Monday, October 25, 2010

Birthing a Book by Heather Newton

Heather Newton is a writer, attorney and mediator in Asheville, NC.  Her novel Under The Mercy Trees, about a man forced to face his troubled past when he returns to his small hometown in the mountains of North Carolina after the disappearance of his brother, is available for pre-order now from and other online retailers, with information at

Birthing a Book
By Heather Newton
          I’ve been thinking lately about how getting a book published is like birthing a baby.

First, there’s the getting pregnant--or not getting pregnant--part. Some people conceive the month they decide to start a family. That didn’t happen for me. My husband and I tried for over a year and had actually scheduled an appointment with a fertility specialist when, hooray, I finally got the little “+” sign on a home pregnancy test. The fact that it took us so long caused anxiety and despair–was it ever going to happen? But it also gave us time to think and plan and be sure that having a baby was what we wanted to do.

Likewise, I didn’t find an agent and publisher for my novel the minute I finished it. An embarrassing number of agents told me (if they responded at all) that they just couldn’t feel “enthusiastic enough” about my book to take it on (I’m convinced they learn that phrase at agent school). Then the “+” arrived: my agent offered representation and placed the book with HarperCollins. In the nearly three years that passed between finishing the novel and selling it, I despaired that I would ever see it in print. That three years, though, gave me time to complete a short story collection and decide that yes, even without success, I still wanted to write.

The gestation phase for books and babies is also similar. Seeing the book cover for the first time was as exciting as looking at an early ultrasound. Holding the advance copy gave me the same thrill as feeling my baby kick and realizing she was alive and real. When the first reviews came out--people other than me talking about the novel–it reminded me of that magical point in my pregnancy when I suddenly showed and other woman began to come up to me to share their stories and my anticipation.

Now I’m feeling the way I felt toward the end of my third trimester. You know how it is, ladies–big as a bullfrog, having to pee every two minutes, out of breath walking to the mailbox. By the time my daughter was two weeks overdue I was drinking herbal teas and begging my massage therapist to find a pressure point that would send me into labor. What finally worked was going to see a Star Trek movie with my mom and sister and sitting right next to the speakers in the theater–the bass was so loud it shook that baby right out.

My novel, Under The Mercy Trees, comes out January 18, 2011, and I’m ready. I’ve picked a name, painted the nursery, packed the overnight bag. There’s nothing left to do but wait, and since this baby is fully formed and has all its fingers and toes, I think I’ll even settle in and have a glass of wine.


Karen said...

Heather, AMEN! I pre-ordered your book, and I can't wait! I'm sure it'll be a healthy baby :-) Blessings

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

What a gorgeous soul you are, Karen. Love to you!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Adding "Under the Mercy Trees" to my list. And since I don't smoke cigars, I'll toast a glass of wine to you. *Cheers*

Lynne Spreen said...

I have heard it said more than once that becoming a published author requires as much stamina and tenacity as it does talent and skill in writing. "It's a marathon," we're told. Well, that being the case, Heather, you won the marathon! Congratulations, and thanks for the post. It's reassuring.
PS I'll order your book. It sounds intriguing!

deb said...

Wonderful though sometimes I feel as if I could have given birth to five elephants by now! Sometimes, lately, it is hard for me to listen to tales from newborn authors as I feel as if I am nine months pregnant and watching a friend hold her baby while I hope that a hospital delivers me, but your article was reassuring. Thanks and wishing you great success!
Deborah Henry

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Deb I know exactly what you mean: I felt that way for a long time, too. Have faith, honey. You will give birth soon! :)

Heather said...

You ladies are great, and for those of you who write, Rebecca is right--never give up. You'll be changing diapers any time now!

Siobhan said...

YES! I feel exactly the same way, all indigestion and swollen ankles! My 'due date' is January 20, 2011, hopefully our playdate paths will cross!
All the best with the new arrival,
Siobhan Fallon

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."