Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Anguish and Anticipation

Bestselling novelist Amy Greene describes the torture of waiting for a book to be published

Last year, on the twelfth of January, my debut novel Bloodroot was published in hardcover. The day of its release, I gave a reading at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Johnson City, about an hour from my house. It was the first stop on a tour that would last for two months. I remember how nervous I was, battling nausea as my husband and I pulled into the snowy bookstore parking lot. Then I went inside and saw my novel on a shelf for the first time. As I stood there in the aisle, my nerves melted away.

It had been a long road to that moment, and it started when my agent, Leigh Feldman, first offered to represent me. Not long afterward, she submitted Bloodroot to a list of publishers. Leigh had explained that it might take as long as a month for editors to begin responding, so I was surprised when she got back in touch after less than a week to say that Knopf had made an offer.

Once I began working with Robin Desser, my editor, each step toward publication was exciting. But waiting for Bloodroot’s release was a little bit like torture. There were long stretches of hearing nothing from New York, when I could almost believe that getting a book deal had been a dream. From the time I began working with Robin in 2007 to the time I turned in the final version of Bloodroot in 2009, there were two rounds of edits, followed by copyediting, then proofreading passes, and, finally, months of behind-the-scenes production and marketing that had nothing to do with me. After years of blood, sweat, and tears, my novel was out of my hands. Bloodroot would have a life of its own, and all I could do was watch.

Between conversations with my editor and periods of polishing the manuscript, I was still living in my little yellow house in Russellville with my husband and two kids. But in the background of my normal life ran a undercurrent of anxiety. At some point I had gone from just being thankful that my book would be published to wanting more than anything for it to succeed. As the process of bringing Bloodroot into the world inched forward, I began to worry about things like how my book would be received by critics and how many copies it would sell. I tried to remind myself to keep the creative part of being a writer separate from the “business” part. I began working on a second novel to occupy my mind, and, for a while at least, I was able to isolate all the stress that comes with publishing from the actual writing, the thing that had always saved me.

But the closer Bloodroot’s publication date drew, the harder it was to put pen to paper and forget about everything else. As much as I had been waiting for January 12, 2010, there was an aspect of dread to my anticipation. For one thing, the book tour was fast approaching, and I was terrified of public speaking. I had also never been on an airplane, and my very first flight would be all the way to San Francisco. Not long before the twelfth, I asked my supportive editor, whom I had come to consider a friend, “What’s going to happen?” She tried to be reassuring, but the truth was that she couldn’t tell me. There was no way of knowing.

A year later, with Bloodroot now out in paperback, I know the answer to that question at last. Here’s what happened: I made so many public appearances that my voice stopped shaking when I read. I signed hundreds of books. I got through my first live television interview without fainting. I rode on a plane and found flying so relaxing that I fell asleep. I saw my book in a glass case in the lobby of the Random House building. I did a photo shoot for Glamour magazine. I packed more living into my thirty-fourth year than I had in the previous thirty-three altogether.

Now that things have slowed down, I can look back on 2010 with a bit of perspective. A year ago when people asked how it felt to be a published author, I said that it hadn’t sunk in yet. It’s still surreal sometimes, to be living my dream, but I’m learning to pause and take it all in. I’m also learning to let go of what’s beyond my control, like reviews and book sales, and focus on the two things that have always mattered most to me: my family and my writing. I can’t say I don’t sometimes experience the same old uncertainties and worries, but I can say that I’m much better prepared for dealing with them now. When Bloodroot first appeared in paperback, it was almost as if the process I went through last year had begun all over again. But that’s how life works. You finish one chapter and start another, hoping you’ve grown some along the way. For me, it’s been about finding a way to live in the moment while looking forward to all that comes next.

To read Chapter 16’s review of Bloodroot, please click here. To read an interview with Amy Greene, please click here.