Author Kendra Elliot comes full circle as her Thrillerfest nomination for "Buried" has her finally saying, "I'm an author."
Five years ago I attended my first Thrillerfest Conference in New York City. I was unpublished, but I wasn’t a total newbie; I’d been honing my craft for a few years, had a few manuscripts under the bed, and had paid close attention in my local writing groups and conferences, trying to figure out this odd world of publishing. When I noticed the Romance Writers of America conference was in Washington DC a week after Thrillerfest in NYC, I made plans to attend both in one long trip back east.
One of the main reasons to attend conferences is to rub shoulders with the authors you admire. My highlight that year was standing guard for Lee Child’s signing line. I was a serious fan. I’d volunteered for the signing and had been assigned to keep his rowdy autograph seekers under control. I spent most of the time holding up a nearby wall as I chatted with one of his editors. She asked if I was an author, and I said, “No, I’m a writer.” She asked the difference, and I told her that I felt I couldn’t call myself an author because I wasn’t published. She nodded, but gave me an odd look.
I didn’t go to the awards banquet. I wasn’t an author, so what would be the point? I’d never been to NYC. A good friend made certain my friends and I saw the highlights of New York, turning it into an amazing experience.
The next few years brought changes to my writing life. I got an agent. I sold. I quit the day job and sold again. My publisher put out four of my books in eighteen months and bought more.
Fast forward to Spring 2014. I was chatting with a writer buddy on Facebook when someone from my publishing house posted on my wall, congratulating me for an award nomination. I assumed she was talking about a Romantic Times nomination I’d heard about four months prior. I replied, asking which award she meant.
Her: The Thriller award
Me: Are you sure?
Her: My phone won’t let me post the link. Of course, I’m sure.
I found the announcement, saw my name, and burst into tears.
It wasn’t possible. The thriller awards are for the BIG, IMPORTANT writers. I scanned the list of names. …Lisa Gardner, Stephen King, AND FREAKING Lee Child in the hardback category. I was listed in the paperback category along with my good friend and mentor, Allison Brennan.
I don’t belong on this list. Where are all the other authors? The real authors?
In my head, I was still the newbie. Possibly I was perceived as being successful in publishing, but I was terrified that someone would figure out that I was a sham. That my books weren’t that good or deserving of praise. Even though I’d sold over a half million books in two years, I still had doubts. Big ones. When people ask me what I do for a living, I still struggle to say “I’m an author.” It feels like a lie.
Would the self-doubt ever go away?
Another good writer friend (yes, I have a lot of good writer friends. The writing community is a close, supportive one) sympathized with my doubt, assuring me that it was normal for a large percentage of writers and sent me this quote
The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.― Jaggi Vasudev
It made me laugh, but it also resonated deeply.
I wasn’t an idiot for my doubt, but I couldn’t let it control me.
I frequently use the full circle as a theme in my books. Toward the end of a story, my characters often return to a key place or event in their life, but the second time they are armed with new skills they’ve learned in their journey.
So I will return to New York City for another amazing experience. This time as a recognized author in my genre, and I’ll hold my chin up and smile at that awards banquet, proud that this book has received important nominations from the romance and thriller communities.
I’m an author.
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