Two days ago I received my first review from an industry publication. I can’t share it with you yet, because it hasn’t been posted online. It's confidential (they actually wrote that part in red). So I’m not going to talk about the contents of the review. I’m going to talk about how it feels to have your first novel reviewed for the first time.
It’s a milestone, receiving my first review, one I’ve been waiting for with trepidation and anticipation. I’ve worried that while I think I’ve done one thing, reviewers might think I’ve done something else entirely. This, to me, is much like life. I often move through my days wondering if I’m performing well—if my reviews at the end will be good or bad.
I’m my worst critic (I'd better be, because if anyone else is an even harsher critic of me than I am, I don't want to know about it). I'm constantly evaluating myself and finding my performance lacking. Maybe because I so often wither under my own gaze, I'm deeply uncomfortable judging works of art. Someone made that, I think to myself—with their hands and heart and head. I don’t envy anyone faced with reviewing a novelist's performance. At their best, novels are complicated creatures. Like people, they can please you at one moment, disappoint you the next. At the end you have to collect those moments together and ask yourself how you feel about the whole creature. It’s like deciding whether a person is good or bad. It feels. . .unforgiving.
I wrote a novel about a girl who wants to be good, but is terribly afraid she’s bad. She grows up in a world where that’s an either/or assessment. You can’t be both—you have to be one or the other. I didn’t put it exactly this way in the novel, and I’m not giving anything away by saying this, but I think what matters more than whether the people and books in our lives are good is whether the people and books in our lives are worthy of our love. To me the real question is if we’re changed for the better on the other side of our time with them; if ultimately we wouldn’t want to go back to the time before we’d known or read them.
So, marking the milestone of receiving my first review, I very much hope that once you read The Beast Is an Animal, you won’t want to go back to a time when you didn’t know my heroine, Alys, and her heartbreaks and longings. And that you certainly won't want to go back to a time when you didn’t know what flits, flaps, creeps, and floats in the deep, dark forest.
Now, my friends, the gift-giving season is upon us, and you must know people who want a book. A book with a beautiful cover that will grace any shelf or tabletop! And here’s the thing: While my book isn’t available in bookstores until February 28, you can preorder it wherever books are sold now! And you can give your dear ones a card that tells them that what lies on the other side of January is a sliver of hope that goodness can be found in the seemingly darkest places.
I was recently asked by a blogger to name my favorite Christmas book, and I couldn’t think of anything particularly seasonal that I personally associated with the holiday. When I was in college, my mother always gave me a fat, juicy paperback in my Christmas stocking, something I’d curl up with for days after. A book I recently whipped through like that was the first in Justin Cronin’s Passage trilogy. The second is waiting on my shelf. I know what you're thinking: Peternelle, you're recommending I spend time with vampire-zombies at Christmas? The jokes write themselves, people.
And because I’m not completely subversive, here’s my favorite nonreligious Christmas song of all time. It's just the way I like my Christmas songs: full of melancholy and Judy Garland.
Wishing you peace in these final days of 2016, and here’s to finding—and making—goodness in 2017.
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PS: If you like this newsletter, please tweet about it, post about it on Facebook, forward it to friends, and encourage everyone to subscribe. Also, repeat after me: "The best way to spread good cheer is singing loud for all to hear that Peternelle's book is currently available for preorder."
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