Late last year, I sold my book to Hyperion. I spent the end of 2011 performing a happy dance because the book was finished! And it sold! And my 14 hour days had come to an end! And apart from a few minor edits, I could finally have a break!
In February 2012, my new editor emailed me a list of editorial suggestions for the book, and my happy dance was cut short mid hip-swivel. There were a lot of suggestions. New scenes. Cut scenes. Fleshing out. Illustrations to paint. 10,000 words of new material.
I replied to her with, “No problem,” but privately, I broke down into a small (big) meltdown (crying tantrum). I fell into bed with the kind of self-pitying melodrama that should be met with an exaggerated eye roll.
(Go on, roll your eyes at me right now. Do it. DO IT!)
Don’t get me wrong—I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with a publisher at this level. What an enormous privilege to have my very own New York editor! I have to pinch myself over this fact every morning, though there’s still a small, paranoid part of me that believes I’m being Punk’d in the most elaborate and cruel way ever. I could be on some Japanese TV show that destroys people’s lives for audience laughs. Ha ha ha! Look at how Torre-san believed she had a publishing deal! Ha ha ha ha!
(Okay, stop rolling your eyes at me now.)
But regardless, the complexity of edits was confronting. Each time the story gets edited, the puzzle needs to be deconstructed and then carefully put back together again.
After already going through so many rounds of this process with my previous editor as well as a proofreader for the self-published version, I feared that if I read my book one more time, my brain would quietly detonate inside of my skull, drip out through my nose, and soil my messy workspace.
I felt like I had nothing left.
I spent most of 2011 in front of my computer building a platform and trying to sell my book with the kind of single-minded determination of a person who should be wearing a straight-jacket. Relationships suffered. Friends became distant. I didn’t eat well or exercise or take proper care of myself. The world slipped away during this obsessed time because all of my energy went into one single goal: Must sell book.
When it finally sold, I woke up, looked around and realised that people in my life were understandably mad at me for neglecting them during my determined work delirium. Burnt out and sad, I tumbled into a pit of depression. I knew that, in order to get out, I needed to spend some time reconnecting and taking care of myself, now that the hard work was over …
But it was not over.
I’d happy danced too soon.
When the edits came in, I had a litte cry at first, and I called my agent for a chat. “You already have a really strong book,” she said. “Try the edits, see where it goes, and if doesn’t go anywhere that’s okay because it’s already strong. Just play with it.”
Play: one of my most favorite words.
I wiped away my tears, slapped myself a few times in the cheeks, and then reminded myself to grab life by the loins, get up under it, and start humping. (My sincere apologies for that last sentence. Humping is on the mind because it’s mating season here in Thailand and all the bitches on the beach are doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel. The dogs are on heat too.)
A change of scene was in order.
My partner and I decided to get away. We sold our stuff, left our house in Melbourne, moved to Thailand, and settled into a simple $15-a-night bungalow on the beach.
I began to play with my book.
While listening to the waves on the shore, I was pulled into a zone that I couldn’t get to while writing from a terrace house in Melbourne city. With the balmy breeze on my skin, I could easily conjure up the sensory memories from the tropical adventure I was writing about.
While I wrote, my partner got his dive masters. A few weeks ago, he swam with a whale shark. After diving, he comes home at noon and we eat, or walk, or tan, or watch movies, or play.
As a special treat for my birthday, we moved into an air conditioned villa nestled in Koh Tao’s jungle:
FYI: Rates start at 2,000 Baht ($64 USD). Full details and booking page here. Also available via Agoda, Latestays and Booking.com.
And working has become fun again.
Life is slow here in Thailand. Deliciously slow. We’ve been in this villa a month now, and from this jungle retreat, the birdsong and the sound of crickets have carried me off into a smooth creative flow. My work is my source of joy, but now I do it at a much slower pace. There’s time to play.
After the edits were completed, I illustrated maps to go in the book. I got out my paints, turned the fan on high, put my headphones on (for some BlogcastFM), and got to work.
From my island home, I’ve reworked the book and painted most of the maps.
It has been pure bliss.
In fact, it has been one of the best experiences of my life.
With the help of my editor, I feel as though I’ve created a much stronger story. It’s rounded and whole in a way that it wasn’t before. The insight from Hyperion has been incredible.
This book required a lot of hard work—a kind of obsessive dedication that took me deep into a void that I wasn’t sure I could ever come back from. But it simply wouldn’t have been possible to get to this point without that sacrifice. Other parts of my life suffered, but now I’m here in Thailand, giddy with glee, working with my editor as I add the final touches.
I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
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