Thank Goodness for Friends and Muses
So everyone who’s been around me since Monday knows I’ve been laid pretty low by the whole Memoirs of a Muse discovery, a newly published book eerily similar to the one I just finished writing.
Today I finally felt like I was coming out of it. I appreciate Henry and Ivy, who put up with me moping at Java all Monday night. And Kurt, of course, who dealt with me moping Monday AND Tuesday night (last night was about rock bottom.)
And I really want to thank all my writer friends who put this in perspective. Here’s what some of them said.
[Here in Paris] is an English bookseller, just across the Seine from Notre Dame — Shakespeare and Company, founded by George Whitman. Every Monday evening they have a reading of novels in progress and published novels. I’ve been here six weeks now and Deanna, I’ve heard nothing in the three readings I have attended that was any better than your writing. And all the novelists who read were published, one with three novels, another with over a dozen, another with two. So, keep faith and bon courage.
Deanna, I am so sorry that you’re feeling kicked in the stomach. The same thing happened to me with my first novel. I had already finished the first draft and was editing it when *Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood* came out. I was knocked flat for over a week, and to this day when I tell anyone about my first novel, they ask if I got the idea from the Ya-Ya’s, or say, “Oh, like the Ya-Ya’s.”
But I guess here’s my point, and it’s an encouraging one. Now that there are scads of books out about the camaraderie between a group of women, that group having a name (mine are called The Sinners, from their old family joke), I see how very DIFFERENT my novel is from the Ya-Ya’s. I had apparently tapped into a trend before it happened, but now that it has, what a broad trend it has become.
That’s a terrible story, Deanna. Lara Vapnyar’s book “Memoirs of aMuse” was handled by my agent, David McCormick, a great, truly literary agent. Lara is an amazing writer. She’s from Russia and only moved to the US in 1994. Her writings are mostly about Russian-Americans and Russian emigrees, so it’s hard to imagine there’s much in common between your books beyond the “Muse” theme. I would think you should hang in there with your book; just make sure it’s as distinctive and particular as it can be. Maybe there’s a twist or a subplot lurking within it, waiting to be developed more fully.
When my debut tweener novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name was just released, I walked into BookPeople and prominently displayed was Carolina Autumn. The books both were told by girls in the first person point of view.They both dealt with healing from sudden death, and in both, each chapter opened with a journal entry. What’s more, both covers featured a girl and a camera because, well, both protagonists were photographers and their photography was a venue for their healing and how they viewed their changing worlds.
What happened? Nobody noticed. Not reviewers. Not the attentive teacher-librarian community. Not young readers. Why? When I read her book, I was reading as a nervous author. All I could seewere the similarities. But many books have elements in common.
Readers who were farther removed from the books saw them for what they are. I’m not Carol and she’s not me, and though our stories had similarities, they were their own stories. Keep in mind that you’re coming from your own manuscript, comparing with that eye, but another reader may see them as both books she’d like but certainly different and important in their own right. I hope this helps and wish you the best of luck!
Okay, okay. So I’ll get off my butt and send out more queries. Back to the to-do list…