Arguably, the question I've heard the most in the past month was, "How does it feel to be a USA Today bestseller?" For once, something beat the expected, "How did you do that to your hair?" which I've heard for the past forever years.
I feel like I never answer the question well, so I'm going to try here. It feels wildly unreal. I know, I can see the list just like anyone else. I can see the newspaper articles. I can see them and they are wonderful, but I still feel exactly the same as I did before.
Well, that's not true. There are a handful of people who believed in me all along. There are an even smaller handful of people who believed in me when there was no reason to do so.
For starters, years ago I finished my first full-length novel, which I wrote backwards, believe it or not. Back then, Shell and Heather and Chrissy read it. Chrissy put her money on the line and became my first and only agent so far. She mailed off copies of that book and we waited to see what would happen...
Nothing. Nothing happened. But they still believed in me. Understand, at that point in my life, I'd done everything "wrong." I was a single mother to three kids to two different fathers...one of whom was my ex husband. I worked delivering pizzas. There was absolutely no reason to believe I'd ever be anything more than a poor mother of three kids in the middle of nowhere Ohio.
But they believed. Shell and her family went so far as to watch the kids while I wrote. Countless times they invited us to dinner and we went...because I was lost in chapters and they gave me the time to write. Speaking of the kids, do you have any idea how many times they helped me along the way? Because I don't. I just know that any time I said this was ridiculous and I should give up, they'd offer a hug and say, "I believe in you. Go write some more."
Mind you, back in those early days... There was literally NO REASON to believe anyone beyond a handful of friends would ever read all the stories I was writing. My first royalty checks were for two and three dollars. Disappointing? Well, yeah, especially since you were talking about a month or more of my work and hours of nights giving up sleep to make less than the cost of a cup of coffee.
Yet they believed in me.
Another adopted family cosigned for a car. They believed in me and trusted me. My daycare provider? Yeah, she dealt with my little monsters with smiles and grace and taught them to swim while mama worked doubles to pay the bills and then wrote instead of sleeping.
So many people helped me to get that book on that list. It wasn't just me. Yeah, sure, I wrote it. I pulled the characters out of the ether and breathed life into them...but I couldn't have done it unless a whole mess of people believed that I could do it.
The one big thing, for me, to come out of hitting that list is that I feel like I finally earned their trust and belief. For every publisher who signed one of my books into contract, for every editor who moved a comma, for every beta reader who sent back a smiley face and, "it's good!"...
For my babies who loved me and my dreams.
For my family who pulled out the pom poms and cheered me on...
For the ones who know they were there and who thought me, of all people--a single mama of three kids to two different daddies living in the middle of no where Ohio--could do this thing?
I feel like this is your win, too.
Thank you for believing in me. Thank you, readers, for reading me. Thank you, universe, for letting me prove to my lovely children that you really can do anything if you put your mind to it and work really hard.
How does it feel to be a USA Today bestselling author? It feels like I didn't let everyone down. And that? That is a damn good feeling.