A few weeks ago, I received an email from my book editor at St. Martin's, forwarding me a review from Kirkus. Now, let me say one thing before talking about Kirkus: I do not feel like a real author. Yes, I have a novel coming out. Yes, I've written a whole lot of comics in the past, and I continue to do so. But I feel like, any day, I can be outed as a fake, a fraud, a phony, and never be allowed to write another word again (and, should that day come, quite honestly I have no idea what I'd do with myself). Do all writers feel this way? Probably, to a degree. I can't say for certain--all I know is, deep down, I don't feel like I belong, and I'm just waiting to be ousted.
There's little moments, though, that get me through these festering doubts. One came with the aforementioned email from my editor, sharing the Kirkus review with me. Kirkus, for those who don't know, is a tough nut to crack. Their business is reviewing books, and they're not easy to impress. But somehow, for some reason, they liked BLACK STAR RENEGADES. A lot. Quoteth:
"These are all the same beats used in everything from Joseph Campbell’s mythology to George Lucas’ enduring saga, but Moreci has assembled them with such devotion and style that it’s impossible not to love this strange mashup...this shiny space opera is bound to be a pleasure for fans of all stripes."
I almost fainted reading it. I want to print out dozens of copies of that review and stitch them into a suit to sleep in, which just might get me through the weeks leading up to and soon after the release of BLACK STAR RENEGADES. I won't, because that would be super weird. But I could.
For a little while after reading this review, I felt like a bona fide writer. Like, for a weeks I can claim the title. And as I thought about how thrilling it was to see that review (honestly, words cannot do justice to how good the Kirkus piece made me feel), I started to consider the long, long road it'd taken to get to that point.
It's funny, because this all happened right around New York Comic Con (NYCC). As I was thinking about success and validation and all that, I had a flashback to one of my most terrible comic convention experiences, which happened to be NYCC 2014. Don't get me wrong--I love that show and the people who run it. My experience was specific to me and nothing else. And it was, without question, a creative bottom for me.
Back in 2014, I was right on the cusp of being totally done as a writer. I say on the cusp now, but at the time, I actually thought I was done for. See, I'd released an Image Comics series two years prior called HOAX HUNTERS, about a reality TV show that debunks myths and legends on camera while covering up the real truth behind the scenes. It's X-FILES meets MYTHBUSTERS. While Hoax Hunters sold on par with your mid-range Image books at the time and people seemed to like it (though, I swear, if as many people who ask about it now had read it then, we'd be on issue #78), the book did not balance its ledger. By issue #10, I was thousands of dollars in debt financing the book, and that hole was only getting bigger and bigger. My co-writer, Steve Seeley, and I did everything we could to get our sales numbers up, but nothing worked. Like 99% of all comics, the sales numbers kept slipping and slipping, and our debt kept growing and growing. It was stressful, to say the least.
Meanwhile, I couldn't get anything else off the ground. Marvel and DC never even returned my emails, nor did really any comics company--and that meant I couldn't get work for hire gigs that, at the very least, would help balance out the money I was bleeding on Hoax Hunters. I'd sent a good number of pitches to Image, and nothing got taken. I was, in short, stuck. All I had was a slowly dying book, a bunch of debt, and very few prospects for the future. And there I was at NYCC, wondering what in the world I was doing with my life. I remember standing at my artist alley table, kicking myself because I'd taken time away from my day job and my two year old son only to lose money at a comic con. I was terrified that my career was over. I'd put everything I had into Hoax Hunters, and it wasn't enough.
But things change. At that same NYCC, a book I'd gotten accepted at Boom! Studios was announced: CURSE, my modern-day werewolf tale co-written with Tim Daniel. At the time, I was so low that I was more terrified by releasing a new book than excited. It was hard to imagine experiencing another Hoax Hunters.
CURSE, though, was a big success. Along with Tim, I'd taken all my anxiety and frustrations--personal and professional--and poured it into this book. It was met with a bunch of acclaim from critics, some end of year accolades/awards, and really strong sales.
There were some peaks and valleys from there. Tim and I followed CURSE with BURNING FIELDS, which is probably one of the best things I'll ever do. It's right up there with ROCHE LIMIT, which is, and always will be, my baby. My strange, trippy, challenging sci-fi baby. But, at the same time, Marvel and DC still wouldn't return my calls, I was working a day job--which meant I was chained to a desk all day and night, as I desperately punched the keys in the hopes that I could somehow make a career out of my fictional worlds--and I STILL hadn't paid off my Hoax Hunters debt.
But I kept going. Little by little by little. Jump ahead a few years, and BLACK STAR RENEGADES somehow became a reality, and I'd achieved a lifelong dream of writing a novel. I finished it and, for reasons that mystify me, Kirkus enjoyed it. And for a short while, I felt like a real writer.
So--I'm not boasting. Not bragging. What I'm trying to convey is that success takes a long time, and you probably have to crawl over broken glass to get there. But I'll say this, and I say it without a shred of doubt in my heart and soul: I'd rather be in the game getting my skull cracked in than watching everyone else play from the sidelines. And if you've read this far into this post, than you're probably the same as me.
You need luck, fellow writers. But you also need to be too damn stubborn to ever stop--you need to endure--until you get to feel, even if for a moment, that you're a real writer.