Welcome to another of my fabulous acronym-based interviews. The second novel is no easy feat, and with that in mind I put together a series of questions for debuts who are tackling the second obstacle in their career path. I call it the SNOB - Second Novel Omnipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie.
Today's guest is Tracy Holczer. Tracy lives in Southern California with her husband, three daughters, and two rather fluffy dogs named Buster and Molly. She has a deep love for the mountains where she grew up so she writes them into her stories. A 2014 ABA Indies Introduce New Voices pick, her debut middle grade, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, was written in praise of both nature and family, and all that can be found if you're willing to hunt for treasure.
So --- how to deal?
My first reaction to reading the intro was—HAHAHAHAHA, professional? Which pretty much addresses the validity of the second part of the question. How to deal? Oh, man. Seriously, I would like to know. At least, I would like to know how to get through this part without all the FEELINGS. That, I can’t really help with. The feelings come and we all have to find a way to sit with them until they pass. But I can help with what keeps me productive while I’m having the feelings.
Walking. Not on a treadmill, although that is better than nothing. But walking in the world. Talk to the trees and/or your dogs. Or cats. Or whomever you walk with. Clear all the stickyawful thoughts first thing in the morning. Pretend your brain is an etch-a-sketch and just rip that little plastic thingie clean.
Write anyway. Even if your head starts back to yammering. Tune it out like the white noise it is and plow ahead. When you string enough days together with productivity, the feelings dim to a dull roar.
Love on your people. Like crazy. This will make them love on you back. Which you desperately need, even if you think you need to be left alone in a cave. This is your lying, lizard brain trying to fool you. Don’t listen.
Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?
At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?
Um, today. Yeah. Today. What a coincidence that you would ask me this question on the very day I started really focusing on my second novel and not the eleventy-eleven things I still have to do for my debut. You must be psychic.
Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?
I always write for me first and the reader in revisions. I think it’s important to write like I don’t have a reader when I’m just trying to get the story down. Much less pressure this way. I have more confidence in my revision skills than my drafting skills, so this works for me.
Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?
I waited until my kids were all fairly self-sufficient before I decided to try for a writing career, so it hasn’t been too bad in terms of time management. But I’m miserable at multi-tasking, so I’ve come up with a schedule where I can focus on one thing each day, whatever that is, and writing happens about five times per week. But it is a balancing act. I constantly have to remind myself that writing isn’t my hobby anymore and I can’t do it only when I feel like it. Discipline is key. Even though I don’t have as much as I could. Always a work in progress, I am.
What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?
I’m (lucky? Jury is still out on that one) to have signed a two-book deal. So there isn’t the nagging worry, will this one sell, too? But there is a different kind of pressure with a looming deadline, even though my editor would admonish me for feeling pressured. She has gone out of her way to make sure I’m comfy-cozy. But you can only do so much for a writer and her wonky head. I suppose that this time, I really do feel more like a professional, that my first book passed some kind of test and now I feel challenged to surpass that first goal. To write better. To use the skills I’ve developed (to remind myself I have developed skills #$%! dammit!). To BE a published author. You know? To live up to this amazing gift I’ve been given.