Saturday, August 08, 2015

No Apology Necessary

This week’s guest blogger is fellow Henery Press author, Wendy Tyson. She’s the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the forthcoming Greenhouse Mystery series.

Visit Wendy at her website:

No Apology Necessary

By Wendy Tyson

My family and I just returned from a trip abroad where I was doing research for the next Allison Campbell mystery, Fatal Façade

I was looking for the right setting for a murder, and I found it in Sesto, a small South Tyrolean village in the Dolomite Mountains of northeastern Italy. In Sesto and the surrounding towns, the people are friendly, the scenery majestic, and the food delicious; plus, there are all sorts of Alpine nooks and crannies—perfect places for hiding a body. With miles of walking and hiking trails and a sophisticated lift system, exploring was easy. 

I had only one problem: the language barrier. I’m proficient at neither German nor Italian, the two primary languages spoken in South Tyrol, and many people there don’t speak English. Armed with Google Translate and a first aid kit’s worth of Italian, I meandered my way through Sesto, taking copious notes and hundreds of pictures. But that wasn’t enough. I had compiled a list of questions and I needed to talk to someone.

Fortunately, I met several people whose mastery of English was far greater than my grasp of their language. I so badly wanted to tell them that I was a mystery writer, to sit down for hours over tiramisu and a cup (or three) of cappuccino and discuss the rich history, culture and traditions of the area. My issue? A sudden attack of shyness. I found myself afraid to approach these strangers. Research or not, I was feeling oddly sheepish.

It was Julia Child who said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” In cooking…and in writing. Julia Child believed in living life unapologetically. Her robust, take-no-prisoners attitude was one of the things I loved about the chef, and as we made our way through Europe,
sampling the culinary offerings in each region, Julia came to mind. How many times had I avoided asking questions for fear that I would be bothering someone? How many opportunities to learn and grow as a writer had I missed because I censored myself, believing that people, including those I met in Sesto, would be uninterested in helping me or that I would look like a fool? How many times did I apologize before asking for help—for taking up time, for taking too long, for not being fluent in a language? Too many times.

I realized then that I have trouble saying the words, “I am a mystery author.” After all, I don’t have the street cred or name brand recognition of Patterson or Child or Gerritsen. I still feel a little bit like an imposter. If you’ve ever experienced Imposter Syndrome, you know exactly what I mean. Imposter Syndrome is not unique to writers. As a first year lawyer at a big Philly firm, I spent many days wondering when people would figure out that I didn’t belong. Little did I know at the time that most of my first year colleagues (and some more tenured ones, too) felt the same way. It seems Imposter Syndrome is universal amongst new lawyers. Perhaps it’s universal amongst writers, too.

But in order to do research for my book, in order to do right by my readers and create the most authentic story possible, I needed to develop, like Julia, a what-the-hell attitude. I needed to get past Imposter Syndrome. I needed to stop apologizing.

After five days in the region, I felt my confidence growing. Perhaps it was a result of the sustenance gained from local delights like spinach knödel, fried apples (with ice cream!) and grappa. Perhaps I was simply getting more comfortable with the area and its people. Or maybe I was channeling a little of Julia’s chutzpah. In any case, I asked questions, outing myself as a mystery writer. Unsurprisingly, everyone I spoke with was helpful—and interested. The more I opened up, the more I learned—and I vowed that there would be no more apologies.

Julia was right—giving in to a fear of failure is the surest way to fail. Confidence and conviction are key. But what else would you expect from a woman who said “A party without cake is just a meeting”? Clearly, she knew her stuff.

Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers. Wendy has written four published crime novels, including Dying Brand, the third novel in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series, which was released on May 5, 2015. The first in the Campbell series, Killer Image, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Wendy is also the author of the Greenhouse Mystery Series, the first of which, A Muddied Murder, is due to be released in spring 2016. Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, and she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, International Thriller Writers’ online magazine. Wendy lives with her husband, three sons and three dogs on a micro-farm just outside of Philadelphia.


Julie said...

Wendy - what a lovely trip! Already rubbing my hands in anticipation of the next book!

I think most people probably feel like an impostor from time to time - the feeling not limited to lawyers or writers. Its pushing past those feelings of insecurity and reaching for information/connection/responsibility that make us us grow...and help us find the perfect spot for a murder.

Wendy said...

Thank you, Julie--you are so right! I think it is a universal feeling, whatever the context, and it takes courage to push past it. The modern publishing world can be tough. Often the journey to publication takes years (write the book, edit the book, search for an agent, get rejected, etc.) and by the time a book is in print, an author has unrealistic expectations of what the next leg of the journey will look like. But publication is only the beginning, and that same resolve and courage that made us keep going in order to get published have to continue to develop even after the first book is out there. I realized during this trip that having books to my name wasn't enough. As you said, it's important to keep moving past those feelings of insecurity. I had to keep growing as a person and an author.

Susan O'Brien said...

You're right, Wendy, about it being a common feeling. I have noticed that people are so generous with their time and expertise, no matter how many books an author has sold. This was a big relief to me when I researched my first mystery, and I'll always be grateful. Looking forward to your upcoming books!

NG West said...

Wendy, I can’t wait to go with you and Allison to Sesto, Italy in Fatal Facade! I suspect it’s not only we lesser-known writers who suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I bet some of the biggies sometimes think, “Seriously? Are my books really that good? I set out to write the Great American Novel; it didn’t turn out exactly that way.” Maybe that’s what keeps us going: always trying better ways to get what’s in our head onto the page. Thanks for a great post.

Nancy Silverman said...

Wendy. I loved your photos of Germany and the Tyrol region. I used to live there and beyond the scenery the food runs a close second for best memories. As for you comments about being an impostor, I've always felt one assumes the role and then becomes it. But then I live in Hollywoid, home to many impostors.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip! The pictures are gorgeous. Looking forward to reading your new series--am already a fan of your current one. :)

ps: imposter syndrome is alive and well in academia, too.

Sybil Johnson said...

Interestingly enough, I never had Imposter Syndrome when I was a programmer. (Or maybe I'm just blocking it out.) I always felt like I belonged there. As a writer, though, Imposter Syndrome is alive and, unfortunately, well!

Ritter Ames said...

Wonderful post, Wendy. I think we've all been "there" but I just wish I'd been with you when you were in that lovely region of all of these pictures. Thanks so much for sharing--on all levels.

Gretchen Archer said...

Lovely travels and what a great reminder about not giving into fear. Thanks, Wendy.