So maybe this is a bit self-indulgent, but I hope I’ve earned the right (first spelled that as ‘write’ lol) to talk about my book that took pretty much four years to write and bring to readers.
I’m not sure many other people spend four years on a book unless they are aiming for the Booker, or already has fame with other novels (kudos, John Green). And honestly, it took that long due in part to my extreme case of general procrastination. I was not given an official deadline for Shift and I need deadlines. And I need them from someone other than myself because meself doesn’t hold meself very accountable.
Also, I became a teacher in the years following the main writing of Phase. It took awhile to find a publisher for Phase, and if it never picked up, why would I write the rest of the series (yes, I know, shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately I’m not that noble). And teaching, with the random background that I have, was a shock to the system. It’s an in depth job that goes way out of the classroom, and includes things like grading papers, but also caring for students’ and investing in them and that takes time. And takes time to learn how to balance it all. I’m not sure I’ve found the balance yet (see: procrastination). I do not regret the time I invested, by any means. Working with students has been one of the most difficult, but rewarding experiences of my varied life.
Then there was Naomi. Because I’m such a smart person, I decided to write a story from the point of view of the basic antagonist of my very first published book. The girl I made unlikable in one book had to become sympathetic in the second. Not only that, but unlike Sophie (who is my sunny naive side) and Jules (who is my cynical, angry side), Naomi and I have nothing in common. Even spending as long as I did with her, I still draw a blank on what she and I could talk about. She draws, I don’t. She likes fashion and name brands. I only like what I can find to afford and makes me look thinner. She was/is the pretty, popular girl in school that I desperately hated, but envied because everything looked so easy for them. She’s manipulative and I have no subtext to save my life.
Perhaps that’s why I love Shift. Because it was hard. My goal in writing it, not only to make Naomi’s story of redemption realistic and honest, but to improve on all the weaknesses I still see glaring in Phase. Why did I write that? Why couldn’t do a better job with this? It’s a never ending cycle of hating and loving a thing. Does Neil Gaiman do the same? Or even the much-lauded J.K. Rowling? I know my weaknesses as a writer probably better than any reviewer/critic could ever articulate for me. I wanted to do better in those areas, while still being good in what I consider my strengths.
(By the way, I’m not naming them not because I’m ashamed. I just don’t want to point them out if you, a reader, haven’t seen them, why ruin it for you? :))
I love Shift, cause I got better. I am a better writer than I was when Phase came out. Part of that is the mere experience of teaching English for now my fifth year (HOLY COW!). Another part is much more reading (any writer who doesn’t read is missing out on actually making their craft great). The last part is just growing up. In my thirties before you wonder, but I’m still growing up. Maturity and life experience helped Naomi’s story get told. And get told well (or as well as I can). I’m growing, becoming more of who I am and that discovery and confidence in that spoke to or through Naomi. I don’t understand the desire for power that Naomi has, but I understand the desire to belong, to find your worth. To know that you are valuable. And I think under all the bravado that is Naomi, that’s what she wants.
I was glad to tell her that she is. Valuable. And I hope her story reminds others that they are valuable too.
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