'Sleeping Tigers' Author Holly Robinson Talks the Fear that Comes With Writing Your Next Book
You don't have to look far to find writers talking about writing their debut novel or the novel that made them the most famous. But what is harder to find is writers who are open and honest about the real struggle of writing the next book, the one after the famous one or the sophomore novel overall. Sleeping Tigers author Holly Robinson has broken some of that silence by expressing her own emotions about writing that next novel: Straight-up fear. And it's refreshing to hear, because it's entirely relatable.
Robinson is the author of six books under her own name (she's also worked as a ghostwriter and a "book doctor" for celebrity memoirs), her memoir The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter and four novels, her debut Sleeping Tigers, The Wishing Hill , Beach Plum Island , and 2015's Haven Lake. Her next book Chance Harbor is slated for later in 2015.
All writers have that debut novel story. The one where they accepted rejection after rejection until they finally achieved their dream of being published. Robinson has that story, too, about Sleeping Tigers. As she told The Huffington Post:
When I published my first book, I had become accustomed to failure. I wrote many unpublished novels for over two decades before selling the first, so any tidbit of success had me texting my husband to see when he could come home and share a bottle of wine to celebrate. We even celebrated the "nice" rejections from editors in the beginning, because I was "getting closer."
However, ever since then, that first book magic has been dissipating. In its place has entered anxiety and fear.
"I am constantly plagued by doubt," she says.
Each successful book, no matter how modest, sets up more expectations. And she says:
So I am afraid every day that I write. I fear writing a book that isn't as appealing to readers as the one before; getting too small an advance for publicists to bother with me; or, alternatively, I am afraid that I'll receive an advance too large for me to earn out. I shudder when I see bad reviews and struggle not to compare my Amazon rank with the ranks of other authors.
Robinson is quick to point out that she's not alone. Prominent authors Wally Lamb and Elizabeth Gilbert have been trying to raise attention to their own struggles as well. Lamb has said that Oprah's Book Club choosing She's Come Undone made it incredibly difficult to write a follow-up that could live up to expectations. Gilbert found the same worry after writing the massively successful Eat, Pray, Love , even writing another book about finding your creativity, called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
It's wholly refreshing to hear writers talking about the struggles in their work. So often we hear things like, "the character just came to me," or "the book practically wrote itself," that it begins to seem like we aspiring writers are alone in our anxieties. And it speaks volumes about the passion involved as a writer, to be able to overcome these raging fears.