Father’s Day always seems a little flat now that the kids have grown up and set out each in his or her own direction. They still contact me on the holiday, though. That’s nice and welcome. It’s good to be remembered. How could anyone forget me, right? It happens though, but not family.
I’ve spent a good bit of my life disappearing from the lives of people I knew whether it was in school, the military or work. The past few years I have made some reappearances and reconnections, welcomed or not.
Yesterday, I thought a lot about my dad. I was reading another author’s manuscript and part of it brought back some memories. I guess it was the setting – the midwest – and the characters’ reflections on their families. I always thought I had pretty good parents and, despite the quarreling, pretty good sisters. Maybe everyone thinks that until they get older, gain the perspective of seeing how other families function and all that. I mean in some way or another I’ll bet every family has a touch of dysfunction. There is always that oddball relative. And yes, for many in my family, I am that person. I got used to that when I decided to be a writer. It comes with the title and lifestyle.
Anyway, yesterday was a good day for me. My schedule had me in to work later on in the evening so I had the time to share a sit down dinner with the family where I am staying. It was nice of them to invite me. I was sort of in a rush toward the end to get to work, though. It would be nice if I made a living with the author/publicist gig alone. I could afford to be more social. But that will come in time, with more titles released and a larger following from those who, for now, are strangers.
The few fans I have garnered over the past years have been faithful enough. The other authors I’m in contact with, those under contract with my publisher and those who are not, have been supportive of my recent book launch. Some of that is quid pro quo as I have supported their book launches. But many have become friends for other reasons beyond sharing a craft. Authors are a curious lot and, like other artists, tend to understand one another fairly well in an intuitive sort of way. I wrote a piece a while back about how authors are really not in competition. I believe that.
Largely, I’ve given up on receiving direct or indirect support from anyone in my past who has not already stepped up and offered. And that’s fine. No hard feelings. Whatever your reasons, it’s okay. Don’t feel obligated to buy a book you don’t plan on reading.
Maybe some of you expected a free copy or something, just because we went to school together. I received a limited number of complimentary copies. I gave them out to people who helped me here and there along the way. They were the people I promised to give a free copy to because I needed to in consideration for what they did. Simply knowing me or hanging out with me for a while doesn’t qualify. Sorry about that.
That seems appropriate, doesn’t it? I gave away digital copies to people in exchange for reviews. Some of those were people who promised to read my book, write a review and be supportive. a few have responded. Others, well… I guess they’ll get around to reading the book eventually, won’t they?
That brings me to one of the things I recalled about my dad this Father’s Day: a conversation I had with him when he was in the hospital. It was a few months before he passed away. I had a book with a publisher then. He knew it was going to be out in print eventually. He told me how proud he was of me. But he also advised me not to quit my job. Dad was pragmatic like that. Also he really didn’t think of writing for a living as actually working. To him work required sweating and straining to make something or grow something. Writers do that but not in the same way that farmers do. Dad had trouble seeing things from my perspective as much as I had trouble seeing life through his eyes.
He asked me if I was going to be famous. I confessed that might happen but it wasn’t an immediate goal. It still isn’t. He told me something that struck me at the time and I recalled it yesterday as I was reading someone else’s book. “You know you’re famous when more people know you than you remember ever meeting in your whole life.” I chuckled when he told me that and I laughed at the memory yesterday. He had it right, of course. That’s how everything works in the world. Most people don’t care about all that many other people outside of family and a few close friends.
We know a lot of people – coworkers and the like. We know friends of our friends and some of their relatives. We may even brush against someone with some degree of celebrity whether local or wider from time to time. But no one cares about obscure acquaintances until they are, in some way, less obscure.
For example, who cares to notice a book from an obscure author until everyone else he or she knows says they should read it? Then they buy the book even if they never really intend to read it. They may see the movie and even claim to have read the book. The book is better than the movie, they will claim, whether it is true or not. Of course, since they know the author personally they will claim to have some unique insight. Maybe they will, but probably not because they didn’t pay all that much attention to that weird sonovabitch loner who was always claiming to be wrestling with the next great American novel.
I want people to read my book otherwise I would have never submitted it to a publisher and gone through a year of editing, revising and promoting it while waiting for it to be released. I need people to buy the book so I can afford to continue being a writer and stop doing other things that interfere with writing full time. Otherwise, I might be inclined to give the book away for free. It’s a good book and doesn’t deserve to be given away, though.
Friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances, past and present, should read it now, but if not now I promise you will eventually. Why? Because I will continue to write and my books will continue to be published. Sooner or later the weight and volume of stuff out there will compel at least a modicum of curiosity – especially if we met way back when no one expected I really meant it when I said I was writing a friggin’ book.
My family in the 1980’s. I’m the writer. You can tell, can’t you?
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