This is not my first debut.
Oxymoron? Not in publishing, where shifting genres allows an author to “debut” again (in my case from historical YA to fantasy middle grade). Plus I have the added delight of being a “debut” EMU, of joining this talented team of authors and being guided by my amazing new agent Erin Murphy.
That’s the joy part.
The trepidation comes from the realization that no matter how many novels I might have under my belt, releasing another into the world is fodder for the worst kind of self-doubt.
There are the standard questions: What if they hate it? What if I didn’t get it right? What if they ignore it entirely? And probably the most frightening: What if they think, She should’ve stuck to YA.
I’ve seen my share of successes – my first novel is still in print – and failures – my second is out of print. I’ve been to reader fests where young girls ask for my autograph, and I’ve sat at bookstore tables alone while crowds drift by, occasionally stopping to ask for directions to the loo.
Being an author is not for the faint-of-heart. Whether one is a debut-debut author or a semi-debut author, snaggle-toothed and hungry self-doubt, that enemy of art and artists everywhere, is waiting to pounce. What is an author to do besides crawl into the Cave of Quit?
David Bayles and Ted Orland in ART & FEAR say, You can only plunge ahead, even when that carries with it the bittersweet realization that you have already done your very best work. They’re right. Art can be great or it can be mediocre, but when you are an artist you have no choice but to make it, and keep on making it, and keep on keeping on, even while doubt stalks.
I have no choice but to venture in new directions with my art, plunging ahead, perhaps blindly and foolishly, but writing because I love it. (Joy!) Maybe this book will soar, or maybe sink, but I had to write this book. (Trepidation!) I have the pleasure of writing every single day. (Joy!) But for how much longer? (Trepidation!)
Bayles and Orland also say that the “operating manual for not quitting” is Make friends with others who make art. I’m here among the best of friends (Double Joy!) and I refuse to crawl into the cave.
Janet Fox’s debut middle grade novel, tentatively titled CHATELAINE, is set in a rundown Scottish castle during WWII. It features ghosts, spies, a steampunk witch, an immortal wizard, new-found friends, a creepy castle, an enigma machine, teachers-who-are-not-what-they-seem (aren’t they all?), missing children, the Scottish Highlands…It’s a race against the clock for one girl, her two younger siblings, and her new best friend to get to the bottom of host of mysteries. CHATELAINE (Viking) is slated for a winter 2016 release. Janet is also the author of three YA novels, all from Penguin: FAITHFUL (2010), FORGIVEN (2011) and SIRENS (2012). Here’s a short teaser for CHATELAINE: