*Brian Keene’s Ten Best Books of 2012 can be found here.
Forgive me if this post sounds awkward. I sometimes get awkward when I receive praise because, well, I don’t expect it. Don’t get me wrong—I love it when people say kind things to me or, in this case, when they say kind things about my work. I just feel…surprised. Like every writer, I get excited when someone likes my work, but I always seem to struggle for the rights words with which to respond.
See what I mean about sounding awkward?
So when one of my favorite writers in the world—a writer whose work I was studying as recently as last week—names my debut novel THE SORROWS one of the ten best books of 2012 and calls it the best horror novel of the year, I really don’t know how to respond. I suppose “Thank you” would be appropriate, but the phrase is so overused and threadbare that it scarcely holds any meaning. We say “Thank you” when someone hands us food at a drive-thru. And this is obviously a much bigger deal than that.
Perhaps a flawed analogy would work best here. Imagine you’re a minor league baseball player in double-A who gets a surprise June call-up to the big leagues when the major league team suffers a rash of injuries. You’re awestruck, frightened, and more than a little overwhelmed. You doubt that you belong and suspect you’re really not very good after all, and your inclusion on the major league roster is one big practical joke that the entire league is in on. But you do your best, you work your hardest, and end up happy with your first year in major league baseball.
Then, at year’s end, one of the best pitchers in the league—for the sake of the flawed analogy, I’ll pick Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers—approaches you and tells you he thinks a lot of your pitching. You know that you should have the confidence and coolness to take such a compliment in stride, that you should nod politely and tell him you appreciate it, but the fact is you simply can’t act cool and unmoved.
Because it means so much more than that.
I don’t write for awards or accolades. I write primarily because the stories in my head have to be told, because I believe we should use whatever talents we’ve been given, because I believe writing is one of the finest pursuits anyone can undertake, because it sets a good example for my children, because I believe in the definition of fiction (Telling lies about people who never existed to tell us the truth about ourselves), because I believe that writing can illuminate human nature and act as a redemptive force, and because writing is a natural extension of my full-time job as a teacher. Sure, if I make money at it, that’s cool too, but money isn’t what drives me.
Having said all that, it is still a huge thrill to have someone whose opinion I value so highly say such kind things about my work. So I’m sorry if this sounded awkward or contradictory or whatever, but the truth is that I poured a great deal of myself into THE SORROWS, and the fact that Brian Keene, one the best writers alive, thought I did a good job means the world to me.
So thank you, Brian. You’re an incredible writer and someone who has already taught me a great deal.
And if any of you haven’t read Keene’s zombie classic THE RISING…why not? If zombies aren’t your thing, don’t worry. A GATHERING OF CROWS is one of the strangest, most wonderful depictions of good vs. evil you’re likely to find. And if a scrappy, erudite outcast Amish protagonist doesn’t intrigue you (and if he doesn’t, you likely don’t have a pulse), how about DARK HOLLOW, the book that helped guide me as I edited THE SORROWS?
And read Brian Keene if you haven’t. You won’t regret it.