I survived the weekend with my family. My brother preached at me on Facebook, and I left two hours late (for the 5+ hour drive from my brother’s) and didn’t get home until 10pm, but I survived.
I also realized why I don’t want my mother to read the novel I finished last year.
It started Saturday afternoon, while we were playing with sidewalk chalk with my nephew. My mom starts asking me how the never-ending process of looking for a literary agent is going, and asks me when I’m going to let her read the manuscript.
“I dunno,” I muttered, watching my nephew dump the box of chalk onto the sidewalk and proceed to put each piece back into the box.
“Well, what’s it about?” she demands.
My book is an urban fantasy about an empath with a knack for telekinesis and a family that is trying to kill her. In running for her life, she accidentally outs herself as a “witch”—because the secret society her family belongs to still uses such arcane terms—to the guy who’s been in love with her since they were teenagers, and he turns out to have his own supernatural family secret. It’s about a young woman running from her past who learns not to overanalyze, to take the leap and let someone into her life, on top of some fun supernatural shenanigans and mortal peril.
It really just started as a way to entertain myself until the next Dresden Files book came out, and turned into about eighty-eight thousand words.
But is this what I said to my mother? Nope. I just kind of stammered around until she pushed and prodded a little too much, and I blurted, “I just don’t want to talk about it right now, Mom!”
And then later that night, as we were finishing our ice cream after dinner and chatting, my brother said that if I ever got rich and famous, I should give him 5%.
“Sure,” I said, “if you’ll find me an agent and someone who’ll edit my book for free.”
And Mom piped in with, “I’ll do it!”
I murmured something to the effect of, “I mean a professional,” while staring down at my ice cream.
My mother proceeded to talk about how good she is at proofreading (as if looking for typos is all an editor does) and how she’s always finding errors in books, and then mentioned something about a novella I wrote (and made the mistake of letting her read) a couple of years ago.
“That was such a cool idea,” she said. “How did you think of that?”
And that’s when it hit me:
I don’t want my mother to read my book. Because if she likes it, I’ll start to think it’s stupid.
Because it’s what happens every time my mother mentions a book or movie she really likes. She gets intensely dramatic about pretty much everything, and her over-enthusiasm makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction. It’s not that my mother has terrible taste in—what am I saying? The woman reads Twilight (ugh) and Star Trek books and crap. My mother absolutely loves every movie that is halfway decent and doesn’t offend her. She goes on and on about how I should give Stephanie Meyer a chance and what a great writer she is (when I’ve had several friends tell me her style is on par with a seventh-grader; but then, my mom does teach kindergarten. Maybe her expectations are just lower than mine).
While I’ve explained this phenomenon to her and gotten her to stop telling me I HAVE TO see such-and-such movie or I HAVE TO read this-or-that book, I can’t get her to understand that her enthusiasm just turns me off to whatever is making her so enthused.
Maybe I can’t explain it very well because I’d need a therapist to understand it myself. My relationship with my mother has many intricacies that can only be discussed on a shrink’s sofa, or with my most intimate friends and a lot of wine. Suffice to say, my mother is crazy—certifiable—and the older I get, while I still love her because she gave birth to me, the less I like her. Very little of it is her fault; it is the way she is and is likely never to get any better. It makes for a lot of useful writing inspiration, but living with it is not so great.
Anyway, I know for a fact that if my mother liked my book, I’d take another look at it and the insecurity that already goes with being an unpublished writer would triple. I know this for a fact because that’s what happened with that novella. I let her read it, and she went on and on about what a neat idea it was and how much she liked the characters and how she has all these ideas and can’t seem to get them on paper, and how did I do it. And I know I should have been glad of the praise and interest of my mother, but instead I started to think about what a stupid and forced idea it was and how the premise was cliché and how I have nothing original to say and should just pack it all in. And I tucked that novella away and haven’t looked at it since. Maybe it’s crap, and maybe it’s brilliant. Either way, I hate it now.
And I don’t want that to happen with my book. I spent too much time on it, too much thought, too many rewrites, for me just to give up. I think it’s a neat and fairly original idea, and the feedback I’ve gotten (from the ONE friend who’s actually given me any) was all positive. I have ideas to turn it into a series, because as it goes with fantasy there was a lot I wasn’t able to get into. I think I created some pretty deep characters with rich backgrounds and interesting quirks. I’m not done with them yet; I feel that together, we still have a lot to say.
So how do I say all that to my mother without sounding like a complete jerk?