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Posts Tagged ‘The Reckless Oath We Made’

There are a lot of literary prizes in the world, but not that many awarded on the basis of readers’ votes. This is why one of my favorite second place finishes was when All the Ugly and Wonderful Things came in second in the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2016. Nearly 28,000 people voted for my book, and it beat out such big name authors as Jodi Picoult, Ian McEwan, and Jonathan Safran Foer. My mind was boggled that so many readers voted for my book.

This year, sadly, The Reckless Oath We Made didn’t make the first round. Then something amazing happened: readers wrote my book in. Enough readers that it moved on to the semifinals. You still have about 12 hours left to vote in the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards. You could even vote for The Reckless Oath We Made, if you wanted. It would be an even more astounding little miracle if it moved onto the next round.

Even if I don’t make it to the next round, however, I feel like I’ve experienced one of the things that writers don’t talk enough about. We talk about awards, we talk about reviews, we talk about advances, and we talk about the disappointments and frustrations of publishing as an industry. So rarely do we talk about that small piercing feeling of joy in community that comes from connecting with your readers, and hearing from them that they connected with your book.

For writers like me who are extreme introverts with mental health issues that make appreciating ourselves difficult, it’s a huge feeling to know that you’ve stitched this fragile thread between your work and its readers, to know that there are people out there who are nodding along as you tell your stories, and they’re passing those stories onto others.

So while it feels like a little miracle that my book garnered enough write-in votes to end up in the semifinals of one of the few really big reader awards out there, knowing that my people have found me is a big deal. Thank you for the part you’ve played in that.

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It’s possible you ended up here because you read my essay about sex work. Or it’s possible you’re here because you read my new book, The Reckless Oath We Made. (Or my last book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.) Whyever you came, you may be thinking about bad life choices and mistakes.

Whether you came here to judge me or to sympathize or to say you’ve been there, what I most want to tell you is that not every bad life choice is a mistake. Sometimes the only choices available to you are bad, worse, and worst. In that scenario, the best choice you can make is a bad one.

Sometimes those bad choices bring good things. They’re not all mistakes. I never felt like the choices I made around performing sex work were mistakes. They brought me here, where I am alive, succeeding at my chosen career, and have people who love me. May all your “mistakes” be so beneficial.

The characters in The Reckless Oath We Made are also in situations where all they can hope for is to make the least bad choice available. Those choices may look like mistakes from the outside, but that doesn’t mean they won’t bring good things. So if you’re here to process your thoughts about your own choices and “mistakes,” welcome. If you’re here to lecture me about my choices, you’ll likely leave disappointed. I’ve had plenty of time to evaluate the choices I’ve made in my life and I’m okay with them.

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My new book, The Reckless Oath We Made, is nearly here. In just one week, it will be on sale everywhere, but even now it’s out in the world. People have advance copies to read, and if you’re a Book of the Month member, it’s one of the August selections.

I’m starting to hear from people who’ve read both All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and The Reckless Oath We Made, which is a little scary, because people can’t help but compare the two books. The verdict? They’re very different books.

The funny thing about having an unexpected bestseller like All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is that it creates expectations. Publishing wants me to write another book that is somehow exactly like my bestseller, but different. Readers who’ve only read that one book by me expect that all my books will be like that one.

The problem is that I’ve never been interested in writing the same book over and over. There are authors and genres that specialize in recreating the same sensations and feelings over a series of books. In fact, that’s one of the big selling points for a known author with a particular style: you always know what you’re going to get.

It’s true that I frequently revisit certain themes in my writing–poverty, drugs, mental illness, dysfunctional families–but I like to investigate those themes through different characters, different points of view, even different styles. I suppose I could try to recreate the feeling behind ATUAWT, but I don’t see the appeal. Lightning may strike the same place twice, but why would you want it to?

So if you pick up The Reckless Oath We Made expecting it to be exactly like All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, you might be disappointed. If you come to it looking for a new story with new characters, I think I can show you something interesting and moving. Does The Reckless Oath We Made have poverty, drugs, mental illness, and dysfunctional families? Oh yeah. It also has a lot of other things: knights, a waitress in distress, a prison escape, suitcases full of weed, a castle in the Flint Hills, love, loyalty, a heartbreaking betrayal or two, and even some medieval dirty talk.

You still have time to pre-order it from my local bookstore. If you do, you’ll get a signed hardcover first edition and some bonus book swag.

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Elephant pregnancies last approximately 95 weeks, and so I often think of my novels as baby elephants. They take a long time to gestate, they’re always a lot bigger than I think they will be, and once they’re loose in the world they’re adorably awkward. Or something like that. My new book is not much different. It took a year to write, a year to revise, it came in many tens of thousands of words over my goal, and when I think about it I’m both proud and a little scared.

I sold my new book back in June, but after some protracted debate about the title, I can finally send out the official “baby” announcement! The new book is titled THE RECKLESS OATH WE MADE, and it will be published by Putnam (an imprint of Penguin/Random) in the fall of 2019. Exact “due date” to be announced at a later time.

I am extremely excited about this book as it marries together a wide variety of my interests and concerns: poverty, health care, mental illness, medieval French literature, Middle English, sword fights, the Flint Hills, drugs, dogs, redheads, and guys with bad haircuts.

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