Good morning (again) from upstate New York’s chilly (24F/ -4C overnight) Catskills:
Days from publication, I was re-reading parts of Distances in paperback last night. (I’m not entirely sure why: I’m not changing anything at this point!) As I’ve said before, I do find there is some intangible difference between following a novel on paper as opposed to on a screen. A paperback is a better read in some ways, while the ebook is in others, and I have found that again.
Having done it three times now, I find wrapping up a novel to be an emotional letdown as well. It marks an end of a long journey. There was a time that there was NOTHING on the page, and that seems such a long time ago now.
I received an encouraging and sympathetic email recently from the woman who forms the character basis for “Mrs. Hall-Surrey” – and had laughed aloud when she first “spotted” herself (and her husband) on the pages in Frontiers. (“The little so and so! Darling, he’s written about us!”) I wrote her back that I was relieved I had essentially finished Distances before my uncle’s death and my Mom’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Had I not, I don’t know I would have been able to summon up the mental strength to have done so anytime soon.
Naturally I don’t want to give away too much of the storyline. However, as I’d written here a couple of weeks ago, some of what’s in it is shockingly prescient and unexpectedly relevant to where I find myself in my life right now. Frankly, I can’t believe the number of similar touchpoints.
With publication just days away, time again for the dedication.
Following on from that post the other day on For Such a Time, I’ve read here and there about accusations of “racism,” “privilege,” and “Western cultural arrogance” in “romance” and “young adult” literature. That’s not an easy subject to address in a blog post. However, authoring as I do for adults (and not for children), I just wanted briefly to note my view. (Separately, I’ve already addressed the issue of an author spewing hatred while “hiding” behind his/her characters.)
Naturally, not every novel by every writer is going to be fantastic. Still it is chilling to read anything that even vaguely argues authors should be wary about exploring characters who aren’t much like themselves. That could lead, in itself, to writers becoming fearful of trying to create what could be some truly worthwhile literature.
….until reading this article by author Warren Adler in the Daily Beast:
The recent flap over the romance novel For Such a Time, whose plot features a concentration camp inmate falling in love with her Nazi captor, has aroused the wrath of various critics and readers on grounds that it is too discomfiting and disturbing to have been published.
While I can understand why some readers are offended by the premise, it smacks of political correctness gone awry. The problem is that it has invaded an art form that can be dangerously compromised by the basic tenets of political correctness, which posits that any expression or attitude that discomfits others must be excised from all forms of public communication.
I’m more concerned about my own books and my own readers than “wrathing” at other writers and fixating on various “flaps.” So I missed that “flap.” It is explained in more detail here in Newsweek:
All of the mornings that started at 4 am. All of the times you shook your head as you typed away, alone, struggling to get that perfect paragraph, perfect sentence, perfect word. Through the untimely death of a dear friend. Through all of the self-doubt and gazing at the screen and wondering, “Is this worth doing?”
But there is a point to it all. Here’s the “R. J. Nello” Kindle titles listing on Amazon.com:
Three nearly 100,000 word novels each in 3 years has been a massive intellectual and life challenge. It began in late 2012, when I was feverishly tap, tap, tapping the first brainstorms of Passports sneakily on my laptop while sitting in front of the TV in our old house in Christchurch. (The first chapters I recall writing were the World Trade Center and subway chapters.) Because I wanted a “full book” well underway before I wanted to risk revealing to anyone what I was doing (in case nothing came of the initial writing), I told no one what I was up to for about six months.
It will be published no later than that date. However, it might appear sooner if I finish “touching it up” sooner than that. I don’t know if it’s available for pre-order at the other Amazons as well (I haven’t clicked around to check), but I presume it is (or will be within hours).
I’m not writing this post because I’ve hit “50”: I’ve been thinking about this for some time. ;-) As our ancestors died, they’d leave behind objects. We’d inherit photographs, letters, diaries, music (records and cassettes) and books:
Increasingly, though, our generation has so much that’s “virtual” and doesn’t have a physical presence – email, social media accounts, etc.
Consider photos. Some people have truly incredible Instagram accounts. That probably includes some of you. I’m not easily jealous, but some I’ve seen…. Wow!
At the start, in 2013, I knew I was writing for only a minuscule group of readers, most of whom I knew personally. That is scary in its own way. Leaving yourself on the page creatively to friends and family is actually much more intimidating than doing so with “strangers.”
The “strangers” reading numbers have grown quite a bit since then. Yet I’d never expected to write for gazillions of readers, and I realistically still don’t. I suppose that actually helps me relax in my writing. It’s freedom, and even in its way it’s like a small – even exclusive – escapist “reading club”: the rest of the “ugly world” is out there…. someplace.
Most of us get some stage fright if we have to give a speech. I used to do politics lectures for a hundred or so college students, so I wasn’t too fazed by public speaking. Yet that was talking to a subject; it wasn’t talking about “yourself.” Moreover, university students have to listen to what you say and pass the exams to get their degree, so they’re “a captive audience.”
Novel writing is decidedly something else. No one has to read a word of your tales. Yet if you think about all of those who might read what you’ve invented, you could freeze up in abject terror while sitting at the keyboard.