First up… the reclusive reaper of Otto, North Carolina… Inion!
Sell, sell, sell, sell! In this era of immediate satisfaction, consumerism has become number one priority in the market due to the fact that everything is attainable by the push of a button. With self-publishing becoming more prevalent, this do-it-yourself mantra has forced authors into wearing a coat of many colors and I believe that the majority of us have been able to transition smoothly. And though I realize that no one can push your work like you can, I never wanted to become a publicist or a literary agent. I wanted to be a writer.
When I first realized my path in life, Mathair pointed out that it seemed destined to be. Stereotypically, writers have a tendency to be introverted and withdrawn from society, finding their only outlet to be the world inside of their books. The romance between the author and their creations is what pulled me in, what captivated me. That connection was seductive and I lusted for it. Much more intimate than the reader, the author had the purest interpretation of the story. It was an exclusive club where the VIP was the one at the keys pounding away. We left the schmoozing to the agents and the publicists, the technicalities were for the publishers and editors, and the legalities to the literary lawyers. They took care of the business while we were left to lead with our hearts. We were left to be… the artist.
But, now we’re spreading ourselves too thin, and have lost sight of the truth behind a story and the meatiness and grit of full bodied characters. And sacrificing the essence of a story, in order to be the next famous author. There can only be so many big hitters that make it to “phenom” status and it’s only because it was the right author with the right story at the right time. The planets must be aligned, the stars in their respective places and karma feeling much more jovial than usual. The writers of ole never cared about salability and do you know why… because it diluted the purity of the story. Instead of thinking with the heart and letting the imagination run wild, new authors are fueled by their pockets and the hopes of fame. It limits a writer when they allow trends to dictate their stories. Y’all have heard me say it time and time again, let the story tell itself. The public knows when they’re being pandered to and when a story has no heart, when it’s merely following the fads.
As for those authors more on fire for the big time than their creations, wannabe celebrities are one dimensional and easily spotted. And in this time of Twilight Saga’s and 50 Shades of fame, millions have used this art form as a get-rich-quick scheme, scribbling down the first idea that sprouts in their head and praying it catapults them into the stratosphere. All with the promise that if they can wield Facebook and Twitter with an iron fist and get more face time on the tube than Taylor Swift’s love life, they’ll be household names. Thereby littering the world of literature with watered down characters, disconnected plots and mediocre writing skills.
Let’s face it, if you walk into this with the hopes of becoming the next Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, well… don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. Storytelling is the oldest art form and has been bringing people together since the dawn of time. Let’s not sully it with lofty aspirations and unattainable goals. We have to strip this down and get back to the basics, back to our first love, telling a story. So, am I being naïve? Stubbornly unwilling to progress with the times? Will my ardent idealism hurt my wallet in the end? Or is this new age of fast food capitalism crippling the arts and making way for conmen to cheapen the craft?
And, next the social butterfly with the golden touch… Mathair!
Ah! I hear the sounds of fresh, passionate, young meat. Have you ever noticed it’s always the idealists that keep a foot in the door of progress? *Sorry, baby.* But, I can only imagine a time when the world was dark and lonely cavemen had to beat rocks together to crawl out of the blinding blackness. Only to have one naysayer piss on the flame because they feared the light. So, to give all of you a proper “Springer-style” mother-daughter battle, here’s my view:
In the Stephen King novel, Misery, Paul Sheldon comes face to face with his number one fan, Annie Wilkes. Normally authors are ecstatic for interactions like this, but Annie turns out to be a crazy, psycho freak! She knows everything about him, including his quirky writing rituals and would seem to be a kindhearted individual, until he informs her that his infamous series is coming to an end due to the main character’s death. If you haven’t watched the movie, I’m sorry to spoil it, but I just have one word for all of you: “hobbling”.
Now, that certainly would be a viable excuse to not become so personal over the internet, and I’m sure it’s a universal worry for people that network online, but does that mean we should go back to the days of faceless authors? Hide under our writing desks and dread that moment when we’re asked for our autograph? Hm. Wonder if fears like this is why pennames were invented? LOL. There’s been a few instances where Inion and I have disagreed on things regarding our career and the literary world in general, but we try to work through things and sometimes come to the conclusion that we have to agree to disagree. This happens to be one of them.
One of the many reasons, I prefer this “do-it-yourself” movement in the literary world is the fact that writers have complete control over their material. Because of this, the reader has the capability of sharing in the purest form of the author’s vision. Inion says she loves the intimacy between the author and the story, but we must not forget the readers. They are the reason we continue to put pen to paper, the reason we push ourselves harder. We strive to entertain them with our stories, and pray that they embrace it. And, in this world of voyeurism, where reality shows are prominent and monotonous celebrity tweets are like crack to their fans, authors are encouraged to open their lives to readers, divulging every facet of their books.
This would be another positive aspect to my argument. Inion’s right. No one will ever share the same passion or work as hard as the creator of the material that’s being sold. A writer must be savvy, finding ways to promote with giveaways, readings, books signings, Facebook, Twitter all the while juggling a job, school, writing group, book club and blog at the same time. Like any other species, we’ve learned to evolve into modern day computer warriors with a smile that always shining and a guarantee that the story will hold it’s own among the sea of books. It can be a bit overwhelming, but working hard and reaping the benefits has been the “American Dream” since the birth of this country.
I understand that a story should stand on it’s own merit, and there are plenty of great one’s out there. But, they are being tossed by the wayside because authors aren’t willing to put in the work to promote it. There is no longer an option to be the reclusive writer locked away in a cabin diligently writing while avoiding the public, unless you’re willing to sacrifice the marketability of your work, thereby losing most of your readership. Some may look at this as the era of fast food marketing and 60 second attention spans. I, however, see an opportunity, a hand reaching out, promising that if we work hard and persevere, we will succeed. For the first time in the history of publication, authors aren’t puppets on a string.
If you’re looking for another reason, then how about this? What’s positive about being withdrawn from society? As creative individuals we draw inspiration from everything, including the public. I was just watching a movie by the brilliant Diablo Cody called Young Adult. Charlize Theron stars as a ghost writer for a once successful series. To keep the work fresh, she often visits well known teen hang outs and listens to the banter between her demographic, observing their behavior and writing down their youthful colloquialisms.
So, it boils down to this… whether through great writing or great marketing, the times, they are a changin’ and we must adapt or our stories will die out with the old ways. Each of us are now accountable to our readers, answering the questions before they get asked. We take this journey of publication alongside our readers, asking them for supporting hands and faith in stories they haven’t even read yet. And what a support system it has turned out to be.
But… because she is my baby… I have, in Inion’s honor, compiled a list of a few old school writers that found success without a platform to stand on:
Cormac McCarthy; author of The Road and All The Pretty Horses. For many years no one in the literary community even knew what he looked like or where he lived. In on infamous account, he even neglected to show up at a literary banquet held in his honor.
Georgette Heyer; author of more than fifty books. It’s been over ninety years since she published her first novel at the age of seventeen. A story she wrote to entertain her convalescing brother, she was surprised when she sold The Black Moth and it has been able to keep a readership that has crossed four generations. Though she wrote detective fiction and historical novels, she is more commonly known for the ironic comedy in her Regency Romances.
J.D. Salinger gained fame in 1951 for his first novel and it still holds the same controversial charm to this day. The Catcher In The Rye would become one of the most read and studied novels of the twentieth century. After it’s release, Salinger was able to publish a collection of short stories as well as another novel, Franny & Zooey, before retiring from the literary world as well as the public. He moved to New Hampshire and was only seen during his appearances at court to protest the publication of unauthorized biographies and other examinations of his life.
Emily Dickenson is remembered as one of America’s finest poets, but during her lifetime, she was notoriously reclusive and barely left her bedroom, let alone her home. Neighbors reported that they believed her to be eccentric due to the fact that she would speak to them through a closed door when they would come to visit.
And, last but certainly not least, Harper Lee. I will be brief for this particular author, preferring to redirect you to an interview I found online. Although we’ve always been fans of the lady and her wonderful novel, we didn’t know much about her and for good reason. The title of the article is, ironically enough, Harper Lee Breaks Her Silence To Tell Media To Piss Off. http://jezebel.com/5574684/harper-lee-breaks-her-silence-to-tell-media-to-piss-off
Perfect, right? Famously press shy, Lee had published nothing in the fifty years since To Kill A Mockingbird was released. Since 1964, she has given only one interview, which was to The New York Times and was only a few sentences. It was also noted that Lee remained silent, refusing to make a speech when presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 and an honorary doctorate by Notre Dame University in 2006.
Infamous writers that will go down in history as the best in their field, but could they make it in today’s techno-friendly world? Am I not relying on the material enough? Am I cheapening the craft? Or, am I merely embracing the times, rather than hiding from them? Let us know how you feel, guys. We love hearing from you.