Today I finished going over copyedits for Huntress, my next novel, which will be published in April 2011. That seems like far away, but to me it seems like way too fast! Not that I don't want it to be published, but Huntress is a special case of nerves for a particularly unique reason.
Usually I don't blog about these writerly anxieties, partly because I don't want to be seen as a complainer, but also because I'm superstitious. Things are good right now; I don't want to mess them up! But then I read Carrie Ryan's blog post today about why she finds it difficult to show vulnerability about her writing on her blog, and it really struck something in me. Like the vast majority of writers, I have plenty of worries that my work isn't good enough, that I'll never be a success, that my current book sucks rocks, etc.
With Huntress, I started out at a possibly lower state of self-confidence than usual. You see, there was a prophecy about it.
Let me explain.
A long time ago, many years before Ash was published, my friends knew that I wanted to be a writer. One of my friends — a very good friend who has been there for me through a ton of life-changing experiences — told me that she had spoken to her psychic grandmother about me.
Yes, her psychic grandmother. You read that right.
So, apparently this grandmother is a very wise woman, and she has had some pretty accurate predictions about various things. I was actually quite flattered that my friend mentioned me to this woman. And then my friend told me what her grandmother had said.
The good news first: She said my first book would do really well. I had never really considered myself to be a believer in psychics, but who wouldn't want to believe that?
Now that Ash has been out for ten months, I can confirm that the book has done pretty well. It's not a bestseller by any means, but my book has been honored by so many award nominations and lists that honestly, I feel a little bit freaked out by it! As a good Chinese girl who was never raised to accept praise, this has been exceedingly overwhelming. My only consolation is that Ash hasn't actually won any of those awards. (OK, there's one last chance, with the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, but come on, look at the finalists! Ash has no chance.)
This is probably a very uniquely Chinese thing, but I feel like too much good luck basically invites bad luck. This is why, I think, my dad often says something about airplane accidents right before I fly anywhere. It's like making an opposite magic.
It's not that I don't want to win these awards. I do! Who doesn't want to be a winner? But you see, I know that there's a second half to my friend's psychic grandmother's predictions.
She said my second book would totally flop.
The better that Ash does (and I have word that people are enjoying it quite a bit in the U.K., too), the more I tend to believe in my friend's psychic grandmother. And that would mean I have to believe in the second part of her prediction, too.
So, I went into writing Huntress with this weird weight on my shoulders. Not only was I writing my second novel, which comes with its own expectations ("sophomore slump," anyone?), I had to contend with the prediction that this book would fail.
Last summer at SCBWI's annual conference in Los Angeles, I was in the middle of a very difficult second draft of Huntress. I happened to meet up with Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (of Beautiful Creatures fame), who invited me along to lunch with Holly Black (who needs no introduction). I mentioned I was working on my second book, and that the second draft was killing me. Then I told them about my friend's psychic grandmother's prediction.
Holly Black said something like, "No wonder you're having such a hard time. It's not only your second book, there's the prophecy!"
Yes, The Prophecy. The Prophecy of my second novel's failure has been haunting me for years. I'm sure that my friend did not mean for this to happen when she kindly told me of her psychic grandmother's prediction, so I don't blame my friend at all. I blame The Prophecy, which has taken on a life of its own and sometimes rises at night to laugh at me evilly.
Well, Prophecy, now Huntress has gone through copyediting. You know what that means? The book is about to be printed. Whether it sucks or not, those words are coming to a store near you ... in April 2011.
That gives me just about ten months to find a shaman to undo The Prophecy. And yes, maybe this blog post is just the first step in making an opposite magic happen.
Because I love this book. I know that not everyone will love it, but I do. It taught me so much about plot (have one!) and character (figure them out!) and sexual tension (more longing!). It's totally different from Ash, and yet it is Ash magnified. I will never write another second novel, and I am extremely relieved about that — but also a bit sad. Because even though it put me through the wringer, I've come out a changed person.
Someone who believes in magic and is going to run out today and buy a crystal.