Survival of the Fittest by Andi O’Connor
We have a delightful guest today! I would like to introduce you to Andi O’Connor, author of the fantasy novel, The Lost Heir. Andi is here to talk about being true to yourself, find your own style, and write from your heart.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
by Andi O’Connor
Let me start off by sharing with you an experience from one of my first book signings. I was at a local independent bookstore promoting my fantasy novel, The Lost Heir, when a gentleman came up to me and asked if I was the author. Used to the question, but no less annoyed by its implication, I politely told him that I was.
It was then that he said, “Oh, so it’s a female book.”
Now, for those of you who don’t know, or aren’t able to gather from my last name, let me tell you something about myself. I am the living embodiment of the stereotypical Irish temper. (I’m sure some of you can see where this is going.) If there is one thing on this good green Earth that grates on my soul, it is the assumption that a woman is incapable of doing something for no other reason than because she is a woman. And because of my fiery nature, which I assure you can be quite endearingat times, I am not afraid to unleash my wizard’s fire and smote my enemies where they stand.
Of course, that is generally not something any public figure should do, even if they’re only a wizard in training and haven’t quite mastered the technique. So, I bit my tongue, told him, in the most convivial tone I could muster, that it was a fantasy novel, and launched into my spiel telling him what The Lost Heir is about in a rather feeble hope that he would buy a copy, which, of course, he didn’t.
By now, I’m sure many of you are thinking, ‘Well, Andi, that’s a great story. But what’s the point?’ Well, I promise you, it’s not meant to serve as a fair warning to run for cover the next time you see me signing copies in a bookshop. I am sharing this with you because it was my first experience with the struggles a female author faces in a predominantly male dominated genre. It was the first time someone implied that because I am a woman, I am only qualified to write romance or chick lit. It was the first time I had ever been told, directly or indirectly, that nothing I had to write would be of interest to a man.
One thing every author needs to have is a thick skin. It was something I was aware of long before the rejection letters started piling up. That’s simply a part of the industry, especially in today’s world. No matter how fortified you think you’ve made that skin, there are times when it is difficult to keep your defenses in tact against the rejections, less than savory reviews, and 1 star ratings, which I have thus far managed to elude. (And yes, I realize that by writing that, I am jinxing myself and will receive 15 one-star ratings before I can recite my own name.)
But one spike I didn’t think to add to my shield was defense against gender stereotyping based on a book’s genre.
I will be the first to admit that once I got over the initial shock of the man’s statement and had time to reflect on its meaning, I wasn’t angry. I was hurt. My book, the very thing that I had poured my heart and soul into, that I had toiled over for years, that I had nurtured and loved, had been rejected—not because of the writing style or the storyline, but because it was written by a woman.
What could I do? What could anyone do, regardless of their sex or genre they write? I agonized over that for a while, and then it hit me. There was never even one second when I had considered writing anything other than fantasy. I had already done everything I could do. I had stayed true to who I was, both as a person and as a writer.
Since that fateful day, I have participated in a number of interviews where I have been asked to give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, and I always give them three for the price of one. (What can I say, I’m a generous person. It balances out the fierce Irish temper.)
Be true to yourself, find your own style, and write from your heart.
If you are a new or aspiring writer, and you take anything away from this post, take this: never conform. Do not write something because it’s popular or because it worked well for another author. Never write in a genre because it is stereotypically written by one sex or the other. Not only will you know that you aren’t writing from your heart, but your readers will know it too. All writers evolve, change and grow. But only exceptional writers are true to themselves. Are you?
The Lost Heir is Andi O’Connor’s debut novel and is available in both paperback and eBook. Her second novel, Silevethiel, is slated for release in October, 2013. She is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, the National Writers Association, The Association of Writers & Writing Programs, and the Boston Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. Andi lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and four dogs.
You can visit Andi’s website at www.andioconnor.com or socialize with her at Facebook.