There are many advantages to being a writer, especially a self-employed one like me. True, my income is highly variable and no one throws me a staff Christmas party at the end of the year, but I get to wake up late, work in my pyjamas, and take time off whenever I like. I get to go trips, use them as research opportunities and attend writing workshops, and then write off all those flights, hotels, and restaurant dinners on my taxes.
I also get to have fans.
I’ve written before on the Fictorians about the day I first realized that I had a fan club. That was one of the best moments of my life, and certainly one that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t poured so much time and energy into being a writer.
Having fans is incredibly inspiring—but more than that, it comes with a greater sense of responsibility. No longer can I get away with just writing anything I want and hoping it’s good enough. I have people who read carefully and care about the characters and settings I have invented. And if I don’t give it my all, they know. They call me on it.
During a question-and-answer session last year at a reading for my latest novel, an astute reader in the audience stood up to identify a plot hole I had never noticed before. She didn’t do it in a mean-spirited way; she had assumed the seeming inconsistency was intentional, and that it was part of an elaborate setup for a future book. If only that were true. Knowing that people are reading carefully and paying attention means you gotta work twice as hard.
Well, lesson learned.
This week, I went to the doctor’s office for a checkup. While in the waiting room, someone sidled up next to me and asked when my next book was coming out. When I refused to give him a straight answer, he tried to fish some spoilers out of me. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and more than once I’ve pulled a Robert-Jordan-esque “ROFL.” Even two years ago, I never would have imagined something like that happening.
Another reader once asked me if I could write her into the next book. She may have been joking, but when she picks up said book when it comes out she may have a surprise in store.
Perhaps it’s because I’m from a small town, but people seem to know me where I’m from. They recognize me, they turn out in relatively large numbers when I have an event, and they ask me about my upcoming projects while I’m picking up the mail or waiting at the deli counter at the grocery store. This most likely wouldn’t be the case if I lived in a big city, which makes me all the more grateful for the experience. I’m in awe of it.
Like I said, it comes with responsibility.
When I sit down at the beginning of a new writing session, my mind invariably turns to the latest handful of people who asked me when the next book is coming out. I want my writing to be worthy of their interest and attention, and as a result I strive hard to take my craft to the next level.
What makes me love being a writer? Indisputably, the fans. Without readers, there cannot be books. If all these dedicated and persistent readers in my life didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be pushing as hard as I am right now. I wouldn’t be writing. I’d be popping in a DVD, sitting down to watch another episode of Game of Thrones for the tenth time. I’d be playing yet another game of Minesweeper.
So here’s to the fans—who came to my reading despite having to drive fifty kilometres through one of the worst snowstorms of the worst winter since the 1800s, who put me on Winnipeg’s bestseller list two weeks in a row during the Christmas rush, and who pester me constantly when I’m feeling down. They make this whole miserable and glorious experience worthwhile.