Not really a question, but it was really interesting to see your book Lexicon in my local library!
Why, because it’s not a real book? Because I go around slipping self-printed copies of my novels onto library shelves and into bookstores just so I can pretend for a few vain moments that my life and work matter? Because that is PREPOSTEROUS.
I’ve blogged about this before, but the first time I saw my novel in an actual bookstore, it felt a lot like someone put it there by accident. It wasn’t like, “Wow, I have a real book.” It was: “Look at all those real books, plus mine.”
In the inevitable event of a zombie apocalypse in Australia, what would be your plans to ensure your survival? Will you still write books for the non-infected population?
I don’t think so. It’s hard enough to make a living as an author without the undead clawing at the windows. I can barely work with metaphorical monsters trying to consume my brain.
That raises a good question, though, which is why I write. Some of my reasons over the years, roughly chronologically, have been:
Expectation that brilliant words will change world
Hope of fame & fortune
Hope of seeing book on shelves one day
Better job than telephone sales
Story trying to crawl its way out of my brain won’t let me think about anything else
Just published novel and too young to retire
It’s never one thing, of course. But I used to be very motivated by the idea of getting attention while today I’m not at all. That probably happens to everyone as they get older. Or else I’m disappearing into an elaborate fantasy world where my characters are the only people I really care about. One of those.
Today, I mostly write because when I sit down and read back what I wrote yesterday, it seems interesting but also not quite right, so I feel the urge to fix it and also see what happens next. It’s actually not that different to reading any book, only with more self-loathing. Also it takes longer. But I think readers and writers are fundamentally trying to do the same thing: find out what happens.
Post-zombie apocalypse, I don’t think I’ll write novels, but I will tell stories to children. I think that will be important.
Hey Max! I’m sure writing has highs and lows. Have you ever had a point where you thought about packing the whole gig in? What was that point? Why didn’t you?
This morning. I thought I knew what I wanted to write. But when I started, it sucked. The words felt stupid. In the past, when this has happened, I have told myself, Just push through, but now I know that when I do that, I wind up with a lot of stupid words, which I have to delete the next day. It’s always a mistake to think I might be underrating my words; that if I just slap them down there, it might turn out that other people like them better than I do. THAT NEVER HAPPENS.
So then I stopped, because it wasn’t working, and felt sad, because I couldn’t write. I had forgotten how to do it. My career was over.
Fortunately this is a frequent occurrence so I knew it wouldn’t last long. What I have learned is that being a complete failure as a writer is not my fault. It’s the book’s fault. If the book was good enough, it would make me enjoy writing it more. Working on a good book is great fun. It’s joyful. Words come easily. It doesn’t make sense that I would be able to write plenty of good words one minute and no words at all the next. I’m still the same guy. So it must be the book.
Therefore I just need take a break and change something when I get back. Have an idea. Try a different opening. Delete someone. And tada! Words. Sooner or later, words.
I had the pleasure of reading “Machine Man” for college and right now we have
to write an argumentative essay on whatever we want. Do you mind sharing your thoughts on
Technology and how it affects Relationships and Face-to-Face communication?
I’m not sure this is a good question for someone who never goes anywhere. My face-to-face communications today have been:
I bought a quiche and a cookie from some people in a cafe
I accidentally scared a girl while running
My cat was like, “I’m going upstairs,” and I was like, “Oh no, you’re not,” then she ran upstairs.
Also family. I do talk to my family.
But yes, it is a complex and fascinating question. For example, I convinced my wife-to-be
to move across the country for me by writing her letters. She was two thousand miles
away at the time. So in the absence of technology, I wouldn’t have been able to
communicate with her at all.
But if there had been more technology, like Skype, that would have been bad for me,
too. I was very fortunate to be wooing her at a time of prohibitively expensive
long-distance phone calls. Because I’m really playing to my strengths with
the written word. I come off relatively well there. If I’d had to carry on actual
conversations, I don’t think things would have gone so well. She had seen me attempt
conversation shortly before she moved away and clearly it wasn’t very
compelling. It was the absence of affordable
communications technology that caused her to forget that and come back.
(Obviously once she got here, she remembered. But by then she’d already uprooted her life. So she was stuck.)
I believe that comprehensively answers your question. Good luck with your essay.
Are you a “knows-the-beginning, knows-the-end, so-now-let’s-write-the-middle” kinda writer, or are you “let’s-start-with-one-image-in-mind-and-see-where-that-takes-me” kinda writer?
The second one. The first one makes a lot of sense in theory, and it’s what I’d do if it didn’t inevitably lead to me sobbing over a tub of comfort ice-cream. But it does.
I don’t know whether anyone has made the first one work. I know some writers claim to have done it. But I think they must be lying. That would mean you can figure out almost everything you need to about a book before you start it. That’s not my experience. My process is more like this:
Day 1: “That’s a great idea.”
Day 5: “That idea was terrible but this character is interesting.”
Day 20: “I hate everything about this book except these two lines I just wrote.”
Day 40: “What was that original idea again, it wasn’t so bad, was it?”
Day 41: “OH RIGHT, YES, YES IT WAS.”
Day 50: “Ha ha this first chapter is great now that I changed everything I used to like about it.”
Day 150: “The later chapters are so much better than the first. The first one makes me want to vomit with anger.”
And so on. I also like to throw out the entire second half of a draft at some stage. Well, I don’t like to. But it’s what usually happens.
If memory serves me correctly, you wrote a blog about cement
being your prefered way to hide a corpse quite a number of years ago. But what would be your prefered (if not favorite) way to kill someone?
In order to get away with it, or maximize my enjoyment? Because if you mean the second one, you’re a sick puppy, Atom. Get some help.
I think there must be one layer of misdirection. You want the kind of murder where people’s first reaction is, “What the hell, how did that happen,” then a minute later, “Ohhhh.” They think they’ve figured out the secret. But they haven’t. That’s when people stop thinking. No-one wants the thing they figured out to be wrong.
For example, let’s say say I just strangled you to death, Atom. The first thing I’m going to do is strip you naked. Then I’m going to drag you to the bathroom, dip your head in the toilet, put a pair of tongs in your hand, roll you in flour, and throw you off the balcony.
So the cops are in an unfamiliar environment. That’s important, too. They’re more experienced with murder than I am. They know what to look for. But they won’t have dealt with too many naked wet flour-encrusted tong strangulations. That puts us back on even ground.
Now for the misdirection. I’m leaving a suicide note signed by you. I CAN’T LIVE IN A WORLD THAT WON’T ACCEPT
MY TONG-BASED SEX RITUALS. But it’s not convincing. The cops were already
going to be suspicious and here it is, the thing that justifies their feelings. That’s when they find your phone, with angry messages to your
girlfriend. WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THE TONGS. I’M NEVER GOING TO DO THE TONG THING WITH YOU. Bang. Case closed. That girl is going to prison, because one twist is plenty.