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Cat Hellisen

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

aargh aargh aargh is a valid human emotion


Success, it’s this thing, right? I mean, most of us want it, in some form or another. Success has different meanings – it could be having more sales than the Holy Bible, or being a household name, or winning a prestigious lit award, or yanno, making enough money that you can write full time.

I think the closer you are to the start of your career, the smaller your vision of success might be. I remember when getting an agent felt like I’d freaking won the lottery, when selling my first book was finding oil in the back yard.

The thing with success is that it never stays in one place, it’s always relative. And there is ALWAYS someone more successful than you. Someone else is writing more popular novels, or seems to write fifty novels that all sell in the time-frame that you write one and your agent responds to it with “do you have some other projects you could focus on because well, this one…”

You can drive yourself insane playing the comparison game, and I will not pretend I’ve not done it, that I still don’t have moments of why them and not me? I’m human. In theory, if you’re reading this, so are you (unless you are a highly intelligent hamster) and those feelings of jealousy and self-pity and argh argh argh are human emotions. The trick is to let them go.

If you hang on to them they are going to control you. They’re going to control me if I spend the rest of my life not writing because nothing I write is good as that other person’s book.

I have limited control over my career. I can write to the best of my ability, I can edit the shit out of that work, I can be wise in my choice of business assosciates (agents, editors, writer friends) but I cannot trap an editor and keep them hostage until they buy my book. I cannot hold readers at gun point and tell them that actually they do like this damn book and they will give it five stars and tell all their friends. I cannot make B&N stock my books in huge piles at the front of the shop with big signs saying THIS IS ACTUALLY THE BEST BOOK YOU WILL EVER READ.

There are thousands of books coming out all the time, and quite a few of those are much better than mine.

It’s always going to be like that. I bet even Stephen King has days where he wakes up and cries into his Hello Kitty pillow and wishes he could write like someone else.



It has to become something only you can control, or else you will always be a failure to yourself. Set the goals for success to be the ones you have power over. And you have power over your words.

I will be a success if I finish this YA necromancer book and make it Cat-awesome and send it in to my agent and then get started on my next book.

The rest can deal with itself.




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