Dispatches From The Stooge

Can I tell you a secret?

I’m in a confessional sort of mood thanks to working with TinyLetter and thinking about my newsletter. The idea that what I write can be delivered directly to a reader’s inbox, the most sacred personal space we have in this digital world today, fills me with a desire to make that permission worth it. But then I started wondering why you, the readers of this site, my longest tenured outpost on the web, shouldn’t get to benefit from my newly intimate and conversational mood.

So let me tell you a secret.

I’m afraid I’m the stooge of the mystery community. I’m afraid that my natural tendency toward self-deprecation and my desire to be funny at all costs has damaged my reputation as a writer and that I’ve lost hope of ever being taken seriously as person or as a writer. I think about all of the people who laugh or glare at me when I show up to book events or conferences in jeans and goofy t-shirts instead of a sport coat.  I think about all of the condescending comments from even my friends when it seems I’ve gone too far with a joke. I genuinely worry that, despite joking about it, I’ll only ever be known as that guy who insults Laura Lippman online.

I’m thinking about this as we approach the launch for Riot Load. I’m thinking about it a lot and I worry that this book that means a lot to me, that I put a ton of effort and emotion into, won’t get it’s true due because everyone sees its author as a goof and assume the book – about a sperm bank robbery no less – is a goof as well.

I first knew this book and this idea was going to be a hard sell when I did some events for Murder Boy and the inevitable question of what I was working on next came up. I would jokingly say it was about a sperm bank robbery and when the audience, or bookseller’s face would cringe, I’d try to explain that at it’s heart though it’s about the fear of fatherhood, the fear of disappointing those who vouch for you, the fear of being stuck in a dead-end life to support a family and the fear of being a racist or a sexist or an asshole without even realizing it. But by then I’d already lost them. The guy who wrote his first novel all about vomit had written a second novel about sperm. End of story. Peace out.

Realistically I shouldn’t care about any of this. I should trust the work to stand on its own and realize that I’m hyper aware of this sort of stuff and that the online community and the social media community are not the end all and be all of publishing. I’m sure there are plenty of people who bought Murder Boy without knowing who I am or my reputation. They saw a great cover in a great package in a great book store or online from one of the people who was kind enough to spread the word about the book.

But I’m also a bit sensitive about this idea of maturity anyway. I’ve been making an effort to act my age more, without becoming depressing and boring, but it’s so easy to fall into bad habits and cover my insecurities with humor. But that shit won’t fly in this marketplace. Today’s publishing marketplace is an expert-driven market place. The authors with the biggest footprints online are seen as experts in their field or experts in publishing. They aren’t seen as the butt of jokes. There again though, I’m equating the online world with the real world.

As always I just hope everyone sees me as a work in progress and judges my books on their own merit. Sure, they’re goofy and they’re fun – lord knows this world needs some humor – but they are grounded in genuine emotion and a genuine desire on my part to write the best book I can. So take the word from the expert on this book, pre-order Riot Load and tell your friends in real life about it. Thanks.