A little while after that book signing, I stopped telling people I was a writer. When I told people what I did they were always impressed. So how come I stopped? I think it was because people were impressed with the notion of writing a book, but their first question was never: “What is the book about?” it was always, “How many copies did you sell?” or “How is the book doing?” which took away the entire artistic, creative part of things and made me feel like a salesman or someone who’s worth was measured in dollar signs. I’ve never put much emphasis on dollar signs. I’d rather be measured by the things I’ve accomplished. Hopefully, I’ll have more friends at the end of my life than published books.
And then, one day this summer, I went to a big bookstore. It was so big and important, I didn’t dare tell them “I’m an author”. But I went to the children’s book section, and there was my book. I went to the erotic section, and there were two more of my books. And then my stepmother asked at the information desk if one of my historical books was available. The woman checked the computer and said, “Jennifer Macaire. Let’s see. We have ‘The Secret of Shabaz.” Here she paused, and then, to my immense delight, she said, “I know that book. It did really well here. My daughter read it and loved it.”
I couldn’t stop grinning, my stepmother introduced me as the author of the book, and I floated away on a cloud. It wasn’t finished though. The bookstore manager came looking for me in the aisles and said, “I noticed you have another book coming out soon. Would you be interested in doing a book signing here?”
He gave me his card and told me to contact him when I got back to NY.
My glamorous life as a writer came rolling back. It was worth it after all. Worth the rejections, the edits, the flashers, the measly pay and the heartbreak. It was worth it. Someone’s daughter had read my book…and loved it.
However, I can’t speak about my life as a write without mentioning ‘The Promise’. It’s a book I wrote when my sons were about nine. One day, they asked me to write a story where there were no grown-ups. “None at all?” I asked.
“None,” they replied firmly. And then Sebi gave me the idea. “They all got killed off by a virus,” he said.
So I sat down and wrote ‘The Promise’. It was a slim, unassuming story about a boy named Ryan who didn’t give up. He made a promise to his father, and he meant to keep it. He and his younger brother and sister made a voyage to the south of France, meeting other survivors along the way. It was a small book, but it had great consequences. My mother, an English teacher, decided to use it in her class in a maximum security prison for minors. In my book, the narrator is the hero of the story. But the boys in the prison identified with Red Sky – the villain. But Red Sky redeems himself in the book. The boys in the prison loved the book so much they asked my mother if she could find the film. My mother said the book wasn’t a film, but she knew the author. Incredulous, the boys demanded to know who it was. When she told them it was her daughter, they wondered if I couldn’t come in and talk to them about the book. It required several months of preparation, special permission, and lots of organizing – but the day arrived I went to prison to speak about my book.
I was a little wary, and had no idea what to expect. And it certainly wasn’t the barrage of thoughtful, interesting questions the boys asked me. From the metaphor of setting free the wolves, to Red Sky’s motives in saving the horse…everything had to be discussed at length.
Amazed by the visit, and amused by the demands I write a book ‘just for Red Sky’, I sat down and wrote a sequel and presented it to the classes for Christmas. (Just what they wanted – an unedited first draft!) My mother had them editing it for an English lesson one day. (How many of you can spot the misplaced modifier in this page? How many typos can you find?)
I’ve been back to the prison three times. Each time I’m thankful for the prison authorities who take the time to organize the day for me, and who make everything go so smoothly. A special thanks to the director and to my mom, of course, for letting me be part of the program. It really means far more to me than dollar signs to hear a young boy tell me, “Mrs. Macaire, I want to say something. When I’m out of here, and I have a wife and kids, I want to be sitting on my sofa one day and watching television and see your film, ‘The Promise’ with my kids. And if it doesn’t become a film, I’m still going to sit down and read the book to them. Because it was important to me. It made me see to the future.”
Well, after that – who needs a best seller?