To pen a bestseller has to be the greatest thrill any writer can experience.
Unless you’re Stephen King of course, because everything he writes is a bestseller. His career has reached the point where all he needs to do is announce he’s thinking about writing a book and presales go through the roof.
Kamloops has its own bestselling author in Richard Wagamese, whose latest novel — his 13th to be exact — Indian Horse reached No. 7 on The Globe and Mail’s list of Canadian fiction.
It took Wagamese 19 years to write his bestseller. He told me the news was a thrill, especially given the time he’s invested in his career.
“It’s really gratifying,” he said.
What struck me most about my conversation with Wagamese — the latest in many talks he and I enjoyed about the book — was what he hoped the success meant to other writers.
He called the victory a testament to every writer who has struggled to craft the best book possible and wondered if such success would ever happen.
For Wagamese, it has. And, if it happened to him, it’s bound to happen to someone else. Yes, it took 13 novels and almost two decades, but it happened to Wagamese.
My wife has been writing off and on for the better part of her life. I’m not going to say how long because that would allude to her age and I love her and want to stay married to her. But it’s been long enough.
Her goal is to write fiction, particularly speculative fiction, as snotty literary types would call it. The rest of us call it fantasy. You know, Lord of the Rings stuff.
She writes every day, or at least tries to, when our son goes down for his long afternoon nap. She has yet to complete a novel, although a draft for a novella is in the can. She has completed several short stories. The novel will come; she’s determined. But, as any mom knows, life happens.
Anyone who thinks writing is easy has never tried it. I do it for a living. It’s hard work and mentally taxing.
I’ve also penned a screenplay that’s kicking around the indie-film circuit. It was harder to write than any news story I’ve filed during my 10 years as a journalist.
When I watch my wife stress over building a world and creating living, breathing characters, all from her very active imagination, I sit and silently pray that she’ll finish the thing and sell it.
Not because I hope it will be a huge hit and I can retire, but because the joy of getting a novel published would be as thrilling to my wife as the day we got married and the night our son was born.
A couple of weeks ago, she took part in a seven-day writing contest. She was given a topic on a Saturday morning and had until midnight the following Saturday to submit a 2,500-word short story.
Panic set in when the subject was a historical piece about a firefighter and a drowning. No dragons, castles or magic.
Within 48 hours, she had research enough about Victorian London and firefighting practices of the day to craft a story about firefighters, a drowning and the life-altering scenario that follows. I’d say more, but I want all of you to read this thing one day.
By the end of the week, just in time for deadline, she filed a story she says in publishable. That’s the first time I’ve heard her say that about anything she’s written. Then she went back to the novel she’s been working on for the last several months.
The point of all this, you ask? To provide insight into the struggle every writer goes through. It’s difficult, solitary work.
When someone like Wagamese enjoys the success he has with Indian Horse, it is a victory for all writers and should be celebrated accordingly. We’re fortunate to have a bestselling author like him in our midst.
I also wanted the opportunity to tell my wife to hang in there. If Wagamese can do it, I know she can, too.