With a headline like that one, you can assume I’ll be sharing a seamy secret about my chosen profession.
Or perhaps scandalous.
About how, much of the time, being an author means that you only work four hours out of every twenty-four; that you can take naps whenever the fancy strikes; that you can work in your pee-jays (that used to have a lot more cache before the pandemic); and that you seldom have to turn down an opportunity to day-drink with fellow writers.
And all of that is true. But it’s not what I had in mind when I wrote that headline, because you know what being an author is really about?
I’m serious. Everything in this business seems to take forever. I always say that if publishing was in charge of evolution, we’d still be battling velociraptors on our way to the grocery store.
As such, it was two years ago—okay, one year and fifty weeks, in early August 2019 if you want to be precise—when I opened up a new Microsoft Word document and began tapping out the first sentences of the manuscript that would eventually become the book now known as Unthinkable.
The premise—about a protagonist who has to make an impossible choice between two scenarios, both of them completely untenable—intrigued me. So did the antagonist, because that’s part of what makes me a crime fiction writer. I always fall in love with my villains.
Still, it was all quite vague. I was uncertain what shape the story would take. I didn’t particularly know the characters—Nate Lovejoy and Jenny Welker, the married couple at the middle of the action; or Vanslow DeGange, the shadowy figure behind the scenes. I certainly didn’t any idea how their saga would end.
I never do.
But as the characters revealed themselves to me, they slowly showed me the way.
Sometime around the end of September, they led me to a twist that totally blew my mind. I was thrilled—truly, it’s one of the best twists in any of my eleven books—and excited for all of you to be able to experience it. Immediately.
Except I was still nearly two years (by this point, one year and forty-two weeks, give or take) away from publication day.
See what I mean about the waiting?
All through October, I wrote like the manuscript was a kidney stone that I just had to get out of my system.
By November, I had a draft for my agent to read. She quickly returned notes to me. This led to two months rewriting. And waiting.
In January 2020, I showed it to my editor. Three months of rewriting and waiting.
It was during this time that the world turned upside down. My writing routine—four hours maskless in an indoor public space, a Hardee’s restaurant—was completely blown apart.
I soon found myself editing in my bedroom, the only place I could stake out as leave-dad-alone territory. The rest of the house was overtaken by my wife and kids noisily Zooming.
Next, my editor turned the manuscript over to my developmental editor. (More editing and waiting). Who gave it to the copy editor. (Tediousness and waiting.) Who gave it to the proofreader. (So many typos! So much more waiting!)
And on, and on. The process dragged through the summer and into the fall. The completed manuscript—for a book that was to come out in July—was ready to be shipped off to the printer in January. (See? Velociraptors.)
At which point I waited even more.
… and waited …
… and waited.
All the while, I couldn’t do the one thing that I most enjoy:
Share it with you, the reader.
Seriously. That’s why I write. It always has been.
I respect that there are authors out there who essentially write for themselves—to sort through their feelings, to quiet the voices in their head, for the joy and challenge of manipulating language, or whatever.
Not me. I write not for the love writing, but rather the love of being read.
I write for you.
Will you become enamored by Nate and Jenny’s relationship, the way I was? Will you find yourself cheering for Vanslow DeGange, as I did? Will you be just as blown away by the twists?
Today, I start to get the chance to find out.
Because—as of today—Unthinkable is finally (finally!) out in the world. It is now available wherever books are sold or lent.
The wait is over.