The doorbell didn't ring. The dogs barked, and even through that double noise, I heard someone put a package near the door. And there it was. A smaller box than I expected, but my publisher sure knows how to get the most use out of smaller spaces. I opened the box more carefully than I would a package from Amazon or from one of the booksellers who must think me one of the family now, and there it was. My book. Five copies of my book, per my contract.
I wasn't as overjoyed as my mom, my dad or Meridith was, because I had spent so much time with this book. I read so many books and took so many notes and transcribed all those notes in order to write these essays. I spent days on word choices and sentence structure alone, determining what I wanted to say and how it could best be said. There were times when I wondered if a period would be more suitable than a semi-colon. Was there too much in this paragraph? Should that one sentence at the end actually be the beginning of a new paragraph?
So much to think about, so much to write, though I've no complaints about the journey. I was surprised when Phil Hall, who spearheaded this project, invited me aboard. I couldn't believe it. My first book could happen without the struggle of dealing with the peripatetic publishing world. My name could eventually be on a book and all I had to do was write what was required in this project.
At first, I didn't want to do it. I had no confidence. Sure, I had written movie reviews and some of my own work, but this was too big. Too scary. Too much to do. Mom told me that I had to do it. I would never find an opportunity like this again. Most people have to deal with rejection after rejection from publishers and go through that struggle right at the start. I had to do this. So, reluctantly, I told Phil I'd do it.
Then came the books. 20 or so of them, plus solid articles online, and interviews with people I found who I considered experts on the actors I wrote about. It was hard, tedious work, and I hadn't even gotten to actually writing the essays. That was its own struggle, too.
But now it's done. I remember in middle school hearing about how I should become a writer, but I assured those who suggested that that I didn't have any ideas. Well, you have to write in order to have any ideas, but first you have to read, and I've been doing that since I was two years old. And after this book was done, after I lost 60 pounds (and am still losing more), and after I rethought my priorities in my life, I began to have more ideas. I thought about my love of the American presidency and vice presidency, the history, the personalities, the people surrounding those great positions of power. There are at least two or three books for me to write within that passion. Some weeks before I received my five copies of "What If They Lived?", I had a dream, and a piece of it led me to the idea for my second book. All I will say is that it will be fiction, and the frame for it is my love of book-length reportage, of which I seem to read more than novels and other fiction. I know there will be a struggle this time. Since I don't intend to pursue my ideas yet for books about two of my favorite actors (I have to see if there are significant stories in their lives, first), there's no chance of this book being published by BearManor Media. So I have to steel myself, and I'm ready. I know how harsh the publishing world can be. I'm grateful that Phil Hall basically protected me from those realities by this ready-made idea, the second book in his contract with BearManor Media. But I'm prepared. All I know is that I want to finish this book and see it published by the time I'm 30. That's it. The rest is an adventure just like my first book was.
So when those five copies arrived yesterday, I was pleased at what I had accomplished, but not overjoyed. I had done everything I could do for this book. It's in the hands of the readers now. Naturally, I hope for the best, but I've already moved on to the research for my second book. Last night and this morning, my mom joked that I was reading the wrong book (I'm finishing "Travels with My Aunt" by Graham Greene). I told her that I read my book enough times while I was writing it, and therefore have no need because I know it so well already. The only things I did do when the book arrived was to make sure my favorite sentence remained intact (It's in my essay on Marilyn Monroe, about one guy she knew that wanted more, but Monroe "didn't want that kind of more."), as well as my favorite speculation (John Gilmore on James Dean. And I only wrote brief sentences to help connect those thoughts). Once I was satisfied, that was it for me with this book. I only involved myself with signing copies for Mom, Dad and Meridith, with appropriate inscriptions. I have the other two copies, and I will see about a hard plastic covering to protect the covers of all five copies. But other than that, I have no reason to read it again. I've long been thinking about what I have to do for this second book, what I have to read, what literature I have to reference to see how those authors did it and figure out how I want to do it. I've determined that once I answer all the questions I have (and I know there will also be questions that crop up during the research), then I will begin writing this book. Only then.
Because of "What If They Lived?", I now have the confidence to be the writer I hope to be. But, to be a proper writer, you have to keep writing, you have to keep thinking, you have to keep reading. And I've moved on to doing just that.