Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Second time at bat

Share |

When I was young and marginally more stupid than I am now – ah, those heady days of youth, how fleeting they seem now to this aged mind! – I took a one-day course in skydiving. Well, parachuting, really, as you have to work your way up to skydiving freefall. Signing up, I had visions of every WWII movie I’ve ever seen; a lineup of eager recruits by the gaping door of a transit plane, each jumping out headlong into the endless abyss. Wheee!

The truth, unsurprisingly, was more mundane, and far more terrifying. Myself and two companions were walked through the basics of elementary parachute jumping, including (and this was quite a surprise to me) that one does not simply cannonball out an open door, but must instead walk out under the wing(!) and stand on the wheel, wait for the count by the instructor (who is holding the ripcord himself), and then let go, arch the back, count to five, and look over the shoulder to make sure the ‘chute has opened correctly.

The first time, gritting my teeth, I heroically made my way out of the plane and (I want to stress this again) stood on the wheel underneath the wing. The instructor gave me the go ahead, I released, counted five, checked as the canopy open above me, and hollered hallelujahs all the way down.

The second time – and here we indirectly get to the meat of the matter – I completely panicked. It took every single ounce of willpower I had to get out there, and before the instructor even nodded his approval, I had released, tumbling downward in an ungainly tangle of arms, legs, and screams. The parachute opened, of course, but all semblance of dignity had fled me. I knew the odds of perishing in a parachute accident were slim, but that was for the first time out. The second time, I knew that the odds of my survival had slightly decreased. If you tests the odds enough, sooner or later they will catch up with you, and I convinced myself that there was now a greater chance of plummeting to death. This is also a main reason why I hate to fly, and don’t tell me the statistics say that it’s the safest mode of transportation, it is hanging in the air at 30,000 feet, and if something does go wrong, there exists very little chance of surviving the crash. So there.

What’s the relevance to this blog? The concept of the second attempt, and the main reason why my work on a second novel is markedly harder than the first; fright, terror, and an unwillingness to tempt fate again.

“But, Corey!” you object (you had better be objecting). “You’ve written a novel, you found a publisher, you have fans,” – yes, I do so have fans – “you beat the odds, man!” All true, and I don’t mean to belittle my accomplishment. But as I believe that most authors are introverts and harshly critical of themselves, so too I believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that my second attempt will fail. I don’t write this to engender sympathy (although god knows I love sympathy almost as much as I love italics), but to reveal an insecurity that plagues every author anywhere, and if they deny it, they are filthy, filthy liars. Why would you buy a book written by a liar? At least I’m being honest here. Buy my book.

I kid, of course. Please don’t boycott me, literary community. Or do, the resulting controversy could help boost sales.

A friend of mine once asked, once my first novel got published, when the second one was coming out. “Isn’t one enough of a miracle?” I screamed in my head at him, but replied out loud that I hadn’t started yet. He commented, inadvertently and unthinkingly insulting me in the process, that he always believed a true author to have several books on the go at any one time. Well, yeah, sure, if you’ve got an anal-retentive urge to keep writing such as Stephen King or James Patterson. (I should pause here to remark that I only lump King and Patterson together for their monstrous output of novels, not the quality of their work – King is a terrific storyteller, while Paterson couldn’t cobble together a satisfactory episode of Diagnosis: Murder to save his life.) I have a few ideas, sure, and one has congealed itself in my brain into enough of a plot that I feel compelled to write it, but I would never consider myself a writer of any abundant output.

Make no mistake, the second novel is coming, but it is difficult. The first one was a lark, a laugh; a hobby that I never really believed would amount to anything. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve been overwhelmed by my success thus far (Ha!), but in terms of the odds, I’ve been remarkably fortunate. But the first came with no preconceptions or baggage; it was purely me in form, rhythm, and content. Now, people want more. One person even asked for a sequel, to which I replied, “How? Where else is there to go with this?” No, the next one must stand on its own merits, or fail.

And I’m terrified of the fall.

As the noted philosopher Calvin said to his friend Susie Derkins, “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone's expectations.”

Amen.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Corey Redekop

Corey Redekop, author of the critically acclaimed novel Shelf Monkey, is a librarian and freelance writer. He lives in Thompson, Manitoba.

Go to Corey Redekop’s Author Page