Last week, I was lucky enough to escape from my children and go on a brief trip to New York with my husband. It was also a chance to visit my publisher for the first time.
It still amazes me to not only have a wonderful agent, but also (unbelievably) a real publisher. So when I arrived in front of the HarperCollins building on a cold and rainy day, I was starstruck and couldn’t resist taking a number of photos, none of which were particularly in focus.
My editor met me in the lobby; we had exchanged emails, phone calls, and revisions but it was such a treat to finally meet her in person. As we exited the lift, she remarked that the building was very “Mad Men” and that they were due to move offices next year, but I was too busy gaping at the large, movie-poster size book covers that adorned the hallways. Books by famous authors like Isabel Allende, Elmore Leonard, and Neil Gaiman. I had the urge to rush up and touch the glass, but luckily we went in to meet some people from publicity and marketing instead.
Sitting around a table with three attractive publishing professionals was slightly surreal. On one hand, we were discussing a product that would be launched in August. On the other hand, this product was literally a figment of my imagination. It raised a lot of questions about the exact moment when something as ephemeral as a thought becomes reality. In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them and was vaguely surprised that I hadn’t been evicted yet.
Later that afternoon, I went with HarperCollins’ charming audio producer to do a test reading for the book. Visiting the recording studio was the culmination of all my NPR fantasies, and the experience of being directed by a real director, with a real audio producer, and a real sound engineer, was both nerve-wracking and so much fun that I couldn’t stop beaming. We ran through two chapters and the upshot was that I’ll be narrating the audio book for The Ghost Bride.
“Is it going to be abridged?” I said, looking at the pages of dense text and wondering which idiot had written it. Oh, that would be me.
“No,” they said. “We don’t really abridge books nowadays. Most readers prefer the original copy.”
The actual recording will be done in a studio in California later this spring, and I suspect it’s going to be a challenging, yet memorable undertaking. Why are there so many characters in this novel and how am I going to make voices for all of them without sounding like a muppet? These are some of the Deep Questions that I clearly didn’t ponder when I leaped at the chance to do a test reading. There’s loads of Chinese dialects as well, including one which I don’t speak.
When I mentioned this to a Singaporean friend with whom we had dinner that night, he said, “And why is there Hainanese in your book?”
“Because the cook is Hainanese.” In colonial Malaya, people from Hainan entered the cooking profession in droves.
“Aiya, why did you do that? My own mother is Hainanese and I can’t even speak it!” he pointed out.
I really had nothing to say, other than the fact that I never expected this book to be published, or made into an audio book, let alone read by me. I shouldn’t tell you all these things, lest you give up hope and nobody buys the audio book, but really, truth is stranger than fiction.
If I had thought all those years ago when I was hosing down the cafeteria floor in university or staring at a financial spreadsheet with bloodshot eyes, that I might actually have the kind of job where I could wander through the doors of a New York publisher and fool them into letting me read my own book, then I might have planned it a little better. But I am deeply, deeply grateful for the way things turned out.
So, if you are secretly writing a manuscript in the dead of night, or pondering plot points while your children race around the house like circus ponies, I want to encourage you to keep on writing. These things can actually happen, so don’t give up!
I’d like to thank my wonderful editor and the rest of the team at HarperCollins and John Marshall Media for making time for me last week. And a big hug for my mother-in-law for watching those ponies, er, children while we were away.
What’s your impossible dream?
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