The Greatest Challenge in Writing a Second Novel
Soon after I began writing The Mermaid Chair, I bumped into someone who had just read The Secret Life of Bees. Oh my gosh! I loved it, she exclaimed. I dont see how you could ever write another one that good. I gave her a weak smile. For a couple of weeks after that, doubt seeped in. I suddenly felt all sorts pressure. I became stymied.
Honestly, the last thing I ever imagined is that The Secret Life of Bees would become as successful as it did. In fact, for quite a long while, I couldnt seem to take it in. Then one night on a speaking trip, I was having dinner in my hotel room and watching Jeopardy on television, when one of the contestants said, Ill take Women Writers for $600. What popped on the screen was:Sue Monk Kidds debut novel is about this insect. The contestant responded, What are bees, Alex? And I sat, my fork poised in the air, blinking. It finally got through to me. I decided to step up to the reality of my novels unexpected success. And I promise you, I was, and am, as grateful as an author can possibly be. There is only one small problem. You have to follow it up.
I suppose that is what dawned on me when I got that well-meaning comment. After floundering around for those two weeks, Id had enough of it. I told myself to flat out get over it, that I was a writer, and I wrote what I wrote, that my second novel would be its own unique creation. I would no longer worry about the pressure to live up to something. I was just going to write. And from that moment, I relaxed. For the next two years I wrote The Mermaid Chair, and never looked back. The biggest challenge about writing this book was finding the courage to do that.