Tomorrow (Saturday) is the release party for book of a thousand days at The King's English here in Salt Lake, and it's supposed to be rainy. I'm fairly certain Under, god of tricks, is to blame. We will be going on in any event. I'll be dressed like a proper girl of the steppes (more or less), and my dad's bluegrass band will play during the signing, because nothing evokes the sounds of the steppes like...er, a banjo. And mandolin. ahem. Anyhoo...
I recently had the extraordinary experience to listen to the princess academy audio book, produced by Full Cast Audio. They got an Audie award (the Oscars for audio books) for their production of the goose girl this year (that has nothing to do with this post--I just wanted to brag for them). I remember having a similar experience listening to the goose girl. I hadn't read princess for three years. And since, all this stuff* has happened, and I didn't know what I would think of it now. I was nervous. What if it wasn't any good? What if it's out there and everyone's reading it and it's bad? Or what if all I can hear in it are my own writing flaws?
Well, the completely awesome thing about listening to someone else read/perform your book is that the story isn't yours. It's theirs. You're the audience really for the first time. And Full Cast Audio did such a spectacular job with casting, I wasn't always thinking things like, "Hey, that's not how she'd say that! That's not what his voice is like!" I was able to just listen and be taken away in the story. Truly a miraculous experience.
I forgot or didn't realize how funny it was! There were parts, things that Miri said, that actually made me laugh. The actress playing Miri really delivered those lines well. My new favorite scene I think is the conversation between Miri and Peder at the Spring Festival. It was so great to hear in audio, such fun. And I love the relationship between Miri and her father. That subplot has become to me one of the most important aspects of the story, and I didn't even recognize it, didn't find it until the final two drafts. What if I had decided the book was good enough a couple of months earlier? What if I'd called it good and never found that story of their relationship? It would've been a sadder book, a half a book. Revision is godly power granted to mere authors. Hallelujah.
Even as I was completely transported in a story that I couldn't have written, I'm reminded what a huge pain in the spherical-rear-part it was. I think princess academy is the most difficult book I've ever written. Tortuous. the goose girl went through more revisions than anything else I've done, in part because I was still discovering my writing process. But princess academy--yeesh. On two occasions I honestly thought it was a lost cause and almost trashed the whole thing. Only stubbornness got me through. And blind hope. And revisions. Lots of painful revisions. (Did I mention the revisions?)
This is the book I thought no one would like. It's a small book. It's not what I was sure people expected from me after goose and enna. It was not what people would expect from the title. It was going to disappoint. I wrote it stubbornly, writing it strictly for myself, because, after all, I was the only one who was going to like it. And now here we are three years later, some 300,000 copies out there in North America alone. Crazy. It goes to show--you cannot anticipate what people will like. You cannot write for THEM. You cannot plan a bestseller. You cannot write a good book easily. And you cannot find a story right away--you have to work for it, fight for it, earn it. This is truth to me. And when people claim otherwise, I do not believe them.
I really really love this book. (I can't tell you how happy--and relieved--that makes me!) I'm so happy it's not mine anymore. I'm so happy it grew up and moved out and made it's own way in the world, made new friends, became it's own story. That's so gratifying. And I'm overjoyed Full Cast Audio helped me experience the story separate from myself, as its own tale. What a gift to an author.
*Newbery Honor, spending the past four months on the New York Times best seller list, that sort of freakin' cool stuff that I still can't process, and feel weird shy about mentioning again so I'll make it a footnote...