Happy Birthday, Dear Novel, Happy Birthday To You!
Two years ago today, the manuscript started as a bulleted-point list of things that entertain me in fantasy novels. I'd just that morning handed in my grade rosters and keys, hugged the department secretaries goodbye, and ended my affiliation with the freshman composition assembly line at Fair to Middling State University. By the end of the afternoon's list-making, I said to myself, What if I wrote an anti-dissertation, a book that would have in it everything that entertains me and nothing that doesn't? It seemed like a fine summer diversion to indulge in while I was between teaching gigs, or maybe something to knock off in a year, since it couldn't possibly be as hard to write as the dissertation. If it turned out to be any good, maybe I could publish it under a pseudonym, the way Carolyn Heilbrun had published as Amanda Cross, and nobody but my husband need ever know. It would be my dirty little secret--so many professors have one, and at least mine wouldn't involve plagiarism or sleeping with students.
Ha. Shows what I know. By summer's end, I said to my husband, "I went into academia to get a day job that would allow me to write without starving, and for absolutely no other reason. Yet here I am, writing full time, and we're not starving. What would you say if I admitted I don't want to go back?" And he said, "That's an impressive leap of faith. Is it okay if I take one, too?" So we freed ourselves from our respective cages.
Two years later, I have no regrets. Things would be nicer, maybe, if the moment of my vindication had already arrived, but vindication isn't what I left for. The manuscript has its own voice. It grows and gets around. It does things that surprise me. The work itself is a joy.