I am so excited to welcome Kate Quinn, author of the newly released DAUGHTERS OF ROME to Booking Mama. I recently reviewed DAUGHTERS OF ROME, and I found it to be a very entertaining novel about the year 69 A.D. when Rome had no less than four Emperors.
I hope you'll enjoy Ms. Quinn's essay. I thought it was not only interesting, but also filled with lots of great advice! I love how Ms. Quinn manages to keep everything in perspective with her great sense of humor.
Things I Wish I'd Known When My First Book Came Out
Everyone says second novels are the hardest. Now that my second novel Daughters of Rome is out, I feel I'm qualified to comment on that old axiom – and in some ways, they're right. (Whoever “they” are.) Second novels do come with a host of small anxieties that never touch an author's first book. Anxieties like the deadline, the expectations, and the mini nervous breakdown you get when you realize that absolutely everyone will be comparing your second book with your first. And writing Daughters of Rome was in many ways no picnic – I still have a flat spot on my forehead from repeatedly banging my head on my desk when I realized I had to re-write the whole damn thing for the second time. But in other ways, a second book is a huge relief because you've already done this circus before. You know what's coming; how the process of releasing your book into the world unfolds. Here are a few of the things I wish I'd known when my first book, Daughters of Rome's sequel Mistress of Rome, was published . . .
1. Have something planned for your book release day. Book release days are head-scratchers, because you're all keyed up – and for what? A book isn't a movie; you don't have a premiere to attend in a gorgeous gown. You don't have reader reviews to look at yet, because even if people get your book on the first day, they still need time to read it. And it's no use making that heart-in-the-mouth trip to Barnes & Noble to gaze proudly at your baby sitting on the shelf, because unless you are J.K. Rowling or at least Richelle Mead, bookstores don't usually stock a book the second it is released. So you end up hunched on the couch inside like a vampire who can't come out in the daytime, repeatedly hitting “Refresh” on your book's Amazon.com page and waiting for that first rating to pop up. Thank goodness I know about the agony that is Release Day this time around; I've already got champagne on to chill and Season 5 of Friday Night Lights to keep me busy. I'm sure I can refrain from hitting my Refresh button more than, oh, once an hour.
2. Keep your sense of humor about negative reviews. Because you will get them – even the Bible has negative reviews on Amazon; God Himself doesn't get a pass on this one. Some will be misspelled, and some will be nasty, and all will be deflating, so keep your chin up and find a way to laugh. That girl who panned Mistress of Rome with “depraved, sick, and filthy; I can't believe I finished it”? At least she did finish it. (And why? if it was really that depraved, sick and filthy? I smell Issues, and they aren't to do with my prose.) That reader who emailed me personally to tell me I was going to hell? I'm flattered; I thought I'd have to be Stephen King-level successful before I got the going-to-hell letters. That blogger who leveled me with a crushing “pallid predictable bodice-ripper”? Pallid, for your information, is spelled with two Ls. I may never have aired these comebacks with the reviewers in question – that would be unprofessional – but maintaining a sense of humor about the whole thing kept me serene.
3. For the love of God, hide all negative reviews from friends and family. My mother nearly gave herself a stroke when she read my first one-star review; she was still fuming about it days after I'd forgotten the whole thing. As for my husband . . . well, I had one Amazon reviewer who complained that “some friend of the author's wrote snide comments all over my review; how unprofessional; I will never read this author's work again if this is how I am treated!” Listen, don't blame me – you're lucky you got away with a few snarky comments, because my husband was so mad he wanted to punch you in the nose. My loved ones tend to take slights on my book as slights to me, so this time I am hiding all the negative reviews from their attention.
4. Read somebody else. You're going to be very tired of your book very quickly, so have someone else's book to read. Preferably in a different genre. Thank God Michael Grant's fourth book from the Gone series is coming out the same day as Daughters of Rome this year – rather than getting sick of hearing about the Year of Four Emperors and ancient Roman coups, I will be happily immersed in a sci-fi thriller about teenagers with mutant powers. Perfect.
5. Deflation is normal. That dreary gray deflated feeling you get after the book's out? I now know to call it the My-Book-Is-Finished-And-I-Wish-I-Were-Dead Blues. The best way to combat it, once the champagne is drunk, Friday Night Lights is over, and the last page on the Michael Grant novel is turned, is to start a new project. Because that's the fun part; the exciting story-plotting part before you start bashing your head into desks because the thing needs a second re-write. So once the blues kick in, start outlining another book. Maybe something about teenagers with mutant powers – that would make a switch from the Year of Four Emperors.
So maybe they don't know what they're talking about when they say the second novel is the hardest. Maybe the second novel is even easier. Because at least you've done it all before – and at least you're still ecstatic to be here at all.
Thanks for having me again, Julie! It’s been a pleasure.
Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she first got hooked on ancient Rome while watching I, Claudius at the age of seven. Still in elementary school when she saw the movie Spartacus, she resolved to someday write a book about a gladiator. That ambition turned into MISTRESS OF ROME, written when she was a freshman in college.
“I was alone in a brand-new city – I knew no one and nothing about Boston, so I escaped into ancient Rome instead. I didn’t even have a computer, but I didn’t let that stop me.” MISTRESS OF ROME was completed in four months, written in six-hour stretches in the Boston University basement computer lab while listening to the Gladiator soundtrack on repeat. It has now been translated into multiple languages and has been followed by a prequel, DAUGHTERS OF ROME.
Kate is currently working on her third novel, set during the reign of Emperor Trajan. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband live in California, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.