Wednesday, September 12, 2018

BABY TEETH in the news: The Millions, Pittsburgh City Paper

A flurry of activity this week... This interview I did for The Millions is one of my favorites - and I got to answer the question "Will there be a sequel"!! Read The Millions interview here.

I also did an interview with my local Pittsburgh City Paper, and that was a lot of fun - my first sit-down, face-to-face interview. The physical print edition has a catchier headline - CENTER STAGE - my name's been begging for this, I guess. Read the City Paper article here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Booked Podcast

I might as well commemorate this here -- I did my first-ever podcast. Robb and Livius of Booked did such an interesting and comprehensive review of BABY TEETH that when they asked me to join them for a discussion I couldn't say no... even if I was a little shy about the whole disembodied voices interview thing. We had a lot of fun! You can listen to the podcast here.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Post-Publication Blues

Launch Day for my debut novel BABY TEETH was amazing. My agent Sarah was in town and we spent the day together, and then we joined dozens of friends and family members at the bookstore that was hosting my launch. I've never had a proper graduation, or a prom, or a wedding, or any other large celebratory event and in every way this felt like My Day. It was a victorious culmination of decades of writing, years of querying, and sixteen months of slowly marching from the day we sold the book to the day it would be available on bookshelves.

Me and my agent, Sarah at my Launch Party
Thirty-six hours later I started to feel kind of weird. A bit spacey. A bit lost.

Within forty-eight hours of Launch Day I knew I was depressed, but worse than that, I also felt strangely removed from what was happening around me.

Within days, my confidence plummeted, as did my sense of victory, and the sense of not feeling present only worsened. In short, I felt insane. I think I was having a nervous breakdown. And I had no idea why. Everything that happened with BABY TEETH was a miracle, for which I was so grateful! Why had I come unhinged, and so quickly?

Needing to know if I was being freakishly over-sensitive, I contacted a writer-friend who'd debuted a few weeks before me. She confirmed that she was experiencing the same things, and we swapped notes and commiserating messages. I'd intuited, from cryptic Tweets and whatnot, that some of my other writer-friends were also having a challenge in the weeks and months after their books were published. And then, not even three weeks after another writer-friend debuted she reached out to me, a subdued "How's it going?"—from which I guessed that she might be wondering if she was being freakishly over-sensitive. I just jumped right in and told her: I lost my mind in the days after my book launched, and it took weeks to get it back.

After I started swapping stories with other writers I realized I needed to write about this. It would have helped me tremendously if I'd been forewarned about the quick onset of the Post-Publication Blues, so I'm sharing this in the hopes that other writers will find it, and maybe agents and publicists can even start giving their debut authors the heads-up that this happens… a lot.

The Post-Publication Blues comes with a particular "trap" that makes admitting to it even more difficult than acknowledging other types of depression. We newly-published authors are well aware that we've beaten the odds, and that dozens—hundreds, thousands—of writers are trying to follow in our footsteps. It feels wrong to suddenly accomplish your dreams and then feel like complete shit—who in the world is going to sympathize with that? We certainly don't want to seem ungrateful or unappreciative, and that just compounds the confusion and self-punishment.

In the days after my launch I tried to make sense of what I was feeling, and chalked it up to all sorts of things (and all may have contributed):

- I'd been working too hard for too long, given the nature of my health problems.

- To a certain degree I'd anticipated an anticlimax, but maybe I'd vastly underestimated the twelve-month build-up, where everything is exciting, and then suddenly after Launch Day the whole publication machine seems to come to a grinding stop.

- My agent suggested I was experiencing Imposter Syndrome because of how I kept saying I didn't feel like myself, and I felt so removed from my life. (In fact, in spite of the name, this isn't quite the definition of Imposter Syndrome.)

- I was engaged in another round of revisions for Book 2 during all of this, and I don't know if my lack of confidence/freakout was making Book 2 seem more stressful than it should have, or if it was the other way around and Book 2 was too much for that moment in time.

- My friend Maud suggested "The past few months were overwhelming in every sense, [culminating] in the launch of your book." Which was stressful, even if it was good stress. She went on, "[What you're feeling now is] your body, brain, and emotions dealing with the helter-skelter by dampening every trigger that enters, as there are too many to deal with at the moment. It's no wonder that there is a safety net somewhere in your brain that suppresses [everything] for the moment, until it has calmed down a bit."

Maud's words were tremendously helpful in my understanding of what I was experiencing. I was overwhelmed in every sense—physical, emotional, creative… Fortunately, I didn't have too many publicity events on my schedule in the weeks after Pub Day, but I felt I'd "blown" the ones I had. I kept reporting to friends "My brain isn't working!"—which is an extremely alarming thing to feel, and kills your confidence when you're trying to pass yourself off for the first time as an articulate, professional writer. I knew I needed to do something to try and resolve this situation—it felt career-killing to me. All of a sudden I no longer thought I could handle being a professional writer—either the public aspects, or the writing.

So what did I do?

First, within days of starting to feel "off" I let both my agent and publicist know. I'm sure I sounded bonkers, but I knew something was tipping me over the edge and the last thing I wanted was to be inundated with career responsibilities when I didn't feel like myself. There was only so much they could do, but at least they understood why I couldn't book more appearances or take on interviews. I made it emphatically clear that I needed time off. Right. The fuck. Now. And they were understanding and accommodating; I stopped committing to things for a few weeks.

Next, I took days off when I could—didn't leave the apartment, limited the amount I was online—and in between there were things I had to attend to, like Book 2 stuff, already-scheduled interviews, etc. But I also got very disciplined about not working when I didn't actually need to. I gave myself permission to take every other day off. I slept in. I took naps. I tried to eat a bit better. I made my life as stimulus-free as possible. I laid low. I'm in a fortunate position to be able to do that, but it was also a necessity. And my sister helped me find a therapist, because I was in no mood to slog through another thing.

What can you learn from this?

If you are in your debut year as an author I'd encourage you to have as little on your schedule as possible in the weeks immediately following your launch. If you are an agent or publicist, I would encourage you to tell your debut authors that this could happen to them. If it does, they might not feel so crazy if they have an inkling ahead of time that this is normal. And if they don't experience it then great, they'll feel confident to add things to their schedule once they can gauge how well they've ridden the anticlimax of post-publication.

For writers who are currently experiencing this (and for those who already have), I've noticed some similarities in what we found anxiety-triggering or disappointing:

1) The anticlimax in general. How do I write that noise of a balloon deflating… pffffftthht.
2) Worries about the next book—whether it's a deadline issue, a writing issue, a revisions issue, or some combination.
3) A cessation of the constant emails from your team (yeah, it feels weird when that happens).
4) Numbers. Numbers. Numbers. Let me address numbers…

Within days of BABY TEETH being published I was certain it wasn't selling to expectation. This is ridiculous on so many levels…! First of all, I had no previous expectations of how many copies BABY TEETH would sell, and no idea of what is "normal," and absolutely no one had ever even implied that there was a numbers "goal." This is some weird shit that manifested in my own head!

Part of it was likely a result of "outside influences"—the friends, family, supporters who kept expressing that my book would be on the New York Times Bestseller list any moment. The people who ask—still every few days—if I have a movie deal. The fame-admirers who openly wondered what TV shows I'd be asked to appear on. Personally, I have exactly ZERO interest in being on TV—I'm a behind-the-scenes person! I felt such pressure about some of this that I discussed it with my agent ahead of publication, and she made me understand how unlikely it is for a book—any book—to ever make it on the NY Times list. And then I actively began working on lowering other people's expectations.

Look, we all understand why our friends and family have big ideas for us: they support us and want us to do well, and for many of them the only standard they understand for "how a book does in the real world" is via the New York Times or a movie or TV show. What they may not realize is that many—most?—writers dream in those directions, but reality rarely takes you there. And if it does, it usually requires years of being a published author, not days or weeks.

I think it's been true for many of us that when we hear how many copies our books have sold—in a week, or a month—it sounds… low. But when you factor in that to get on the NY Times list you need to sell about 7,000 (?) copies in a single week, and that most books never accomplish that, it should become more evident that it is hard as shit to sell thousands of books. So one unfortunate consequence of this is the authors are left feeling a little discouraged, and meanwhile our team feels like everything is right on track! Because they know how this business works.

To summarize:

If you are in your debut year as an author try to anticipate the anticlimax, and not set crazy goals for yourself or your book, and try to tune out the specifics of your friends/family buzz. And anticipate needing some time to decompress and regroup after Launch Day. And if you're an author who went through the Post-Pub Blues alone, know that you are not alone—and there's nothing wrong about what you felt.

It took more than a month before I felt like myself again, and I will do things differently now. For one thing, I will pace myself better in general. I'll be more aware of when I really need to take a day off or lay low. The pre-Launch year is full of so many "firsts"—which is exciting, but also stressful. Holy crap have I learned a lot in the last year and a half! I like to think I'm better prepared now. I guess time will tell… In the meanwhile, I'm fine. BABY TEETH is fine. I'm taking what I've learned and moving ahead.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Taxonomy of an Idea: BABY TEETH

I was recently asked to write an article for Amazon, and I went from having no clue what to say to relishing the opportunity to really dissect how BABY TEETH settled in my brain as a story-worthy concept.

I got so into this "taxonomy" - of pinpointing the elements that ultimately influenced my book - that I may very well write similar articles in the future for whatever else I may write.

Where does an idea come from is a very complicated question, but this Amazon article let me dig deep into how BABY TEETH came to be. Read it here.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

WESA Radio Interview

I did my first radio interview this week. I'm not gonna lie - I really wasn't feeling that well and I was afraid I'd done a crappy job. But this, my friends, is why I've agreed to do taped radio/TV and not live, because then they can edit together the best parts. ;-) 

When I read - and listened to - the final product I was pleasantly surprised: it was all just completely fine. Another truth: I tend to be pretty hard on myself, but... So much of this is new, and I don't have other experiences to gauge things against.

So without further ado, this link will take you to WESA, where you can read the article or listen to me talk about BABY TEETH. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Review

This review appeared in my local paper on July 17, the day my book was released!! (To see photos from Pub Day and the Launch Party, check out my feed on Instagram!)

In case this is too small to read, here is the online link.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Agent, Swag, Seven Days & Counting

Hopefully my agent, Sarah, doesn't mind that I'm posting this pic of her:

Sarah Bedingfield
I made some BABY TEETH swag and sent her one of everything! Sarah is the reason that I'm on this journey - she plucked me from the slush pile, and changed my life. I know it sounds cliche, but sometimes the stars really do align, and that's how it's been for us. I guess she knew early in her reading of my manuscript that BABY TEETH was a project she was seriously interested in, and I knew during our first conversation that I wanted her to be my agent. It all just clicked: polishing the manuscript, submitting it, selling it. And here we are, seven days from publication!

I got to meet Sarah for the first time - almost a year and a half after she first contacted me - when I was in New York City for Book Expo America. She was as kind and smart in real life, and just as easy to talk to as she'd always been on the phone. And as I got to listen to her I realized she is a fearless person. And I love that. She lives her life passionately and adventurously in a way that I not only respect, but sort of envy. BABY TEETH is not only my debut, but it's Sarah's as well: the first book she sold as an agent. It has made everything about my experience as a new author even more meaningful as all of my milestones are also hers: truly, this book has been our journey.

I sent this swag as a little thank you, but of course it's just stuff. I am so grateful for her wisdom, patience, friendship, collaboration: it isn't too much to say that this is one of the most meaningful relationships in my life... I can't really express that with a mug or a bookmark. Hopefully our journey will go on and on and I'll have a million more chances to express my gratitude. 

After talking about it for almost sixteen months, in seven days it will be real: I'll have a book in the world. I'll be a professional author. So much of the past year has felt a bit unreal - and it still does. But in an amazing way. Sometimes I can't believe where we've come in those sixteen months. I'm sitting here on the couch that BABY TEETH bought, in the apartment that BABY TEETH pays for. I have no idea what the future holds. There's been a lot of buzz about the book, but I am a fundamentally cautious person in certain ways, and have learned not to celebrate the hypothetical. But next week BABY TEETH won't be hypothetical anymore, and we will embark on the next stage of our journey. This element of the "unknown" is quite tantalizing: what's going to happen??

We'll see. It is a comfort to know that I am not alone. My team at St. Martin's Press has been amazing - I have a team, I have people. We're probably all holding our breath a little, wondering how BABY TEETH will fare in the real world. Next week Sarah is coming into town for my launch - our launch. We're launching - I really feel that. The stars have aligned and we're in our rocketship, ready to go exploring.

Monday, July 9, 2018

BABY TEETH Updates: Audible, IndieNext, Publishers Weekly

Hello Readers!

As I write this we are EIGHT DAYS away from BABY TEETH's official publication date!! I fully admit that I have been remiss in posting updates. But let me try and fill you in...

- BABY TEETH has been selected for many amazing "Best of July" lists, including: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, PopSugar, Entertainment Weekly, and BookBub. (Instagram and Twitter are better places to follow me if you need daily info.) 

- I was very honored to be interviewed by Audible while I was in New York City for BookExpo. You can watch the video here.

- BABY TEETH was selected for the August 2018 IndieNext List!

- I was interviewed for Publishers Weekly: Writers to Watch, alongside some other fabulous debut novelists. Read it here.

- I was also honored to do an interview for Writers Digest (sorry, I don't have a link to that one).

- There's also good news on the UK front, where my book is being published as BAD APPLE. Beginning on Aug. 9 - launch day in the UK - BAD APPLE will be available as a promotional title at Tesco and ASDA stores!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Library Journal Interview & Cover

I was incredibly honored to be interviewed by Library Journal for their Mystery Preview 2018 issue. And I was somewhat flabbergasted to be sent out on a photo shoot so I could appear on the cover of that issue. (It is starting to dawn on me that having a career in publishing is not just about being a hermit and wearing pajamas to work.)

An excerpt from the Q&A:

Truth, and the manipulation of it, are two tropes that work so well in Baby Teeth. How did you sustain the suspense when there’s knowledge the reader has about Hanna’s behavior and yet Suzette’s retelling of that same behavior isn’t always met with sympathy or acceptance, even from her own husband?

Many people don't know this about me, but I am a theatrically trained actor. One of the most indelible things I learned from an acting class was in regard to playing "evil" characters. The advice we were given was to never think of a character as evil, but to see their motivation as a natural consequence of their life, their experiences, their desire. This changed my thinking in many areas, but in regard to Baby Teeth it meant that I was always focused on each character's truth. I think the tension actually comes from the reader, and their awareness (and frustration) that there is a disconnect between one person's truth and another's.

Read the full Library Journal interview here.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Announcement: New Book Deal

I am incredibly excited (if a few days late) to report that I have sold my second novel, WONDERLAND, to St. Martin's Press!

4/10/18, Publishers Marketplace

I am so grateful to my agent, Sarah Bedingfield, who truly championed this novel. I am beyond blessed to have a creative & business partner who is so supportive of my creative goals first and foremost, and has miraculously found a place for me in the publishing world. 

Trade Reviews for #BabyTeeth

I am very excited and grateful that BABY TEETH has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal! Reading people's reactions to my book continues to be surprising and fascinating and humbling. I am more aware than ever that everyone brings a bit of her/himself to what they read, and it means my book is experienced differently, in subtle ways, by everyone who reads it.

From the Kirkus review: "Stage fuses horror with domestic suspense to paint an unflinching portrait of childhood psychopathy and maternal regret." Read the full Kirkus Review here.

From the Publishers Weekly review: "Stage’s deviously fun debut takes child-rearing anxiety to demented new heights." Read the full Publishers Weekly review here.

From the Library Journal review: "This twisty first novel has been aptly compared to The Omen and Lionel Shiver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, which is especially apparent in Stage’s exploration of the dark side of modern motherhood." Read the full Library Journal review here.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

#BabyTeeth Updates: BookExpo, Library Journal review & UK cover

I am all set to make my first public appearance... at BookExpo 2018! I will be on a thriller panel on June 1 with two other Macmillan Authors: Peter Blauner, and Hank Phillippe Ryan. It should be a lot of fun - come check it out if you can!

BABY TEETH received its first trade review - a "starred" review in Library Journal. Read it here.

Transworld has released their info regarding purchasing the UK rights for Baby Teeth: read it here

And here is the official UK cover:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

#BabyTeeth Preview in Entertainment Weekly

I was pretty stoked (truly, an understatement) to see this preview for my book in Entertainment Weekly!

It is soooooooooooo weird to suddenly find myself with an audience for my work!! It helps that I have an amazing agent, and an equally amazing publicist and marketing team at St. Martin's Press. I think it takes a village to birth a book...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#BabyTeeth Official Book Trailer & Updates

There are a lot of exciting developments happening behind the scenes as we countdown toward Release Day - just under six months away!

Now that we have contracts in hand, I can report that BABY TEETH will be published in the UK (by Transworld), Australia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The ink isn't dry yet on other contracts, so more announcements to come. In the UK, the title will be BAD APPLE!!

BABY TEETH was selected for the Goodreads list, 40 of the Hottest Mysteries & Thrillers of 2018 - alongside some amazing other writers. 

It was also selected by Publisher's Marketplace for their Spring/Summer 2018 Buzz Books.

HelloGiggles selected BABY TEETH for one of their 19 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018.

You can read an excerpt from BABY TEETH in PopSugar.

And finally, here is the official book trailer for BABY TEETH:

Friday, December 8, 2017

One Year Ago...

One year ago I was putting in applications for Affordable Housing. The time had come that I couldn't realistically continue spending my entire $627/month Disability payment on rent. I visited an apartment building in Pittsburgh, knowing the wait list was at least one year long. But there was no other way I'd ever be able to move back home: the rent and cost of living was just too high for my meager income. I put on a smile as I looked at the apartment complex, but a part of me was dying inside. Most of the people who got apartments there stayed until they died. I really wasn't prepared for that to be the last place I'd ever live, but it seemed like my best choice at that moment: cheap rent in a decent neighborhood. But all I could think was: is this really all that's left for me? Cinder block walls and a life with no meaningful choices?

One year ago I had a holiday slumber party with my sister and our long-time friend, Lisa. I looked at these two women, just a bit older than I was, and wondered how my life had gone so astray. I don’t think I'd ever felt so defeated. They had careers, well-filled lives, and the confidence that should come with middle age. I barely felt able to contribute to our conversations. How had I, a reasonably talented and ambitious person, so utterly failed?

One year ago I was negotiating a peace treaty with myself to stop submitting my writing. The cycle of submission and rejection had gone on for so long – nearly 30 years – and it was time to break the cycle. I was exactly four years into writing novels. I'd completed my sixth, gotten it into Pitch Wars, and queried it heavily, but I just wasn't getting any interest. For my own sanity, I needed to make my life not about waiting for someone else to appreciate my work. And for me, that meant beginning a new chapter of writing for myself, and not submitting – for representation, or publication, or anything else. I needed my writing to become its own source of joy. I had embarked on writing novels for a not entirely pure reason: I'd hoped my one skill – writing – could help me escape living in poverty. But, one year ago, I needed to find peace with a different reality.

One year ago I was incredibly depressed – and let's be real, things started sinking after the 2016 election. It was hard – for many of us – to be happy. It was easy – for many of us – to start fearing the future. To make matters worse, my Rochester, NY apartment – where I'd been living for thirteen years – had recently been robbed by someone on the maintenance staff; they stole prescription drugs. I'd discovered it right away and called the police, but in the end my landlord didn't believe me. Let me tell you, to be called a "silly, careless woman, quick to make accusations" in the days after Trump was elected was truly dumping insult on injury. I started to feel unsafe in my apartment and was desperate to leave. So I began applying for Affordable Housing…

One year ago it was obvious – palpable – that something needed to change, and this was a challenge because I was feeling pretty powerless at the time. I did the one thing I felt I had control over: I got back from my holiday break and quit my job. I know, that sounds a little nuts. But at that point I was only working a few hours a week (I was on Disability after all, but I was trying to stay connected to the world and my community). There were many things I really liked about my part-time gig at my local library, but it had also been a frequent source of frustration. I was forever wanting to see my work – personal, or otherwise – make a difference; I wanted a sense of accomplishment, and that just wasn't to be had from a minimum wage job. So I gave my two weeks notice.

I don't recall being concerned about how I would spend my days, in spite of the fact that I'd committed to both quitting my job and "retiring" from my novel writing ambitions. I recall feeling a sense of relief that things – small as they may be – were changing, and that felt hopeful to me. One week after my final day at the library, I got a response from one of the last queries I'd sent out for BABY TEETH. An agent wanted to talk to me.

The rest, as they say, is history. And this last year has been one I never could have imagined.

A couple of weeks later I signed with Sarah Bedingfield of Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. A few weeks after that she submitted my novel to publishers. A week after she started submitting, we received a six-figure pre-emptive offer for BABY TEETH. And I suddenly became a professional novelist.

A year ago I was applying for Affordable Housing. Now I'm living in my apartment of choice, in my neighborhood of choice, in my hometown of Pittsburgh. It is the ability to choose that makes a person wealthy – I've always believed that. I have teams of people at St. Martin's Press working to make my book the best it can be. Sometimes I joke now that my "job" is sitting at home in my pajamas. Or my "job" is getting surprise emails filled with good news. I've seen the cover of my book and held the ARC in my hands. I've done copy edits and reviewed the first pass pages. I've talked to my publicist, and my film agent, and had lunch with the leader of BABY TEETH's marketing team. And I've had many calls – and exchanged thousands of emails – with my agent, Sarah.

The changes happened so incredibly quickly. Sometimes it still doesn't quite feel real. Sometimes I'm not sure who – or what – to thank, but be sure: I'm incredibly grateful. I can't thank Sarah and the folks at St. Martin's Press enough. I don't think they'll ever be able to fully understand the opportunity they've given me: I have an entirely new life.

During the first half of this year I couldn't stop thinking in terms of BABY TEETH being my only book, my only chance. I've been through too much in life to make assumptions about things; I've shopped my own work around enough to know that you can't make people read, watch, or like anything. But slowly I am moving away from the shock of that blizzard day in March when Sarah called to tell me we had an offer for my book. Slowly I'm moving toward a longer-term way of thinking: building a career.

I've been working really hard on a new novel. Sarah's feedback has been so helpful – as has her enthusiasm. It's starting to really settle in: I am a professional novelist. Maybe all of my books won't succeed, but I know better than anyone that that's no reason not to try. I always love my new, shiny work the best… So I'm entering the New Year full of hope, and immense gratitude.