When I was a freshman in high school, I wrote the following words in my diary: Someday I, too, am going to write the great American novel. I wrote my first story when I was seven, called "The Worm That Thot He Was a Snak." I meant snake, I think? I hope. Worms are terrible snacks. Don't ask me how I know this.
Anyway, sometimes it really hits me, you know? That I did the thing I dreamed about. I wrote an American novel - I'll let you decide whether it was great or not - and sold it to a big New York publisher not once, but 10 times. Ten novels. And I'm not done yet.
So how does the reality of being a bestselling author with more than 1 million books in print compare to what I imagined as a kid? Some of it is as good as I'd pictured. Some of it is better. And some of it is surprisingly meh.
Here are my three best and worst things about being a bestselling author.
The love and support my readers give me is unreal. People befriend my characters, then tell me how it empowered them in real life. I love writing for its own sake, but my readers helped me understand the power of story as a form of service. When we see ourselves in story, it makes us brave. My readers give me life.
I'm My Own Boss.
I got my first job at the age of 15, as a waitress/cashier at The Frontier Restaurant. Over the next nine years, I worked as a fitness instructor, makeup counter salesgirl, dishwasher, fry cook, phone banker for politicians, nanny, and office receptionist. After grad school I was a newspaper reporter for eight years. It paid more than the other jobs, but I still had no control over my schedule. Clocking in and out was soul-crushing. I left to write books and never looked back.
For the past twenty years as an author I've set my own schedule. I have a disciplined writing schedule, but if I need a break, I take a break. If I need to clear my head with a walk, I do that. If I want to work naked and drunk like Ernest Hemingway in a mossy tower full of cats, I do that. (Kidding, I've never done that. Maybe I should do that.)
Being a bestselling author opened doors to me that I never imagined possible. I've been fortunate to have film and TV development deals for three of my novels at large studios and networks, with exceptionally talented people, including Ligiah Villalobos, Priscilla Moralez, Nely Galan, Anne Thomopolous, Lucia Cottone, Laura Ziskin, Diego Luna, Tyler Perry, Robin Shushan, Amber Raspberry, Poppy Hanks, David Damien Figueroa, Lourdes Diaz, Marta Fernandez, Fernando Szew, Beatriz Acevedo, Marilyn Camacho, Jennifer Lopez, Harris Tulchin, Ron Bass, Lisa Lucas, and Jordyn Aquino.
So many Hollywood people have offered to help me get my stories from book to screen. I've learned so much about storytelling from them. Though none of my development deals have yet gone into production, the day will come. And if it doesn't? I'm a better storyteller for having known these folks.
Racism & Sexism.
Racism and sexism are always terrible. I faced some degree of both in my life before becoming a bestselling author. But the racism and sexism heaped onto non-white, non-male writers in the United States is a beast all its own. I'll spare you the depressing anecdotes.
The most annoying thing has been the way people always want to ask me about ethnicity, race and gender instead of my books and writing process. They don't do this to white male authors. They shouldn't do it to me, either.
Traveling in Airplanes.
I am not a happy flyer. I've had more than one near-crash in planes, and now have PTSD around air travel. This terror of flying has only been made worse by the ongoing pandemic. The whole 20-city book tour thing and all the public speaking wasn't something I envisioned as an introverted kid who wanted to spend her life typing in the mountains.
Self-Consciousness in New Friends.
When new people in my life learn I'm an author, they get awkward about texting, emailing or talking to me, worried I'll judge them for spelling or grammar mistakes. I won't. I understand how they feel, though. My last serious boyfriend was a professional chef, and I felt weird cooking for him, at first. He didn't expect me to be a chef, and he loved when I cooked for him because food was one of his love languages. I don't need your grammar to be good, just your heart.