“I was always so relieved that anyone wants to publish anything I’ve written.” – Neil Gaiman
I was shocked when I first read the above quote from Neil Gaiman for the obvious reason – this is Neil-freaking-Gaiman. Regardless of whether you think he’s a genius or not, I can’t think of many other professional writers who enjoy so much critical AND commercial success. And what’s more impressive is that he enjoys this rare combination of acclaim in not one, not two, but more mediums than I’m probably even aware of. Comics, graphic novels, novels, short stories, poets, screenplays – hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he started directing soon or writing music. The man is undoubtedly an extremely creative person and the idea that someone so successful and so beloved could be surprised, let alone relieved, that anyone would want to publish his work seems absurd. It would be like someone in the 19th century hearing this statement from Charles Dickens (who I doubt would ever have said anything like this). How could someone so great sound so, well, vulnerable?
Maybe I’m naive and any celebrity who talks about how lucky they feel or the like is merely posturing – but I don’t think so. People like Gaiman and other writers (J.K Rowling, David Foster Wallace, and, in music, the unimaginably gifted Elliott Smith) sound – or sounded – genuine when they talk about the relief that comes with such success in interviews. The fact that people like them might feel some the same anxieties I do about anything I write being accepted by anyone even after they have achieved a kind of cultural status that is light-years away from me (should I be equally lucky and earn it) is a source of constant comfort for me because it is a reminder that the people we idolize never cease just being people in their own eyes. It is a reminder that no one should be afraid people will not like their work and that great writers are free from such fears. Rather, the only way to stop worrying is to remember, “Hey, this is writing – it’s fun!” And there you go.
I’ve also overcome many cases of self-induced imaginative paralysis wherein I would unfairly and unfavorably compare myself to figures past and present with help from another quote by Gaiman. To paraphrase, he said that while other writers might be better than him, none of them could be him. This echoes a feeling I’ve long held – that successful writers are those who discover and explore terrain uniquely their own – and for the first time in my life I feel I might be on the road to finding out how to be (or at least sound like) me.
Over the last few days I’ve had a chance to look over my past seven novels and while on the one hand I’m proud of the work I put into them, none of them are total reflections of myself. Saviors, however, is something that I can proudly say is not derivative of anything, and is the closest I’ve felt yet to achieving a voice of my own. Now, with the help of Jeremy Gotwals and his talented crew at Holon Publishing, I have the chance to share my story with you…
Emily Kalen has just turned twenty-five and, like many in our generation, is suffering a quarter-life crisis. She’s uncertain about her career, unsatisfied with her social life, and to make matters worse, her mother is in a coma after being in a car accident, while her brother offers little to no help from nearly a thousand miles away.
In the midst of all this enters Tobias Welles, a confident, intriguing man who has all the qualities Emily is looking for and makes her feel, for the first time in too long, like she’s not alone. After meeting Tobias, Emily finds herself unusually optimistic that their encounter is only the beginning of a serious relationship that might be able to sustain her through the difficult times ahead, as her mother’s fate remains uncertain. Meanwhile, after meeting Emily, Tobias kills two teenagers who pick on a homeless man and refuse to apologize.
Saviors is the story of Emily and Tobias and how their relationship utterly transforms each of them. For Emily, her love for Tobias helps her develop from a meek, insecure girl into a strong, independent woman. For Tobias, the transformation is not so helpful, as through Emily he gradually sees that his uncompromising moral code might not be so moral after all. And as his world-view becomes unstable, so too does his own identity. Is he a servant of God avenging the weak and saving the souls of the wicked by teaching them to understand their sins before releasing them, pure and renewed, to Heaven? Or is he just a killer satisfying his own blood lust and need for a purpose to his lonely life?
As the two grow closer and closer, family conflicts and unexpected disasters will test Emily’s new-found strength and force Tobias to decide whether he is willing to fulfill his sacred work if it means losing the woman he loves forever.
That, as succinctly as I can put it, is “Saviors,” and I hope that, should you choose to read my novel, you will have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.
PERSONAL MESSAGE TO NEIL GAIMAN, SHOULD YOU EVER READ THIS POST:
Hi, Mr. Gaiman,
We met briefly at the University of Chicago where you read from your novel Neverwhere and then took questions from the audience. You were kind enough to answer one of my mine and, afterwards, I happened to run into you. Now, prior to the event I told myself that someone who has gone to as many events and spoken to as many fans as you has no doubt grown tired of hearing how great “Sandman” is, etc. etc. so I was determined I wouldn’t say something banal.
But I failed. I asked if you were excited about the upcoming third Batman movie because in an interview you talked at length about the first two. In retrospect, if you did recall that interview, I probably only seemed creepy for having known about that instance at all. And then, realizing my mistake and uncertain how to gracefully leave you in peace, I did just what I said wouldn’t – I said how much I liked Sandman. You gave me a smile and said, “Thank you,” but in my head all I heard was, “Oh God, how many times do I have to hear that? Do you really think I’m unaware how great those comics are? I’ve won every bloody (you’d say being an Englishman) award there is for them and have done nothing but win awards since! Get out of my sight you sycophantic tool! Out I say! OUT!”
I can’t be sure whether that is what you really meant by, “Thank you,” but regardless I wanted to say sorry for…anything.
There – now I can stop cringing and at least hope one day you might stumble on this paragraph because you’ll say, “Hey…Matt Seidel’s blog…you know, I think I’ll read the sixth entry and pay close attention to the ending…”
I mean, there’s a chance. Right?
As a Barnes & Noble Employee, I have to include the following:
DISCLAIMER: None of the views expressed in this post or blog reflect those of Barnes & Noble in any way. They are my opinions and ideas, which I alone am responsible for, and are in no way connected to Barnes & Noble whatsoever.
And if that isn’t clear enough – I am speaking in this post and blog only for myself, Matt Seidel – NOT anyone else or any other entity, including but not limited to Barnes & Noble. They are mine, and mine alone.
(I think that should suffice)