Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Every Author Deserves A Recital
My five-year-old daughter took ballet lessons this past year. She seemed to enjoy dancing although I think singing is her true calling. She often sings in the house as if auditioning for a theater. This past weekend she had her first recital, where over a hundred fellow students (of all ages) took the stage for two and a half hours. The teachers danced as well. Will anyone I saw that night go onto bigger things? Probably not, but that shouldn’t stop them from trying.
Are authors like these little ballerinas, looking for a stage in search of an audience? Many authors dabble in writing, but only a handful really make it. Lots of writers are like these young performers – many have some level of talent and a heart that exceeds their abilities. They passionately go at their craft as if the world were watching.
My daughter bounced with enthusiasm and verve, jumping and leaping across the high school auditorium with a radiant smile. Her body parts move, seemingly in all directions at once, but she seems coordinated. She was no worse or better than some of the kids who’ve been doing this for several years. She just seemed to love the spotlight and the chance to perform.
I have no doubt that millions of writers feel the same way. They may not have their moms and dads cheering them on, but they want to hear the applause, too. Every writer, no matter how selfless they claim to be, has an ego that wants to be assuaged, a voice that wants to be heard, an identity appreciated, and a name that wants to be recognized.
What type of books do you write? I write novels (primarily) that straddle the line between mainstream and literary fiction. They are about who we are as people, who we potentially can be as people. The readers who love my books just love them, but people who are used to reading thrillers or mysteries might not find my work to their liking. I also have several collections of literary short fiction.
What is your newest book about? The novel I’m about to release here in the U.S. is called Where We Belong. It’s a story about a teenage girl, Angie, living with her mother and her younger sister, Sophie. Sophie has an autism-like disorder that tends to get them kicked out of everyplace they try to live. But Angie doesn’t even want to think about putting her in a home. Their mom is a bit on the immature side, so Angie ends up having to cope with most of the family’s problems. In this case she gets help from a massive Great Dane and his owner, a next door neighbor with whom she forms a strong bond of friendship, despite a 50-year-difference in their ages. There’s more to it, of course, but that probably sets it up for now.
What inspired you to write it? I have absolutely no idea. It’s one of those stories that came to me straight from the ether. There’s not a scrap of autobiography anywhere in it, and it’s not modeled on anyone I know or anything I’ve seen. I guess I just have to say that, as with all my novels, it’s inspired by my fascination with the endless quirks of human nature. The more I observe human nature, the more I want to tell fictional stories about people. I’m fascinated by people. We are complex and confusing creatures, to say the least.
What is the writing process like for you? Feast and famine. I’ll go weeks or months without writing anything new. Usually between projects, but not always. Sometimes a work in progress will sit idle for a long time. Then suddenly I’ll write ten or 15 pages a day for ten days running. It’s not an orderly process, but over the course of an average year, I get a lot done.
What did you do before you became an author? What didn’t I do? That might actually be a shorter list. I had my own dog training service for years. I worked briefly as an auto mechanic. I was a baker and a pastry chef, a tour guide at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon (near my home). I bathed cats for a living at one time (probably the most challenging career of all, except for published author) and went on to be an all-breed dog groomer. I used to house-sit and pet-sit for people when they went out of town, because I could bring my laptop computer and get writing done. Until the dog had to go out. I think I was looking for something I could enjoy, but a something with steadier paychecks than writing. But writing is really the only thing I enjoy doing for a living.
How does it feel to be a published author? I love it. No complaints. It’s one of the hardest ways I know to make a living, but still, no complaints. I love making my own schedule. I love spending most of the day doing something I enjoy, I love hearing from readers who email and tell me what the books meant to them. It’s all good. I wouldn’t trade it.
Any advice for struggling writers? Actually, a whole book full of it. My friend Anne R Allen (who is a publishing industry blogger) and I co-authored a book called “How to be a Writer in the E-Age…And Keep Your E-Sanity.” It’s nothing but advice to struggling writers. But something more concise for this interview: Don’t write in a vacuum. Open your work to the feedback of others, and try to get comfortable with what parts of feedback to keep, what parts to throw away. Try to thicken your skin, because everybody has an opinion, and they will usually share it with you. And be prepared for rejection. You can’t be a writer without it, so don’t let it stop you.
Where do you see book publishing heading? Clearly we’re becoming increasingly digital. That’s a good thing, in my opinion. Reading can only benefit from more ways to read. Those who love paper books need not worry. They will never go away, any more than horses disappeared from the world when cars became the main mode of transportation. They will be there for those who want them. I think paper books will remain quite healthy because of POD (Print on Demand) technology. But the old-school method of doing big print runs and warehousing and shipping books “on spec” is in serious trouble. As it should be. It’s the kind of method you only use when there’s no better one. Bottom line, authors will be fine. Readers will be fine. Publishers, I’m less sure. They will have to undergo great change to stay relevant. Agents and bookstores will be fine, I think, as long as they are willing to adapt.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013