Welcome to part II of my interview with my amazing client Kristen Lippert-Martin, author of TABULA RASA (Egmont, Fall 2014). When we last left Kristen, she had shared with us how she’d come thisclose to walking away from writing. Read on to find out where she found the inspiration to keep following her passion!
KLM: I’ll jump ahead to fall, 2008. I remember this one weekend. My (amazing, supportive, long-suffering) husband was planning to get up at O Dark Thirty to ride his bike. He and a group of other cyclists would ride their bikes fifty, sixty miles on Sunday mornings just for fun. I thought, geez, there isn’t a single thing in my life that I would willingly get up that early to do. And that struck me as kind of pathetic.
A few weeks later, I started getting up at 4:45 am to write because that was the only free time I had. And it was like this fire in the belly feeling, this burning desire to write, came back times ten. I told myself that if I was going to get back into writing I was not going to give up this time. Whatever came along, I was going to keep on swinging, until I was beaten to a bloody pulp and couldn’t get up off the mat.
And over the next three years, through all that querying and all those months on sub, I never reached the completely vanquished, bloody pulp stage. I may have gotten close a few times, but every time I got concussed, I’d think, “Typing fingers still functional? Brain still largely intact? Yes? Then get back to it.”
Truly, my greatest sense of accomplishment in all this comes from keeping that promise I made to myself. To not give up on writing, and more importantly, to not give up on me. Yes, I’m over-the-moon excited about the actual book deal (Hi, Alison! Love you!) but this is what makes me want to fist bump myself and say, “Damn, girl. You all right.”
MJ: What was the most unexpected part of your path to publication?
KLM: I guess it was realizing how very wrong I’d been about what it takes to succeed. I used to think you had to have this iron-clad ego to survive rejection but really, it’s just the opposite. More than anything else, you need humility in order to keep going. You need to humble yourself so you can listen and take in whatever lesson you can glean from the no’s you get. Assuming there is one. Sometimes a no is just a no and in those cases you have to shrug them off. But sometimes a no will force you into the corner for a good long pout and at some point, while you’re pouting away, you’ll reluctantly start to see things you couldn’t before. No’s can help you get better if you let them. Because they hurt like hell. Alas, happiness rarely yields these same opportunities for growth. I really hate that about happiness.
So, yeah, I’d say the most unexpected part has been this: I didn’t have to possess heroic levels of valor to see my way through to getting published. I just needed to be a little bit brave, a little bit each day. Just enough to put my butt in that chair to work.
MJ: I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put that way: a little bit brave. That’s a really great way to think about it. So what’s been the best part of this journey so far?
KLM: The best part has been the collegiality of other aspiring writers. In the old days, not so long ago, there were no message forums, no websites for writers, no blogs. You worked alone and every fear you had about the uselessness of your efforts would roost like a big, fat squawky bird on your shoulder. Caaww! You suck! Caawww! You’ll never make it! Cawww! You shoulda gone to law school! There’s nothing like finding a writer buddy who can take out a cricket bat and say, “Hold still while I give that parrot on your shoulder a good, hard smack in the beak.” Just having one person like that in your writing life makes all the freaking difference in the world. I’ve been fortunate to have one good friend in particular who has read every single terrible stinky awful story I’ve ever written. God, I should really send that woman a box of chocolates.
MJ: I’ll send her some too! She sounds invaluable. Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
KLM: I’ve been asking myself this a lot in the last year and really, I don’t know that I could have. We all have a unique road to travel, and learning curves are always hard to climb, no matter when you encounter them. My long, circuitous route has yielded a lot of good things. At one point in my life I was obsessed with getting published by the time I was 30. I put my entire life on hold trying to meet that ridiculous and arbitrary goal. All I can say is, thank GOD, I let that go. The fact that success eluded me for so long turned out to be a good thing. I have four kids now, and they are The Right and The Real in my life and probably the biggest reason I learned how to cope with the pain of disappointment in a way that I couldn’t when I was younger. Nothing teaches you how to soldier on in the face of adversity like having kids.
MJ: What are your hopes for your writing career going forward?
KLM: Weeeellllll, one thing I’ve learned in this business is to only try to control the things you can control, and that means keeping your mind and heart focused on your work. I always want to be engrossed by what I’m writing. That’s when I’m happiest, and right now, that’s where I am with my WiP. And maybe, just maybe, dearest agent, you’ll be getting to read what is currently engrossing me in just a few months.
MJ: I can’t wait! Thanks again, Kristen. Anniversary trip to Tijuana?
That’s all, folks! Readers, when it comes to your writing, how do you make yourself be a little bit brave?