The following was written as a post for my personal Facebook account, but it ended up being so long that I know most of my friends wouldn’t read it. I figured it might be of interest to you, my readers, so I’m posting it here.
Way back in the year 2000, I wrote a novel called Becoming Madonna. It was about a soap opera actress who basically wants to be Madonna, who she worships. Well, she wants her sort of career, to be able to act in movies and be a big pop idol. I wrote it in notebooks while hanging out in cafes. But I did type it up after and tried to get an agent with it but the two or three who wanted to read it passed.
I wrote Reckoning Daze in 2005 and stopped trying to get an agent with Becoming Madonna, using the new book instead. Then I pretty much forgot all about Becoming Madonna. I told myself the book was crap because the agents didn’t like it. I just chalked it up to the learning experience and started telling people that Reckoning Daze was my first novel. Before long, I believed that it was. Totally forgot about Becoming Madonna. When I’d notice the folder on my computer once in a great while, I had no desire to even take a peek at it, afraid to see just how awful my writing was back then. I was also afraid to learn that my writing today is the same as it was back then, which would mean I’ve never improved. And if that was true, well, what hope would there be for me? If I haven’t gotten better since the year 2000 then you could pretty much assume that I’m not capable of being a better writer. Suffice to say, I believed that no good could ever come from me looking at that book again.
Well, when I just opened my novels folder I decided to take a peek at Becoming Madonna. Looking at the file info, I saw that I hadn’t even opened it since 2003. Now, I wanted to see how awful it was so that I could feel confident about how my writing is better today. Totally expected it to be crap. Hell, I wanted it to be crap. Again, so that I could see that I’ve improved.
Well, guess what? It’s actually not bad. I only read the first chapter, but it was actually pretty good.
When I wrote Becoming Madonna, I was obsessed with Bret Easton Ellis. I’d only discovered his writing a year earlier and I remember I was reading Glamorama as I was writing the book. So, you can totally see the influence Ellis had on it. I was also obsessed with the soap opera Passions at the time, hence the soap the protagonist stars on being called Passionate About Love. (I discovered Passions because I read an interview with Sarah Michelle Gellar and she said that they shut down filming Buffy every day to watch Passions. So, I figured if it was good enough to shut down Buffy then it must be worth checking out. At first, I didn’t care for it. But I figured I’d give it a week. And I wound up hooked. I think the fact that there was witchcraft in it was probably why I stuck with it. I only stopped watching it when my favorite star left the show, which happened after a few others left. It ruined the suspension of disbelief. I just couldn’t accept different people playing those roles. I felt like I was watching imposters. Then I went to Paris for a month in 1999 and when I came back I just didn’t watch it anymore. Hmm, you know what? I might have written Becoming Madonna in 1999 then. Because I was still watching Passions. So, it must have been 1999.)
The satirical vibe of the humorous parts in Reckoning Daze is definitely present in Becoming Madonna. The big difference is that — so far as I remember — Becoming Madonna is a fun, perky book, whereas Reckoning Daze is nothing if not dark and chilling. Thus, Becoming Madonna would have a much wider appeal.
So, I think that I’m going to re-read Becoming Madonna and make some improvements and perhaps release it. The funny thing is that now it’s a period piece since it takes place in the year 1999 or 2000. I mean, I don’t think they even use cell phones in the book. Well, maybe, but they would’ve just been basic cell phones that were only good for phone calls. MAYBE there’s some texting, but they definitely didn’t have smartphones. And there was no Facebook or social media. Maybe Friendster but I think that would’ve been it. Possibly Livejournal, too. In any case, I think the fact that it takes place in 1999 would add to its appeal. I also think it could be considered a young adult novel. Not sure about that, however. I don’t know what the sex parts are like. I can’t even remember what age the main character is. But if it could be YA then I would think teens today would be curious about what life was like way back in 1999.
The only thing that might be an issue is that the book is only 65,000 words. Typically, novels are around 85,000 or longer. But young adult books run shorter so if it would be suitable for the young adult market then its length would be perfect. If it wouldn’t be OK for YA then I’d be calling it literary fiction or new adult fiction. Of course, after I re-read it I might have ideas for expanding it. I tend to add more than I subtract when editing. So, who knows, it could wind up being 85,000 words by the time I’m done the revisions.
Suffice to say, now I might have *three* unreleased books: Becoming Madonna, Fear & Self-Loathing in Los Angeles (my memoir) and the just-finished Book of Shadows 4. They say to be successful as a self-published author you need to keep your audience engaged and really get them hooked. That’s why they say to write a series because people will want to read all the sequels after the first one if it’s any good. But not all of your books have to be part of a series.
I am hoping Becoming Madonna could be a YA book because then I could promote it to my Book of Shadows fans.
I would definitely publish Becoming Madonna as Michael Beaulieu. Even if it’s not YA. I mean, I do have an audience. Book of Shadows 3 has now been downloaded almost 900 times. It would be stupid to publish it under another name and have to start all over with a new author site and social media accounts, etc. Besides, Reckoning Daze was published as Michael Beaulieu and there’s zero chance that Becoming Madonna would have more mature subject matter than Reckoning Daze.
There is one thing that Reckoning Daze and Becoming Madonna have in common, though: the protagonists are both television actresses. When I wrote Becoming Madonna, my knowledge about that just came from reading celebrity interviews in magazines all the time. But when I wrote Reckoning Daze I was going out with an aspiring actress and she inspired me to some degree.
[Side note: I used to read sooooo many magazines back then. I even collected them. I was probably subscribed to about 15 of them and bought, even more, every month. I’d go into Boston and hit up all the newsstands that carried French magazines and buy anything that had Mylene Farmer or Vanessa Paradis in it. I also special ordered magazines from a French record store. I ordered so many that I became friends with the owner. He had me to dinner a few times during my first two trips to Paris. But I was a dumb American who never thought to bring anything and I think that’s why he said he was too busy to get together the third time I went to Paris. I made quite a few dumb American mistakes during my first trip. I’m going to write a book about that someday. Or I might just publish my Paris journals from 1999 when I spent 5 weeks there. (I’d give 5 years of my life to get to do that again.)]
The really weird thing about all of this is that I have no idea what happens in Becoming Madonna aside from the basic premise. It’s like reading a book that someone else wrote. I don’t feel like I’m reading my own work. I suppose you could say I’m not the same person I was when I wrote it. Don’t they say your body is new every 7 years, that by the time 7 years has passed every cell in your body has been replaced by new cells? I don’t know if it’s true or not. Maybe it’s an urban legend. In any case, reading it is a trip. And kind of fun.
I really can’t tell you how awful I expected the book to be. Watch it wind up becoming my most popular novel. The one that everything I write now will be compared to. Wouldn’t that be strange?