I often deliberately forget that I am having a novella published (in e-book form) in January.
The book is called “Beware the Hawk,” and it’s being published by Vagabondage Press and I really am very excited, but you’d never know it because over the Christmas holiday, I didn’t talk about it unless someone else brought it up. (Publishers, if you’re reading this, I am aware that this is not a viable marketing strategy.)
I think part of the reason that I push the book from my mind is this: people ask me what it’s about and – like Eminem in the opening scenes of 8 Mile – I choke.
I stammer something like “It’s about a girl, and spies. It’s funny. Well, I think it’s funny.” This is hardly the enthused, informative pitch I was taught in grad school to make. “What is it about” is a perfectly reasonable question; I’m the author and ought to know. But the question trips me up, maybe because I rarely think of a piece of my fiction as something that other people will read. For the most part, I doubt that the figments of my imagination will actually leave my hard drive and move out into the world.
I do have a couple of projects that are my golden children. If any of my work is published, I tell myself, it will be these privileged novels. I groom and prep them for publication. I submit them to my writers’ groups. I prepare myself to let them go.
“Beware the Hawk” was not one of these. I began writing “Beware the Hawk” when I was 23, worked on it with my very first writers’ group, and then – five pages from the end – abandoned the project when I was 25. I left it unfinished until this year. I was caught off guard by its acceptance this fall. To bring it back to the children metaphor: I expected it to grow up to be a drug dealer, but it’s surprised me by going to med school on scholarship.
Also there’s this – the characters and plot have been marinating in my brain for a decade. I’ve unconsciously built unmentioned back stories for each character. Like my houseplants, I neglected them, and they grew. The idea of summing up all of these thoughts and associations is daunting.
But not is not the time for such timidity. Now I must plot-summarize as if the devil himself were at my heels. The publishers tell me that the book will be out in the next three to four weeks, either on the 17th or on the 24th, and if I’m going to market it at all, I should learn how to describe it. The publishers have categorized it as a spy-satire, but I’ll need to be armed with a summary as I do the virtual book tour. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of ways to describe the contents of my novella.
“Beware the Hawk” is about:
i. …a young pink-haired Brooklynite who is a courier for a secret anti-government group, called the Resistance. She’s sent up to Boston to pick something up one night in winter, and everything goes wrong from the moment she steps off the Fung-Wah bus.
ii. …a young woman who desires to live outside society and its rules and who learns that this is not possible (particularly if one is fond of life in the city.)
iii. …making choices young and having to live with them.
v. …50 (virtual) pages long.
vi. …a girl, her iPhone, an inept co-worker, a hot mechanic and a leg injury.
Put all those together and that’s what it’s about, although I feel like a lot is still left out. Which is funny, since the book is only a 50ish page novella. No wonder J.K. Rowling unveiled her Pottermore website this year. Seven books and eight films and she still feels like she hasn’t adequately described the contents of her Harry Potter universe to us. Not that I’m going to be unveiling any “Beware the Hawk” web portals anytime soon.
I will however, be sharing the cover art with you. I got a peek at it tonight and I’m excited. The publishers will be sending the image to me just as soon as it’s finalized.