8 Things @ 8 Days Until Publication
Monday morning. February 1, 2016. 5:16am. I sit here, at my kitchen island, at the beginning of a brand new month. It's quiet. I sip coffee and look around at the trappings of real life. Unopened mail. Avocados that have turned. My littlest daughter's empty lunchbox. Next to me: a copy of my soon-to-be published novel The Ramblers. I stare at it as I have again and again in the recent weeks, turn it over in my hands, and I smile because this physical thing is evidence that this is indeed happening, that it is real. This book will be out in the world on February 9th, which is one week from tomorrow. One week.
I'm feeling so many things right now in this quiet anticipatory moment, but mainly I'm feeling excited. Excited that after more than five years of dreaming and writing and editing - much of it done at this very island at this very hour - you guys will be able to read the story and talk to me about it. This is what I look forward to most - the conversation.
I've been thinking about it and in so many ways, this book is a conversation. About New York City, this magical place where I was born, where my babies were born, where I continue to evolve. About identity and time. About life and love, passion and purpose and privilege. About happiness, what it means and what it certainly doesn't.
You might know the famous quote from Toni Morrison which goes like this, "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." This is exactly what I did, if unconsciously, with The Ramblers. I wrote the book I wanted to read, that I needed so badly to read. A book about three people, three utterly flawed but lovable people, who are rambling through their lives in search of greater meaning and happiness. Sound familiar? It does to me.
Worth pointing out: the whole book takes place in one week. And not just any week, but Thanksgiving week, a time when emotions are often muddled, when we gather with family, which can be both wonderful and woefully hard.
As you will see, everything can change in a week.
A week. That's about what I have. Eight days to be precise. And so I will leave you with a list of eight true things about this book of mine and the publication process.
1. This wasn't the first title.
True. Whenever I'm talking with an author about her/his book, I love to ask about the title and how many times it changed. The Ramblers was at one point Notes on a Hummingbird and at another point, called Flying Backward. A bit of explanation: the hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backward and going back is an important theme of the narrative; each of my three characters must revisit her/his past in order to move forward in life. I remember telling my agent that I had changed it to The Ramblers. We were having coffee and we both smiled. That was it.
2. This book is a love letter.
To New York City, this crazy and incomparable place. To the idea of wandering and finding ourselves at any point, maybe a bit later than we had hoped.
3. There are pieces of me - and maybe you? - in each character.
This book is a work of fiction, but there are of course bits and pieces of me infused in the story. My three characters - Clio, Smith and Tate - all contain important facets of me. I have Clio's anxiety. I have Smith's propensity toward self-improvement and order. And I have Tate's creative passion.
4. I love baby-naming - and character-naming.
If you know me, you know I love to name babies. I also love to name characters and feel that it's an important part of the process. Clio means muse of history. This name, as you will soon see, fits her.
5. The book jacket was initially a bright cornflower blue.
I was having lunch with a friend when I saw the first iteration of the jacket. My heart raced as I clicked to open. And there it was, the gorgeous inverted image of Bow Bridge in Central Park, but the background was a very different color, a joyous, dream-like cornflower blue which didn't seem to fit with the story. To get the right color, we all considered eighteen blue/green variations. I printed them all out full-size and laid them in a grid on my kitchen floor and solicited opinions from everyone who came through, including my girls. It was quite the process, but I'm thrilled with the final product.
6. I held hummingbird skins in my hands...
The research part of writing this book was substantial and immensely rewarding. My character Clio Marsh is an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History and I had the privilege of visiting the Ornithology Hall and holding specimens in my own hands. This was nothing but incredible, to glimpse this other world, to step inside my character's shoes.
7. The process of writing this book was, yes, rambling.
There was nothing tidy about the process of writing this book. I wrote and wrote and wrote, tossed probably thousands of pages, and kept writing. I spent far more time editing and reimagining than I did drafting. Late in the game, I had an epiphany about one of the characters and changed her to a man. It was such a wild thing. We were vacationing in Florida as a family and I shot up in bed around 4am and bellowed, "It's a man!" My poor husband bolted awake in a panic. I assured him that all was okay, but one of my protagonists was no longer Rose, but now Tate. I sneaked into the other room and began writing his story. What I've learned: So many of the best things in life - and in writing - come when we veer off the straight, obvious path and allow ourselves to ramble.
8. The sex scenes are...
Apparently quite powerful. Early readers (including, ahem, sisters) have been taken aback by the amorous bits of the book, surprised perhaps that I had it in me to write them. And this certainly makes me a bit sheepish, but mainly excited. This book, guys, is about life. And life, the good life, includes sex and surprise. My characters are young and passionate beings. Seemingly, this is loud and clear on the page :)
Eight days. The countdown is on. I'm so happy you guys are along for the ride!