The mask is off.
I can’t reproduce much of his note back to me. Lots of it is family stuff. But these extracts should give you the gist:
The mask is off.
I can’t reproduce much of his note back to me. Lots of it is family stuff. But these extracts should give you the gist:
After several days of thinking hard about it, I took the HUGE decision at last: yes, I would finally tell my novelist uncle in America that I’ve written (and I’m still writing) novels under a pen name.
What pushed me over the edge was asking myself, “Suppose he were to pass away and I never told him? How would I feel?”
When only Passports was available, I hadn’t bothered much with the Amazon Author Central pages on .com and .co.uk. But now, with Frontiers out there too, I decided I should do them up somewhat. (I’m now trying to get Amazon to combine the paperback and Kindle pages for Frontiers, which they will hopefully manage shortly.) This is a grab yesterday of my Amazon.com page:
Not bad with those sunglasses, eh? You may remember them from the summer – when we were visiting Charleston; that’s Fort Sumter in the background. Hey, clearly I can do “cool.” ;-) (But, wow, that day was also seriously “hot.”)
Doing the pages reminded me to have a check of the Kindle Frontiers, “Look Inside,” free sample. I see it begins at, uh, naturally the beginning, which is Chapter 61. (Passports is chapters 1-60.) The sample runs well into Chapter 65. It stops here, at what makes for an inadvertent “cliffhanger”. Thanks Amazon guys!:
She felt herself shaking. Fear was too strong a word, but she did feel increasingly uneasy about this situation. The hall was empty, and she hoped that someone – anyone – would emerge from a room.
“How will you get to know me if you, you don’t let me talk with you?” he stammered and kept at her….
Of course I’m not gonna say here who “she” is. Or let on who “he” is. Or explain where they are. You could find out from reading more of the sample.
However, ahem, if you want to know what happens after that blurb above, well, umm…. ;-)
Have a good Saturday, wherever you are in the world. :-)
Questioner: Hello. We’re back once more with the extraordinary R. J. Nello, interviewing himself. It’s now three months since his last self-interview, and comes shortly after the December 1st release of his new book, Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. Mr. Nello, welcome….
R. J. Nello: Uh, thank you. You’re making me nervous. That was actually a reasonable introduction. How am I supposed to make fun of you now?
Q: I thought I’d throw you off a bit. It’s an old interviewer ploy, trying to make you comfortable before I go for the jugular. But I also did figure you deserved at least a little respect after another nearly 100,000 words. A second book makes you a real, ongoing novelist. Big stuff, you are. I’m trembling in your mere presence.
Nello: You got that right. After nearly another year of struggle. I suppose it’s also time for me finally to give in and appear on Jay Leno. When they ring, I suppose I’ll tell them I’ll do it. I don’t really want to, though. I’m very shy. Why do you think we’re doing this interview in the Catskills? Woodstock is just down the road. That town, wow, they got people walkin’ around who think it’s still 1969….
Q: Leno’s not on the air any longer. He left the show.
Nello: What? No Jay? What happened? Geez, you miss lots living in Britain.
Q: There are other people doing U.S. late night TV now.
Nello: Who watches those programs anyway? 12:30 AM? Can’t be anyone with a day job?
Q: I think it’s mostly college students.
Nello: Figures. Then they become exchange students and represent America throughout the world among people who have never been to the U.S., and perhaps never met an American in person before. Then get themselves arrested and convicted of murder in Italy. Delightful.
Q: Not all of them are that bad.
Nello: I know. But still, if I see another 21 year old given a Guardian column I may jump through my skin. “People with more money than me suck.” That’s what passes for deep thinking today.
Q: But the young do tell us….
Nello: They’re allowed to be young. We all were. I remember being 21 and thinking, “Oh, I’ll put the world to rights! Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” Within a few years, I grew up.
Q: What about idealism? Where would we be without it?
Nello: Indeed. But “Dude, everything stinks!” is a 5 year old’s worldview. We’re also blessed – if that is the right word? – with aging former comedians given cable shows. They can’t even fall back on age as some excuse. But eventually they say something so rude and over the line that they get fired. Until then, we learn from them the likes of, “God ain’t up there in the clouds,” and “the Pope wears a funny hat and doesn’t like birth control.” How groundbreaking! I’m supposed to pay HBO for those insights?
Q: If you’re talking about who I think you are, some think he’s funny and has interesting things to say.
Nello: Sorry, I’m more challenged by that porcupine that’s been chewing at the edge of our house. You’d think someone would’ve told me they like the salt in our wood stain? Ah, the Catskills. Some people also think Elvis is alive. Some also see aliens in woodwork. Here, this is in our house. Check this out:
Q: I don’t see Elvis. Sorry, I see an empty wine rack….
Nello: No, no, look at the post, not the rack. That’s right, you’re being watched. Two aliens are living in our woodwork. Definitive photographic evidence.
Q: What does this have to do with that guy on HBO?
Nello: Nothing. I just thought I’d mention it.
Q: Uh, very impressive….
Nello: Or that other guy on Comedy Central. Let’s be honest: he’s just like uncounted other back of the room smart alecks we all went to school with. Make a funny face at how idiotic ___________ is! Yippee! Pay me millions! Well, why not? As the Irish would say, in the long run we’re all feckin’ doomed anyway. [Shrug.]
Q: Hmmm, you aren’t some secret conservative?
Nello: Don’t get me started on the right. I just want to say one thing about Fox News. I remember over the summer seeing some woman on a group jabber show on there. She’s about, oh, maybe age 12, and she was lecturing millions of viewers around the world about the so-called “Islamic State” and how the Middle East is, you know, all so complicated and messy. It was like sitting through a 7th grader’s book report. Look, I’m sure she’s a nice person. I think I heard she has a radio show. Of course she does. Everyone has a radio show. Why not her too? Yet for all that I’d have given her a C+. True, I wouldn’t have pressed her on where Aleppo is on a map, or about Hezbollah’s intervention. But at least she seemed to know where Syria is. Yet it all makes you want to ram your head through a wall.
Q: So you’d never promote your books on TV?
Nello: One of my relations is a TV news producer on a program you might recognize. Like on “The Newsroom,” except it’s actually crazier than that in real life. Years ago, she told me her boss used to wake up and the first thing she did every morning was throw up. Does Emily Mortimer do that?
Q: That’s disgusting. Anyway, your point is?
Nello: “Pointless!” Not everyone wants to be on TV. I want to write books people will like, not mug for a camera. Besides I’ve noticed my hair is thinning a bit on the top of my head in the back. Oh, well, I’ve made it into my 40s. Not bad. Have you seen Mr. Armstrong on “Pointless” in Britain? A great voice. Pleasant host. But on no account should he ever turn his back to the camera. It’s thin back there.
Q: Yep, you’re evidence for sure that pen names are a good idea at times…..
Nello: They’re freedom. So is independent publishing. Don’t kid yourself. It would be nice to make some money, but you don’t write to get rich. So what I do is going to be mine. One of my proofreaders is a published children’s author. I had told her I was adamant that I would indy-publish because I didn’t want anyone telling me what to write. Like anyone told PBS TV painter, the now late Bob Ross, “Oh, put another tree in there, Bob. You know, it also really needs more spice? Hmm, how about a half-naked woman?”
Q: I can’t….
Nello: But writers are supposed to be edited? Really? In whose rulebook? You could give the same manuscript to ten different editors and be left holding your head at what each of them decided wasn’t necessary and what was.
Q: Editing is very important….
Nello: Yes, has its place of course, but leave me the hell alone about my story. Everyone tells you what to write. Damn it, write your own book then! Since books exist forever, I’m not going to leave behind my (pen) name on anything someone else wanted me to write, but probably won’t earn me lots of money anyway. Why do that? Sell one’s soul for nothing? No! No! Non! Last time: I will not make “Isabelle” a vampire!
Q: Please, Mr. Nello, here, have a sip of water….
Nello: Whew. Sorry. Thank you. [Gulp, gulp, gulp.] Wait. This is actually water!
Q: Uh, I said that.
Nello: I thought you were kidding. You saw that empty wine rack. I thought it was white wine. But I’d prefer a brandy. Sorry, I forgot. You don’t work for France 24. Typical prohibitionist American.
Q: Now, to the covers.
Nello: Yes, please. If we can’t drink to escape, let’s talk about my novels.
Q: Your covers are intriguing?
Nello: They are my photographs that I’ve taken over the years. I suppose I could employ someone to do photography or artwork. I promise if I ever sell millions of books, I’ll hire lots of staff. We should all help each other.
Q: Specifically, the back cover of the new book, Frontiers. There’s no photo description anywhere. Ahem, now, uh, that young woman pictured, she is….
Nello: Nice try, pal. Not a chance. No way. I’m not saying who she is. Not ever. Not even if you spiked my water.
Q: Umm, you write about lots of people from various places. Can’t you at least tell us her nationality?
Nello: I’ll say only that she’s French. That’s all. Fin. Next question.
Nello: Stop now, or I’ll go all Gore Vidal on you. I mean it.
Q: Sorry, sorry, I forgot you have been practicing your authoring smugness and arrogance. You’ve much improved since September.
Nello: Ah, you’ve noticed. Good. I think I’ve about got it down now. I’ve also got pompous American expatriate down too. “Oh, daaaarling, everyone else does everything better outside of the U.S.” Actually, uh, they don’t. Take a train in central Brussels, and you’ll be wishing you were on Amtrak. Yes, they do some things better, but hardly everything. Like in The Winds of War….
Q: Please, not back to that book again. Mr. Nello….
Nello: I have vowed I will finish it! I will! All 1,100 glorious pages of it!
Q: Oh, yeh [wink, wink].
Nello: Don’t start with the wink, wink stuff. You suddenly turned into another know-it-all guy on HBO? I told you in September that no one in the books is a real person. They are drawn from people I’ve known over the years, but none are any one individual. These books are FICTION!
Q: There are some surprises. The beginning, well, with “Valérie,” wow….
Nello: Did it grab you? Good, that’s what I wanted.
Q: And by the end, you’ve got us all wanting to know what’s going to happen to them all.
Nello: Again, that’s the plan. That’s why it’s called “a series.” Geez.
Q: You do tackle some serious stuff. The fall of the Soviet Union. Israel. Lebanon. Racism. Immigration. And other things mixed in.
Nello: Fiction allows that in a way that isn’t necessarily preachy. The characters can get some facts wrong too. It’s not an encyclopaedia. My own views are not necessarily those of the characters. I try to write from behind their eyes. I actually disagree with quite a few things I’ve written.
Q: Gee, that was thoughtful. You aren’t as all arrogant, smug, expatriate author as you pretend to be. I think you’re hiding that you’re really a mush.
Nello: I just try to be realistic and, yes, I suppose, reflective. None of the characters are decision-makers, or heads of corporations or bazillionaires. They deal with the world the way we all do: Imperfectly. And this is supposed to be entertainment, after all. I remember reading about a famous director who was confronted by a fan who had spotted a minor inconsistency in one of his films. The director answered, “It’s only a movie.” Absolutely. We have to have fun too.
Q: It is the case that some people do take some things way too seriously.
Nello: Some of the new book is lighthearted also of course – like sharing a flight across the Atlantic and going through U.S. immigration. Always an “amusing” experience.
Q: So, on the whole, are you pleased with it?
Nello: Honestly? After I hit publish, I wanted to throw up. I felt a bit like a TV producer must feel. But I’d given writing it my best effort. When it’s over, as the Bangles sang, let it go.
Q: So it means a lot to you?
Nello: It does. A great deal. I know I have done three interviews with you often kidding about a lot of things. But when it comes to what’s in my novels, it’s no joke. I take what I do very seriously. I strive to do the best I can. Readers deserve the best you can give them. Yes, as with that director no doubt something must be “imperfect” in it. But that is life too. If I have one aim, it is to produce works I am proud of, and that readers will enjoy and want to follow in coming installments in years to come.
Q: Uh, that’s really two aims?
Nello: Sorry, I got a bit carried away. But you know what I meant.
Q: Just pulling your leg. Let me stop you there. Let’s end on a high note.
Nello: Oh, before I forget, one thing. No Good Morning America appearance. I won’t do it. I mean that. That program is in la-la land.
NOTE: The first two parts of this scintillating interview started here, back on September 13. ;-)
NOTE 2: Indeed we so often have to try to laugh. Try to have a good day, wherever you are in the world. :-)
My wife has had to fly back to Britain. I am staying on here in Pennsylvania through my father’s heart implant procedure on December 8. Before she left on Saturday, with a wink and a smile she gave me her final approval on Frontiers.
So today, Frontiers is now – FINALLY! – officially published. It doesn’t seem for sale on Amazon.com just yet. However, I presume it will be available on Amazons everywhere in paperback and for Kindle within the next few hours.
This long year (for me) is now, at last, winding down.
* * *
The characters we met last year in the first volume, Passports, are, by the end of Frontiers, much more familiar to us. By the end of the latter, we’ve gotten to know them pretty well. We’re been with them in their laughter as well as their pain.
There are right decisions made. There are the right things said at the right time. There is humor. There are also shortcomings. There is stupidity. There are foolish statements. There is naïveté. There are loose ends. We see there are no pat answers.
In short, we are parachuted into their lives. I want them to be “three-dimensional,” to read as if they are real people, and perhaps even become your friends too. I hope I have even partly achieved that ambitious goal.
* * *
What happens to them subsequently is for a planned third volume. When you create characters, you suddenly feel “responsible” for them. They are words on a page, yet now almost 200,000 words and two novels later, I care about them all very much. I hope you will too.
Having read Passports helps greatly in better understanding Frontiers as its follow on. However, doing so is not absolutely essential. If you do choose to read Frontiers, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed – well, if I’m honest, not 100 percent of the time, but often – writing it.
I will add sidebar links to it on here, etc., and so on, shortly. First, I may take a few days off. You know of course that it’s not that I don’t like you all. ;-) It’s just I’m drained and need to “recharge” a little.
It is a good time to say this once more: Thank you again for reading and following my modest novel-writing site.
Have a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. :-)
“Patricia Hall-Surrey? Oh, please. Seriously? You’re EVIL!”
She grinned mischievously as she said that to me. That character’s name contains an obscure personal reference, and she’d caught it immediately. And it is hardly alone in that among the 95,000 words that make up the book.
Until she gives Frontiers her green light, the novel stays tucked away inside my PC(s). The tale has raised her eyebrows a few times, to say the least. Novel-writing is, frankly, great fun – at least once you’ve finished the story and get reactions. ;-)
Have a good Friday!
And this is also my 300th post on here. :-)
Well, Frontiers is finished….
….and so, for all intents and purposes, mentally am I (for the time being). Lastly, final checks as it goes through Amazon’s processes. After it has appeared, I’ll put a link up here in the sidebar…. and perhaps set off fireworks too:
Okay, short of fireworks, how about a celebratory drink?:
Uh, about that. It’s rather early here in Britain right now to consume any of that; naturally that photo is merely for show. At least until tonight. ;-)
I’ve written previously about the first time I’d had one. It was, shall we say, “memorable”…. insofar as I can, err, fuzzily remember it:
The first time I’d had one was in France a rather, uh, relatively long time ago. … I remember having had, umm, one too many. And so had a girlfriend. We were saved when her (sober, designated driver) friend “poured” us two into her tiny (French) car as we three left a party. I recall a lot of laughing among us being involved too.
In Frontiers, at one point James gets himself in a degree of trouble in France due to having imbibed a bit too much of that. His problem is much more serious than that which happened to me in real life. As to what goes on with him, well, you know I will say no more about that here of course!
On a serious note, I’d like to thank you again for reading and following my site. If you can bear it, in weeks to come I’ll probably start yammering on about the third volume in progress. 2015’s project.
Have a good weekend. :-)
For some reason, among all my London commuting on trains or in traffic I clearly remember one episode years ago of being stuck on the Underground’s Piccadilly line in north London. As the train waited motionless for what seemed like interminable minutes just outside a station (it was probably Arnos Grove), the driver came on the public address system and explained there’d been a problem at the station moments before and that he had to wait for verbal confirmation to proceed. We all heard him sigh and mumble, “Delays, delays, delays….”
What does that have to do with this post? It’s that I won’t get Frontiers published tomorrow. And I’m thoroughly annoyed at myself over the “delay.”
Yesterday, I found several more “tiny errors,” including the word “talking” where it should have appeared as “taking.” I’ve only read that chapter about, oh, half a dozen times recently. And I’ve also run it through Word’s grammar check? I don’t understand….
Not exactly something to put me in the best frame of mind. I desperately wanted it out for Kam’s birthday, which was November 9th. But I also thought to myself what she might say if I could tell her. With her warm smile, she would probably observe something like, “Rob, it’s soooo nice of you, but don’t release it for me if you’re not happy with it. Get it the way you want it. C’mooooon, now….” (She often softly drew out words for emphasis.)
I’ve been at this since January. A few days more to “make sure” is neither here nor there. Everyone, do please try to control your eager anticipation for a little while longer. ;-)
You may recall I posted recently about a Messenger exchange I’d had with my uncle in which he’d suggested to me that I could write “a cozy.” When he did, I almost split my sides laughing. I wouldn’t know where to begin with a crime novel of any sort.
I’ve always suspected he sees me as a gentle type, and could never imagine me producing, say, a “stalker, slasher, serial killer, blood everywhere, horror thriller,” or some such. And in that, he would be right. (Although I’ve got stuff in Frontiers which might surprise him! Hey, I can do “thrilling!”) Still, as a crime novelist, he sees the literary world first and foremost from his perch as a crime novelist.
Although they are “thoughtful” (perhaps even, uh, “gentle” in some ways), I suspect the novels I’ve written would stun him. (The romance and sex especially!) Yet I also suspect that, after he’d thought about it a bit, he wouldn’t be nearly as stunned. So even those who know us well (even a long-published novelist) can’t always give us decent writing advice.
It is worth bearing that in mind. Seeking out too much advice and too many critiques has its own pitfalls for any novelist. As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth.
Because novels aren’t written by committee. Any five people out there will share their takes on your writing from their own five, entirely personal, perspectives. Other novelists chiming in are similarly biased, as my uncle demonstrated unwittingly to me. Indeed whenever I see authors “judging” and “helping” other authors, I can’t help also but recall my uncle’s bemoaning aspiring writers sending him manuscripts, and his noting he doesn’t really have time to read them (and I sense doesn’t even really want to): he is merely another writer, he says, struggling to get on with his own latest project. (Although, obviously, he’s a HarperCollins published one.)
Consider this too: if those “five” people have their varied opinions about your work, how do you think “100 readers” (likely mostly non-authors), or even 10,000 or more (should you be so lucky), will react to it? There are those who will open (or download) your novel and adore what you’ve produced. Others will roll their eyes that you haven’t quite nailed it. Still others will scoff that you write like you are still in high school and hate it.
Even Shakespeare had – and has – detractors. I had a laugh a few months ago on here also imagining Washington Irving having to cope with disparaging comments on Twitter. Bottom line: you will NEVER satisfy everyone, so don’t even try.
Above all, no one can write your book(s) for you. Yes, you may ask for the views of numerous others, and even a dozen other authors, but what you write is rooted ultimately in your unique background, your interests, your experiences, your outlook, and what you know. In the end, it’s all on you. :-)
Have a good Monday, wherever in the world you are reading this!
In proofing Frontiers, I am re-discovering that qualitative reading “difference” between print and e-books. Both versions have their pluses and minuses, and I still maintain I would not chuck out print books in exchange for e-books. E-books have their role, but they are not everything.
I do final corrections by reading the paperback proof, scribbling in the margins, and simultaneously have the PC (currently, a Surface Pro 3) open on the desk (currently, post-move, that’s the dining room table) to the manuscript. If I see a word, or phrase, or typo, or punctuation I want to change, I insert the revision as a “comment” in Word at that spot in the PC manuscript. Then it’s back to re-reading the print book.
I hope to get through the proof that way within a few days. I’m fanatical about the text. Every word. Every letter.
Because I absolutely haaaaaaaate typos and sloppiness. I get a sense from what I read on the net that some indy authors – eager to make their, uh, fortunes – rush to print having missed obvious errors or, worse, don’t seem to care about them. I don’t think either is acceptable from the perspective of you expecting people to separate themselves from their hard-earned money to buy your book. By making your book the absolutely cleaniest you can (I’ve seen major publishing house books with typos too and don’t think that’s acceptable either), I believe you show readers the respect that is their due in their choosing to buy your work ahead of others. It is standard good “customer experience” stuff that applies to any business.
In terms of craft, the tale is written as it is for reasons of my own. It’s personal. It’s mine. It’s like a painting or poetry (for me). I’ve often agonized for hours over the style and flow of a few paragraphs.
Indeed how it “sounds” not just in one’s head is important to me too. I tend to proof read, at times, out loud. (Naturally, that is helped immeasurably when I am alone in the house. And, no, you don’t want to hear my English-French or English-Russian accents! ;-) ) Doing an impersonation of an “audio book” I find greatly assists in tightening the story flow and reading experience.
Overall, what might appear to be a “typo” in a conversation is almost certainly not. I write conversation in the manner of “real chatter,” so it is often ungrammatical in the manner in which we all sometimes speak. I also write non-native English speakers’ accents in English….carefully. I am fully aware it can be dangerous to venture into that realm in case one accidentally drifts into caricature, but I believe it is vital for my story and characters. (I’m told I succeeded in that with Passports, so now feel more confident in continuing that style.) It’s always a case of knowing where to draw the line. (I’ve reached the point now that my characters are so familiar to me that I know whose English is better than whose!) So an awkward delivery by a non-native English speaker is presented that way deliberately.
Yesterday, I was able to finalize about 150 pages out of the nearly 390 of the full story. Not bad that. The day whizzed by.