You Say It’s Your Birthday…

On the left is a first edition Emily of New Moon, birthday gift from my mom.

 

…It’s my birthday, too.

On Tuesday this week, when my book officially came out, I also turned forty-four years old.

Now, I am not a person who believes in signs or astrology or anything like that, but I am sort of a neat freak. I like it when things line up. So this little coincidence really does please me no end. I’ve received many wonderful and thoughtful birthday gifts over the years, but this is definitely the best one yet—all the more so because I gave it to myself.

And it was a strange coincidence. When I first signed with Penguin, the plan was to publish during the summer of this year. I assume they must have built in a little extra time in case of unexpected delays, but all my edits were turned in on schedule and nothing else came up, so it was moved up to spring. Then I was told they had narrowed it down to April. Cool, I thought. That’s my birthday month—it will be extra special.

Then, I came across this little thing called The Debutante Ball. They were advertising on Twitter that it was time to submit applications if one wanted to be considered for the position of one of the 2019 debs. The application asked for a firm publication date if possible, so I emailed my editor to ask if they had nailed down a specific week in April, and she told me it would probably be the 9th. So I said, let’s stick to that because it’s my birthday.

It’s just funny sometimes how things work out. Most books come out on Tuesdays, so in a different year this particular timing would have been impossible.

One of the reasons I love this coincidence is because I’m almost always ridiculously happy on my birthday. I don’t even celebrate on my birthday if it’s midweek, so it’s often a quiet day for me, but always a joyful one (well, you know from a couple of posts ago that “quiet” is my definition of the perfect day). It’s a time to look back on my life, and also forward to things I hope will come. Releasing a debut novel is exciting, but it’s also a stressful experience. There have been times when the anxieties around releasing a book have threatened my happiness this year. But now, I find that my birthday happiness is just pushing worry, stress, and envy out of the picture. I can’t help but feel good.

The other day, I suddenly realized how silly it is to worry about how my book is going to “do.” Whether or not it will sell. Of course I want it to sell, but feeling stress about that changes nothing, and it also dawned on me that even if my book tanks, my life won’t change. I’m publishing a book. No matter how poorly it fares in the marketplace, I did that. And everything else that’s wonderful about my life will stay the same. I have absolutely nothing to lose, here, even if publishing a second book is made more difficult by a first one’s failure. It’s not as if getting this first one out was a walk in the park. I can do it again.

Does it mean anything, that the book shares my birthday? I guess not. But it kind of highlights for me the idea of time, and how long it took me to get here. How long was that, exactly? Was it two years, after Penguin bought the book? Was it four, including the year and half it took me to find my agent, Bridget? Was it six, including the two years I spent writing and revising this book? Or did it take forty-four?

All of these answers are true. I’m not sure that the number of years behind a book really matters, but I do know one thing. I’ve been making up stories since I first learned how to write, yet I couldn’t write this particular book until I actually did. I needed enough life experience, particularly the experience of being a mother, to even conceive of this book in the way that I did. Strangely, I feel as if writing it actually opened a door onto an endless corridor of more books, waiting to be written. Writing it made me into a writer, someone who makes novels. Every time I have a new book idea, and I can feel it putting out roots in my mind, and the characters start to reveal themselves one at a time, I now recognize that feeling. That these are people I’m going to be living with for quite a while, and I can’t wait to find out everything about them.

One book in forty-four years. But now that I have this one under my belt, I expect to be a little faster at it.

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Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master's degree in art history after a year spent in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

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