s all in our heads.
Except when the book goes out in the world, the story perpetuates into someone else’s consciousness. In The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, protagonist Daniel Sempere is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his bookseller father, who tells his young son, “Every book has a soul…The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it,” and later, he adds, “Every book you see here has been somebody’ best friend.”
Perhaps Kristen, my author friend, senses she no longer owns her story, or that she never owned it in the first place. Yes, she toiled over multiple drafts and comments from her critique partners. She bargained with her editor over its content. But the true soul of a book exists in those who read it.
Writing fiction is a vocation that doesn’t make sense. We spend months, sometimes years, listening to our imaginary friends tell their tales. We take their stories and translate them to pages for others to enjoy. It’s a daunting and impossible task.
Once the story is released, you’re open to criticism. Even if a book is well received, there’s always that devil on your shoulder poking his fork into you, whispering, you’re a fraud.
In order to promote the book, an author needs to talk about the work with strangers. What inspired the story? How much of this is true? How much of you is in the book? Why should I read it? What’s it about?
Sometimes we don’t know the answers to these questions. No wonder writers feel like imposters.
Yet we’re grateful to those of you who take a chance and read/fall in love with our novels and characters.
The reasons we write are ineffable. Most of us don’t do it for the money. Writing is a compulsion, a romance with words, driven by a similar force that makes one person develop a passion for cars or math.
BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA and BLUE VALENTINES needed an audience.
I just can’t tell you why.
I'd like to send a shout out to my awesome cover designer for this book and BLUE VALENTINES, Ashley Nicole Conway. You can find her on Facebook at Covered by Nicole. Because she's also a writer, she limits the number of cover clients she takes on, but she 's worth the wait.