Monday, June 09, 2003

What do Authors owe? Apart from the bar tab, of course.

Home again. Got home last night, slept, got up early, wrapped up the TAM LIN outline for Sony. Watched another three days of Digital Dailies on the Dave McKean film, Mirror Mask, with an enormous smile on my face. Every penny he's got is on the screen, and it reminds me a little of Cages, and a little of the "Convergence" sequence of Sandman covers, and a lot of itself. He's getting some stunning performances, and every shot looks like it was designed by Dave McKean. We'll be previewing a little of it at San Diego -- I was worried that, not having any of the animated stuff done by then, it wouldn't look very impressive. I shouldn't have worried...

Anyway. On with the motley...

Two similar questions:

I'm not entirely confident that you'll answer this, but you never know. I was wondering if you think you have a duty to your readers in any way. For instance, do you feel you owe it to them to do signings, readings etc? More controversially, do you feel, now that you're a writer with a big following, that you have to keep writing, not just for yourself, but for them? It's something to think about, anyway.

By the way, I've read the first three Sandman books in the last two days - I've never read a graphic novel before, so you must be doing something right.


Do I have a duty to my readers? I suppose I do. I imagine a sort of contract with an ideal reader: for my part, I�ll try and write something that will be different from something I�ve written before, and I�ll write it as best I can for whatever it is. (And the reader, in that imaginary contract, won�t necessarily want another half a pound of what s/he liked last time, but will at least go in open-minded to whatever the next thing might be.)

I don�t think I have any other obligations.

Readings, signings, doing this journal, talks, conventions and so forth aren�t obligations. They�re things I do because it�s interesting and often fun, and because I like doing them. If they stop being fun, I stop doing them. (I do very few conventions these days, because they�d gradually stopped on the whole being a way to meet interesting people and have long bar discussions, and to feel a lot more like work.)

That�s the joy of this journal: I�ve been doing it for two and a half years, mostly for my own amusement, and I really appreciate the immediacy of it, and the ability to let people know things reasonably accurately and reasonably fast.

Harper Collins are willing to keep paying for it, so it must pay for itself in some way, mostly intangible, but they make no demands from me on content, so doing anythng for or with the website feels a lot like messing around, and not like work. (In fact, normally it�s the other way around, with regard to Harper Collins and content. They have quite a few essays and bits I�ve given them that haven�t yet gone up.)

Hey Neil-O (Which is your super secret name in the more obscure circles of the literati),

As a writer who is hoping one day to have books enthused about by people other than his loved ones and agent, it occurs to me on several occasions you have mentioned some of the behavior you think is good for writers to exhibit to their fans/public and some that is not.
Which got me to wondering, do you think that a writer necessarily has an obligation to be a Face to the public? One the one hand there really isn't a novelist if there isn't an audience buying and enjoying the novels, but on the other hand, the audience usually values the novels and not the novelist, so how necessary (if at all) do you think the "PR" experience is for writers and what should they do to graciously receive their public (if at all)? I mean, in today's climate, I doubt Emily Dickinson would have been trotted out on David Lettermen and asked to drop a watermelon on Paul, but would that necessarily detract from the quality of her work?

--Shoeless Wayne Santos, Stranded in Singapore

No, I don�t think anyone has any obligations at all on this stuff, apart from writing the books, and making them as good as they/we can.

Lots of authors are shy. Some of them are much happier with paper than they are with people. Being a writer can be the next best thing to being anonymous. You don�t have to do anything that you don�t want to. Nor should you.

I quite like getting out and saying hullo to readers. I like turning numbers into people, and anyway I have some really cool readers. So I�ll do signings from time to time. I like eating interesting foods and seeing strange places, often at the same time, so I try to say yes as much as possible when asked to visit strange places. (I also like being at home and being a dad and that stuff, so I say no to many offers of exciting travel to distant places.)

Publishers tend not to want to pay for big adverts for books, and the cheapest way to tell a lot of people your book is out is to be interviewed.

(Once the late summer madness of everything coming out at once is over, I�ll probably stop doing interviews, for a little while, or a long.)

What an author does or doesn�t do in life certainly has something to do with how their work is remembered. While many of my favourite authors lived colourful lives, just as many of them didn�t. And the day David Letterman starts asking poets onto his show, because they�re good poets (and don�t have a line of greetings cards, or a movie of their life or something coming out) will be an odd day but a good one, whether watermelons are dropped or not.

Does that help?

I keep meaning to post this: a link to the website of the Library Hotel in New York. The only hotel, it claims, to be based on the Dewey Decimal System. Long ago, I decided that the Royalton worked for me as a New York hotel, but I am very tempted to give the Library Hotel a try.

And I thought I was a really good player-with-Google, but this article pointed out several things I'd not known before. (Having said that, I'd disagree with him on the opening a new window preference. Every now and again, a wobbly screw in Explorer would mean it would try to open its new window somewhere an old window was already open, like the one with the blogger entry in it, and would eat it. I think I prefer Google windows where I can keep an eye on them.)


Gene Wolfe is writing a new novel. It's a Latro novel, in the Soldier in the Mist series. It's a horror novel, set in ancient Egypt. I'm excited...