The blackbird tweeting or just after…

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!


5 thoughts on “The blackbird tweeting or just after…

  1. My own first impression of doing the AMA on reddit would be to fire it up as the book comes out and make it a general discussion. I only think this because waiting several weeks for people to buy and read the book will (I think) keep some folks away, not wanting to spoil any content for themselves. Also, given the depth of the waters to be plumbed (**HUGE** leap of faith here, based on past books…), the real meat of discussion will be hard to get at after so short a time after release.

    Given that my work place is also identical to my play place (or at least sometimes masquerades as one), I read this journal entry at my work desk since I subscribe to them, and can further blur the lines by responding with a comment on company time. Quite sure I’m the only one ever to do this.

    And if we can’t have details on the last line of Tigana, how about the NEW hand-written last line in a fan’s copy of LIONS at a book signing some years ago?!

  2. Simon: bite your tongue as to LIONS or we’ll all tell your boss. My own instinct is an open AMA, too. For one thing, the spoiler-based one limits possible surfers to those who have read, and have read very quickly. I think Reddit has some house rules as to spoilers, too.

  3. Mr. Kay,

    Regarding the Reddit AMA – you can have both. On Reddit’s fantasy board, replies containing spoilers can be marked as such. The markers will black the text out until the reader hovers their mouse cursor over the text. The etiquette there is to use the markers on any spoilers so as to notify readers that they should not hover their cursor over the text unless they wish to read the spoilers.

    But you know, if I had to choose, I’d prefer an open AMA without the possibility of spoilers for RIVER, as well. With respect to Mr. Sanderson, I find that your novels need a lot of time to “simmer”. A discussion so soon after the upcoming release would be almost jarring. I finished reading the SARANTINE MOSAIC pair about a month ago, and I’m still working through the text mentally and emotionally.

  4. I love the moment I come to the last line of Tigana! I re-read and/or listen to it every year and each time I know it’s coming and I relish it. The pregnant pause, the opening of possibilities. You know the story continues and in the same meaningful way. No easy ‘live happily ever after’ endings. I love the integrity of Ser Kay’s work!

    I fully agree with not over explaining. The reader needs the room to experience the story themselves. When you clearly and narrowly define something, it is then imprisoned in a box and it loses the ability to be a vehicle for transcendence. This applies to many things, literature, music, your understanding of the Divine……

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