Tomorrow is the day that, in many ways, I have been waiting for for seven years now. Tomorrow Heavy Metal Symphony, my love affair project, a book of my heart, will be published. I’ve dreamed of this day for a very long time, but of course, like every author who has had a book come out since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the world I am releasing this book into looks very different from what I’d imagined.
When I first sold Heavy Metal Symphony to Kaledena Press back in early May, I thought, like many of us, that the pandemic was on its way to being over. I had just received my second dose of the vaccine, and was the last of my circle of friends and family to complete my vaccine series, so I figured we were good, and that we’d be out of the woods soon. That the summer would be a celebration, after which life would return mostly to what we’d previously considered “normal”.
Obviously, that isn’t what happened. And while life has, for me, regained more balance and “normalcy” – I feel comfortable going out more, and have gone back to spending time with my family and friends – we are certainly not out of the woods with the pandemic.
And so when I first sold this book and learned that it would be releasing in the fall, I figured, okay, I can have a big book launch party like I always have, and get everyone together and celebrate this book in the way I’ve always wanted to, the way it deserves. It’ll be perfect, timing-wise.
Again, that isn’t what ended up happening. And as I worked through the various rounds of edits on the book, as the disappointment sank in that I likely wouldn’t be able to celebrate the book the way I wished I could, larger questions began to arise. What difference did any of this make? What was the point of writing a book, or publishing a book, when the world was in such turmoil? What did any of it matter, when people were dying and suffering and losing loved ones? What was the point of any of it?
I had gone into yet another pandemic depression spiral, which have come and gone for me for the last almost two years, and I know the same is true for many people. I was so excited, SO excited, to finally be publishing this book, but does it ultimately matter in this strange and phenomenally difficult time in which we’re living?
Now, of course, here I must give the caveat that, while the pandemic was been pretty rough for writers and people in publishing for various reasons – book promotion all going virtual, people not being able visit bookstores for large chunks of time, supply chain issues, and the constant and persistent difficulty of trying to create when the world is continuously on fire – this is nothing compared to what those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods and their health have gone through. I myself have been lucky during this pandemic, and I absolutely realize that. But I know that I speak for many writers out there when I say that the difficulties above have been real too, and it’s been a weird time to care about your work and your book sales when it feels like you shouldn’t. So add all of this on top of the bigger existential questions I was struggling with, and it made for a very strange and very tough stew of emotions.
So I did the only thing I could do, and what I tend to do when the outside world gets too big, too hard, too scary: I lost myself in my work. I threw myself into all the various rounds of edits that had to happen before publication, really lost myself in the story and the characters and the music. I looked forward to every session when I would sit down with the book, eagerly anticipated my next visit with these characters and with the story that has always meant so much to me.
And you know what? It pulled me through.
One of the other strange effects the pandemic has had on me is that for a long time – most of 2020 and the early part of 2021, in fact – I didn’t really feel like myself anymore. And I know I’m not alone in this. Isolation and losing many of the experiences we value forced us to ask ourselves: who are we without the people and places we love, the experiences in which we take the most joy? I still don’t know that I have an answer to that question, ultimately, but it was a question I was feeling HARD. I felt like I faded over the months to a shadow of myself, whose joy in life had been mostly sucked away, who couldn’t remember what it was like to hope for things anymore, to get excited, to be enthusiastic. And yet, in working on Heavy Metal Symphony, from the moment I began my first read-through before starting to revise, I felt like I was sitting down with an old friend – both the book and the me who had written it and labored over it for so long. Oh. Hello. I remember you. You’re pretty rad, actually. How did I go without you for so long? I won’t make that mistake again.
And I realized that that version of me wasn’t gone. She was still there, after all. She’d been asleep, maybe, but finally, finally, I’d woken her up. This book woke her up.
It wasn’t until my final read-through was done and the book was turned in and out of my hands for the last time that I really realized it. That for all my doubts, for all my fears that the book didn’t matter, that I was shortchanging it by publishing it during a pandemic, that no one would care and that I shouldn’t care so much about it either, the truth was that I had needed this book right then. Heavy Metal Symphony is without doubt one of my very favorite things I have ever written, and getting to work on it, to immerse myself in it, to lose myself in it, when I was struggling and most needed something to hang on to, saved me. On top of that, working on a book in which a band spends a lot of time touring and performing live was a balm to my soul in an era when live music, one of my favorite things on earth, had mostly disappeared. It reminded me of the power of music, of how songs can speak to us in different times in our lives and mean different things, how a lyric you’ve heard a thousand times can suddenly, one day, take on a whole new meaning that you never thought of before and that transforms the world for you, ever so slightly. And how a favorite song is always there, waiting for you, to curl up inside it when you need to.
And once I realized all that, I felt much more at peace with everything. Maybe no one will read the book. It’s very likely its release will pass unnoticed by the wider world, as is, after all, the hard truth about the majority of books that are published.
But that’s okay. It’s all okay. I love this book, deeply, and it was there for me when I needed it. It pulled me through. I was working on it and preparing it for publication at exactly the time that I most needed to be doing it, so in the end – even though I tend to dislike “everything happens for a reason” platitudes – I think that this was how it was meant to happen. And my hope for this book, as it makes its appearance in the world tomorrow, is that one person loves it as much as I do. That one person takes solace in it during these difficult times; that it provides a refuge and escape for just one person as it did for me, that it maybe gives someone a little shot of live music that they’ve been missing. That will be enough.
Heavy Metal Symphony is a book of my heart because the me that created it is the truest version of me, I think. And I’ve learned now how to better hold on to her. I don’t think I’ll forget again.
I hope you’ll all join me for my virtual launch party tomorrow to hear more about the book. I’m really excited for this virtual format, as I have some friends joining who wouldn’t be able to come to an in-person launch party, and I know it’s going to be a lot of fun. And I hope you’ll consider buying a copy of Heavy Metal Symphony and giving it a chance. If you do, I hope you enjoy it.
Welcome to the world, book of my heart. To quote Nightwish, as I am wont to do: “The beauty of this ride ahead/Such an incredible high.”