Joe Flower (bbear) Mon 16 Apr 01 19:04
Do you have those backwards, Brian? The Model T was the original one, all angles and knees and elbows, the first truly mass-produced car, while the Model A was the later, 1920s version, with rounded sheet metal. Today's eBooks do seem like Model Ts. I see little to pay for in terms of true functionality. Paperback books have a lot going for them. But to get back to In Fidelity - it deals with a lot of issues which you have clearly thought deeply about. What of it is autobiographical - which issues have been real issues in your life?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Mon 16 Apr 01 19:13
Thank you for the compliment but none of it is autobiographical. None of my novels are. Well - the places are always places I have been -either to write about them -or for some other reason. I've seen the things my characters see and tasted the food they eat but I haven't lived any part of their lives. I write the kind of books I want to read. I write about the kinds of people and the kind of problems that I find interesting - mostly becuase they are not my problems. I don't think I ever want to write about the things I've personallly had to deal with - it was bad enough having to live through them - the last thing I want to do is write about them too. Certainly emotions transcend that - I have loved and hated and lost and missed and been angry and sad etc - but not in the ways or for the reasons my characters have. But it is a huge compliment that people think the books are autobiographical - it means they ring true. When i was a kid I wanted to be three things, a poet,a painter and an actess. I didn't know that being a novelist would encompass all of them so well.
Mark Binder (realfun) Tue 17 Apr 01 19:06
Care to give us a teaser about the novel in progress? If not, and we can certainly understand, how about your thoughts on truth versus fiction. I find that today things are supposed to be "true." Anybody who writes the "True Story of Charles and Diana" is guaranteed a bestseller. Same with Reality Based TV. I worry sometimes that the kinds of lies (ahem -- stories) that we make up are being lost -- or at least diminished in importance.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Tue 17 Apr 01 19:47
The new novel - is called DRAWN IN. And should be out about a year from now - maybe a bit sooner. It has an unreliable narrator, takes place in the art world and involves a murder trial and an obsessive love affari. I'm loving writing it and it's almost done. Lies vs truth. hmmm. Let me think about that one a bit more. I'm fascinated with lies in gereral. The fourth book - which is outlined already is all about lies. ( I know I'm neurotic - I have to have the next book at least in outline form before I finsih the current book or else finishing the current book is too depressing - I used to need to have the new boyfiend lined up before I broke up with the current one too) I think there are great truths in fiction - the emotions and morality or immorality of the characters is true. The ambitions and hubris and love is all true. The bones are true and the flesh is true just the faces and the hair coloring and the sound of the peoples voices and the way they smell are just not neccessarily in the right order. Is this making any sense? I guess what I mean to say is that it is fiction but we can only make up what we know in some basic way. And while the actual plot may be fabricated, and the specific characters do not exist - it all has been inspired by reality. Even if we leave that reality and contort it in order to write about it.
Joe Flower (bbear) Tue 17 Apr 01 20:04
But the line of truth and fiction and lies gets a lot stranger with an unreliable narrator. Could you explain the concept? Some of our readers might not be familiar with it.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Wed 18 Apr 01 04:05
The best example is a slim Henry James novel called Turn of the Screw. Another example is a more recent book by Patrick McGrath called Dr. Haggard's Disease. ( I'm pretty sure that's the one - its been a while since I read it). But basically the concept is that you the reader are just not sure that the narrator of the story is telling you the truth. So as you are reading you are wondering. I think it does make the line between truth and fiction stranger. And I think one of the things that underlies all of my fiction is a fascination with truth/lies. In Lip Service - lies play a very important role - in fact some of the lies are redemtive. In In Fidelity too, the lies between the husband and the wife are at the heart of the novel. In Drawn In they are again a major theme. And in the novel after that. Is it simplly that as novelists we lie all the time or more personal than that? I'm not sure. When I was a kid I was a very evil little liar and sometimes wonder if I becuase a novelist in part becuase it was one of the few positive things I could do with ability.
Mark Binder (realfun) Wed 18 Apr 01 18:38
What sort of evil little lies?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Wed 18 Apr 01 20:55
Ah but then I would be talking about myself and not my fiction and you'd go looking and if you caught one thing that was the same in my book and my life then you'd start to draw the conclusion that much of the fiction is fact. But... let's see.... I often made up very dramatic and dangerous things that had happened to me on the street or at school that totally were unture - and got many many people in trouble - just to get attention.
Richard Evans (rje) Thu 19 Apr 01 04:46
I like the progression from childhood tale teller to adult novelist Melisse- maybe the gap between the two is really just experience and craft, with the generation of attention shifting from the telling to the sharing, from making things up to having things published. Or something like that. And just to bring things back to the publishing side for a moment- do you think that e-publishing stands a greater chance of short term sucess in genre markets such as SF which thrives on fan based word of mouth, or writing modes such as poetry, which do not currently have a large print market, than with so called mainstream works?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 19 Apr 01 16:58
An interesting interpretation, Richard, and very elegantly put... Melisse, I really enjoyed reading "In Fidelity" next novel. I'm an avid reader of detective/mystery books and was quite enthralled by the plot devices you used in IF to keep me in suspense. I look forward to your next work but would also like to see what happens to the characters in the previous one! Many authors have the same character in book after book, and that character isn't necessarily a detective by trade. Some are waitresses or chefs or just Little Old Ladies with time on their hands and a propensity to be at the right) place at right time. Have you considered having a recurring character?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Thu 19 Apr 01 18:14
Richard - I too love your description and the way you put that. I feel better about myself as an adult novelist than I used to feel about myself when I was a teenage liar. And yes - I think ebooks when they are shorter than 75 pages and are anything that can be niche marketed have a better chance of succeeding. Poetry for dollard, sci fi for dollars, short stories - basically anything that can be read on screen and enjoyed works great - the books you want to curl up in bed with - will sell better in print. Oh Cynthia Thank you - thank you - I love hearing that people enjoy my fiction. And I have thought about bringing one character back. But she is someone in novel number four - which is only in rough draft now - she's someone I can see returning. But generally I find I'm fascinated with new stories and new issues and that requires new characters. But we'll see. I never say never.
Richard Evans (rje) Fri 20 Apr 01 05:16
>... I was a teenage liar. There's a potential autobiography title for you Melisse! As far as repetition is concerned have you ever been tempted to go the path of the constant ficitonal setting, with each new story having different main characters but set in the same locale- a trait of which I am quite fond when (like most things) is handled well. And thanks to you and Cynthia for your compliments on my comment, which was very much an off the cuff remark (albiet one I typed out a few times before posting).
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 20 Apr 01 07:49
No... I haven't thought of the same setting either... but it has its intrigues... just now you metioning it - there is a sex therapy institute in Lip Service - that suddenly in the last three minutes has just given me a whole new idea for a novel...humm... I might just consider that.
jane hirshfield (jh) Fri 20 Apr 01 09:09
I often think that in fiction it's the lies the characters tell themselves, or, less strongly-put, their self-delusions, which drives the unfolding. And In Fidelity, while there is an initiating lie in the marriage, it seemed to me a lot of the working out of the book was in the protagonist's making her way to a truer understanding of what she actually felt and wanted. (I'm trying not to offer any spoilers with this generalized remark. Given the title, I doubt I'm giving anything away.) As for poetry e-books, I don't think so... The only kind of poetry that spreads in large numbers in any case is stuff like "When I Am An Old Woman I will Wear Purple," and the people who bought that are unlikely to be e-book owners. For the readers of more serious works, poetry I'd guess would be one of the last things you'd want an e-book rather than in a bound volume. The only exception: if it were legally possible and easy to do a kind of "sampling" creation of your own anthology of favorites, that might be the kind of thing worth having in e-book form, since it can be carried around everywhere with you. BUt I think the numbers of people who do this are pretty miniscule. But reading Rilke on the equivalent of a Palm Pilot? I don't think so.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sun 22 Apr 01 08:52
I would prefer buying poetry books in print too Jane, but what about that daily poem site that you had a poem on... that works really well and is exactly like reading Rilke on a Palm Piolot. I think in the future there will ebooks of poetry for very little - say two dollars - that contain a few poems - and whould encourage readers to discover poets and then buy their full opus. And yes, it is the lies characters tell themselves that are so very important. It is infact my title for novel number six.
jane hirshfield (jh) Sun 22 Apr 01 14:58
I am on old relic who actually never truly enjoys reading a poem on a screen. I can do it, but it's a degraded experience for me. I expect it must be different, or at least might be different, for those who have grown up reading on screens. The way I'd see poetry e-book being useful (aside from the "make your own anthology" I proposed above) would be to have huge swaths of out of copyright poems available cheaply, indexed by subject, phrases, etc. As a searchable resource one might then be able to copy/print out from.
Mark Binder (realfun) Sun 22 Apr 01 15:59
It'll be interesting to see what happens as these devices can begin speaking the text. There's a Franklin EBookman which looks a lot like those Padds they have on Star Trek, and it's a lot more appealing to read on. Then theres' the ultra-expensive TV Guide Ebooks (Rocketbook -- whatever they're calling it this week.) I don't think print is going away, but ephemerals -- magazines especially -- may vanish from print. Except for a few giants and then local rags. On the other hand, as an advertiser, I might be more convinced to pay for a print ad -- so you're destroying things in both directions. Fewer publications, less pay for writers.... Awww, this is a lousy rant. Personally, I'd vote for a system where people pay pennies to read my work -- as long as they like it and pay me. M.J. what's your preference? Really.
Richard Evans (rje) Sun 22 Apr 01 18:06
The whole publication thing presents more than a few interesting dilemas Mark, though changes to print technology may mean a decrease in gratuitious tree destruction- print on demand is something that has the potential to reduce the fiscal burden aspect of publishing works that may do the unit shift in best-seller type quantities. And with genres like poetry I think far too much attention is placed on the idea of print cost and not enough on the profit margin aspect- I suspect publisher's reluctance is not so much based on the production cost per se but the comparatively small profit margins: it is not so much a case of poetry being too expensive to produce, but of not yeilding *enough* profits. And while there can often be an all too thin line between small profit and no profit, the value of such an enterprise also depends on why one is in publishing (or writing) in the first place: to make money or to express and share some creative thing. Which is not to propogate some ideal notion of the artist as a creature above money or anything like that, but rather to suggest that current mainstream publishing houses are pushed by the proverbial profit motive to an exent that borders on the ridiculous in terms of who is published and why and when and what kind of publicity they are given and so on and so forth. In this context I think that Melisse is right: e-books (and web-publishing) can constitute an easy way for computer people to encounter and read for free or minimal cost all kinds of words that they may not otherwise encounter with more than a few such readers converting word interest into a paperbook purchase in precisely the same way that one may first hear a song on the radio or at a friend's house or movie theatre or cafe or somewhere not dissimilar and then go and purchase a CD featuring that song. And how many novels and other fictoinal word ideas have you currently got in the percolating planning stage Melisse- and is the writing order liable to change-with projected novel 6 becoming actual novel number 4- or do you stick to your mapped out writing future?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Tue 24 Apr 01 16:16
As to the money/ebook/digital revolution etc issue... I just don't know what is going to happen and I don't even feel comforatable makeing a guess. All I know is I'm a writer and want to make a good living being a writer. Whether or not I can do that remains to be seen. And as to the order of the novels... well... three is written. And about to go into production. Four is in a first draft stage and I want to get to the second draft more than I want to take five which is just an outline and work on that. And six... well six is two pieces of paper right now. So I think I'll get to these in order. What happens after four though is still left to be seen... just like the money issue. (sigh)
Mark Binder (realfun) Wed 25 Apr 01 06:26
Isn't that the truth! One longs for the days when writers could establish themselves and then coast on the reputation of one book for the rest of their lives. Of course those days there were fewer writers and fewer published writers. Do you always see yourself on the self-promotional treadmill? I've been considering how to get exposure and publicity -- getting arrested always seems like a good thing, but there's a certain amount of risk involved in that. Doing something controvertial or pseudo controvertial (like the Go-Gos dressing up as the Virgin Mary for their new album) is another route. What kinds of alternative promotional techniques do you recommend? I know there's a list of them in your book, but what are your favorites?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Thu 26 Apr 01 04:06
To tell you the truth - getting arrested doesn't seem half bad. That's how tired I am of the promotion thing these days. Its party cause I'm winding down four months of promotion for In Fidelity and really looking foward to taking off the next eight to write. And then write some more. But my favorite technique? Ah... its the simplest and the hardest - getting books into the hands of readers. If I could give away a thousand or two thousand copies of my books to the right readers that would be my ideal promotional effort becuase no one and nothing sells books like people who love them.
jane hirshfield (jh) Thu 26 Apr 01 16:32
What a great answer!
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 27 Apr 01 04:35
Mark Binder (realfun) Fri 4 May 01 06:51
I'm still chewing on M.J.'s last remark -- that the best way for an author to get her work into the hands of readers is to pass out books for free and then trust the word of mouth... On one level, it makes sense, especially if your livelihood isn't dependent on book sales. On another level, there's a real problem. Look at the Free Internet and Free Newspaper syndrome. I used to work for the Providence Phoenix, which was a free newspaper because it was a free newspaper. Now the Village Voice is a free newspaper. And the Internet has tons of free stuff. Now publishers and magazines and newspapers try to pay me the same amount they paid me 10 years ago for the same work. Now others try to get that work for free. My point is that, on the one hand one influential reader can bring in a dozen more paying customers. But what if they don't. What if they become accustomed to getting it for free? Or for cheap? The digital/online revolution offers the hope that writers will receive a slice of the pie because we can publish ourselves. The problem is that we're writers and (M.J. excepted) lousy marketers. The people who can market -- book publishers -- have less of a stake in our work. One publisher I'm talking with wants ALL rights for a pittance. I may sign the contract because I need the money. Still, it rankles. I'll be giving them my words. Yes, this is my particular rant. We're operating under the laws of supply and demand. 1) There's a huge supply of writers. 2) The demand has been diminished somewhat by the free nature of much material, and the overload of other information. 3) People like Stephen King, who fund the publishing industry, command whatever they like. I'm going to post this, and leave the discussion open. I want to thank M.J. for her contribution both as a writer, and as one of the leaders in the online publishing revolution. I think the challenge for all of us will be to find the new model that is beginning to emerge, and ride it to the kind of success that M.J. has begun. Peace.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 4 May 01 16:43
I'll chime in with my thanks to MJ, too. Both for agreeing to be a guest in inkwell.vue and for writing such an entertaining book as "In Fidelity." I look forward to your next novel, Melisse. Good luck to you!
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