I’m a big believer in the fact that most of the time, when life changing things happen to you, you’re completely unaware of them. So, two years ago, (I was fourteen at the time), when I shared a chapter of my manuscript with a family friend, I was, proving my own theory, completely unaware that it meant anything at all. But it turns out the split second decision to push a couple of pages towards her across the table would be the catalyst to a pretty awesome story.
See, it turns out she really liked the chapter. And having worked in PR on a book the year before, she ended up writing an email to the publishing house, and a few weeks later, we had set up a meeting to visit the offices up in Dublin.
And then I got sick. The night before the meeting.
I was heartbroken, convinced I had let an already unlikely opportunity slip through my fingers. But we ended up setting up another meeting a few weeks later, thanks to a very patient editor at the house, who insisted it wasn’t a problem.
The publishing house was Gill Books. At the time they were strictly a non-fiction publisher, so I knew there was no chance of anything more than a really cool tour, but I was psyched for the really cool tour, let me tell you. (And nervous, but we don’t talk about that).
So the day rolled around, and my mom and I packed up and drove two hours to Dublin to meet the editor we had talked to on the phone. The day was awesome — one of those life-affirming, I’m-not-wasting-my-time-writing-or-completely-botching-my-attempts-to-eventually-get-published kind of day. You’ve all had that kind of day, right? Right? That cant just be me.
The meeting only last about two hours, but I got to ask any questions I hadn’t already answered for myself about the publishing process, and got to talk about my ideas to someone who was actually qualified to tell me if they were of any value. Basically, I went home excited, happy, and ready to get back to work.
Fast forward a year — I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, an international event in which writers are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November: http://nanowrimo.org) twice, and completed two full length novel and written various short stories. I have everything planned out: I’ll continue to write and work on my novels (especially my first novel, Oasis, which I was determined to get published), get a boring job until I land a book deal at no older than 29, and write for the rest of my life.
Which is all fine and dandy, until randomly, one day I got a phone call from that same editor I met a year earlier, asking if I’d be interested in setting up a meeting. Apparently they were interested in getting back into fiction, and they were considering me as a potential author.
Needless to say, I was kind of . . . rocked. And confused. And excited. And freaking out. For hours I kinda just walked around numbly, prone to walking into walls and not having a clue what anyone was saying to me, even when I was staring right at them. This was not the plan (anyone who knows me knows that things that are not the plan tend to make me extremely uncomfortable). I was 15, not 20. 20 was the plan. WHY DID NO ONE ELSE SEEM TO CARE ABOUT THE PLAN.
But at the end of the day I’m not a complete idiot (this is possibly a controversial statement, but whatever), and I did set up a meeting. And I did go. Now, if nervous was how I felt the first time, the second time I was nothing short of utterly petrified.
I remember the day so distinctly. We got there early (partly because my mother is extremely punctual to all things always, partly because I was an ANXIOUS BALL OF ANXIETY and anything less then extremely early was going to register in my head as HORRIFICALLY LATE). So with an hour to blow between getting there and the meeting, we decided to go for coffee in the little restaurant beside the office building. I could not drink coffee. I could not drink anything, actually. I also couldn’t hold a conversation, make eye contact or stop tapping my foot, but that’s beside the point.
Then suddenly we were walking towards the building. And I remember there was this moment, where I got so nervous, I was completely convinced I was gonna throw up. Also, I could feel the world tilting, so it’s quite possible I was going to faint. And I couldn’t see anything. Or hear anything. Basically I got so nervous I began to lose the ability to effectively be a human and do human things.
But then this thing happened. It’s kind of a thing that I do a lot, and it’s kind of annoying but also extremely useful, where I become extremely harsh and logical all of a sudden, and leave myself room for exactly 0 excuses. My internal dialogue went something like this:
Eilis: Eilis, do you want to be published, or do you want to be comfortable?
Eilis: Duh, I want to be published.
Eilis: Well then stop complaining that you’re not comfortable, and suck it up.
Eilis: Uuuggghhhh okaaaay.
And so I did. I forced myself not to throw up, and not to faint, and to keep walking, all the way into the office, and then into the meeting room, and then through a two hour meeting, in which I had to answer a whole heck of a lot of questions about me, and my book, and all the things publishing related, all the while pretending that my hands weren’t shaking under the table.
But I got through. Go slowly, but keep going. That’s what I said to myself the whole time. Go slowly, but keep going.
Three weeks later, I got a call. It was from that same editor that I met that first day, the one who was patient and didn’t mind that I got sick the day before our meeting and did the whole life-affirming you’re-not-wasting-your-life-thing. He offered me a book deal, for Oasis, the book I was so convinced was The One, and the sequel to it, which I had briefly mentioned in the interview. The Two, I guess?
All because I happened to slip a few pages of my book to a woman I wasn’t even sure would enjoy it. Or maybe that’s oversimplifying it. Maybe it happened because I sat down at 12 and told myself the extremely harsh/bossy tone only 12 year old Eilis could pull off, that if I wasn’t a published author by the time I was 30 that I had failed. With a capital F. Failed. Maybe it was because of the hours I chose to funnel into this one obsessive dream. Maybe it was because I’m a creative being, and I’d find this path no matter what happened. Maybe it was a mix of all of them. Either way, I’m pretty pleased with the results.