Sunday, September 10, 2023

My first book, THIN SPACE, came out ten years ago today

It feels like this happened yesterday, and it also feels like it happened a million years ago. This is how time works for me. 

The book is a young adult novel about a teen boy whose identical twin brother died in a car accident. It’s not the boy’s fault, but he feels responsible. He gets it into his head that if he can find a thin space, he can see his brother again. A thin space, according to ancient Celtic beliefs, is a space where the world between the living and the dead is thinner. The boy's plan is to find a thin space, step in, and "make things right." 

Writing and publishing this book was an exhilarating and sometimes anguishing process that took five years. From the spark of the idea to the frantic gushing out of the first draft and the hard mental work of all of the various revisions. The selling of the book to an agent and to her selling it to an editor. The publication itself. The book signings and book tours. A real life dream come true. 

I wrote a handful of books before I wrote Thin Space, and I've written twice as many since and haven't had the same luck on the publication end. It's taken me a long time to make peace with the part of writing that is outside of my control. But then, it's taken me a long time to make peace with every other aspect of life that is outside of my control too.

Let's just say it's a work in progress. 

Something that I didn't see at the time I was writing the book was how autobiographical it is. In fact, I saw it as the most not autobiographical of anything I'd ever written. The sixteen-year-old boy. The identical twin brother. The brother dying in a car accident. Clearly, I made all of this up. 

But at the core it rang true. A person who feels responsible for a situation that is not his fault, who spends his time obsessed with trying to fix things. In the story, fixing things turns out to mean trading places with the dead brother. Which even the brother (spoiler alert: the boy finds him) thinks is an unfair punishment. 

Anyway, it's impossible to change the past. 

I had to write this book to come to that conclusion, and apparently, I've had to relearn that lesson again. And again. 

This is also a work in progress for me. 

It's a dark book, but it has its funny moments. I had many fun moments watching it float around in the world. Too many to list here. But here's one nice memory. I wrote a lot of the book at the main branch of my local library. I used to sit in one of the comfy chairs under the big windows and type away on my laptop while my kids were at school. But first, every time, I would take a stroll through the young adult section, the place where I knew my book would be shelved, if I could finish it, if I could publish it. 

I would find the space on the shelf where my pretend book would go, and shift the real, published books to the sides and try to imagine what it would look like if...when mine was there. 

And then one day, it was. 

When I saw it, I sat down on the floor to take a picture, and my husband took a picture of me taking the picture. It was a small, silly, and yet profoundly meaningful blip in the timeline of my writing and actual life, but it momentarily anchored me in that present. It’s here, I remember thinking. I’m here. 

And then I stood up and life went on. 

A work in progress. 

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