We’re thrilled to welcome Jennifer Laam, author of the upcoming THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR (St. Martin’s Griffin), to The Debutante Ball this week. In her riveting debut novel that launches on Tuesday, October 22nd, Jennifer seamlessly braids together the stories of three women — Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte — and imagines an alternate history for the Romanov family – one in which a secret fifth daughter, smuggled out of Russia before the revolution, continues the royal lineage to dramatic and unexpected consequences.
Jennifer shares her insights on next week’s topic—our inner critics. Plus, she’s offered to send one lucky commenter a copy of THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR—more details at the end of this post!
My Inner Critic and How I Tricked Her into Helping Me
My inner critic is an obnoxious bully. But aren’t they all.
I bet they take different forms in different minds though. Mine is a shape shifter….and not like those cool shifters you encounter in supernatural fiction. This critical shifter likes to inhabit the forms of people I knew in childhood and adolescence. She’s the girl who made fun of me because my eyelashes were too pale or the friend who suddenly decided to stop talking to me or the director who didn’t think my audition met the rigorous standards of Central Valley community theatre. Other times, she crosses gender lines and is the boy who stood me up or the one who didn’t call the next day even though I thought it had meant something.
No matter what form she takes, she knows I’m not good enough to be doing whatever it is I’m doing. She wonders why I bother to write at all. She claws at my shoulder and screams at me to STOP. And somehow her voice manages to drown out those of the girls who became good friends, and the boys who thought I was pretty, and the directors who thought I would be fantastic in that role.
Have you met her, too? This inner critic?
Bullies are cowards though, right? Most of them aren’t that bright. They can be outwitted.
When I first started playing with ideas for THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR, I knew I wanted to have a contemporary protagonist with her own troubles. Her story would play alongside the historical sections of the novel. I wondered if I should make the main character a top notch expert in her field. I imagined her standing confidently at a podium, putting on a pair of “smart” glasses for effect, and expertly opining on the state of Russia today. I thought about those Bond girls or characters from the Marvel Universe who are nuclear physicists and ridiculously sexy and kick some serious butt. Maybe she would be like them.
Except I don’t know this person and I don’t think I could write about her. I know people who are unsure of themselves. I know people who put on a brave face for the world but fall to pieces inside because they worry they’re not good enough to do what they want to do. I know people who are scared of failure every day, yet face that fear and work through it. I like these people. I understand them. I want to write about them.
So I gave my main character, Veronica Herrera, an inner critic and all of the doubt and fear that comes with it. When my inner critic began chirping, I let Veronica’s inner critic chirp at her as well. It felt fantastic. It felt like I had stood up to a bully and won.
This didn’t silence my inner critic, of course. She is still alive and well and with me every day. My inner critic even spent some time criticizing this blog post about my inner critic. I suppose the point is not to silence her, but to live in harmony. I try to give her some space, pat her on the head, and even listen when she has something useful to say. But I don’t let her stop me. I count that as a victory.
What do you do to scare off your inner critic, or at least quiet her down?
GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, October 24, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!
Jennifer Laam earned her master’s degree in history from Oakland University in Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. She has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, traveled in Russia and Europe, and worked in education and non-profit development. She currently resides in Northern California. THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR is her first novel.