Saturday, December 3, 2011

good end to awful year

After having a novel rejected this past March I immediately started to write another one, to recoup, and to convince myself that I could still write interesting novels. I'm happy to say that the new one has come along pretty well and is nearing completion. I should deliver the manuscript sometime next February. It's a lot simpler and more conventional than the Bad Novel, a lot more like The Good Son. It's about a couple of aging Vietnam veterans who buy a big house in Mexico and run afoul of the drug cartels. It has plenty of action and some observations about Mexico and Mexican culture, sort of along the lines of how Pakistan was almost a character in the previous novel.

I may have mentioned that The Good Son was shortlisted for the Steel Dagger award. In the event, it did not win, but I got to go to London for a fancy party and mingle with the stars of British mystery TV shows, something I did not expect. When they distribute the Pulitzers they do not, I believe, invite the short listed authors to cavort with the stars of the movies that have been made from novels, but it was sort of fun, in a creepy way. They had a stuffed horse and an actor dressed as Qadaffi, if that gives you an idea, and each prize was handed out by a lovely couple, who bandied wit before opening the envelopes.

I am going to teach a course this February about writing commercial thrillers, if anyone's interested.
This is the info:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

recovery from near-death experience

I thought I'd add some notes to this describing what happens to a writer when a big project goes down the tubes, or at least my version of it. I suppose that first of all there's a certain amount of rage to get past, rage at oneself, surely, and also at the people who are preventing the project (in this case the failed amnesia novel described in the previous posts) from going forward. One thinks, there must be some mistake here, maybe they just didn't get it. And in fact, there are authors out there who are so prestigious and whose names are so golden on a book cover, that the things cannot be stopped by any human agency and go to press. Thus we have the familiar phenomenon of authors we've known and loved producing stinker after stinker.

I recall the rage; and I also recall after that immediately deciding that the people who rejected the book as written were right. I think there's a good deal of pretty fair writing in it, but it's not a novel. It's a couple or three almost-novels. The main thing that's wrong with it, I think now, is that I was trying to combine things that simply didn't go together, and the result was that the characters lacked all agency. Stuff happened to them and they never actually made things happen, and in the kind of novel I get paid for that won't wash. Obviously, there is a type of really wonderful novel in which the characters are simply acted upon by forces (in Kafka, for example) but it turns out I'm not Kafka.

What happened after the disaster was that I immediately got back on the horse and started writing a novel to fulfill my contract with Holt. This is a thriller somewhat similar to The Good Son, but set in Mexico rather than Pakistan, and involves a couple of Americans driven by guilt and revenge, weird drug gangs, reverberations from the Vietnam War, kidnappings, explosions, and shamanic goings-on. I'm about 100 pp. into it now and it should be done by the end of the year. It will be, I expect, rather more in my usual line than the pathetic Failed Novel.

As to that, I recently came up with a plan to resurrect the good parts of the Failed Novel, and excise all the bad parts, and focus on the one strand that seems to have worked. It'll still be about an amnesiac, but he'll have agency. The whole book will be first person, and the character himself will travel through the world putting together the clues that will reveal his identity and how he came to develop global retrograde amnesia. The Bourne Identity meets Candide, so to speak. I think it's worth another shot.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Book Crash

Just to put a coda on this line of comment.

I finished the book I called Tuxedo Man in September, 2010, and it was not well received by my agent or my editor. They agreed that it didn't work as a novel because there were too many unresolved subplots and one of the main characters, a female neurologist was unsympathetic. After some thought I agreed that I had made errors and so I spent the next five and a half months rewriting. I got rid of the subplots, strengthened the main character, and tried to make the neurologist more attractive. Today I heard that I failed again and was advised that the book should be abandoned. Well, it happens. Quite often when an author with a run of successful books writes a stinker it gets published anyway, and the fans buy it anyway, and hope for the best next time. We decided not to do this, and I will just have to eat all that labor and chalk it up to experience.

As it happens, I just got an idea a week or so ago for a new novel and so I'll start on that in a little while. Then we'll see if the failed work was an aberration or if I've lost it, whatever the it is. Stay tuned.