Ah, Alex Segura. Author. Editor. Publicity genius. Raconteur. Rocket surgeon. Four dogs in a trenchcoat. What hasn’t been said about him already? Alex has a new book out — Down the Darkest Street, the next Pete Fernandez mystery — and he wanted to stop by and write a blog post about his experiences here, and of course he’s also a new father so the first draft of his blog post was printed out and mailed to me… and it was mostly just pictures of him staring awake into an iPhone camera late at night while a child wails over his shoulder, shellacking his neck with white baby frothpuke. Thankfully, his second draft was better. So, here he us, talking about the role of author, new father, and guy with a book out. How do you balance it all?
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We’ve all been there. Hunched over our laptops, hitting refresh on our book’s Amazon ranking/Goodreads score/Bamboozle status. It’s a week before your novel is out and you’re stretching, STRETCHING for anything you can do to move the needle that one, tiny bit to get it over the hump. To give it that one extra inch of visibility that’ll help it succeed. Another guest blog? Another sponsored post? What will Reviewer X say? Maybe I should email my agent about that one thing….or my editor?
The events have been booked. The interviews have happened. The blurbs have been collected. You’ve done the Twitters and Facebook’d yourself silly. So you sit in a dark room and stare at your screen. You jump as your email signals a new message. You groan when you realize it’s a coupon code for Costco.
Pre-book anxiety’s a killer, huh?
A piercing shriek cuts through our dark apartment. I speed-walk to the bedroom and try to help my wife soothe our seven-week old son back to sleep, hopeful his zzz batting average is higher tonight than it had been earlier in the week.
Oh, right. We just had a kid. Forgot to mention that.
I knew going into 2016 that it was going to be a big, challenging time. I’d finally found a home for my mystery novel series with the wonderful folks at Polis Books. They were not only putting out my new novel, but re-issuing my first. Two books in a year? Ok, I got this. Two books on top of a pretty intense day job promoting and editing comics? I got this, seriously. Two books, intense day job and a baby.
I got this?
I’m going to fast forward past all the stuff you should know already: I love our kid, he’s amazing and cute, the first time he smiled melted my heart and it’s been insanely stressful and exhausting. I’m not speeding by this because I don’t think it’s important – it sure as hell is – but because all of that kid stuff? All the late-night wake ups, the doctor visits that are routine (to them, not you), the rage that comes when your only clean footsie has buttons not a zipper, the barrage of advice you get from everyone – from your closest relatives to the guy at your coffee shop – all of it adds up. It’s intense and each thing, good or bad, feels huge.
Because it’s important. Capital “I” important.
While I can make glib remarks about bringing three babies into the world this year, that’s not true/fair and a disservice to the kid, who is the only actual human we’ve brought into existence in 2016. So, my point is – “Baby Important” puts “Book Important” into super, hyper-focused perspective.
I don’t mean that in a holier-than-thou BOOKS ARE BENEATH ME way. Not at all. Silent City and Down the Darkest Street – those books have my heart in them. I first put pen to paper on my debut almost 10 (!!!!!) years ago. Getting them published has been a long, winding journey – one a lot of authors, I’m sure, can relate to. There’s a lot of me, my life and my ups and downs in there. They’re important milestones for me. Their success is, of course, important to me. But they’re not Baby Important.
What kind of perspective does having a tiny, 12-pound human that depends on you for its survival bring, you ask?
The kind of perspective that allows you to realize when you’ve done enough. You’ve set the plates and utensils on the table and prepared the food. All you can do now is sit back and watch people eat your meal. The perspective that allows you to take a breath, step back and let the chips fall where they may. The books are written.
Like Delilah Dawson said in this very inspiring series of tweets – there’s no top of the mountain when it comes to writing/publishing. Even if I write the bestselling-est of bestsellers, I’ll probably write another book after that, no matter what. The writing, for me, is something I have to get out and process and create. It’s going to happen anyway. I need to write. Would it be great to get billions of people to read my books? Hell yes. But those are the possible perks, not the targets.
And while I can’t say I don’t read reviews, refresh my rankings or spend more time in my email inbox than is probably healthy, I do it less frequently now. Not because I don’t care, but because I’d rather put my phone down and play with my kid.
HAHAHA – wait, you thought it ends there? Not quite. The writing stuff never stops, even when the promotion phase is complete. Case in point? I’ve got a third novel in my agent’s hands and half of a fourth screaming at me to finish. That might SOUND like it’s good – but it also means there’s a lot of writing work to be done, like revisions, copyedits, you name it. The beat goes on. And while taking care of Pete Fernandez, my series character, is nothing like trying to raise a newborn – they are definitely two things that need constant upkeep, in their own way. It’s just about finding the right perspective – and balance.
I hope they get along.
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Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. His Miami crime novels Silent City and Down the Darkest Street – featuring washed up detective Pete Fernandez – are out now from Polis Books. You can find him at www.alexsegura.com or on Twitter @alex_segura. He also edits THE SHIELD from Dark Circle Comics – co-written by some guy named Wendig.