by Tracy Kiely
I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work…I want to achieve it through not dying.” - Woody Allen
When I decided to write a mystery, I did it because I loved the genre, and because it was something that I always wanted to do. (Okay, there may have been a voice in my head saying something along the lines of, “For the love of God, quit yakking about it, and just DO it, for Pete’s sake.” Except I used more colorful adjectives, and I didn’t say “Pete.”)
At first, my only goal was to finish it. From there the goal morphed into getting an agent and then getting published. Then came the goal of good reviews and a great ranking on Amazon. (Okay, there may have been another goal involving Ophra holding up my book for the millions of her loyal fans to run out and buy, but I’m pretty sure tequila was involved with that one, and therefore I’m not wholly responsible for its content. (Tequila! The source of most of life’s worst decisions! Now in Cherrytacular!)
Anyway, all those morphing goals made me forget what I initially wanted; to write a mystery that was good enough to get published. I did that and to be honest, most of the other goals really were out of my hands. And besides, there are so many examples of books/movies/plays that were initially considered abject failures, only to be revered as sheer brilliance decades later. While today almost everyone knows Moby Dick’s opening line of “Call me Ishmael” the book was not well received and, in fact marked the downfall of Melville’s career. The reverse is also true. Hitchcock’s Frenzy was a darling of the critics when it was released in 1972. Today, many view it as coarse and misogynistic, containing none of the sophisticated grace of his early work.
So, what is it that I hope for my books long after I’m gone?
To answer this, I must first tell you about one of my favorite I Love Lucy episode; the one where Lucy decides that she is going to write the Great American Novel. Ricky, Fred and Ethel, of course, all think the book is horrible, but Lucy is convinced it’s pure genius. However, when the publisher writes to offer her a contract, Ricky is forced to literally eat his hat. Lucy’s joy is dashed when she meets with the publisher and he confesses that his secretary mixed up his correspondence. Lucy’s manuscript was rejected. Feeling sorry for the mistake, he promises to shop it around. Within weeks, he calls with good news; he’s found someone who wants to publish the book. Of course, the kicker for Lucy is that the publisher wants it to be a kind of manual of How Not to Write a Book.
So to answer your question: What do I hope?
Well, as I am quite sure that I will never be on an English teacher’s reading list for reasons that I would be proud of, I merely hope that I don’t land on one the way Lucy did.