After The Contract — Guest Aimee Hix

Welcome, Aimee! I met Aimee through the writing community here in Northern Virginia. I was so happy when I found out that her Willa Pennington, P.I. series has been picked up by Midnight Ink. I’ve read the first seven chapters and she is an amazing writer. Here’s Aimee:

aimeemalice-29-photo-hix*classical music playing* Good morning, everyone. Come in, please. I’ve got some coffee, and tea, and hot cocoa. Or would you like your coffee or tea iced? Yes, some people do enjoy ice hot chocolate too. I can do that. Oh, you don’t want any iced hot chocolate, you were just mentioning that you can ice it too if you wanted? True. I have some baked goodies prepared, as well. I’ve made scones and muffins and cookies and a breakfast cake and … more treats. Just a few flavors each – we have blueberry, in honor of Barbara and her Maine-based Clambake Mysteries, maple for Jessie’s Sugar Grove Mysteries, Liz’s Pawsitively Organic Mysteries’ Apple and Cheddar Pupcakes for anyone who’s brought their furry friend, Edith’s Apple Almond Cake from her Country Store Mystery offering, some clock-decorated cookies for Julie’s Clock Shop Mystery Series, and finally some chai cookies in honor of Sherry, who I know likes chai because we are neighbors and I get to meet up with her for coffee (or chai) regularly.

Sorry, I bake when I’m nervous. A lot. And I babble too. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m talking out loud when I do it. My brain just sweeps my mouth along with it. I mean, there are times when I’m just talking away and I’m alone and it’s not true what they say – talking to yourself doesn’t mean you’re crazy. Responding doesn’t make you crazy either. Probably not worrying that either makes you crazy is a bad sign.

*looks around* They’re gone. It took them forever to vamoose. Those Wicked Cozy ladies are so nice and I’ve got some stuff I don’t want them hearing. Remind me to wipe off their nice coffee table when we’re done. I got some frosting from those clock cookies on it.

Here’s the deal, they’ve got no idea I’m a fraud. They think I’ve got something going on. But, and this is between you and me, I’m scamming everyone. See, I wrote this book. It’s a decent little book. It’s not going to change anyone’s life except mine. I’ve got a cool main character, Willa, who sure as heck doesn’t have a cook or a butler. She’s like me – never too sure what to wear so she always ends up wearing jeans, relies on coffee to make up for lack of sleep, really (!) likes her junk food, and curses like a sailor and a truck driver had a baby mechanic. And just like me Willa’s in way over her head.

GOOD NIGHT IRENE, CAN SOMEONE TURN OFF THAT BLEEDING RACHMANINOFF? IT’S THE CRACK OF FRACKING DAWN, FOR PETE’S SAKE! (My normal language has been cleaned up for the ladies and gentlemen visiting.)

Oh, we both yell a lot too.

Despite reading thousands of books in my lifetime (what my mentor, Matthew V. Clemens calls my MFA in Literature) I had no idea how to write a book. I really had no idea how to write mystery. I wasn’t a cop or a private investigator. Heck, I wasn’t even an amateur sleuth. I had no idea how to solve a crime so how was I going to have my main character investigate a crime? I was a fraud! I was a fraud before I even started writing the darn thing? What’s up with that?

I’m in good company though. If the experts are right, we all suffer from Imposter Syndrome to a degree. There are a bunch of articles about it and a TED Talk. (I love TED! At the end of the post hang on for some links to my favorites.) It’s the self-help research topic du jour. That’s reassuring, somewhat. I mean, I’m not really comfortable with the idea that air traffic controllers are up in their tower internally racked about whether or not they can keep ten planes from crashing but knowing that Evanovich and Rowling and King all look up from their keyboards and think, “Ack! What a load of shit I’m shoveling. No one will want to buy 400 pages of this tripe” helps a little when I’m 60,000 thousand words into a second book I barely know what’s supposed to happen in and my editor tells me they don’t like my first book’s title and we’re trying but we can’t come up with a new one. PANIC! And now what do I do? Can I convince her the title is perfect? Can I beg her? Will crying help? I mean, I’m already crying. Maybe if I call her and she can hear me crying …. Of course, I can’t convince her! What do I know? She’s the expert. I’m just a fraud.

aimecarA fraud who’s waiting to hear back. An impatient fraud. A scared fraud. It’s been two weeks. She said they had to postpone my launch meeting but that it gave us extra time. Did they skip my internal launch meeting? Did she decide they don’t want to publish the book? No book, no new title? That’s not how I want to get to keep my title. No, no, it’s fine. She’s busy. You’re not the only author she’s working with. They have other books that are being published sooner. Those come first. Other authors with other books. Better authors with better books. They’re not publishing my book because they’ve realized it’s not as good as the other authors’ books. No, no, it’s fine. You did this writing the book too. Panicking doesn’t solve anything. You’re worrying about things that aren’t real. Yet. Just concentrate on writing the second book.

That’s what I’m doing in between contract and publication – freaking out that I’m a fraud and people are going to catch on. Frankly, this is not a new aspect to my personality so I’m kind of an expert at it now. Maybe I’ll have that put on my business cards, Author and Expert Fraud.

So, how did I do it? How does a fraud write a mystery while worrying about being a fraud? I had to wing it. And the cool part was my main character could wing it too. And she could have angst about it too. And every feeling I’ve ever had she was going to have – scared, excited, overwhelmed, exhausted, determined. And that made her a more real character. Wow! I flipped the script on Imposter Syndrome and made it work for me.

It doesn’t mean I beat it. I still feel like a fraud sometimes (see above re: freaking out my publisher canceling my book’s publication). That’s okay. The experts are right – we all feel like frauds sometimes. We just can’t let it paralyze us and stop our forward momentum. I mean, I’ve got more books to write. Willa’s got more crimes to solve. We both feel a little more secure in our respective jobs. We’re not frauds. We’re not imposters. We’re just winging it … with a cup of coffee in one hand and a handful of cookies in the other. Now, if I could just figure out how to type with my nose. Sigh. I’ll bet Stephen King can type with his nose.

Oops! Almost forgot about wiping off that coffee table.

So what do you think … does Imposter Syndrome get to you too sometimes?

Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are


Lidia Yuknavitch: The Beauty of Being a Misfit


Jane McGonigal: The Game That Can Give You Ten Extra Years of Life


Nadia Lopez: Why Open a School? To Close a Prison


Brandon Stanton: The Good Story


Jess Lourey: Use Fiction to Rewrite Your Life

jessscreenshot-2017-02-05-11-47-13Aimee Hix is the author of the Willa Pennington series set in Fairfax County, Virginia. The first book publishes in Winter 2018 from Midnight Ink. A former federal defense contractor who retired to write, she resides in Virginia with her family. Website:

Oops! Almost forgot about wiping off that coffee table.

So what do you think … does Imposter Syndrome get to you too sometimes?




51 Thoughts

  1. I think the “experts” are right…we all suffer from imposter syndrome, else why the slogan – fake it ’till you make it! ?

    1. Good point, Gram. I think us regular people figured it out before the “experts” but it’s sure nice to have proof and to get people talking about it. The more we confess our insecurities, the more we find people we can relate to and with who we can become a community.

  2. Welcome, Aimee – to the blog, and to the world of publishing! As our fellow MI author (and great buddy) Catriona said on this blog a year or two ago, “It’ll be fine.” And if you just eat those cookies quicker, you can get back to typing. Of course we ALL feel like frauds along the way somewhere. What I, at least, have learned is that if people want to to buy and read my books, and like them enough to buy and read more, it doesn’t matter if I feel like a fraud. I can still write well-loved books! And you can, too.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement, Edith! Catriona is a very smart person – I’ve always known this is true.

      And I love your point that even if you feel like a fraud you can still do the work or your heart.

    1. That’s so true, Dru Ann. We have to use Imposter Syndrome to spur us on to do the work, not to prove something to anyone (even ourselves) but to overcome this idea that there is such a thing as being a fraud just because you’re a beginner or unsure. We’re all seeking our truth and that always makes us genuine.

  3. Oh Aimee–Love this post, love the way your mind works and I know I’m going to love Willa. Yes, I’m an imposter too. I’ve never even put the word “writer” on my business cards-from the first book on I’ve just used a small logo of a writing group down in the corner. No writing degree, no agent, but still cranking out words people like to read! (And now that little logo is MWA!)

    1. Oh, Carol, thank you so much. I hope you do like Willa when you finally get to meet her.

      I, too, struggled with calling myself a writer, especially before I quit my day job; especially, especially before I got an agent and a publisher but some very wise people have said it over and over again – writers write. It doesn’t matter where you are on the publishing path, or even if you’re not on it, a writer is someone who writes.

  4. I can only hope to someday be a successful imposter and finally get rid of my amateur stretcher-of-truth status.
    Leaving that aside- Wow, Aimee. If your book is one tenth as exhilarating as this essay, Willa will be a fantastic character to follow!

    1. HA! A Successful Impostor is definitely turning it around. And don’t despair on your amateur status – you have a lot of people who have faith in you and want to see you succeed. This is an amazing community to be a part of it and you will be surprised at how many people are reaching out their hands with genuine joy to help you make your dream a reality. I’m living proof that it is real that people help people.

  5. I think that people who are passionate about what they are doing, and who care about the result always worry a bit about being a fraud. It is because they admit that there is always something to learn, something to do better. The folks I am suspicious of are the “know-it-alls.” Some of them are genuine frauds. I do worry sometimes that people will figure out that I’m a fraud. I usually use that worry to fuel an increased diligence and meticulousness about the task at hand. Keep writing, and let the readers sort it out!

    1. That is definitely true, Vida. If you want to see Imposter Syndrome in full effect look for the most passionate person you know. That’s an interesting take on those people seeking knowledge being more likely to worry about being a fraud. I think you’re right – knowing that there is so much to learn has definitely made me feel smaller and less capable. Happily, so many people have been so helpful and so open about their own struggles that Imposter Syndrome has been easier to handle.

    1. I think Vida’s point about passion preceding those feelings is true. People who care about the work, who want to be better, are doubtful of their abilities because they’re unsure if they can build those skills. And writers are probably extra susceptible to Imposter Syndrome because all you need to do to feel insecure is compare your Crappy First Draft that you weren’t sure who to write anyway with a published book … and of course, we’ve all got a ton of those lying around. 😉

    1. Oh, Sonia, that’s lovely. It’s so critical to give children confidence that their worth and value is in their very humanness and not in their accomplishments. I truly believe that is the thing that will defeat Imposter Syndrome – if you know you’re value and loved for the mere fact that you exist trying to prove yourself isn’t a worry.

      Keep loving those kids because you’re molding the future of humanity. <3

  6. Oh Aimee – forgive me for chuckling a little. But I’ve found another kindred soul – because I’m not even book-published yet and I already feel like a fraud sometimes! I have found my tribe.

    Love the TED talks. And yes. I bet Stephen King CAN type with his nose. 🙂

    1. Laughter has helped me through some on my worst imposter spasms, Liz. I love to laugh and am finally finding a way to do it other than as a defense mechanism. 😉

      As the published authors above can attest getting the contract, having books published, is no antidote. Sometimes it even makes it worse. All I know is that Imposter Syndrome is a feeling just like any other – happiness, sadness, anger – and just like any other emotion you can acknowledge it but not let it overwhelm you.

      I once heard a therapist say that emotions are like the weather, not good or bad, they just are, but it’s the effects that cause the damage. Rain can either parch dry land or cause a flood but the rain itself isn’t bad. I try to remember that when Impostor Syndrome appears, it is what it is and what I do with it determines if it helps or hurts me.

  7. What a fun and free-wheeling post–you really brought your style to the page (er, screen) here, and looking forward to the actual pages when the book comes out. 🙂

    And yes: I’m always waiting for that moment when someone squints their eyes at me and says, “You, you don’t really belong here, do you?”

    1. Right, Art? Ugh! That little voice is so brutal. Happily, I don’t think either one of us will ever experience that. This group is too generous, too soul-deep inclusive.

      And, thanks for the compliment of “free-wheeling” (at least, I think it was a compliment 😉 ) … I really feel like we’re supposed to be having fun with all this even when we’re writing about some pretty serious stuff. It’s another antidote to Imposter Syndrome.

  8. Welcome to the blog, Aimee–or at least to the posting side of the blog. It wasn’t until my husband mentioned that I had Fraud Syndrome a few years ago that I realized–oh, that’s what it is! As a result, I always feel a little on the outside, a little apart from the main players and play, and I think that’s a good place for a writer to stand.

    1. Thanks, Barb. The Wicked Cozies blog is such a warm, fun place to visit and I was truly thrilled to be asked to participate.

      You’re absolutely write that Imposter Syndrome can be helpful in many ways especially to writers and giving us the chance to be close observers is one of the best.

  9. I came to this blog because I was told there would be cake. Seriously, though, congrats to you Aimee, and I can’t wait to read your debut! And really, we’re all imposters.

    1. Alan, we’ve got cake and cookies and scones, whatever your heart desires. Although I’d stay away from those pupcakes – they’ve got cheese in them.

      Thank you for your kind words. Your help getting me through the Querying Imposter Syndrome was invaluable and I will be eternally grateful.

    1. Fake it until you make it … and then after you make it because Imposter Syndrome is sneaky and relentless doesn’t have the same ring does it, Debra. 🙂

      I’m looking forward to your take on this unique time.

  10. As you can see from all the comments, Aimee, you are not alone with your feelings. I was talking with a mutual friend about this recently, how every time a new issue of AHMM or EQMM comes out, I feel like a fraud because I have nothing in them, nothing accepted by either mag awaiting publication. I had the one story in AHMM, and that clearly was a fluke. … Deep breath. … Anyway. So, yes, we all share your syndrome, Aimee. You are one of us. One of us. One of us. One of us.

  11. Dude, you need to worry less! (This is coming from the editor who feels like a fraud and wonders when she is going to get canned when they figure it out.) But seriously, we are pubbing your series. I have it written in ink in my schedule. 😉

    1. Imposter Syndrome is a jerk, Terri. It tells you lies. And even if you know they’re lies, it’s hard to stay calm.

      Of course, you’re pubbing my series … wait, she winked at the end of that sentence … does that mean she’s kidding that it’s in ink? AAAACCCKKK!

      (No, seriously, I have no doubts about Terri’s, or Midnight Ink’s, commitment to my series. She’s one of the most talented people I know on top of being a great person. And Midnight Ink is an amazing publisher.)

  12. Impostor syndrome. I’d never heard the term before, but boy do I recognize it. I struggle with it in so many aspects of my life. But I’ve learned to go with the fake it approach and that seems to work most of the time.

    1. I’d never heard of it before I saw the Amy Cuddy TEDTalk either, Mark, but it absolutely resonated with me once I had. I found it fascinating and looked up more information (a convenient way to dodge writing and call it “research” I might add). If they’d just do more research on how to stop our brain from sabotaging us, that’d be perfect. 🙂

  13. Such a great post. Only one mistake–I think your “little” book will change some lives. Our lives are made up of little moments, and that book is good. –signed, another imposter

    1. Thank you, Jessie! You’ve been such an unflagging cheerleader. Many times I’ve looked over to the sidelines to see you there cheering me on and it has been what I needed to kick the Imposter Syndrome in the shins. Which is not allowed in real football, or basketball, or any other sport, I assume; but writing isn’t a sport so you can totally kick people.

  14. I love this, Aimee. And right now, less than three weeks from a deadline, I’m feeling totally fraudulent myself…. Thanks for the awesome links, too!

    1. Deadlines are the worst, Liz. My next one is in 11 months (11 months!) and I’m a giant stress ball who’s two cookies away from a sugar crash so severe it can be seen from space. Seriously …

      Panic does seem to be my default setting though so that’s why I watch those TEDTalks. So I can waste time I should be using to write and panic more. 😉

  15. Oh, Aimee, you have put it so well! I am also an Imposter who doesn’t believe my book will actually be published. It’s so good to see that I’m not alone. I am so psyched that we’ll both have books in 2018!

    1. Shari, it’s rough and I don’t think it’s getting any better if the other authors are being honest.

      And 2018 is going to be amazing!

    1. Thanks, Julie! I’m looking forward to it being a thing everyone can finally read. 🙂

      Nope, you’re not alone. My mentor, Matt Clemens, has done a great job of making sure I know it’s a real thing everyone does – writers, painters, teachers, CEOs – we all feel like we’re not really qualified. Knowing that has made it easier for me and I hope for everyone else now.

  16. It sounds like imposter syndrome is something most writers share. It probably doesn’t help that so many of us use pen names! Congratulations on your book! And thanks for gifting us with this really generous post!

    1. You’re so sweet, Jessie! Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts.

      I really feel like writers, and other artists, are especially susceptible. We’ve got a lot of different opinions on how to do our job but for every writer there’s a different to do the work and a different perception of what successful means. The more leeway in how your job gets done means more room for Imposter Syndrome to slip in.

  17. Aimee, I can say with some certainty that your “little book” will be a big deal. Maybe we feel like imposters because we are so used to thinking that to wholly believe in our talent or passions makes us egotistical blowhards, so we don’t allow ourselves to go there. It must be someone else who can write these books or these pieces because, well, I can’t be that good. Aimee, you are that good.

    1. Kathy, you’ve officially bumped my kid off the #1 spot on my favorite person list. 😀

      I’m sure concern about seeming like we’re bragging plays a part and I think it’s funny in a world where people are constantly going on about millennials feeling entitled because of participation trophies, we’ve got an epidemic of young and old, men and women confessing to feeling like frauds. Maybe it’s just an innate part of human nature to be unsure and we’ve just finally got a name for it.

  18. Great post, Aimee. I think everyone suffers from imposter syndrome in some way. It’s part of what makes different from everyone else.

    1. Diane, if we didn’t have our neuroses, would we even be people? To paraphrase Descartes – I overthink therefore I am. 🙂

  19. Oh, honey.

    Every. Single. Day.

    I love this post—it’s smart and funny and real, just like you! I can’t wait to read your book, because I’m expecting Willa to be super fun to hang out with, and I’m a thousand percent sure Sherry is right and it’s great. 🙂

    Congratulations again—can’t wait to see you in April!

    1. It’s inescapable, right, LynDee? It kills me because we *know* it’s not true but every time it pops its ugly head up out of the hole, we buy it even if it’s just for a minute. And we all deserve better from ourselves. <3

      I hope you love Willa as much as I do. She's who I'd be if I were younger, braver, and slightly less stubborn. She's also a little more cynical than I am now, more like how I used to be before I was welcomed into this amazing community full of generous, kind, smart, and giving writers. But cynical's good in a PI, right? 😉

  20. Aimee, you killed it today on The Wickeds — you are so totally legit! Look forward to reading your book — and meeting you in person at Malice! (Feel free to bring baked goods to pass around. Those chai cookies sound yum — if Sherry’s willing to share!)

    1. Thanks, Vickie! I think it’s important that we’re open about things like Imposter Syndrome so people know that everyone feels it and we can’t allow it to overwhelm our desire to do the work of our hearts. We all have a unique voice and the worlds needs them all.

      See you at Malice.

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