Whenever aspiring writers ask me for advice, I tell them they should 'listen to the voices' in their head.
Lenny, Rebecca, Trixie, Bishop, Ferd, Chidi -- they're all voices that eventually made their way onto the page and there's a hundred (thousand?) more behind them, waiting for the same chance. Strange as this might sound, I'll often find myself fighting with those characters/voices as well.
Whenever I tell people such things, half think I'm crazy, the other half gets it because they too have voices in their heads waiting, fighting, etc. for their stories to be heard.
But what's not often spoken of is that one voice more than any other plagues me, just as I'm sure it stalks many other people as well.
That voice's name is Doubt.
Doubt is the craftiest of voices, always finding a way to creep back in, no matter how heavily fortified you think you are.
This last tussle I've had with it has spanned over the course of the last year and a half...the same amount of time since my last release, The Grave of Lainey Grace.
That's not to say I haven't been writing.
In fact, during one of the many times Doubt pummeled me last year with the lie I was accomplishing nothing, my wife reminded me that I had actually written more words last year than I ever have before (with the Salted books to be released later this year as proof of that struggle). Still, Doubt tagged me with the notion my efforts weren't good enough. That finishing the next Salted books would be an unending chore and with no one waiting for their release or any other book I might write anyway.
And then the L.A. Times Festival happened.
Doubt followed me there too.
This being my third year as an exhibitor at the festival, I was a bit nervous about diminishing returns, figuring the same people come to the festival every year and if they've already bought your books, then you can't really sell more, right? And, with the cost of entry so expensive, (even when you're splitting a booth space), is it possible to keep returning as a result?
Doubt hammered me with all those fears and more on the lead-up to the festival and even setting up that morning. I looked down the YA Alley and saw half the number of booths that were there my first year. Staring at those empty spaces, knowing most of those exhibitors hadn't returned due to the costs involved, I wondered if this would be my final year too.
The festival kicked off not long after and that's when readers came to my rescue to give me the greatest of gifts any reader can offer to an author...they told me how much the stories I wrote meant to them.
Here is a sampling of some that had me grinning like crazy and even laughing over the weekend:
The One Author...
One reader who I'd met during my first year at the festival brought a friend to my booth, pointed at me, and said: "That's him! He's the one I've been telling you about." (she looks at me). "I've been telling everyone I know that's coming to this festival, if there's one author you have to meet, go meet Aaron Galvin. I've read all his books and they're amazing. I couldn't put them down!"
Grounds For Termination
Another reader came by and said: "I missed coming last year, but I need to get Salem's Legacy and The Grave of Lainey Grace. I know they've been out awhile, but I bought Vengeance and Fury the first year I met you here and promised myself I wouldn't buy the new ones until I could come back to tell you that you're the reason I almost got fired because I stayed up reading the first two Salem books all night."
Then there was a woman who said: "I love your newsletters! Especially the ones where you talk about the festival stories. That time you wrote about the kid and the free book he got called "The Cool Ran" (The Quran)! Oh my God, that cracks me up everytime I think about it!"
And then these readers shared their stories with me too (and had me nearly bawling right there in the booth).
YA Guys Do Read
"You might not remember me," said one reader. "But I came by your booth last year with my two teenage sons. We bought the first books in both of your Salem and Salted series because we liked what you said about writing books aimed at teenage boys....they loved them!" She grinned. "They can't stop talking about them, and I just wanted you to know that you're the reason they like reading now."
(**cue Aaron trying not to break down sobbing in the middle of this festival as this reader looks to the woman next to her).
"Anyway, this is my friend and she has teenage boys too. I brought her with me because we both need to get more books from you for them too."
The Reason I Came Back
Another reader came up and said: "I just wanted you to know that the only reason I came back to the festival this year was to see you and tell you how much your books mean to me. I bawled my eyes out reading Lainey Grace and I still don't know that I've ever read anything better than the Vengeance trilogy. Now, I'm ready to try Salted!"
I Remember You
An older woman was walking by my booth when she saw me behind the table. She stopped suddenly and, after a moment, came up to the booth.
"I remember you..." she said in such a quiet voice that I could barely hear her. "You know you were the only author at this festival to actually look at my son and talk to him."
She looked down at the cover of Lainey Grace, patted it, and glanced back up.
"He loved your book, by the way."
Then she nodded and walked off before I could even begin trying to come up with a reply.
This was my first year sharing a booth space with others -- (btw, if you haven't checked out the Autumn trilogy by Kirby Howell, you should right now, especially if you like YA dystopian reads). At one point during all of the above stories, I looked over at my booth mates and one of them said, "Wow...is it like this for you all the time?"
My Slytherin side came out then. "Oh yeah." I waved off the comment. "All the time."
Full disclosure: It doesn't. ;)
In fact, I can't begin to thank all of those readers enough for the gift they gave me over that awesome weekend. I know Doubt will eventually start whispering again, but, for a long time to come, you readers helped me fend that ugly voice back into the shadows.
Author. Actor. Rascal.