You know what I discovered on book tour: AMERICA HAS GONE TO THE
FUTURE. I was there two years ago but in the meantime America advanced
about a decade. Now you use your phone to carry boarding passes and movie
tickets. When you need a ride somewhere, you summon cars with an app. I tried to buy a
sandwich in New York and the store didn’t take cash. DIDN’T TAKE CASH.
I met two people who don’t carry wallets any more, just credit cards. In two more
years, I guess, they will just carry phones.
Now I’m home in Melbourne, Australia, I’m all, “Ugghhh, stores that only take
cash, how 2011.” I just bought some sushi and it seemed really stupid, handing
over a twenty and trusting the cashier to remember and figure out the right change.
That process is fraught with potential errors. If we didn’t already do it like that,
and somebody invented it, it would seem like a terrible idea.
Besides marveling at technological process, I was in the States to read and sign
books. During my New York event, a person asked, “What’s the worst thing
about being an author?” At first, I was overwhelmed by things to bitch about, like,
just that morning, I had really felt like some wheat-based cereal, but my fancy hotel
restaurant only did Granola. This is the kind of rough justice I’m expected to
put up with on book tour.
But beyond that, there was the whole thing about having a career that occasionally seems
like it’s about to dissolve into nothingness, which is sporadically terrifying,
and sometimes I write things nobody likes, which is disappointing, and working on
the same idea for years at a time can be challenging, too.
I didn’t catalog these pains, though, because they were hard to justify in the face of
a room full of people who had all come out to see me and buy my books so I
could keep writing stories for a living. That is just plain awesome. I think I’m getting more appreciative
in my old age, by which I mean less deluded about how rare and special this is,
getting to write books and have them published and people liking them. Thank you
so much to everyone who reads my stuff, and comes to see me, and tells other people
my books exist.
Speaking of which! I don’t know how you politely slip into conversation that you’ve
received a crapload of positive reviews, but CHECK THIS OUT:
a crapload of positive Lexicon reviews!
You have to admit, that’s a lot. Even I feel like buying a copy after reading that.
If you have bought a copy, and now you have questions, you might want to
@Penguinusa Twitter Book Club
and tweet questions at
me. The first session is Tuesday 7pm EST (US).
Another thing I’m doing is fielding outrage from librarians.
At the end of Lexicon are
Acknowledgments, which contain this:
And, hey. You. Thanks for being the kind of person who likes to pick up a book. That’s a genuinely
great thing. I met a librarian recently who said she doesn’t read because books are her job, and when
she goes home, she just wants to switch off. I think we can agree that that’s as creepy as hell. Thank you
for seeking out stories, the kind that take place in your brain.
This sparked some amount of LIBRARIAN RAGE, expressed via email
and Twitter. In retrospect, I should have seen coming, because I am
married to a librarian and know how they work. See, librarians come
in two flavors: Kick-Ass Librarians and Mundane Librarians. Kick-Ass Librarians love books with
a deep and fiery passion, and have firm opinions about censorship, and
will cross burning coals and defeat ravenous lions in order to deliver
an age-appropriate book into the hands of a willing reader. Mundane Librarians—of
which there are very few, compared to Kick-Ass Librarians—just do the job.
To them, books are rectangular things that need to be scanned and filed.
When I say it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. But to Kick-Ass Librarians, a Mundane
is a new mother in a Birthing Ward who says, “Yeah, I just had a baby. He’s
around here somewhere.” It tears at the insides of Kick-Ass Librarians that
these people are entrusted with the care of books (and readers!). And it
burns them up to think that people believe all librarians are like that: Mundane.
So I am sorry for not being clearer about that, Kick-Ass Librarians.
Finally! Are you Australian? Do you want to win a copy of Lexicon?
Do you sometimes lie awake, regretting things you did in high school? If
you answered YES to at least two of these questions, and they were the
first two, post a comment
here on maxbarry.com
and/or arguing the merits of your case! The Australian publisher is kindly
letting me give away five copies. Entries close Friday 5pm!
Also! I just saw a minute ago that Syrup is opening in Canada this weekend in
Toronto and Calgary! That is literally all I know. I know this seems like
an incredibly stealthy way to release a movie, not telling anyone where
it’s playing, but that’s because you don’t understand marketing, and apparently neither do I.
OH WAIT I just sleuthed out some
info: Friday in Toronto at Carlton Cinemas. You can even
And that reminds me! Sorry, I have to mention this, too.
While I was in the US, I managed to collect two movie souvenirs.
One is a can of Fukk, which by rights belongs to Mat Coad, because he
won a competition to design a Fukk can
on this site six years ago. The other is the book “Lipstick Lesbians…
And Why Men LOVE Them! (A Girl’s Guide to Giving Straight Guys a Hard Time),”
which Scat discovers in 6’s apartment:
As it turns out, the designer of this prop, whose name I’m going to put
here as soon as I discover it, not only did an amazing job creating this
work of art, but also embedded jokes on the rear side:
fifth novel, Lexicon, is out today in the US & Canada,
so I’m going
to spend some of today visiting New York bookstores, looking at it,
and feeling weird. The
on this book has been kind of shockingly good, like what you
dream about as an author but never actually happens, so I’m daring
to think that THIS COULD BE IT, the book that allows me to
use the word “bestselling” without abusing its definition. Poor
word. It has been so stretched.
But a few days ago I finally watched Syrup and I need to tell you
what that was like! I’ve been building this up for about
five years and then I did one tweet, so people have been
asking HEY WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE FILM. But I was traveling
and not sleeping and didn’t get the opportunity. Now I’m writing
this from a New York hotel room at 3:30am, so I’m making
my own opportunity, like Tony Robbins.
had been holding out to see Syrup in a theater, since that was
what I’d always dreamed about. But then I realized I had a problem,
because I could only see it in a theater in the US, and my wife, Jen,
wouldn’t be there. Jen was a huge part of writing Syrup; she read the first
draft one chapter at a time and got all excited about it in a highly
motivating and sexy way that made me keep writing. Plus she’s an
awesome person to see a movie with. But we
could only get a DVD in Australia, not see a theater showing.
So I made an executive decision: The night before I hopped a plane
(Melbourne to Sydney to Los Angeles to Houston to Columbus all in one
Jen and I dragged the sofa up to the TV and closed the curtains,
so it would be like a real theater.
We were both nervous and held hands and said things like,
“Whatever it’s like, it doesn’t change the book.”
And! Then! We! Played! It!
I have trouble summarizing my reaction because I reacted
in pieces. I would see a scene and think, “Oh! I wrote this one!”
or “Wait that is different!” and I didn’t process it at all like
a normal person watching a movie. It was all about individual
scenes. But my first thoughts were:
“Oh no this is too confusing.” The first time I watched it,
I was a little shocked at how little setup there was, especially at the start,
and thought no-one would understand what was going on. Everything moved
so fast. But I’ve since seen it
again (in a theater in Columbus with an actual live audience, and ohhh,
how amazing to watch it like a proper movie), and I felt
this far less. I think my initial reaction was a novelist kind of thing;
films can move faster and the audience still picks up the gist
of what’s happening.
“This looks really good.” The visuals of the movie are really strong. I knew
the filmmakers were very big on this, and had an experienced and highly skilled cinematographer in
Julio Macat, but boy does that show. Every shot is beautiful and interesting.
“This scene I wrote is awesome!” My favorite parts, for completely selfish
reasons, were scenes that played out just like I’d written them in some
screenplay draft or other. And then they were on the screen! Some I loved
because they were just like I’d imagined (6 making Scat breakfast,
Scat shaking a dummy), and seeing them come to life was thrilling; some were
awesome because they took my material in unexpected directions,
elevating the scene beyond what I’d expected (the monologues,
ZephCo’s corporate goons—which Josh Pais and Christopher Evan
Welch play hilariously well).
I thought this must mean that I am an amazing screenwriter, but
later the director showed me some deleted scenes, which included lots
of stuff that played out just like I’d written and was really horrible,
so I realized the truth was they just kept my good parts. The rest,
which turned out to suck when filmed, were quietly executed. So
that’s lucky for me.
“Amber Heard is amazing.” Holy crap. Amber Heard is amazing. I was always
worried about how 6 would turn out, but Amber annihilated that character. In a good way. My
favorite part of the whole movie is her monologue about marketing love;
I think that’s perfect. I love Shiloh, too, and many many others, but Amber is
amazing. You should make a note so that when everyone else catches on
you can be all like, “I actually preferred her earlier work in Syrup.”
“How did they do all this?” I’ve thought this before, when I was on set, but I
keep re-thinking it. Novels are easy compared to films. Novels, I just sit
there and type and things happen. Films require people to painstakingly create every
detail that winds up on screen. It’s so practical. They have to wrestle
the real world into submission. They have to make decisions based on trade-offs and
logistics. And it’s so easy to forget because the end result looks effortless.
“OMG ending.” I’d heard they changed the ending. I’m not going to
say how, because, you know, spoilers. But I had written a particular
kind of ending in pretty much every screenplay draft, and then the film
went and did something completely different. And it’s better!
I saw my original ending as a deleted scene and boy did it suck. It sucked a lot.
The new one is actually thought-provoking and makes you want
to go back and rewrite some screenplays. That may just be me. But I love
Overall, I think the film is very true to the book, not just in its
tone and characters but in how they are both kind of raw and and messy but
steam ahead powered by earnest, youthful enthusiasm, never worrying about
whether they’re being too ridiculous. The film is an indie and if that was
a thing for books, the book would be, too. They are a good match. As
an author, that’s what you want your film adaptation to be.
Well, also super successful. But most of all, you want it to be true.
This film is true.
How To Watch Syrup: So it turns out the movie is only playing in a super-limited
number of theaters and will mostly be an
Demand/DVD kind of
thing. At which it’s doing well; it’s been sitting in the Top 100 Movie Rentals charts
for a month (currently #52), and wrestling with three or four others for the #1
Thank you so much if you had something to do with making that happen.
It makes a massive difference to the people who sweated and toiled for
months or years on this, doing unspeakable things in the name of
making a good film.
Outside the US, I still don’t know; I keep hearing there will be some
kind of release in most major international markets, but all I know for sure
is Australia gets it in November.
Film screening! Syrup is playing here and I’ll be doing a Q&A
afterward about what it’s like to have a book turn into a movie. I land in Columbus on
the night of the 14th direct from Australia so I can’t
make any guarantees about how I’ll smell. Because of the long flight, I mean. Not because of
Australia. Australia smells fine.
By the way, Syrup is simultaneously screening not too far away at the
Waterfront Film Festival
in South Haven, Michigan, with a Q&A with the
director Aram Rappaport and editor Robert Hoffman. If you
think those guys are better.
Update! They decided it was a bad idea to schedule a
Q&A that could be derailed by me missing a connecting flight. Is that a mixed metaphor?
Because I’m saying the Q&A sesssion would be derailed, not my flight. Anyway, the Friday
evening session is now a Saturday evening session, and I will be able to shower and
degrease ahead of it.
I’ll be in Chicago two days before my book comes out. I can’t do a bookstore
event, but I figured I could meet people at a bar or something. I did this in London
once and didn’t get stabbed at all so I think it’s a good idea. There might be some
Syrup film people there too. So you could come along and talk
about books and films or whatever. Very casual. If you bring a book, I will sign it.
Details to come: I will update this post. And if you know a good venue, please let me know
in the comments.
Update! At the moment it’s looking like this will be
in Wicker Park. But please check back for confirmation.
Book launch! I will read from Lexicon and answer questions
and stuff. You know. It’s a reading. Actually, it’s more of a talking. I talk about things.
I figure you can read the book yourself. I mean, that’s why we had it printed.
I will read for a little while, because that’s expected, and because sometimes people
come to bookstore readings for no particular reason and hear some of the book
and think, “That sounds good.” Then they buy it and I get to continue being an author.
Los Angeles, CA
Thursday June 20, 7:00pm-8:00pm sharp***UPDATED***
Bookstore event! I read, I answer questions, I sign things. I haven’t been to
Mysterious Galaxy before, but it was LA Weekly’s
Geek Bookstore of 2012. So that’s promising. I only have a few hours in LA, flying
in that day and flying out that night, so this will be the kind of visit
that’s brief and passionate and leaves both of us wanting more, like that time
in high school.
Update! I need to RUSH from
this event to LAX to catch my flight home to Australia. So at 8pm I need to be
out the door. I’m sure there will be time to sign everyone’s books, but I won’t
get to hang around and chat. What I’ll do is get there early, like maybe 6:30pm,
and browse the shelves or something. So if you want, come up and accost me.
All good book stores, UK
Thursday June 20
comes out in the UK. Sadly, I don’t get to be there. My in-laws moved out of Bedford, did
I mention? They did. I will probably never go to Bedford again in my life. What am I saying,
probably. There is no way I am ever going to Bedford again.
On the day of Lexicon’s Australian / New Zealand / South African release
I’ll be launching it here.
Embiggen is awesome. They stock about ten books but they’re all really good. They stock more
than ten books. That was an exaggeration. But you could seriously just wander into Embiggen
with your eyes closed and buy whatever your hands fall on and walk out happy. It’s that kind of place.
By the way, the following day (Wednesday June 26 @ 6:30pm) the Embiggen Book
Club is doing Machine Man.
You know I’d come if I could. It’s not you; it’s me. Me, not being near you.
Sometimes people pirate my stuff. Then sometimes they write to tell me they
pirated my stuff, because they feel kind of bad about it, and wonder if they
can pay me somehow. (Except one time when a guy said he’d pirated a compilation
of “100 Great E-Books” and he just wanted to let me know I was in it, as a compliment.
A kind of compliment.)
Now I had read your latest blog post about the movie the other day saying it had
been released on iTunes and some cable websites, so <pirate pirate pirate>,
so right now Syrup is 42% completed, and with my guilt (and procrastination,
as I’m still typing this email) growing with every percentage, I thought to ask your
I’ve been looking forward to the Syrup movie since I read the book and thought
“This would make a damn good movie!”, and then came the first rumours or it
actually becoming one, so of course I want to support the production company
and in turn future movies/series (I’m trying not to get my hopes up for Jennifer
Government), but I can’t wait.
Would there be a PayPal donation link I can use to throw you the cost of a movie
ticket? Or should I watch it now and when it eventually hits theatres and see you
as a waiter on the big screen? Buy the DVD?
What, as the writer of the source material for a movie, do you think is the most
beneficial method (to whoever you think deserves it. I of course, thought you)
of paying for my viewing pleasure?
The general answer is that you should tell people you watched it. Or that you read it,
if it’s a book. You should tweet, “Just finished <whatever>,
highly recommended,” assuming you liked it, or “Just finished <whatever>”
if you didn’t. Or post on Facebook. Or write a nice review somewhere.
If you do this, you are all square in my eyes. In fact, I’d bet most artists
and content creators feel the same way. Because the major problem they face isn’t
that people pirate their work; it’s that nobody knows they exist.
Getting people talking is massive. Enormous amounts of time and energy
are poured into getting people talking about every single book and film and song
ever released. You, talking about a book/film/song, is really valuable. I
can’t emphasize that enough. It can galvanize all kinds of great outcomes.
A Pirate Tip Jar (Jaarrrrr), on the other hand, would be a bad move.
Lots of people work on books and films, not just me; even on a novel, I’m
due no more than 15% of what you pay. I don’t want anyone thinking they can cut
those people out and pay me directly. Also, I suspect the number of
people who say they’d love to pay for X if only there were a more convenient
way of doing so is far greater than the number of people who would actually
pay. I mean, it’s a nice sentiment. But we generally pay for things because
we have to. That’s just how it works.
So instead of wishing you could tip an artist for something you pirated,
talk about it. That’s good for everyone involved. If you have nothing good to
say, even a simple mention is helpful. Not a bad mention. That’s not helpful.
But the difference between pirating something and saying nothing vs. pirating
something and mentioning it to other people is really, really huge.
Of course, piracy is kind of wrong. I feel I need to say that explicitly.
It’s kind of wrong because people who create something like a
book or movie or song should be able to decide if and how they’ll sell it.
Just because it’s more than you’d like to pay doesn’t mean it’s fair to pirate;
everything is more than you’d like to pay. If Justin Timberlake made a CD and
priced it at a thousand dollars a copy, such would be his right.
But it would be pretty silly of Justin to think people wouldn’t pirate that.
Especially fans, and especially if that CD was only released in one country
at a time and didn’t work on everyone’s players. I would be surprised if Justin
wasn’t fully aware that this situation would provoke quite a lot
of piracy. I have no idea why I’m using Justin Timberlake as an example.
That just happened. But what I’m saying is that while piracy is generally
bad for artists, and we want you to buy real books/tickets/MP3s/downloads,
I recognize that piracy happens sometimes anyway. And if it happened to you,
and you want to say thanks, you can do a lot of good by spreading the word.
People are about to watch my movie. Seriously. This is happening.
Until now, I’ve been able to say, “Oh yes, I have a movie,”
and no-one could say, “Yeah, I thought that SUCKED.” Because no-one had seen
it. That time is over.
Today, May 2, 2013, Syrup launches as a “sneak” on Video on Demand,
which is something I had no idea about until very recently, but I have since learned is
how you release an indie movie to generate buzz ahead of its theatrical
release. If you live in the US, you can
rent it right now from iTunes.
Also, if you have some kind of premium digital cable thing, you can
I’m not sure of the details there. I don’t live in the US. But it’s something like that.
The dream here is that Syrup breaks into the Top 10 Movie Rentals on iTunes.
That would be huge. So if you are in the US and want to help push it up the list, today is the day.
But back to me.
Over the last few years I’ve thought a lot about what happens if, like,
the movie turns out to be so bad that they write newspaper articles about it
and people come to my house asking why I would visit such an abomination
upon the earth. Also, what if it becomes the breakout hit of the year and
they write newspaper articles about it and people come to my house
asking can I help them sleep with Kellan Lutz.
Because movies get seen by a lot of people. And those people have strong opinions.
That’s a little daunting. Also, some people who read the novel have been
amazingly supportive of my career over 10 or 15 years, and I don’t want
them to be disappointed. Yet that’s kind of unavoidable, when adapting a book,
since a film can never match what’s in your head.
top of this, I still haven’t seen the movie. A while back, I decided to wait until I could
see it in a theater, since it’s kind of a big moment for me. But I didn’t anticipate
this on-demand sneak thing. I’m in Australia, where the film isn’t released until
November, and now I have this slightly awkward scenario where a lot of people will see it
So the movie is suddenly here and I don’t know what people will think.
Before I have a book published, I’ve at least
seen some early reviews, and the publisher has completed a print run (thrillingly
high or alarmingly small), which gives me a general idea of what to expect.
But today: nope. Which is kind of scary.
But I am going to try not to become lost in that, and remember to enjoy
how awesome it is to, you know, have a freaking movie. I’ve seen authors
do this: they dream of being published, but when it
finally happens, they’re so preoccupied with whether it will be
a hit that they don’t seem to actually enjoy the moment.
The reality is most books and movies aren’t breakout hits: they are read or seen
by some people, and some of those people love it and some don’t. And that’s it.
This isn’t very romantic, not the kind of thing you imagine about when you
dream of being an author or actor or filmmaker. But it’s still pretty great.
One of my favorite moments as an author is an email I received from a 14-year-old
who said Jennifer Government was the best book he’d read in his life.
It was so cute. I mean, obviously he hadn’t read that many books. But no-one
could be more gushingly, genuinely enthusiastic than this kid. I will never get a
more delighted email, no matter how many books I write, or how many people read them.
As far as creating something that connects with people, that’s as good as it gets.
This movie process has been awesome
all the way through. I got to write scripts, swap ideas with the director,
hang out on set, and try not to strangle Amber Heard with a necklace.
These are all amazing moments that I would have killed for as a 23-year-old,
writing the novel in my car during lunch breaks from my sales job. And
today is another one.
ONE MORE THING: How similar is the movie to the book?
Although I haven’t seen it, and don’t know how much of various scripts I wrote
are in the final movie, I do know I wrote a lot of stuff that departed heavily from the
book’s plot. I didn’t change the characters or the world much, but I changed what
they did. I mention this because I don’t think you should
go into the film expecting it to be exactly the same. I never wanted the film
to be like the book only with all the parts you imagined now filled in.
I wanted it to be something new.