The title is a riff on a poem by Wallace Stevens. (I had lunch last week with the woman translating him into Chinese, which was pretty cool.)
My very clever UK agent, Jonny Geller, tweeted today about starting a fee-for-service business of chasing authors off Twitter and back to work, said he’d do it for other agents, and charge them. We shared an email and a laugh about it. (I lost some time yesterday to a much-too-much-fun volley of puns about wine, after finding a Slate magazine piece describing someone with a glass of wine in hand ‘pouring over a map of Game of Thrones‘ instead of ‘poring’. Ouch! I said the map would have more ‘clarety’ after that. Ouch, encore.)
Every generation has its sins in the eyes of the older generation. Sinatra then Elvis, then the Beratles (not to mention the bad boy Rolling Stones) led straight to sex. Movies, D&D, computer games, texting on smart phones … Facebook and Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram. All pernicious distractions from right thinking and diligent work. (We are not discussing fantasy baseball here. Don’t go there! Though I will note that my league is called Stan the Man, and the great, great Musial died last week and is being quite properly mourned. Class act.)
By the way, I do not deny that technology can and does change us and how we relate to and function with each other. My go-to book on this, one I urge on everyone, is Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, where the Gershwin title says so much about us today.
I did a radio interview a year or two ago with the great Shelagh Rogers and another author, promoting a fundraising book for PEN Canada in which we both had essays. We were discussing the ‘online’ question, as it applied to writers. He lamented the disappearance of the ‘sacred space’ for creativity, due to the seductions of the Internet. I don’t use language that mystical, but I agreed completely that the difference between today and the days when a writer avoiding work would wander down to the cafe or bar is that today our work space is identical to our play space. And I added something else: despite my own agent’s teasing, most publishers and agents want their authors promoting themselves all over social media (we’ve been discussing that here).
I’m not as sublimely sure as Elena Ferrante (see last post) that quality will always emerge, whether in a few years or posthumously. I think our sped-up culture can very very easily cause something to be lost. I dislike it. I don’t like the extreme convergence of author and work, but I do see it as a core element of today’s book world. So I allowed myself to be lured on to Twitter by the tandem Sirens of Penguin (they even have Penguin Canada’s publisher out there now, though her corporate role will make it hard for her to be funny and casual). And I also find myself laughing a lot at the back and forths, over and above steering people to things I find interesting – or disturbing.
It is easier for me to hang out in this way right now as I am in the very first ‘incubation’ stages of sorting what might be a next book. One reason I am slow is that I always feel the need to let the last book fade before starting to properly address a next one. I don’t want language and themes to ‘bleed’ from one to another (I don’t mind if that overlap of themes happens because it feels interesting). And so this is the ‘marketing stage’ and that process has changed a lot … which is something I’m trying to share here.
Received the first two sets of email interview questions for pieces that will appear online on two websites. The publicity teams will sort out timing. I am also trying to figure something out, maybe people here have thoughts. I did a very enjoyable AMA on Reddit last year, typing as fast as I could to reply to funny/smart questions. We’ll do another this spring. Here’s the dilemma, and it was the author Brandon Sanderson who posted something and started me thinking about this.
Should we do it just as the book comes out and make it a wide open, general discussion, or wait a few weeks for epople to buy and read River of Stars and set up (as Sanderosn says he’ll do) a Spoiler Zone AMA where anyone there that night (or reading the transcript after) is on notice that questions will be about the new book?
One complication: predictably, I dislike over-explaining. I often avoid spelling things out in interviews, I don’t want to take away the reader’s ability to shape their own response to the text.
For example, I never have (and never will) address the last sentence of Tigana!