“Sandrine told me that you got a book published: how wonderful! I’m going back to school to study nursing.”
I stood in the preschool playground trying my hardest to work out any rational link between the woman’s two statements. I had no clue what she presently did, and only knew her because her daughter shared Tallulah’s nanny, Sandrine last year. We occasionally bumped into each other when picking them up.
I finally gave up my mental calisthenics and said the first thing I could come up with, “That’s fabulous! Is that going to be difficult?” The woman lit up and started chatting away about unemployment benefits. Which I had even less to say about. But I smiled and nodded in the universal language of “I have no clue what you are saying.”
I thought about it later, and came up with a few theories as to what she could have been trying to get at.
1. There was no connection between the statements, but since she finally had something to say to me she used it to start a conversation.
2. She thought there was some kind of link between nursing and writing (which was momentarily evading me) that would make us blood-sisters.
3. We would be blood-sisters because we would both be working women with kids.
I mentioned it to Sandrine, the nanny, last night when I picked Tallulah up. She told me what a leap it was for this woman to go back to school so late in life. (She can’t be older than 35, but the French don’t often make extreme career changes.)
And then it struck me. We’re obviously blood-sisters because we’re both changing careers “mid-life”. With young children in tow. Got it. And that made me happy. Instead of alienating me from my fellow townspeople, the book was opening a door to at least one parent who will now speak to me when we pick up our kids. Cool!
Other local reactions to my publishing news have been varied. When I told Sandrine, she looked at me blankly as if she hadn’t understand what I had said. Embarrassed, I began explaining it again and she cut me off. “No no, I understood the first time,” she said. “That’s very nice.” She gave me a professional-nanny smile and then turned to wipe someone’s nose. But, in spite of her poker-face, she was obviously interested enough to have mentioned it to going-back-to-nursing-school-lady.
I told Isabelle, Tibor’s teacher from last year, and she jumped up and down and hugged me.
Ludo and Sophie, the owners of our occasional hangout, the Café de la Promenade, found out about it from my FIL. They greeted me with big congratulatory hugs when Laurent and I were there last week, and Ludo confessed that he had been worried when my FIL told him it was a three-book deal.
“You’ve only written one book, right?” he asked. I nodded. “So, if you have a contract to write two sequels, how do you know you’ll be able to come up with something?” I explained that I had written a short plan for the next two books, and that the publisher had liked the ideas. “But you haven’t actually written the books?” “No.”
Ludo took a deep breath and leaned in towards me with an anguished look. “What if you get stuck? What if you lose your inspiration and can’t write the next two books. Do you have to give the money back?” “He’s actually lost sleep over this,” Sophie said, shaking her head.
I assume that my FIL has explained to the artisans who are working with him on the Boulangerie that they are fixing it up as a place for me to write. But no one has said anything, and they still stare at me with that suspicious-but-smiling expression that says, “Even though you are a totally weird foreigner, you’re Jean-Pierre’s DIL so you’re alright with us.”
My alternate-community, the online world, has had a much more pronounced reaction. You, my friends and readers, have all been either wonderfully supportive or tactfully silent about the news. But other reactions have been varied.
As I mentioned before, the Publisher’s Weekly article didn’t get it quite right. My book’s characters aren’t really zombies – they’re monsters I made up and labeled “revenants”. And the PW writer wrote that they carry out “special missions”. That makes them sound like delivery-zombies. So I didn’t blame people for thinking that it all sounds a bit ridiculous.
For example, I got the following comment this afternoon:
“Ha! I’ve found your blog. I’ve just read your manuscript as an emergency job for a [foreign language] publisher I do some freelance-reading for. And I have to say after some skepticism (the Twilight-blurb) I must admit I love your book. So sad that I have to wait until 2011 to talk about it. I will definitely buy it only to possess it. It’s so engrossing! I sincerely hope they do the deal.”
Holy cow…so do I! But people who haven’t read the book have been a bit more negative.
The comments on a website for new writers range from “This sounds the death knell of Western civilization” to the more colorful “I just puked through my eyeballs”.
But the second group, a zombie fan-site, seemed to take it more personally.
“I can just picture the dialogue…
‘Eat my brain, Vincent.’
‘No, I don’t want you to be like me.’
‘Eat my brain. Please.’
‘I would never wish this life on anyone.’
‘I don’t care. I’m stubborn and hormonal. Eat my brain.'”
“KILL IT. KILL IT WITH FIRE.”
“Chicks ruin monsters.”
“I wonder if zombies are attracted to codependent, emotionally retarded teenage girls as well.”
“I hope at some point someone has to stop to pick up an arm that has fallen off.”
After having a slightly embarrassed reaction to the writers’ site, I had so much fun reading the zombie one, especially when I found people actually TAKING UP FOR ME (remember…none of these people have read anything that I have actually written):
“To be honest sounds almost like an anime. If the missions are kool I may get into it. Until I read the books I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s automatically like Twilight. Plus — given ur jealousy….why don’t you try writing a book series? You can make bank instead of slaving in a 9 to 5 b—- job.”
Wow – thanks, “westpark”.
Laurent’s kind of worried that, if the books are successful, we will have fans hanging around outside our gate. But what if we had angry zombie lovers hanging out instead? Just think of what the neighbors would say!