Thursday, January 30, 2014

What It's Like

by Chris F. Holm       

Every writer fantasizes about what their life will be like once they have a novel out. Lord knows this one did.

It's been two years since my first Collector novel, DEAD HARVEST, was released. Sixteen months since its follow-up, THE WRONG GOODBYE. The conclusion of the trilogy, THE BIG REAP, came out six months back. That means there’s enough time and words between me and HOLY CAPSLOCK I'M A REAL LIVE AUTHOR for the flush of pie-eyed romance to fade, and my life to settle into some kind of new normal.

So… what's it like?

Vast stretches of my life aren't all that different. I still have a day job. I still park the same car at the same house as I did before my books were published. Said house is messier than it used to be, because my writing output's increased considerably. Some of that was by necessity; I had a tight deadline for THE BIG REAP, and I was determined to deliver it on time. But mostly, I attribute the increased output (two finished novels in addition to the one I owed my publisher, and a handful of short stories) to the fact that I feel like I've been given my shot, and I'm determined not to waste it.

And then there are those short bursts of utter insanity that underscore just how much has changed. A conversation in a limo with a literary idol. Knocking back drinks with a table full of old friends you just met at a book con. Reading to a packed house. Reading to an empty room. Signing books, which at first feels completely weird and wrong and oh by the way there are no do-overs if you screw up the inscription. Getting your first bad review, and feeling like someone ripped your heart out of your chest. Getting a fantastic one, and fixating on the one thing they didn’t love. Freaking out a fan by tweeting at them. Realizing that writer whose books you hate is the nicest person on the planet. Realizing that writer whose books you love is kind of a jackass. Realizing people feel the same in both directions about you.

The highs are beyond anything I dared hope for. And the lows, I quickly realized, are the sorts of lows all authors feel. Sure they suck – but they mean you’re in the game.

It's a hoary old saw that college is the best time of your life, but there's a kernel of truth in that statement. Thing is, it's only half-right at best. For many, college is the wildest, most challenging time of their lives, before settling into the long, hard slog of adulthood. It's the best and worst life has to offer all rolled into one deliciously melodramatic package.

That's what it’s like to have your books out in the world. Thrilling. Gut-wrenching. Wonderful. Horrible.

But damn, if it ain't living.

THE BIG REAP (Angry Robot Books, July 2013): Sam Thornton collects souls. The souls of the damned, to be precise. Condemned to an eternity of servitude to hell thanks to a devil's bargain he made to save his dying wife, his gig as a Collector is part penance, part punishment, and all suck. But just because he's a capital-letters Bad Guy doesn't mean he's a bad guy… or does it? In the past, Sam’s moral compass has always steered him true. But when he’s tasked with dispatching the mythical Brethren – a group of former Collectors who've cast off their ties to hell – is he still working on the side of right?

Chris F. Holm wrote his first story at the age of six. It got him sent to the principal's office. Since then, his work has fared better, appearing in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. He's been longlisted for a Stoker Award and nominated for an Anthony, a Derringer, a Silver Falchion, and a pair of Spinetinglers (one of which he won.) His Collector novels recast the battle between heaven and hell as old-fashioned crime pulp. Visit him on the web at, or follow @chrisfholm on Twitter.


E.A. Aymar said...

What a great essay, and a nice capture of the highs and lows that some of us are just starting to experience. Plus I've been a big fan of the Collector series since book one, and I'm happy to see the finale getting praise in all sorts of review sites online. Very cool!

Chris said...

Kind of you to say, E.A.! Looks like I'LL SLEEP WHEN YOU'RE DEAD has been well-received thus far as well -- congrats!