I should have known this, but somehow didn’t. Fire in the Heart isn’t even out yet, but the reactions to it seem much stronger than the novel. It turns out people are pretty invested in firefighting, even though this is my story, not theirs. Though the vast majority have been supportive, there have been some surprising reactions. Insistence that things really weren’t that way. Possessiveness, as in one firefighter wanting me to send him the ms so he can “see if it’s right”. Um. No. Someone I wrote about in the book a little less than flatteringly, wanting an advance copy. Doesn’t he remember what he did?
Anyway, it is something to prepare for. Putting a book out there isn’t easy. Even a novel, like Geography of Water, was picked over, people wondering if Winnie were me (Nope! I was never that self-possessed at 19), or if I modeled the characters on someone living (Nope! I did take some qualities though). When a book comes out, it ceases to be yours. In no other art form does this happen. People jump to conclusions, feel free to nitpick, and happily put only a couple of stars on Amazon.
This sounds negative, but overall my experience has been positive. A retired smokejumper with a best-selling book of his own took copious notes and told me that this would be a great contribution to fire literature. Another best-selling author wrote a blurb, and just about all the other authors I asked, some cold, agreed to do so as well. My friends have rallied around the book, saying they can’t wait to read it.
Still. When you write a memoir, you put yourself out there in a way you don’t with other genres. You’re a dartboard, so you need to get ready. I won’t lie and say I’m not nervous about it. But in the end, this is more than just about me. I wrote this book so my friend Roger, and the thirteen who died with him, would not be forgotten. It’s worth it, for them.