I have a new novel out.
It’s called Every Star That Falls, and you really want to read it. It’s funny, and moving, and it contains what I’m pretty sure is the first gay triad in young adult novels. It’s basically what would happen if Heartstoppers and Red, White and Royal Blue had a baby.
If this sounds like an elevator pitch, it’s because it is. In the weeks leading up to the book’s release, my publisher’s publicity team suggested I practice saying it until it sounded unrehearsed, because in the days after the book’s launch I would be saying it approximately 37,000 times to the various media outlets they’d lined up for me to talk to.
This is not, of course, my first novel. It’s my sixty-first, I think. But this one is different from the ones I usually do. For one thing, it’s a sequel to my novel Suicide Notes. Being a sequel isn’t unusual, but being a sequel to a book that came out 15 years ago is. Making it even more unusual, Every Star That Falls begins the day after Suicide Notes ends. So even though no time at all passes between the books, in my life a whole lot has happened. Suicide Notes was written six houses, four years of caring for my mother as she died, and one ex-husband ago.
Interviewers are really interested in this. “Why did it take you so long to write the sequel?” is the first question I usually get.
“Well,” I tell them, thinking about how we have only 10 minutes before the next interview, “I was kind of busy.”
Every Star That Falls is also different for me because it’s the first YA (young adult) novel I’ve released in the era of social media. When I first started publishing, you sent books out to a handful of professional review journals and waited to see what they thought. While that still happens, now more emphasis is placed on social media, where books are judged not necessarily by professional reviewers but by pretty much anyone with an Instagram or TikTok account.
This is, unsurprisingly, a perfect setup for inducing anxiety in those of us who do things like write books. Social media is not exactly known as a place where measured, in-depth discourse about art occurs. It’s more like, “I listened to this book while riding rollercoasters with my friends yesterday, and I guess it’s okay, but what I really want to talk about is my new nail polish.”
The day the book came out, I mostly looked to see what would happen on Instagram. This is where most readers of YA fiction post. Also, bookstores use it to promote the newest releases. I was relieved to see that Every Star That Falls was featured in dozens of posts. In one photo it was sandwiched between new titles by Zadie Smith and Stephen King, which I’m fairly certain is the only time that will ever happen.
Once I got past the thrill of seeing my book getting some love, I started to look at all the other books in the photos. Mine was usually one of a dozen or more new releases. Every book was decked out in a beautiful cover and adorned with glowing blurbs designed to tempt readers. Every book wanted to be picked up and bought. Every book wanted to be loved. And behind every one of those books, I knew, was an author like me, someone looking for proof that THEIR book was standing out in the crowd.
The part I tried not to think about was how next week there will be another crop of new books. This week’s class will make room for the new arrivals. Gone are the days when books lingered on bookstore tables for months. Now, you get a brief window to convince readers to pick you up. I try not to compare it to the way the boys of summer quickly become the middle-aged men of fall, but it’s hard not to.
In a couple of days, I fly to Chicago for a bookstore event. Will anyone come? Or will I, as has happened several times in the past, end up reading to an audience of only store employees? I know from experience that these things are completely unpredictable. (Once, I flew across the country to discover that no one had bothered to tell the store manager that there was even an event happening.)
On the other hand, I could be met with an enthusiastic audience of dozens and spend a happy hour or two talking to readers about my book and signing their copies. If so, I hope I can convey to them how much I appreciate them coming out to see me.
I’ve been putting out books for more than 30 years. Every time a new one comes out I think it won’t be as exciting as the last time. But it always is. It’s also always as nerve-wracking. You put so much time into books, not to mention a piece of your heart. And while intellectually you understand that whether or not a book succeeds has almost nothing to do with you once it’s out in the world, you of course want it to be recognized.
All of which is to say—I have a new novel out! It’s a good one! I bet you’ll love it. ▼
Michael Thomas Ford is a much-published Lambda Literary award-winning author. Visit Michael at michaelthomasford.com.