“Why’d you write the book?”
“Huhn?” I said, cornflakes falling from my surprised mouth.
“The book. Spell/Sword. Why did you write it? What inspired you?”
“Uhhhh.” The spoon hovered over the bowl. “Look, my cereal is getting soggy and you know I am borderline neurotic about that, so…”
“Fine. I was only showing a little interest in your work, a little curiosity if you will. Thanks for responding so elegantly.”
My mouth was already full of more cereal, so it took a moment for me to respond. I munched furiously and swallowed, pointing accusingly with the spoon — then took another bite. My hatred of soggy cereal is a cruel mistress.
“You’ve never cared before! Why the interrogation all of a sudden?” I demanded through half a mouthful of cornflakes.
[It actually sounded more like “Myouff nevarr cared befoo! Ay the inrerroration paul of a suddeth?”]
The orange cat flicked its tail and said nothing. I hate it when he’s like this. Aragorn is more sphinx than
housecat, a grand old lion and shaman of the Cat Tribe — but he can be a proper bastard when the mood strikes him. Like most cats.
“Hey…look. I’m sorry.” I took one last quick bite of pre-soggy cornflakes. “It’s just a big question.”
Aragorn eyed me, green eyes level.
I wiped some milk off my chin. “It is!”
The orange cat sighed. “You don’t have an answer, do you? People like to know where books come from, what motivated the author, the journey from idea to page to finished product. You should have a short, easily-digestible sound bite prepared for this question. Don’t you know anything about marketing? Prospective customers want an easy hook when purchasing from an artist online. Young Genius, Aged Artist Returning to the Craft, Nerd Royalty, Passionate Young Woman/Man, Social Justice Crusader, Super Cool Hipster, Erotic Smut-Peddlar. Pick an easy bucket and climb up in there, silly human. You should really have all this figured out—you are self-publishing after all.”
“But the answer isn’t short or easily digestible. It’s not even coherent.” I protested. “And that is some seriously cynical e-marketing advice, Aragorn.”
“I’m a cat. We take in cynicism with our mother’s milk.”
“How does it taste?” My eyes dipped of their own volition towards the mostly empty cereal bowl in my hands.
Aragorn flicked his tail again and turned to leave.
“Wait, wait! I just don’t have an easy answer. I’m not one of those people who knew from age 9 that their dream was to write. You know? Study hard, build their craft, working slowly and inexorably towards their heart’s goal? And I’m not one of those people who were just minding their own business when a lightning bolt flash-seared their pants to the chair, and they immediately started writing a Profound Work. I mean there was some of both of that, but it all kind of happened in fits and starts — and mostly by accident.”
The orange cat looked over his shoulder with faint interest, halting his exit. I put the cereal bowl with the small residue of milk at the bottom to buy myself a little more time to prevaricate. Aragorn approached the offering, keeping his green eyes on me.
“I mean, sure. I’ve been a reader basically my whole life. I was reading my mom’s books when I was 10, way before I was ready for them. Dune, Sword of Shannara, everything I could get my hands on. And fantasy was always the thing that fascinated me. All through middle school and high school, just burning my way through every piece of genre fiction that the library and my meager funds could provide. Eddings, Tolkien, Williams – anything, everything! And maybe in some sort of vague, half-hearted way I noodled around with the thought of becoming a writer some day.”
Aragorn’s tongue rasped away at the milk in the bottom of the bowl in the sudden quiet as I took a breath.
“But never seriously, never with any drive. Sure, I wrote a few scenes and skits and short stories through high school and college, but it never even occurred to me to think of myself as a writer. Maybe because the people in my Creative Writing class who did were insufferable ponce-wicks — but also because me and the Future are always on our first date. I like her, things seem to be going more or less well, but I don’t know her at all.”
“Hmph.” Aragorn chuckled into the milk. “So, how did you accidentally write a book?”
“Well, not really by accident. Okay — this is long and involved, let me give you the short-short version. A couple of years ago, I started running a Pathfinder campaign…”
“You know, Pathfinder? It’s a lot like Dungeons & Dragons, but it’s more similar to 3.5 than that awful, awful 4th edition.”
The orange cat simply blinked and went back to cleaning the cereal bowl.
“Okay. You don’t care about that. Uh…okay, me and some friends started writing a story together online. We mainly did it to avoid boredom at our respective jobs, but it quickly turned into something very expansive and involved. Like, over the two years we wrote over a million words for this story.”
“Is that a lot?”
Cats. They just refuse to be impressed.
“Yes. It’s a lot, Aragorn. And in the middle of all that I developed a whole world, hundreds of characters, super involved multi-layered plots and history and backstory and..you see where this is going? I suddenly had the Stupid Epiphany: This is how novelists work. They start, and they don’t stop — then at some point they have enough words to call it a novel.”
“That is stupid.” Aragorn said.
“So, in the midst of this vague idea, I met a guy at DragonCon named Joe Peacock.”
“Is that a real person? And did you just verbally hyperlink something?”
“Yes and yes. He gave this awesome presentation on Akira–”
“Okay, stop that. Stop linking things in the middle of our conversation, it’s just rude.” The orange cat’s tail lashed with agitation.
“Sorry. Anyway, I was looking on his blog and I stumbled across this massive article he wrote about Self-
Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing. It was really cut and dried, step by step instructions. It reduced the process to something concrete — something that I could actually see myself doing. Combined with my Stupid Epiphany it got me to open up a Google Doc and type ‘Chapter One’. I’ve never started a novel because I was absolutely sure I would never finish — and if I did nothing would come of it. Now I felt like neither of those were excuse enough anymore.”
“So,” the orange cat mused. “You wrote a book to prove that you could write a book? That’s it?”
” Partly, I guess. That got me through the first chapter, but after that it was about telling the story.”
“The story?” Aragorn curled up into a more comfortable position. ” What’s your book about?”
“Oh god. Well…” I picked up the immaculately scoured cereal bowl and dropped it in the sink. “How long do you have for this?”
[To be continued…maybe?
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