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Censoring Myself in the Publishing World
It’s hard to be yourself in an art industry – as strange as that sounds.
Correction: It’s hard for me to be %100 myself 24/7 in the publishing industry. Perhaps this a fact of life – not just something in the publishing industry – but I have found myself censoring myself about my lifestyle because I’m afraid that I will lose readers if they don’t agree with me. (Personally, I don’t see why we have to agree about everything, but this still happens.) This happens in and outside the publishing world, but I wanted to share the topics I struggle with as an author in order to help other authors talk about their personal troubles. I also hope to take my first step at being %100 honest without fear of reader rejection.
So here is a list of things I have been afraid to mention before:
Books I Dislike and Like:
This isn’t about if they are good or not. I am a firm believer in the fact that books can both be good and be disliked. My personal example of this is Divergent. I just could not get into it. I could not wrap my mind around a society the forces you to be only ONE thing, and the color scheme seemed too simple for such a complex topic. I also felt like it had a lot of religious undertones that made me very uncomfortable. That being said, I still think Veronica Roth is a fantastic writer. I can see a variety of reasons to love it. I can appreciate her prose. On the opposite spectrum, I enjoyed Twilight. There. I said it. Granted, I was 14 when I read it, so it was also marketed to girls my age at the time. I actually remember buying Twilight after a friend told me about it and being reluctant only to go back the very next day to buy the second book that had just released. It wasn’t until much later that I considered the themes in it – when others saw it as abusive, I saw it as just a story – just entertainment. Either way, it still makes me really sad when readers hate on other readers, so that’s why I think I censor myself about my personal book tastes. I don’t want a fan to think I’m attacking their favorite book, because I understand how personal a book can mean to a reader, how much joy and heartbreak can come when a reader loses themselves in a story and how destructive it can feel when others try to tear it to pieces.
I smoke hookah and I drink:
I’m 23, so both of these acts are legal for me, but I try not to mention this about myself because my readers are primarily young adults, and I don’t want to encourage them to do either of the things. As a contradiction, my next novel, Take Me Tomorrow, deals with a lot of themes about drugs in society, including the youth. The sad fact is that many young adults find themselves involved with drugs. This a reality. But my biggest fear is someone telling me their kid blamed me for trying hookah or trying a drink. Here’s another ugly truth: my mother died from a drug overdose. They were legal painkillers prescribed to her. So I know the deadly consequences that can derive from drug use, legal or not. Perhaps – because of my various experiences – I am sensitive to how people perceive me in regards to the drugs in my upcoming novel. Who knows? When I’m asked in interviews “Where do you write?” I find myself struggling to answer honestly, “In a local hookah house.” Because I don’t want other kids to smoke because I smoke occasionally. I know it’s bad for you. I understand this. I am only afraid readers will somehow think I am saying it’s good for you when I’m not.
Depression associated with publishing:
It happens. I have days where I struggle – just like any person in any industry – but there seems to be a strange stigma associated with artists. If we complain, we aren’t grateful. If we complain, we are selfish because there are so many writers who wish they were published. But can’t we be honest? Can’t we say it’s hard? Can’t we feel sad sometimes, too?
Characters I’ve based off of people:
I don’t directly and purposely try to base my characters off of people in my life, but – as time passes – I can see strong correlations. Still, I am terrified of admitting to my relationships (friends or not) with these people because many of these people are no longer in my life. It feels rude. It feels selfish. Maybe I’ll get over it. Maybe I won’t. But sometimes – when I realize this – I miss them. I miss the characters that were once my closest friends. And I have struggled to even make friends. Since I moved around a lot as a child, friends didn’t last very long. We always moved. But losing friends when I still lived in the same area was an extremely difficult part of my teenage years. I didn’t have to deal with it until I was 15 – and it was hard. Really hard. I couldn’t comprehend how someone I confided in could turn their back on me (or how I managed to turn my back on others.) So when those characters clear up, it can be confusing and unreal and strange, so it’s much easier to deny the possibility that my characters might – in fact – be them.
When I was younger, it was easier to be true to the story. I didn’t care what readers thought of a controversial scene, but now I find myself changing them or cutting them out completely – mainly because I or people I have met have gone through many of these trials and I don’t want to stigmatize the victims. I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to trigger something.
My personal life:
So you know I have a cat. You know I live in Kansas. You know that I work for AEC Stellar as an author and an employee. You know I lost my mother at a young age and my college roommate. But you don’t know how much I mentally struggle to believe that I created a relatable female character because I struggle to relate to females in general (which I think stems from the fact that I was mainly raised by my father and brother, therefore feeling more comfortable around males.) I’m also more comfortable writing as a male, and when readers ask me about it, I get really uncomfortable about it, because I don’t even know why. To clarify, I’m not uncomfortable with the fact that I enjoy writing as a boy; I get uncomfortable when someone tries to make sense of it, like there has to be a reason for it. I – on the other hand – just want to accept it for what it is. The only other topic I would like to clarify on is that I am not just a “cat person.” I grew up with dogs, and I love and miss my husky, Shadow. (So much so that Argos in Take Me Tomorrow is based off of him.) He was in my life for 15 years. If I had a yard and the proper time and money for a puppy, I would get one. But I don’t. So I have my cat, Bogart, and I love him very much. But I love cats and dogs and pretty much every animal on the planet.
There are ugly parts of everyone’s life and art, but – even though it is common – it is hard to confess to those darker moments. That being said, confessing to those thoughts can help others who struggle with truths they avoid. I like to believe that my “ugly” parts aren’t ugly at all. I am human. That’s what makes us artists.
Feel free to share those things you avoid mentioning below! It’s quite a freeing moment, and I’m glad to share my struggles here, especially if it helps other artists come out with their struggles!