A Rock Star Year as a Debut Author

This week, I stumbled upon a blog that had a negative review of MODERN GIRLS. I’ve been quite fortunate; while I have received the occasional poor review, for the most part, people have been extremely kind. And this reviewer was fairly kind in her dislike of my book.

What do I do when I read a bad review? I get this giggly feeling inside: Someone read my book and felt passionately enough to dislike it! Yes, I wish everyone loved my book, but no book is universally loved, even (or should I say, “especially”?) the classics. (Ever read the reviews of CATCHER IN THE RYE on Goodreads?)* But the fact is, this thing I wrote on my living room couch (and the local cafe and library) is now out there in the world for people to form opinions about it.

That blows my mind.

MODERN GIRLS at the Tenement Museum
MODERN GIRLS at the Tenement Museum

Sometimes I’ll walk in a store and see my novel. I’ll sheepishly say, “I wrote that!” and suddenly I feel like a rock star. When I was at the Tenement Museum in New York a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I was looking for books that would be research for the next novel. The woman asked what I had written, and when I told her, she exclaimed, “We have that right by the register!” She brought out every copy they had for me to sign. I’m telling you, rock star! Next thing you know I’ll have a rider demanding I’m served only green M&Ms at book stores.

I will say, it was a little lonely being the first Deb to publish. I was experiencing things the others couldn’t fathom. Now, of course, they’re saying, “Oh! I see what you mean!” but at the time, I was alone in the ocean of pub world. Honestly, right after the book being released into the world, I had a touch of postpartum blues. All that hard work and suddenly I felt helpless. The book was free. What was there for me to do besides Google myself and check my Amazon sales rank (both very healthy things to do. Not.)? (Well, besides begin to write the next book, which is quite hard to do when your mind is still enmeshed in the first book.)

Drinks with former Deb Karma Brown, me, and writers Pam Jenoff and Lynda Cohen Loigman
Drinks with former Deb Karma Brown, me, and writers Pam Jenoff and Lynda Cohen Loigman
Dinner with writers Brenda Janowitz and Judy Batalion
Dinner with writers Brenda Janowitz and Judy Batalion

But now that I’ve settled into writing again while getting ready for a big book tour for MODERN GIRLS, I am enjoying this debut novelist thing. For starters, I’ve met so many incredible people, and my fellow Debs have really been a lifeline for me. The writers I’ve met through Facebook and Twitter have also provided support and cheer to me, and while I haven’t met all in person (although I did meet quite a few on my last trip to New York), I feel like they are all friends. And the friends I actually do know in real life? They have cheered me, come to readings, driven my children when I’ve had events, invited me to book clubs, and just about everything else you could want from a friend. Leah, Rosemarie, Kate, Betsy, Julie, Diana, Bailee… the list could go on and on.

Having my novel published was a dream. I still can’t believe it’s really happened. Every time someone e-mails me a fan note, sends me a picture of MODERN GIRLS out in the world, or posts on Facebook or Twitter about the novel, I feel twitchy happy inside.

What did I love about my debut year? While “everything” is a cop-out that is indeed the answer.

What did I love most about my debut year? My novel is a published book. MODERN GIRLS exists outside of me now. And that, my friends, is an amazing thing.

*Speaking of bad reviews, this is a fabulous video of best-selling authors reading their worst reviews:

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

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