So this is about six months too late and I actually got scooped, by myself, on chuckpalahniuk.net, but: I was on book tour in the US earlier this year, and this meant staying in a lot of fancy hotels. In Seattle it was the Alexis, which is apparently frequented by authors so, uh, frequently, that it has a special room for them: the “Author’s Suite.” This, I assumed, was a dingy sub-basement hole where people could yell down things like, “Max, don’t forget to do the washing,”* but no: it was swish as. The hotel asked (oh, how politely they asked) every visiting author to sign a copy of their novel, and the walls of the Author’s Suite were fairly groaning with these. I had lots of fun hunting down copies of some of my favorite books, and was especially happy to find a Fight Club. Chuck Palahniuk is one of my top two modern authors (the other is Neal Stephenson); I don’t see much resemblance between Chuck’s stuff and mine, but am very happy whenever someone else does. By the time I left, this is what the Author’s Suite copies of Fight Club and Jennifer Government looked like.
* (I actually wrote that and thought, “Crap, I have a load of washing in the machine.” I had to go and get it out before I could finish the blog. Yes, my life is that glamorous.)
Is it a good idea to sell a book to a publisher, then extensively re-write it? The marketer in me says, “No.” (Also, “Put pop-up ads on NationStates!”) But that’s pretty much what I’ve done with Company. At first I was just going to do a little tweaking: snip a sub-plot here, pat down a character foible there, that kind of thing. But the more I re-wrote, the more I saw that needed re-writing. Then, before I knew it, I had a new second half to the book.
(Of course, when I say, “before I knew it,” I’m using artistic license. No-one actually ends up with a novel “before they knew it.” I’m always seeing this in movies: someone decides to write a novel and two weeks later they’re typing THE END into a laptop at Starbucks and exhaling in satisfaction. Two weeks! I can’t get a sentence right in two weeks. Also, I hate people who write novels at Starbucks. And people who exhale in satisfaction in public; them too. So you can see why this annoys me.)
This is something of an addiction of mine; I’m always throwing out the last half of novels and trying again. I never intend it; I just get obsessed with improving things. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if you ignore the fact that I’m spending enormous chunks of time writing bits of novels only to cut them later (which I try to). But now I’ve done it to a book a publisher has already bought, and, presumably, thought was pretty good.
So I’ve confessed to Bill, my editor. As I e-mailed in the new draft, I put the question to him: am I a hard-working, committed author, or just some kind of idiot? He replied:
It depends on what you’ve done. If it’s turned into a searing portrait of the artistic struggles of male ballet dancers, I shall not be pleased.
He’s reading the draft now. There are no ballet dancers. But I’ll have to wait and see what he thinks.
I’ve received a bunch of foreign-edition Jennifer Governments lately, which is always cool. There’s a Finnish version called Jennifer Valtiovalta, a wicked little Japanese version called something your computer probably doesn’t have the correct font to display, and, my favorite, an Italian Logo Land. The groovy thing about that is they’ve gone with the original cover design, but re-shot it for no apparent reason. It’s the 1998 Psycho of book covers.
And speaking of covers… and… um… posters, this thing to the left comes courtesy of Rob Treynor, who responded to the Fark.com challenge: “Photoshop a scene from the next movie that Hollywood will make that butchers a good book.” Oh yeah!
(Now I know I’m going to get mail about this otherwise, so for clarity: no, Drew Barrymore has not been cast in the movie. This is just one guy’s amusing vision of hell.)
I’m grateful and completely humbled by the response to my last post. The overwhelming kindness I’ve received from so many people has made an awful time much more bearable. I’m truly touched and amazed. Thank you.
Dad’s funeral is on Tuesday. It will be a simple, private service, as he wanted. Those who were close to him will help each other deal with the shock of his death, and, more importantly, celebrate his life. I’m thinking of telling a story about Dad’s running. He was a mad keen runner for the last 20 years of his life, even completing a bagful of marathons. But the memory that sticks in my mind is when he competed in a fun run around what I think was a national park. I was about ten, and course the most important thing in the world at that age is that your Dad is better than all the other Dads. So I loitered around the finish line with a certain trepidation. And then, bursting out of the trees—there he was! Pounding toward us, scattered applause breaking out, he crossed first… and kept running. He’d decided the course was too short, and he went around again.
To me, this was the most heroic thing that had happened in the world ever.
I was enormously lucky to have this man as my father, and on Tuesday I will give thanks for that.