The Call Before the Call by Deb Tish

My “call” happened in a way that still astonishes me. My agent sent out the Town House manuscript on a sunny Thursday morning in September. I was very much convinced that it would either happen right away or not at all, so by afternoon, I was fairly sure it was too late, that my book was never going to sell. By Friday, I was deeply depressed and by the weekend I was in tears. I don’t remember much of that Saturday, but I do remember doing nothing on Sunday but bawling in front of wretched movies and rainy window panes. I vowed to start looking for a job the very next day.

But on Monday morning, my whole world changed. My agent called, all cool, and asked me how I was. I lied, said I was great. Really great. He then asked for a recent photo. I asked, what kind? He said he guessed he’d better tell me what’s going on. I, true to character, could only assume I was being arrested for churning out such noxious drivel that NY editors had ordered up a Wanted poster. Or, rather, an Unwanted Poster.

So then he said it. Publishers Weekly was doing a story on me. I don’t think I managed much more than a grunt or a snort, because I was too busy drooling and twitching in shock to form actual words. Apparently, literary scouts had gotten hold of Town House when it went out to editors the week before, and the scouts had sent it on to the Hollywood studios and PW had heard about the commotion. Not only that, but I’d been assigned a film agent. All I remember saying was, “What? What? WHAT?”

He hadn’t shared what was going on earlier because he didn’t want me on shpilkes all weekend — a brilliant move, because I’d have been not only on shpilkes, but on oxygen, had I known. He gave me a list of which studios or producers were on second reads, which had passed, and which had yet to read. He told me he expected things to move quickly and would call me when he had anything to report.

In the two lo-ong days that followed, I learned two things:

a) the president of Fox was reading my words, and

b) when you’ve never sold a novel and hear the president of Fox is reading your words, it’s a pretty good time to come unhinged. For your fear of success to surface, manifesting itself in ginormous, middle-of-the-night panic attacks that only disappear when you run your hands under icy water in the kitchen sink.

So I did what any unpublished writer would do, I took a hostage. Kept her by my side until that Thursday morning, when I got another phone call from my agent. We had a preemptive offer from Fox and it would expire in fifteen minutes. He gave me the details and I accepted. In all of fifteen seconds.

The irony of it all was that when this little book — about a man who lives with crippling panic attacks that prevent him from leaving the house — sold in an unexpected way, it sent me into my own crippling panic attacks that prevented me from leaving the house for a while.

So, I don’t know if the moral of the story is don’t count your uninterested chickens, or good things can come to those who don’t even know they’re waiting, or do unto your character what you would have done unto you, or that good things come in fifteen-minute packages. What I do know is this  —  no matter how drizzly the windowpane, wait. Don’t jump. Because you might not want to miss what comes next.

22 Replies to “The Call Before the Call by Deb Tish”

  1. What a wonderful story, Tish! I would have had panic attacks too. Here you thought NY editors were frowning over your manuscript, and it had already been sent to LA for the president of Fox to read! Exciting and glamorous. Can’t wait to read the book and see the movie.

  2. Oh my god, what a great story! Y’all are going to be SOOOO bored with my story 😀

    Tish, that’s the stuff daydreams are made of, no? Can’t wait to read it 🙂

  3. And I thought that THE CALL about how you landed an agent was extraordinary. Obviously, Tish, Jack’s story is amazing and leaves me thinking not “Why” but “WOW!!!” 🙂

  4. You have the same point of view that I do. If I expect something it won’t come and if I try not to think about it – it will. Magical thinking! This is such a cool story. I can really relate. I am trying to be careful. Making sure my baby horse won’t buck me off. Being afraid to fly – for fear something might happen to me before my book comes out!
    It is quite unsettling!
    (Have you fantasized about which actors play who yet!)

  5. Great post! And so inspiring — I love how our books come around and affect our every day life! And 15 minutes? Sheesh! I can’t even decide on what kind of yogurt to buy in 15 minutes …

  6. Avoiding the drizzly windowpane till the weather clears has got to be some of the best advice I ever heard. If I hadn’t followed it, I would have jumped long ago. Love this story.

    p.s. The hostage was your dog, right?

Comments are closed.