Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I get lots of nice emails and social media shout-outs for my books, for which I am profoundly grateful. I also frequently find my books on “Best of (fill in the year)” posts. And I have been thrilled with good reviews and the occasional award nomination alongside some of my heroes. I cherish the photos I have with Tim Hallinan, Sue Grafton, William Kent Kruger, and a few other writers I admire. All these things astonish me, because I figured I would be satisfied with just being published and finding a few readers who liked my books.

Here's a photo with two fans who drove four hours to my reading in Austin:

No, this isn’t a bragfest, nor is it a plea for reassurance. It’s an honest attempt to examine the feeling I sometimes have that it’s all pure luck, and that the next book I write is going to unmask me as a fraud who just lucked into some good reviews and some good friends who were generous enough to support me.

I know I’m not alone, and that almost every writer has those moments. But when I’m in that frame of mind it’s hard to convince myself that it isn’t true.  What usually sets me off is reading someone whose writing is so good that it makes me want to clear my desk and take up tatting. There are writers who consistently make me feel that way. It presents a problem: I can’t wait to read their next book, while at the same time knowing that it will make me feel like a hack.

Here’s what I try to remember:

1)   Not everyone likes everything I like to read, and vice versa. There was a book out last year that every, single person I know who read it, raved about it. I didn’t hate it, but I also wasn’t wild about it. And I’ve had the opposite experience of gushing over “the best book I read all year,” only to have someone tell me they couldn’t get into it. I try to remember that the book that is making me feel talentless will most likely also have its detractors, too.
2)   That I go through this with every book I write, feeling like “this time” the magic isn’t going to happen, and my editor will send it back with a curt note telling me to never sully his desk with my prose again.
3)   That my goal was to write books that people like, and that I have accomplished that, so shut up and enjoy it.
4)   That somewhere at this very moment the next Louise Penny or Michael Connelly is reading something that makes them despair of ever being anything more than a pedestrian writer. That every writer has moments of feeling inauthentic.

Here’s this week’s recommendation with a couple of caveats: Remo Went Rogue, by Mike McCrary, is not for everyone. It’s dark and gritty, with a cast of nothing but bad people. But it made me laugh and made me savor McCrary’s use of language. His descriptions are priceless. The second caveat: if a badly-published book makes you crazy, better pass on this. There are missing words, misspelled words, huge formatting errors, punctuation errors, and word misusage. The fact that I persevered is a tribute to the astonishing plot, spot-on characters and clever language.


Leslie Langtry said...

Yes! Great post! I feel that every time I write. And I have the same issue with book recommendations. I don't feel the same way as my friends on a lot of books. Thanks for the suggestion on the book - off to check it out!

Priscilla said...

My editor said, somewhat paraphrased, that it would be a sad world if everyone liked the same books. As for feeling inauthentic, that's normal! I feel that way with evey book, and I'm starting my 13th... You don't have to worry, Terry. You are a very skilled writer!

Terry said...

Thank you Leslie and Priscilla. All in the same boat and paddling as fast as we can.

Peg Brantley said...
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Peg Brantley said...
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Peg Brantley said...

There are people who don't like chocolate. Or bacon. Or sunsets. I'm pretty sure those are the same people who don't like my books.

A friend of mine asked me what I was reading the other day. I told her I was reading Dean Koontz's new one, ASHLEY BELL. Talk about a writer who makes me want to lie down and be a paint stripe at a school crossing, Koontz is one of 'em.

When I asked her what she was reading, she gushed about how good the story was. Usually when I ask her who authored the book, she's clueless. But she's getting better, and this time she was perfect. "Terry Sham-us." I grinned, corrected the pronunciation, which I'm sure she'll share with her bookclub, and told her that you totally like my husband.

I now have a certain status.

Peg Brantley said...

Don't worry. I'm not gonna read it again. Sheeshkabobalino.

Terry said...

What a wonderful surprise! thank you for sharing that.