Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wish You Were Here

Many years ago, I lost my mother to cancer. Among the million individual sadnesses I have about that fact (first among them: that she was never able to meet my children), one that pained me for years is something that I'd told her in her final days, namely that I was going to have a novel published in the near future. It had been my goal since I was very young to make myself into a novelist, and my mother was probably the most supportive person in my life as I worked towards achieving that goal. The week before she died, I'd entered into contract discussions with a publisher for an adult thriller I'd written entitled Skin and Bones. Immediately upon hanging up the phone after talking with my agent, I rushed into my mother's room to tell her the good news. The look of happiness that cut momentarily through her pain was one of the few pleasant memories of those days. Her expression, and her words to me as she placed her hot hand against my cheek: "That's you, Danny," she said. "That's you."

A month or so later the publisher (who, admittedly, I'd never heard of prior to my so-called book deal) went bankrupt and not long after that my then-agent and I parted ways. I never stopped writing, but for a few years I stopped submitting my work for publication. The real fun was in the writing, anyway. But I've always felt badly that one of my final assurances to my mother--that I would be fine, that I would be doing what I loved--did not come to pass. At least, it did not come to pass in the time frame or the manner in which I'd told her it would. Some years would pass before I decided to leave my cave, manuscript pages of Generation Dead in hand, and take another stab at "getting published". There were many setbacks and disappointments along the way, but I was sustained along the way both by my promise to her, and her words to me--"that's you". I got there eventually, but there were many nights where I thought that I would never make good on my promise.

Writers fall in two distinct camps generally with regards to their families and early formative experiences--they either had a happy, supportive and almost idyllic childhood, or else their family life is an endless wellspring of bitterness, horror and trauma. One or the other background seems to fuel the writing of most writers I've known. I'd definitely count myself in the former group.

Earlier this week, my brilliant and talented editor sent me a couple copies of the new Kiss of Life paperback and, finally, the soon-to-be released Passing Strange hardcover. I dedicated this one to my parents, Jeff and Elaine.

Miss you, Mom.

4 comments:

Karen Mahoney said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. So wonderful that you could - eventually! - make good on what you told your mum that day. This especially resonates with me; my mum had cancer twice and, although she survived both times (yay!!), one of them I convinced her to go through treatment so she could one day see me get published.

Next year MY debut novel comes out, and it will absolutely be dedicated to her

Karen

p.s. This year I have my second anthology story published (with you!) in KISS ME DEADLY - I am so honoured to be in a book with you. Seriously. I adore the Generation Dead series. :)

jnetrains said...

Dan
I am so proud of you and I know that your mom is smiling down on you.
What a wonderful message you wrote on mothers day.
love
Dad

Insert Book Title said...

I am sorry to hear that! I am sure she would be so proud of you. You are an amazing writer.

Cate Gardner said...

Oh what a lovely, sad post. My mother is my support group.