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.