It is, I’ve been told, customary around here to ‘introduce’ myself in my first post via “THE CALL” (when you first hear the word ‘sold’). As I try to be as contrary as possible as often as possible I ended up having my first post be dedicated to the wonderful and worthy WE’VE GOT A JOB interviews that I posted earlier this month.
So, technically, this is my second post here at EMU’s Debuts but we’ll pretend, for the sake of being ‘customary’ that it’s my first.
With all of that out of the way, here is my story.
We’ll title this part ‘The Email Before The Call Before THE CALL…’
‘THE CALL’ is what every author waits for, dreams of, imagines in the dead of night…when the phone finally rings (finally…in my case about 30 years after I first started thinking that I’d like to be a writer when I grew up. Of course, I’ve never actually grown up but that’s a whole ‘nother post) with some variation on the words ‘publishing house’ and ‘offer.’
This is not exactly a post about ‘THE CALL’ as I might have mentioned.
Instead, I’d like to touch a little more on the process as it relates to my debut novel HENRY FRANKS. The manuscript was out on submission when I received an email from my agent that lead to setting up a phone conversation with an editor who loved the book enough to want to talk to me about it.
To put this in perspective for those outside the industry: think of unagented authors as college baseball players (still able to go right into the Show but they have a ways to go and could probably use some time in the minor leagues), agented authors as minor leaguers (still able to go right into the Show but a lot closer to getting there than those college players) and authors with publishing contracts as MLB players in The Show. Yes, I know, I’m generalizing dreadfully…so, with this horrible analogy in mind, having an editor want to talk to me is like a minor leaguer getting a call from the manager of a team in the majors to discuss the future and what he (or she) might be able to accomplish in the big leagues.
In other words: WOW! Someone like that wants to talk to me??!!
All of which is background to get us to this point in our story.
The date and time of the phone call are set.
Days go by and it’s finally The Day of the ‘phone call.’ Most of the family knows there’s a phone call coming. It’s a big deal, to me at least and the waiting seems never ending (but, then again, waiting always does, no?). So, the clock clicks over to 1:30 (Central) and I’m sitting, alone in the house, with the phone in my hand. Waiting for it to ring.
A watched pot never boils.
A held phone, to butcher the proverb, never rings.
See, there’s a reason it doesn’t ever ring.
In my unending cluelessness (such a fun word) both my agent and the editor about to call me (ANY SECOND NOW, COME ON PHONE, RING!) have the wrong number.
I know, can you believe? Only me, right?
Suddenly, as I sit at my desk, waiting for the phone in my hand to ring, the fax machine (down the hall and through the kitchen) starts to ring. The fax machine! Which is plugged in to the home line because everyone has my cell number and no one calls the home number, right? Right?!
Um, no, wrong.
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll pop?
How many rings do I have to get to the fax machine, unplug the phone line, plug the phone line into a real phone and answer it?
1 ring down with me still sitting at my desk, waiting for the cell phone in my hand to ring as my brain, somehow, processes the fact that my fax machine is ringing and why is someone trying to send me a fax right now?
2 rings down.
I have to stand up, so fast my chair goes spinning away, and jump over the lump of a dog who has, as always, camped out directly in the way of anything.
3 rings down.
Run, slide, my way across the kitchen floor, flailing to a stop in front of the fax machine in the middle of the 4th ring. Rip out the phone line and the ringing dies mid-ring, leaving me in silence. The seconds tick by as I reach for the landline phone and shove the cord in. The phone does not ring. I pick it up, silence.
Press the flash button to switch lines and pray. Say ‘Hello’ trying to sound normal, as though panic hadn’t just grabbed me by the throat and keep my breathing level so I don’t sound like an obscene caller. “Hello?” I say again, and then, just when I’m about to start thinking that I’d been too late, taken too much time and the editor would think I cared so little about his phone call that I stood him up, he answers. “Hi.”
And that is the story behind the call to discuss my manuscript with an editor.
I think, in hindsight, the panic was good, it cleansed my mind of all the worry, all the waiting, all the stress. I was just so deliriously happy that I’d been able to do something as, allegedly, simple as answering the phone that everything else seemed simple as well.
Two days later I received THE CALL.
I hoped and prayed it might be coming but wasn’t sure when (or, of course, if) it would. Still, every time the phone rang my heart skipped a beat. But seeing my agent’s phone number and name on the caller ID stopped it completely.
Off tangent: Caller ID takes a lot of the ‘surprise’ factor out of some of these things, no?
I listened to her tell me that the publishing house made an offer and all I could think was “I WANT TO TELL EVERYONE” but, of course, you really can’t. It’s not official yet, so many things still up in the air, don’t tell anyone but close family…but it’s not ‘real’ until you tell someone is it?
By the time I hung up the phone I was going back and forth from kneeling on the floor of my bedroom, head thrown back with tears streaming down my cheeks in absolute unadulterated joy to jumping up and down screaming. But there was no one to share the news with…
This was a moment I’d envisioned since I was a teenager. Sure, the details changed over the years as I learned more and more about the industry and the reality of THE CALL but still some things, I thought, were set in stone.
I had imagined telling my wife, my mother and my sister. In that order.
Makes sense, no?
Here are the problems though:
Problem #1: In the middle of the work day, my wife was at work, with no access to her cell phone. And, really, this is not the type of news best given to a spouse over the phone, right? Right.
Solution? Drive over to her school, show up in her doorway and, with her knowing there’s the possibility of an important CALL, have her take one look at me and KNOW. Must be some type of husband-wife thing. But she knew the moment she saw me standing there.
And in front of her entire class she melted into a hug and whispered “I’m so proud of you.”
It was a moment to savor.
Problem #2: When I left my wife to go call my mother, I reached her on her cell phone. While she was driving on 287 in northern New Jersey.
Do you really want to tell someone this kind of news while they’re going 60+ on the highway?
Solution: So, when she answered I asked her what she was doing. She said ‘driving.’ And I, calm as you please (yeah, right…) said ‘You might want to pull over.’
And with my mother on the shoulder of 287 I told her the news.
It was a moment to savor.
Problem #3: My next call was supposed to go to my sister. What was she doing at that moment in time? Giving a speech in Atlanta. Completely cut off from any form of communication.
Solution: well, there was no solution. There were too many other family members still to tell so I called my brother-in-law and told him so he could get a hold of my sister.
It was still a moment to savor hours later when I finally got in touch with her.
At that point I still couldn’t announce it to the world (which would have to wait a while still) but telling family was something special.
Something to savor…
And now, looking back on it almost a year later, with the publication date in September 2012 rapidly approaching, just writing all of this has been incredibly emotional.
I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of the journey with you, thanks for reading!