Today, it's my great pleasure to welcome back to the GBC a wonderful friend, a talented novelist, and a generous contributor to the world of writing -- Therese Walsh. Her newest novel, THE MOON SISTERS (Random House/Crown, March 2014), is the haunting, lyrical, and truly memorable story of a journey taken by two very different siblings as they try to come to terms with the death of their mother.
The novel received a starred review from BOOKLIST. They wrote: "Both heartbreaking and hopeful, the Moon sisters’ journey is no quixotic quest, and readers will find themselves completely immersed in their transformative search. This magical, moving tale is not to be missed."
And Sarah Addison Allen said: "Therese Walsh has done it again. She is fast becoming known for delivering lush, emotional and deeply atmospheric reads that never disappoint. Her second book, The Moon Sisters, is a magical journey of grief, hope and the power of family bonds. It is a novel for the senses, a harmony of sounds, sights, scents and tastes, the likes of which you have never experienced before. You won’t want to miss this one."
So true!! I loved this book (as well as Therese's debut, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY), and I hope those of you who haven't had a chance to read it yet will check it out! You can find it in hardcover and ebook at many retailers, including Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Indie Bound.
Very glad to have you here, Therese. Thank you for offering your thoughts below about staying the course amid this roller coaster of publishing :) . And congrats again on another fabulous novel!
Over a year ago, I wrote a post on Writer Unboxed about the notes stuck around my desk and mentioned that I didn’t have the heart to remove any of them, though the story I’d been working on – the story that became my second novel, The Moon Sisters – was finished. I still haven’t removed the notes. I want to tell you a little about them, and then I want to ask you a question.
My agent sold my debut in a generous two-book deal, and while I was elated over that, I was also nervous. I had to write a second book. I feared I didn’t have it in me; that maybe I was just a one-book author. I feared that whatever I did produce would be second-rate compared with my debut, which had taken over five years to write and rewrite and rewrite, because I’d be writing that second book on a half-gassed tank. Then sales started trickling in for my first book, and the numbers were disappointing. The need to write a killer-good second book felt critical, adding more pressure to my cooker. Then my imprint at Random House—Shaye Areheart—closed, and I was inherited by a new imprint, Crown. Would my second book be supported by this new imprint, when I wasn’t one of their acquired authors?
All of these doubts created a potent brew in me. Result: severe writer’s block.
Today: Don’t doubt. Just work.
This was one of my first notes. Push through a page, push through two, now how about a thousand words? Just for one day, do this much; just for one day, don’t doubt.
It felt a little like what an addict might say to get through a day of cravings, except my addiction was the block. And it worked. Not every day, but most days. Even if I wrote only a few paragraphs. I wrote.
Hold tight to your gratitude.
At some point, my nerves began to loosen and I was able to see the gift in the situation. That two-book deal was in some ways dreaded, but there was another way to look at it: If I hadn’t had the deal, I might not have kept writing. Disappointment over sales might’ve made me crawl into a hole—a non-writing hole—and hide. Remembering that this was a gift, this second chance, genuinely helped me.
Love the rock you’re pushing.
You probably know the story of Sisyphus, how he was condemned to push a rock up a hill only to watch it roll down again, and start the process over once more. Writing a book is a lot like Sisyphean labor. But I would argue that it can feel a lot less laborious when you love your rock. Once the characters in The Moon Sisters began to come alive for me, I fell for them. Pushing the rock that was my story up the hill was still hard, but I loved it and that made all the difference.
Carrying that metaphor a little further, after we do the hard work of writing a story, we have to let go—we have to let go of the rock. The rock does what it does, but it does what it does away from us. Maybe it meets a cozy patch of land. Maybe it hits against another rock. Our job isn’t to worry for that rock once it’s out of our reach. Our job is to walk back down the hill, find another rock, and start the process over again. The key is to pick a good rock.
Remember your community.
We can’t control this industry. We can’t control what happens to our books once they’ve left our hands. Even if we self-publish, we can’t control how a story will be absorbed by readers. But we can surround ourselves with people who get it. We can know that, no matter what happens to us—if our imprint closes or our sales are dismal or we get a painful dig on Goodreads—that we aren’t alone.
Look around. Others are pushing rocks up their hills, too. Take comfort in your writerly community. Control what you can. Let go what you can’t. Be grateful for what you do have.
And write on. Write on. Write on.