In Adi Alsaid’s Never Always Sometimes, best friends Julia and Dave are nearing the end of their high school careers when they rediscover their “nevers” list. It’s an anti-bucket list containing all the things they swore they’d never do, from hooking up with a teacher to pining endlessly for someone and never saying anything—a rule Dave long ago broke with his crush on Julia. When she decides they should do every never on the list, breaking the rules radically expands their tiny, two-person world. And Dave can’t help counting down to the last rule on the list: Never date your best friend. Here’s Alsaid on 9 things that will happen to you when you become an author.
1. “You know what you should write about…”
If you’re a writer on any scale, you’ve probably been pitched all sorts of ideas. I imagine it’s a bit like being a new parent, how it seems to invite tons of unsolicited advice. Many of these pitches come from people who don’t necessarily understand the necessary elements that make a story interesting. A lot are thinly veiled biographies of the people you’re talking to, or some anecdote that once happened to them. The people pitching you usually have the best of intentions, and, unfortunately, the worst of ideas. You kind of have to smile and nod and say, “Hmm, yeah, that could be interesting.” You’re lying, it couldn’t be.
2. “What inspires you to write?”
Look, I love interviews. I really do. It’s a chance to indulge in talking about myself, and I think it’s a basic human desire to want that. We want people to be interested in us, and being an author provides plenty of opportunities for just that. It’s great. The problem is, people are more alike than they realize. Brains go to similar places, and when having a conversation with someone new or answering a Q&A for someone’s blog, the same questions come up over and over again. This leads to repetition, to having conversations that feel like play rehearsals, dialogue you’ve heard before. You can almost guess which question they’ll ask next. C’mon, guys. My narcissism wants to hear something new.
3. “WHAT ARE YOU READING?”
The creepiest I’ve ever felt was on a recent trip to a beach where a lot of people were reading. I walked closer to people than was reasonable, hiding behind dark sunglasses as I stared. I just wanted to see every single cover, waiting for a glimpse of familiarity. Not just for my books, but for friends’ books, books I’ve blurbed, books on my TBR pile. Anytime I see an e-reader, it takes a lot of energy not to peer over the person’s shoulder. I have yet to run into someone reading my books in the wild, and in case that ever does happen, I’d like to offer my apology in advance to that poor person for what’s sure to be an awkward interaction.
4. Wild swings in self-esteem
I’m the worst. No, I’m the best. This book is perfect. This book deserves to be cast into oblivion with one fell swoop of the delete key. I’m going to be a bestseller. I probably haven’t even sold a book. I have so many ideas I’ll probably never run out. These five-star reviews know what’s up. These one-star reviews make a good point.
Writer brains are exhausting.
5. Oops, I skipped a meal
When writing Never Always Sometimes, I had around a six-week first draft deadline. This meant that as soon as I woke up, I felt like I was already behind schedule. Being a fan of writing in public, I’d go off to a coffee shop to start being productive, then suddenly it was four hours later and I was starving. So I’d have a big lunch and go back to writing. And since I had to finish chapters almost every day, I’d hold off on dinner until I was done, sometimes until 10 p.m. or later. Being on deadline can be detrimental to your health.
6. Lifestyle guilt
I get paid to do what I love, to do something I’d be doing whether or not I was getting paid for it. I don’t have to set an alarm if I don’t want to, and traveling rarely interferes with my duties. I don’t really have any bosses or any annoying coworkers. Sometimes, any mention of what my life is like sounds like bragging, so I don’t go around reminding people. I like people, especially when they like me back.
7. No dread in the TSA line
For my debut, Let’s Get Lost, I was very fortunate in that my publisher sent me all over the place. I went to several trade conferences before the release, and had a long book tour across several states. It’s a rare gift for an author, particularly a debut, and the whole time I felt lucky and grateful for the opportunity. But the more I traveled, the more I wanted. For any book festival I didn’t go to, I’d scroll enviously through tweets and Instagram pictures. I constantly, passive-aggressively remind my publisher I’m willing to go anywhere they’d like to send me. I’m lucky, but desirous of more, more, more. Sure, it’s sometimes hard to be away from the comforts of home, and the love of people there. And losing a day to travel while being on deadline is a little like feeling time slip through your fingers. But the desire for more is constantly there, especially when you get to meet book people everywhere you go. Fans, other authors, librarians, booksellers, readers…
8. The bizarre way time behaves
I’m currently working on a project I can’t talk about it until it’s announced (who knows when), and which probably won’t make it out into the world for at least a year. Meanwhile, I’m on book tour for Never Always Sometimes, the final draft of which was turned in last October after a frenzied summer of writing. I’ve been off deadline for months now, waiting, twiddling my thumbs. “Hurry up and wait” is the unofficial publishing motto, which makes sense, because time makes no sense in this world. It’s more fluid, less willing to be constrained. It fast forwards and rewinds and slows, and even though it’s really all our fault, it always feels like it’s out of our control.
9. Compulsive email refreshing
Queries, submissions, covers, notes, blurbs, deals, tours, fan mail, exchanges with marketing. There are times when you know to expect something big in your inbox. But in the book world, you never know when you’ll get a day-changing email. The result is a manic reloading of the page, even if it updates automatically. Because of item #8 on this list, the refreshing sprees sometimes last days.
Never Always Sometimes is on sale now.