Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Fri 21 Apr 00 03:02
Sd, to paraphrase William Faulkner, "Not too far at all." As for the Kerouacs connection, you're right; the individuals at the SADfacs could have been called Kerouacs more appropriately than the travelers were. Course, the media ain't always accurate when it hands out its labels, and that's what happened in the case of my little band of idealized travelers.
southerndiscontinued (sd) Fri 21 Apr 00 09:19
I thought that was part of their charm. They were called Kerouacs, realized that it was a dumb media pigeonhole, adopted it anyway and even resorted to bop talk with a nod and a wink. They reminded me of touring Deadheads a little, too. That is a compliment, by the way.
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Sat 22 Apr 00 04:31
You know, as an after-insight, I too thought of the Kerouacs as being bathed in a kind of Deadhead light. (Nearly all my insights come as after-insights.) Thanks for the compliment.
Mina Yamashita (writetime) Sat 22 Apr 00 04:31
Randall, as you've described earlier, in writing nonfiction, the author draws on facts and truth to create yet another version of something folks accept as reality. We allow ourselves to believe that fiction is a figment of the author's imagination, a spun-tale made up of conjecture and some fragments of an author's inner life. I find in Mysticus an unsettling familiarity. In a world shaken apart and rebuilt, we follow Ginger, Ronald, and the others, through a morass of events, meetings, and reunions that go to the heart of each character's sense of self. I identify with their struggles to find a place in a world not hospitable. To me, real life is much like life in Mysticus -- dreamlike, out-of-synch vignettes we process continually every day of our lives. You say that writing a novel is the highest artistic achievement, and you've now written several novels. How would you characterize Mysticus in that regard?
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Sun 23 Apr 00 03:41
To my mind Mysticus is the best thing I've published to date. I have a fondness for each of the five books that preceded it; each appeals to me in its own way, though none of the others feels as full nor as rich as Mysticus. But what do I know? In the past two weeks I've had two individuals tell me that each of my two new books is "the best thing I've ever written." In regards to ON NIGHT'S SHORE, the historical thriller coming out from St. Martin's this winter, I can understand that assessment. It was hard work. Set in NYC, 1840, with E.A. Poe as the main character. Often I felt myself drowning in the research. The other book, BLOOD AND INK, is much smaller in scope and theme, so I was a bit taken aback to hear it called my best. The person who did so, the publisher of a new online literary magazine in which B&I will be serialized (www.tantalusmagazine.com) apparently has a fondness for Elmore Leonard-type comic thrillers. To me it was the kind of book one writes in order to "cool down" after a book like MYSTICUS, the way Hemingway cooled down with THE TORRENTS OF SPRING. I'm of the opinion that a writer's most significant books are the ones that do something different, that take bigger risks. The ones that get written even though the author fully recognizes that the book won't reach a wide audience. I can look back on each of my books and say why that book was written. Only one of the eight thus far was written purely out of the artistic impulse, with no consideration of possible sales or audience, no input whatsoever concerning what the publisher wants. That book is MYSTICUS. Of the five others currently underway, only one other fits the same description. If not for these books, I might not be a writer.
Mina Yamashita (writetime) Sun 23 Apr 00 04:55
I can certainly see why you'd consider Mysticus your best work. Having had the opportunity to read AN OCCASIONAL HELL, THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE WORLD, and DEAD MAN FALLING, I've now added you to my list of authors whose every book is required reading. I especially like that each book is unlike its predecessor. A while ago you mentioned a short story, "In a Town Called Mundomuerto", that you've now written as a novel. Is this one of the titles we can expect to see published soon? Can you tell us a little bit more about ON NIGHT'S SHORE and when that will be available to readers? Historical novel! E.A. Poe! [note to self: call St. Martin's rep for adv. reader's copy!!]
Mina Yamashita (writetime) Sun 23 Apr 00 05:00
Sorry, just noted ON NIGHT'S SHORE -- coming out this winter.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 23 Apr 00 13:11
Is the Poe book finished yet? I keep waiting for a book to come out that offers an explanation for who it is that leaves the thre red roses and a bottle of cognac on his grave!
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Mon 24 Apr 00 04:03
The first Poe book is finished and is scheduled for publication this Winter by Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press. I can't manage to get an exact pub date from my publisher, but I'm sure we'll try to capitalize on Poe's birthday in January as a marketing opportunity. The book is currently called ON NIGHT'S SHORE--from the phrase in the "The Raven," on night's Plutonian shore--but no promises that it will be published under that title. The second Poe book is being called DISQUIET HEART and is set in Pittsburgh after Poe's disappointment with the reception of his monumental "Eureka" essay. If I do a third book I'll likely take him to his demise in Baltimore. Maybe I'll even tackle the mystery of the roses and cognac! THREE RED ROSES AND A BOTTLE OF COGNAC--good title? Thank you, Mina, for the nice words about my work. As for IN A TOWN CALLED MUNDOMUERTO, I'm toying with the idea of trying it out as an e-novel. I love the notion of e-publishing; it gives the writer so much more control than traditional publishing does. I only wish it were more satisfying on a physical, sensual level. Still, we shall see. I'm experimenting with a reprint of DEAD MAN FALLING as an e-novel, and it seems to be selling well with Crossroads Publishing. I'm also experimenting with the e-serialization of BLOOD AND INK; it remains to be seen whether readers will go for it or not. In the end, I'm keen to try anything that will help get writers out from under the thumb of print publishers, and I'll keep playing with e-publishing if for no other reason than it makes print publishers so nervous.
Mina Yamashita (writetime) Mon 24 Apr 00 07:36
Now you've opened a can of worms, or maybe a bottle of Cognac! You've expressed a strong opinion that e-publishing benefits authors. I've worn a lot of hats in the publishing world, and I've never seen it in such a state of flux as it is now. In my best of all worlds: 1. Authors get their best works to readers and make a good living. 2. Readers get what they want at affordable prices. 3. Publishers/booksellers support worthy works profitably and build reputations on quality of product and service. There are authors and readers who have expressed the feeling that traditional publishers and bookstores are, at best, cumbersome intercessors, and that e-technologies offer better publishing opportunities. I had a rude awakening during a conversation with a long-time acquaintance. Learning about my new post as book designer, he asked, "What does that mean? What do you do?" When I explained I chose the type and determined the design and format of a book, he seemed genuinely puzzled. "Someone pays you to do that? Aren't all books alike?" I reminded him that books take many forms and have many functions. Not all books are text only. Even books that are text only can be enhanced in their presentation by the esthetic of design and the physical format of the book. I too, like the concept of e-publishing for the direct line of contact it provides between author and reader. And under certain conditions, the author can retain more control over the content and distribution of his work. Randall, can you give us more feedback about the benefits and possible liabilities of e-publishing in your experience thus far? Would you see this as a supplemental publishing process or as a means of supplanting traditional publishing? How would you compare the opportunities of e-publishing to printing-on-demand?
FROM A WEB READER (tnf) Mon 24 Apr 00 17:58
Ah, Kerouac. There was a gifted drinker. firstname.lastname@example.org =clementine mccool carey
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Tue 25 Apr 00 04:24
Mina, your ideal world is the same as mine. I've been searching for it for twenty years. Now, to that can of worms: I do not think, nor even in my lowest moments do I ever hope, that electronic publishing will replace print publishing. (I address this subject in an essay, "Books:What Are They Good For?" in the inaugural issue of Tantalus Magazine, coming in May/June at www.tantalusmagazine.com.) But e-publishing will provide another option for writers and readers, and that's always good. The problem with e-publishing now is that it's a free-for-all, and a lot of mediocre stuff is being published. However, walk into any Walden Books, and the same argument can be made of print publishing. Print on demand, though, is a whole other critter, and in it lies the potential for the salvation of print publishing. When a publisher no longer has to lay out a lot of money upfront to pay for paper and printing, and no longer has to deal with the headaches of returns and remainders, nor pay for warehousing nor, possibly, even shipping...will that publisher then be more likely to publish the next William Gass rather than the next David Baldacci? Probably not. But he might be more likely to publish both. Lower publishing costs might result(we can only hope) in more books published for the smaller audience of discriminating readers. And I won't have to work so hard to find a decent book to read. Talk about an ideal world.
Mina Yamashita (writetime) Tue 25 Apr 00 06:18
Ideal, indeed! I just bookmarked the Tantalus Magazine page and found myself thinking, "Free! Great! How are they doing that?" You're right, Randall. It is a free-for-all in every sense of the word. It makes me giddy to ride this sweep of technology. I often find myself thinking what fun it would be to take Gutenberg or Ben Franklin on a tour of this century. But Bill and Ted (of the "Excellent Adventure") already did that, and they wound up in a shopping mall. I DO wonder about the influence of the medium on writing itself. How does the delivery system affect what is written? Do you find yourself writing differently for the electronic world than for the printed page?
southerndiscontinued (sd) Tue 25 Apr 00 07:19
I spent some time in the out-of-print book trade and believe that print on demand will be a real boon for lots of people. Another aspect of e-putlishing that I think is interesting is the practice of printing a first chapter online. I've bought a number of books because of just such a preview and would certainly have had to read the rest of Mysticus if I'd had a peek at the first movement or a portion.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 25 Apr 00 10:30
Definitely! I was hooked by it from the first two grafs featured at amazon.com: "At nine years of age Ronald Shepard held in his hands a blue jar, and in the jar was a fetus. Beneath the dusty glow of the bare fruit cellar bulb, Ronald mistook the fetus for a tadpole, a polywog, and, had his mother not restrained him, he would have run for his fishing rod to skewer the newt on a number six hook. But Rosemary Shepard explained to her son that this was not bait for a hungry sea bass, this was a fetus, his brother. She had saved it for him in a blue Ball-Mason jar filled with alcohol. "Ronald named the fetus Ricardo."
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Thu 27 Apr 00 03:12
Thanks, everybody, for the good words. In regards to the delivery system affecting the way I write, Mina--so far, it hasn't. If I were writing nonfiction for the Web, I suppose I would adopt a more journalistic style. Otherwise I just write the way I write, which tends to be a bit meandering and digressive. What fascinates me about electronic publishing are the possibilities. I can add audio and even video files to the text if I wish. A novel could be illustrated. Hyperlinks can be embedded throughout the text to take the reader, if he or she chooses to go there, off to explore dozens of side trails off the main path. And all this without barking a single tree!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 27 Apr 00 14:50
Hvae you explored using hyperlinks in such a way that the reader can discover different plot lines? Like, having multiple potential clickable links, one which has the protagonist following his long lost love across the sea and antoher where the same guy says "Oh, to hell with that" and settles down with the girl next door? Obviously my plot lines leave a lot to be desired, but I think there's a lot of interesting potential in Web publishing just *because* you can add so many different layers.
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Fri 28 Apr 00 03:27
I haven't yet played with plot lines in that way, but have read some interesting hypertexts that have. I think those links work especially well with nonfiction, though. Many years ago I wrote a two-part series about Pocahontas, which was used by the Discovery Channel to launch their then-new online site. Embedded in the text about Pocahontas were links to all kinds of interesting historical footnotes which could not be addressed so fully within the main narrative. In nonfiction, fact leads to fact. Too often, because of length constraints in print nonfiction, some of these most interesting facts have to be addressed summarily or not at all. But on the internet, the links can go on forever! The thing I like best about electronic publishing in regards to fiction is that there are few length constraints. Right now I'm discussing with a publisher the possibility of putting a novel and the screenplay version of the same story together in one file. Also maybe a kind of "Silvis Reader" crammed with stories, poems, and plays. In print, an omnibus like this, because of length, would be unlikely to get published. But it could easily be put on one CD, and still have room for audio and graphics. My generation will probably never get wholly comfortable with reading off a screen, no matter how small or book-like. But my children and their generation, who already think of their Game Boys as an extension of their hands, will have no such problem. And the 400,000 readers who downloaded Stephen King's novella have demonstrated that electronic publishing is something a writer ignores at his own peril.
Mina Yamashita (writetime) Fri 28 Apr 00 05:28
Randall, we really haven't said much about your plays. I was imagining what audiences might experience if the linking/interactive concept could be applied to the stage. It would be to be a theater-goer if actors were to choose from variations in the script so that each performance was one-of-a-kind. Though I'm sure many authors figure actors already do that. Can you tell us about the works you've written for the stage? Are there any productions currently running or forthcoming? You've given us a lot to think about during these two weeks. I hope you'll keep an eye on the Well and we'll certainly look for your writing in its many venues. Perhaps the "Silvis Reader" will be more than conjecture. MYSTICUS begs multiple readings. I'll mention that I don't see any of your titles released as audio books. Have I missed a resource? The E.A. Poe novels are on my list of hot titles coming out this winter. Thanks very much for visiting with us in Inkwell.vue, Randall! We'll be sure to keep Welperns notified of upcoming titles. Of course, if you join the Well, you could keep us in your creative loop on a regular basis. Please feel free to continue this discussion in Inkwell.vue and respond to inquiries or comments as long as you'd like. I won't say goodbye, just "See you later!"
southerndiscontinued (sd) Fri 28 Apr 00 07:22
Streaming audio links of, perhaps instrumental perhaps original, music to be played while reading might be interesting. The branching plotline sounds pretty author intensive. Extra nuggets a la DVD bonus material might tantalize readers. Just got "An Occasional Hell" and started it last night. Vastly different but a great read, so far.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 28 Apr 00 14:25
Thank you so much Randall and Mina! You've done a splendid job of whetting my appetite for more Randall Silvis books. I'll be looking for the Poe books, particularly the one in which you explain what I want to know!! You're welcome to continue talking as long as your schedule allows and you still want to. We love having you.
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Sat 29 Apr 00 03:40
It's been a pleasure. My thanks to one and all. Happy journey.
southerndiscontinued (sd) Wed 3 May 00 06:51
So, I guess this is...goodbye. Can we still be friends?
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 3 May 00 09:39
Nice interview. Thanks!
Randall Silvis (randall-silvis) Wed 3 May 00 12:24
Can we still be friends? I've told you people things that I don't even tell my wife. So keep it to yourselves, okay? Meantime, I thank all of you once again for your warmth and generosity. And I hope you will check in on occasion with the new online magazine, Tantalus (tantalusmagazine.com). Once we're up and running later this month or early next, I'll be posting an essay from time to time, plus have a serialized novel running for several months. It's all free, so don't be shy. And, if I can ever get around to it, I'll be posting more links at my website (www.csonline.net/rsilvis) for those interested in reading my short stories, poetry, essays and other short works. That's also where I'll be announcing all forthcoming books. I'll also try to post the locations of my readings and signings for the next novel, ON NIGHT'S SHORE, due out in Dec/Jan from St. Martin's. If I come to your city, drop by and say hello and bring a couple bottles of Guinness.
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