Monday, May 21, 2007

ON REWARDS

BLUME: Is writing easy for you?
ANGIER: No. Mostly it's a question of trying to quiet the dybbuks--all the voices that tell you you're no good, you can't do it, every kind of criticism you can come up with. You're just trying to shut them up and let yourself go.
*******Natalie Angier interviewed by Harvey Blume in The Boston Globe about her newest book "The Canon"


HANK:
(Forgive me for this before I start, okay? It's somewhat sappy and about my own book.)

I had a once in a lifetime experience this week. Really. A box, actually, two boxes, were on my front porch as I arrived home. They were too big to be my new shoes. And they were too small to be my stuff from Saks.

I know they had to be the advance author copies of PRIME TIME. I ripped the tape of the cartons, and with my (Jungle Red) manicure in jeopardy and putting myself at grave risk for papercuts, I ripped open the flaps. One. Two. And there they were, in all their sleek glory. Forty-eight gorgeous books.

(Stay with me here, I promise this has a point.)

I checked the front, great. I checked the back, great. I checked all the little extra stuff that goes in: bio, thank you page, letter to the reader. All great.
But that's not the end of the once in a lifetime.

I could not go to sleep, I was so thrilled to see the results of my two years of writing and revision, years of worry and delight and of stepping out of the TV world of facts and into the writing world of fiction. And I wondered, would anyone like it?

(Point approaching.)

So I stayed up, almost all night, reading the whole book. Pretending to be someone else, someone else who hadn't done the revisions and changes and who didn't know what I took out and someone who didn't know whether the characters turned out to be good or nefarious and who didn't know whodunnit. Someone who had never met my heroine, Charlie McNally. (I also had to be someone who presumably doesn't need any sleep, which turned out to be a mistake.)

Anyway, I loved it. I laughed. I was interested. I forgot I wrote it, sometimes. And I found things, clues, that I hadn't realized were there. I mean, "were there"--things were only "there" because I put them there, right? So how did they get there without me knowing about it?

So as Natalie (above, you've probably forgotten the quote by now) says, "it's a question of trying to quiet the dybbuks."

Thinking back. There were days, writing PT, where I admit I thought things were going along nicely. But there were certainly days I thought, you know, this ain't gonna work. Now, I see you just have to quiet the dybbuks and if they hush and you just go on, you may power through and wind up with the feeling I just did. My first book. It's real.

HALLIE:
Well, that sent me to the dictionary--dubbuk: In Jewish folklore, the wandering soul of a dead person that enters the body of a living person and controls his or her behavior.

Who knew?

Yes, Hank, it is REAL! And it is wondrous to behold and to be holding that brand new baby book. There's nothing like the first one. Not that it gets old; it just gets, well, tarnished. I'm not going there. But anyone who's interested in why no one has figured how to make money in the book business should have a look at the article in the May 13 NY Times, cover of the Sunday Business Section: "The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller." Apparently book marketing is more about voo-doo than research. ("Most in the industry seem to see consumer taste as a mystery that is inevitable and even appealing, akin to the uncontrollable highs and lows of falling in love or gambling.")

I'm predicting Hank's Prime Time is going to break out because it's got such great heart, it's hilarious, and its smart-smart-smart. And because I have sprinkled good juju upon it.good juju: good energy

(HANK: Oh, Hallie. Thank you. Good ju ju is the sort of thing that comes right back to you.)

JAN:
So a dubbuk is sort of a Jewish vampire, eh? I guess every ethnic group needs its evil spirits.

I've known it as the POS syndrome. (piece of shxx - you get the picture). It's when you've been writing, agonizing, rewriting, mispelling, correcting and getting blurry eyes, and you read whatever you've just written and you say to yourself. Ye GODS! whatever made me think I could be a writer?

This is the WORST drivel I've ever read.

But later, the magic starts to happen. And especially when your book is bound, with a smart, flashy cover and looks like... well hey... this is actually a real book. Then all that drivel disappears and you can see that you weren't kidding yourself. You can write. Tell stories, and even transport readers to a suspenseful, climactic even, scene.

It's wonderful stuff! And Hank, I can't wait to read Prime Time! Enjoy the magic!

RO:
Well, the earth hasn't moved for me just yet. Somehow the uncorrected bound manuscripts I'm squinting at (is that really 5pt type??) haven't had that same effect on me, but I'll take your word for it.Is it easy? Nope. The hardest part for me is getting all the other crap out of my head and sticking with my story. I have been known to be distracted by a good looking bird outside my window. But once it's down on paper I enjoy rewriting...again...and again...and again..

HANK:
Oh, Ro. It's going to be so much fun when Pushing Up Daisies comes out and you're all glowy and bubbly (yes, even you) and we can tease you about how cynical you used to be in your uncorrected maunscript days. (Jan--your Yesterday's Fatal is just new to the stores...is it pushy to point readers to check it out? That's what friends are for, right? And it doesn't happen that often..)

I guess my point--yay! she got there!--is that sometimes we surprise ourselves.

(RO: Hank, you are just like human sunshine.)

5 comments:

The Writers' Group said...

You may have ruined your manicure, but I've just run my mascara. What a beautiful post! I couldn't be happier for you. I've been going around to various bookstores with your book marks, the sales people are almost as excited as I am. Yesterday, as I gave the soft-sell to one, another ran up to us and said, "I love her!" The other replied, "I guess we'll be ordering lots of her books." Hallie's right, Prime Time will be a break out.

Amy

beckymotew said...

Hank,

I can't wait to read it.

b

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, I love the concept of quieting the dybbuks! Writing is such a roller-coaster ride--either I'm loving my WIP or horrified that anyone might see it. But, then, when you get the first copies. . . it's just lovely. Even better is when you start hearing from readers (which you will, Hank!). A dear friend and wonderful writer, Bev Marshall, told me before my book came out that readers wou;d help me to fall in love with it all over again and she was so right.

Mia King said...

The ARC's look fabulous! And four color. I am jealous.

Congrats, Hank, on what is sure to be a success!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hi all--
Wow, Amy, that's some wonderful news. As I've told you so often, you're not only a fabulous writer, you've got some PR genius buzzing through that brain of yours. Open an agency, I'm there.
And Deb Mia! Thank you so much! Talk about Good Things--your own cover is wonderful, too.
Becky--will we see you at the PT launch?
Ah, Judy. And that's the thing that haunts me. As you can tell from the post, I tried to read PT as someone else, and attempting to see it through a reader's eyes. That's a scary and wonderful experience. But soon, there'll be real readers (knock on wood) and it's uncharted territory for me to deal with their reactions.