nom nom nom

So as I mentioned at the end of my recent post about Tokaido, I’ve just been nominated for a RITA. Which is nice. I’m still not 100% certain that I’ve processed it completely, or that I know how I feel or how I’m supposed to feel. And, obviously, it’s mildly embarrassing since this time last year I wrote a long and detailed post about the RITA nominations process, in which I pointed out that most award nomination processes are, in fact, pretty random.

The way I put it back then, a RITA nom basically means that five people between them gave my book higher scores than five completely different people gave completely different books. And, of course, I’m really super pleased to be nominated but a year ago I defended RWA and the RITAs by pointing out For Such A Time was only really being validated by a small, self-selecting group of judges, not by the whole institution or the entire romance community.  And it would be disingenuous not to admit that this applies just as much to my book as it did to FSaT.

Don’t get me wrong, I do find it quite validating to have been nominated for what is, after all, a highly prestigious award. I think most people in most creative industries experience some level of insecurity about their work, be it the worry that it’s just not very good or that people won’t get it or that it just won’t sell enough copies for any publisher to touch you with a barge pole ever again, and so, although all I can really say about For Real is that five judges thought it was better than some different judges thought some different books were, I’m actually pretty okay with that achievement, even on its own terms. Because, to be honest, if you’d asked me when I was writing For Real whether five randomly selected people would respond positively to a kinky romance between two male characters with nearly a twenty year age gap that deliberately reverses a lot of things people like about fictional kinky relationships, I’d have probably said no. I mean, frankly at that point I was pretty uncertain whether anyone would even publish it.

I very much don’t want to be one of those writers who constantly complains about everybody else in the industry messing with their creative vision. And I certainly don’t want to be one of those dickheads who blames the audience for their personal, artistic choices. That said, there is, as an author, quite a lot of pressure to respond to trends and perceived market preferences. I had quite a difficult time last year for quite a number of reasons, not all of them related to writing. There were times when I did get the strong sense that if I didn’t write about the sorts of things that were big at the time, in the sort of way that publishers thought audiences thought those things should be written about, that I might never sell another book again. And, obviously, a large part of this was in my head but, from a neurological perspective, so is everything else. My memories of childhood are only in my head. It doesn’t mean they never happened.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m genuinely overjoyed to get a RITA nomination for For Real because there was a point at which I wasn’t even sure anyone would like it.  And knowing that at least five people did was basically more than I could have hoped for.

Maybe it’s because I’m British but I’m very leery of our cultural preference for narratives about sticking to your guns and following your dreams. Because, to be honest, for every out there, unsellable book that finds a passionate audience and gets to nominated for awards, there are dozens that just sink without a trace (and, Lord knows, I’ve written enough of those in my time). And, actually (and this is less a British thing than an innately contrarian thing) I have huge amount of respect for people who write very commercially successful fiction. After all, writing for a market as much as skill (and, indeed, can be as much a passion) as writing for yourself. Hell, you can argue it’s a much a nobler way to approach your craft.

Having said all that, I do think there’s a danger in letting received wisdom about “what the market wants” cause you stress, pressure or misery. And, for that matter, a danger in caricaturing your audience. I mean, what does it say about what we, as an industry, think of our readers if we don’t trust them to accept a bisexual protagonist or a black hero. I spent a lot of last year freaking out because I thought nobody wanted to buy the sort of things I wanted to sell. (And it may, in fact, still be true because every book is different and while there might be an audience kinky May-December that doesn’t mean there’s an audience for near future fairytale or Lovecraftian steampunk or lesbian urban fantasy.) But I think I have, at least, become mildly less neurotic about my ability to communicate anything of value to any other human being.

Because, hey, five people thought my book was good.

And that means something to me.

romancelandia, writing
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16 Responses to nom nom nom

    • Darla says:

      I was just going to type , Hey, count me as SIX!!! Gwen beat me to it, but I’m part of that number. I love that you’ve inverted last year’s blog post somehow. You’re brilliant.

  1. Pam/Peejakers says:

    Awww, I’m just so happy you’re happy *hugs* And that For Real got the nomination, of course! 🙂 But it’s a lot more than 5 people who think it’s well deserved sweetie <3

    Also, I thought at first, from the title, this was going to be a post about cooking 😉

  2. As a reader, there is something really validating about having a work I love be recognized by an Award-Giving Body. It’s not so much a validation of my taste but rather that other people are as moved by a story as I am. For Real and Glitterland are both on my list of recommendations for people who are new to romance. I love it when friends come back and tell me, “That is not what I was expecting. Give me more!” Congratulations!

    • srand says:

      To say to someone that I like and trust: “This. This touched me. This moved me.” – that is a statement about myself as much as it is about the story, and that can make me vulnerable to their criticism even if their criticism is only about the story … and even if the criticism is well-earned.

      But on the flip side, knowing that somewhere out there is a complete stranger who was also touched by this story opens up a feeling of … well, community I suppose. We share something unspoken but powerful.

      I need that sometimes.

    • Oh gosh, thank you so much. Awards are cool, but nothing makes me happier when readers liking my books enough to share them with friends. *scuff* <3

  3. Mel says:

    But I think I have, at least, become mildly less neurotic about my ability to communicate anything of value to any other human being.

    I love that. That you’re less angsting about it.

    I also love that I was right all along: You are the best ;-* I’m so very happy for you <3

  4. Lotta says:

    I know I’ve said it before, but this book hit me right in the emotions, hard. It’s amazing to me that you worry about this, but at the same time, why wouldn’t you? Perhaps this worry is part of the reason you do, in fact, communicate so much of value to well over seven people. Eight. That I know of. Probably there are many more.

  5. Jody-Anne says:

    Congratulations on your nomination!! For Real is brilliant. Not only for the actual writing – articulate, witty, searching and a host of other adjectives that my brain is not awake enough to grapple – but for the idea and execution of turning on their heads a lot of the stereotypes and tropes that are usually found in the kinky realm, with such a caring touch for your protagonists.

    Like Srend I feel a vulnerability when I lend my books, here I love this, especially if someone comes back and says….that was awful when I thought it was amazing ergo why I wanted them to read it too. I cannot even imagine (well I can, but hyperventilation and panic come to mind) what it must be like to write and publish a book and put it out into the world. Because it has come from your MIND, so what does that say about you!!!

    Whether a comment on a blog post, or a review to a book, feedback lets you know that you are not just talking to a void. A nomination from within your industry and community, no matter how arbitrary, is still praise/validation that what you have put out there is not in a void, but has been noticed and admired.

    I hope you win. For Real!!

  6. Angela Mohn says:

    I love For Real. In fact, I’m reading this blog post because I thought of Laurie and Toby MONTHS after reading it the second time and had to pull it up on my Kindle AGAIN this morning. And as I’m reading, I think, “Okay, after I re-read Glitterland, has Alexis anything new I’ve not read?” You’re one of the authors I can’t wait to buy from!

  7. Sunny says:

    Well, I’m gonna go right ahead and jump to TEN

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