inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #0 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 4 Oct 00 23:12
    
Pat Murphy has won numerous awards for her thoughtful, literary science
fiction and fantasy writing.  In 1987, she won the Nebula Award for both her
novel, The Falling Woman,  and her novelette "Rachel in Love."  She has also
won the Philip K. Dick Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Isaac Asimov's
Reader's Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

In 1999, Murphy made a departure from her usual work with the
publication of There and Back Again.  She claims this novel was written by
her alterego, pulp writer Max Merriwell.  This rollicking space opera, as
you may have guessed from the title, is a retelling of The Hobbit--with worm
holes and space pirates.

Pat says her latest novel, Wild Angel (Tor Books), was written by Mary
Maxwell, a pseudonym of Max Merriwell's.  Wild Angel is an adventure novel
in the spirit of Tarzan, about a young girl adopted by wolves in Gold Rush
California.

Murphy is currently working on a novel titled Adventures in Time and Space
with Max Merriwell.  This book, which she says she is writing herself, is
about Max and his pseudonyms:  Mary Maxwell and Weldon Merrimax.  For more
information about Murphy's fiction, check out her web site at
www.brazenhussies.net/murphy

Pat also works for the Exploratorium, San Francisco's acclaimed museum of
science, art, and human perception, and has published many science books as
a member of its staff.  She has taught writing at Stanford and the Clarion
SF Workshop.  She has a black belt in kenpo karate and her favorite color is
ultraviolet.

Martha Soukup, Pat's interviewer, has won one Nebula.  Her short-story
collection is The Arbitrary Placement of Walls (DreamHaven Books), and she
recently found herself writing about what you didn't see on the television
show Big Brother for Salon.com.

Please join me in welcoming them to inkwell.vue!
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #1 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 6 Oct 00 12:44
    

Also, if you are not a WELL member and would like to participate in this
discussion, e-mail your comments to inkwell-hosts@well.com.
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #2 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 6 Oct 00 13:00
    
Thanks, Linda.

Pat, we have a lot of ground to cover!

Let's start with the obvious question: after so many Pat Murphy novels and
stories, why, now, is Pat Murphy writing a novel by "Max Merriwell"?  Who is
Mr. Merriwell, and why did you want to write his book instead of another of
yours?

(Then we can get to why Max Merriwell wanted to write a novel as Mary
Maxwell rather than himself.)

This is a fascinatingly twisty turny project you're involved with.
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #3 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Fri 6 Oct 00 14:34
    
Indeed it is.  And some of my friends think I'm having way too much
fun with it.  

Who is Max Merriwell?  I suppose the most accurate description is
this:  Max Merriwell is a character I created to write books that I
couldn't or wouldn't write.  

You see, Max Merriwell is a pulp science fiction writer.  He's a
cheerful fellow, rather full of himself, who dearly loves his own work.
 His first novel was published when he was eighteen, and he never
looked back.  Each year, he writes three novels--but more on that
later.  

In a way, this whole twisted project began with an off-hand comment at
a convention and a joke.

At a convention a number of years ago, I did a reading.  The story I
read was "A Cartographic Analysis of the Dream State," a story about a
women's expedition across the Martian polar cap.  It's a hard science
story, more or less.  Oh, there are a few yetis, but they only show up
in dreams, so I figure it's a hard science story.  Anyway, a fan came
up to me after the reading, looking a little troubled.  "That was a
nice story," he said, "but it wasn't a Pat Murphy story."  I questioned
him on this--it was after all, a story I had written, so I was dead
certain it was a Pat Murphy story. And he described what belonged in a
Pat Murphy story.  What he said was true of many of my stories, but not
all.  

I came away from that conversation feeling vaguely uneasy.  For a time
after that, I felt strangely constrained, realizing that people had
certain expectations of my work.  I didn't like that feeling.  So I
started thinking about pseudonyms.....

Now about that joke. I started joking, many years ago, about writing
what I then called "Hobbits in Space," a space opera with the plot of
The Hobbit. It was a joke because everyone knew I would never write
such a book.  I was known for my thoughtful, literary science fiction.
I would never do such a thing.  

You can see how these two threads fit together.  Max came along to
write "There and Back Again" since that isn't a book Pat Murphy would
write. But it was a book I wanted to read. And channeling Max to write
it was an extraordinarily liberating experience.  While I was working
on it, I had a sign over my computer that said:  "This is not a Pat
Murphy book--this is a Max Merriwell book." Every so often, in the
writing, I'd come to a place where I'd think, "Oh, I can't get away
with that."  Then I'd glance at the sign and say, "I can't, but Max
can."  

I think the funniest thing is that apparently Max and I can both get
away with this.  "There and Back Again" got a great review in the New
York Times, something I've yet to manage with any of other books. And
I've gotten fan letters for 12 year olds.  A lot of people seem to be
having as much fun reading the book as I did writing it. 

Oh--before we get too far, I should probably mention that people can
read the first chapter of "There and Back Again" and the first chapter
of "Wild Angel" on my web site at www.brazenhussies.net/murphy.  As
you'll see if you take a look, they are very different books.  And both
of them are very different from the books I've written without Max's
assistance. 
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #4 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 6 Oct 00 15:09
    
I don't want to get too far off track too early, but I have to ask this,
Pat:

Do you think the Hobbit in Space book, "There and Back Again", _is_ less
"thoughtful and literary"?  Does Max actually turn down those qualities of
your writerly brain, does he turn up others, or is it a third thing
entirely?
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #5 of 83: Angus MacDonald (angus) Fri 6 Oct 00 17:34
    
        [Really interested in seeing how Pat answers that. I know how
which it seemed like as a reader.]
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #6 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Fri 6 Oct 00 20:43
    
The answer to that question would have been different at different
moments during the writing of the book.  Looking back on the book now,
it feels like Max allowed me to be less consciously literary and
thoughtful.  Max wrote what he wanted to write--a rollicking good
adventure yarn.  The deeper values that I espouse are still there--not
because I was careful to put them there, but because they bubbled up
naturally.  

A thought related to that:  being a literary science fiction writer is
a tricky business.  My fellow writer Lisa Goldstein pointed out to me
that being a literary SF writer is a double whammy. Lots of literary
folks won't read you because you're SF, so they figure it'll all be
rocket ships and rayguns.  And lots of SF folks won't read you because
you are literary and therefore pretentious.  

Writing as Max, I could embrace the SF aspects of my work without
concern or embarrassment, and let the literary aspects be there without
effort.  I loved action adventure science fiction when I was reading
my way through the part of the public library where all the books have
rocket ships on the spine.  But I had never written any. In a way, Max
allowed me to let go of things that I wasn't even aware I was holding
on to.  

There's a martial arts analogy that's appropriate here, I think.  When
I first started training in karate, sparring took a great deal of
energy--I was exhausted after a bout.  It took years of training before
I could spar effortlessly and not be tired at the end.  What I had to
learn was how to relax and stop fighting myself.  It's the toughest
thing to learn as a white belt.  

For some strange reason, when I was writing as Max, I can put aside
self-doubt and just have a great time writing.  Maybe it's because Max
is so free of self-doubt.  

Now I'm really interesting in hearing what Angus thought, as a reader.
 
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #7 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 6 Oct 00 23:53
    
So am I.

But for now, moving on to the book in question--"Wild Angel", in which an
orphaned three-year-old girl in the Gold Rush West becomes a lupine Tarzan
figure--

How did Max feel writing as Mary Maxwell?  Why does he want to write a book
through her rather than write it as himself?

Or how did you feel?  (Where are you in the middle of all of this anyway?)
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #8 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Sat 7 Oct 00 07:26
    
I'll answer the last question there:  how do I feel?  I feel like a
kid in a playground.  I feel like I've figured out a way to play with
the traditions of science fiction and fantasy, bringing my
sensibilities to traditional formulas.  I've written a couple of books
that I had a fabulous time writing, that I wouldn't have otherwise
written.  Weird that I had to create Max and Mary to do this, but
hey--it worked for me. And I'm curious to hear how it worked for
readers.

One thing I should probably mention here.  You can read There and Back
Again or Wild Angel without knowing anything about Max or Mary or any
of this madness.  Each book is written to be read independently.  So
I'm also curious about what people thought of each book, aside from all
this business of pseudonyms.

My publisher (Tor Books) has downplayed this whole metafictional
component of the project.  (I don't think they would have mentioned it
at all on the flap copy of There and Back Again, but I sent them an
author photo of me and Max sitting together on the couch, so they had
to.)  They thought (quite rightly, I realize) that this would just
confuse people.  My name is on the cover of both books (the title page
lists the pseudonyms).  I argued for Max to get top billing, but my
editor said:  "I could do that, Pat, but I'd have to pay Max as if this
were a first novel."  Hmm.  A very persuasive argument.  So I let her
put my name on the cover.  
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #9 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Sat 7 Oct 00 11:13
    
A more specific question about "Wild Angel", then:

You'd already, fairly recently, written a fantasy novel about a young woman
living a wolvish life (as a werewolf).  Now you as Max as Mary have written
about another girl and young woman living a wolvish life, this time because
little Sarah becomes a sort of Tarzan of the Wolves.

What is it about women running with the wolves?  And what's different enough
to make it an utterly different novel when you run it through the Edgar Rice
Burroughs filter?
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #10 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Sat 7 Oct 00 13:23
    
I'll have to see if I can get Pam Keesey over here to help answer
that.  (She edited a book of short stories called "Women who Run with
the Werewolves.")  

I've been writing about women and wolves, on and off, for many years
now, in short stories and in these two novels. I confess that I'm
fascinated by wolves.  Working on these books gave me an excuse to
attend a wolf behavior seminar at Wolf Park in Indiana and spend some
time with a captive pack.  I'm particularly interested in wolf
communication.  In both novels, I was interested in dealing with what
it's like to live in a world without words, with a different kind of
language.   

So what is it about women and wolves?  The first novel you mentioned,
"Nadya--the Wolf Chronicles," was about a woman werewolf in the 1840s.
The werewolf can be interpreted as symbolic of the animal nature of
man.  Uncontrolled passions. The wild side of human nature. Of course,
women aren't supposed to have any of that. Wolves and werewolves are
also symbolic of the wildness that people can't control. 

Traditionally, there is no place in society for women who step outside
their social role, women who are wild and uncontrolled.  I don't know
about you, but I wept at the end of the movie, "Thelma and Louise."  I
felt that these were two strong women characters with no where to go,
no place in society where they belonged.  So when I was writing
"Nadya," I was conscious of wanting to create a world where a strong
wild woman could win.  

In Wild Angel, I was dealing with some of the same material, without
the "werewolf" aspect of it.  And, as you said, I was filtering it
through Edgar Rice Burroughs. 

In my mispent youth, I read Tarzan of the Apes and all of Edgar Rice
Burroughs' other Tarzan books. This was back before I was old enough to
be annoyed by the dreadful writing and racism in the books. These were
books that swept me away into another world.  In an introduction to
the Signet Classic edition of Tarzan of the Apes, Gore Vidal compares
Burroughs' work to a vivid daydream.  It certainly worked that way for
me.  When I read Tarzan as a girl, the daydream carried me along and I
would accept any coincidence that let me go swinging off through the
jungle. Only problem was, there really wasn't a role for a young girl
in Burroughs' jungle.  Sure, there was Jane's role (love interest and
person to be rescued), but I wasn't interested in that.  

So in writing Wild Angel, I wanted to write an action/adventure story
that, like Tarzan, swept the reader into a daydream--but a daydream
with a female character in the active role.  Of course, I wanted the
story to reflect my sensibilities, not those of Burroughs.  

But for the purposes of writing this novel, I adopted some of the
attitudes of Burroughs that I admired.  Burroughs knows enough not to
let the facts get in the way of a rollicking adventure, and I respect
him for that. I admired his willingness to rearrange reality to suit
the needs of his story. If he needs a lion, a lion is there. No
problem. 

In the first Tarzan book, he mentions one of Tarzan's more unlikely
friendships: "With Tantor, the elephant, he made friends. How? Ask
not." I like that. He took a firm hand with his readers, telling them
simply and clearly the way things were. No apology. No explanation. 

So the Burroughs' filter allowed me (or should I say Mary?  or maybe
Max?) to move ahead with the story.  The attitude is that of a
story-teller, spinning a yarn.  Here's my story--don't quibble with it.
 That's kind of Max's attitude in general, I think.  
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #11 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 7 Oct 00 22:56
    

(I just have to say that I am loving the Pat as Max as Mary idea.  It's
gotten all kinds of things to swirling around in my brain...)
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #12 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Sat 7 Oct 00 23:19
    
I want to ask questions about both of Max's novels, the one Max wrote as Max
and the one Max wrote as Mary, but I should be a good interviewer and
concentrate first on the book at hand, even though it's the second book, I
think.

So, "Wild Angel" takes place out West during the big gold rush.  That's
obviously a colorful mileau, but there are lots of colorful mileaus--why
this time and this place?

And how, in such a very male time and place, did you end up with most of the
characters being women?  (Though the villain of the piece and one of the
main viewpoint characters are men.)  It's a nice change--
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #13 of 83: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 8 Oct 00 07:37
    


Welcome Pat, ringleader of the Bad Girls of Science.

I'm very interested in what you're saying here.  I have to admit: being an
admirer of "Pat Murphy books" I was really taken aback by "Wild Angel;" I
was not aware of the Max Merriwell persona (you are very right that Tor
townplays it -- I only noticed Max and Mary's names on the spine 2/3 of the
way through the novel).
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #14 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Sun 8 Oct 00 09:20
    
Linda, if the thought of me writing as Max writing as Mary had your
head spinning, imagine what it did to mine! I found I couldn't think
about this too much while writing. In some scenes, I was very aware
that Max Merriwell's puzzlement with women was bubbling up. In other
areas, I know that both Max and Mary were moving the book along. A
number of years ago, Karen Joy Fowler (author of Sarah Canary) and I
joked about writing an action adventure book.  Every time a character
tried to have a deep and meaningful conversation, a shot would ring out
or a knife would whiz past, narrowly missing her.  In some ways, Wild
Angel is that book.  

I'm interested in Emily's reaction to the book. One of the practical
(rather than twisted psychological) reasons for using pseudonyms is to
avoid confusing readers.  (Oh, I can hear people laughing now.  I know,
I know--it's not like this isn't confusing.)  But that really is a
reason for pseudonyms. I know that how I approach a book makes a
difference to how I read it.  If I open the book expecting one thing
and get another, I may be unhappy--even if what I get would have been
fine if that had been what I was expecting.  Some people have told me
that they read and enjoyed There and Back Again--but that they wouldn't
have picked it up if they hadn't already known my work.  So I guess
they were expecting a space opera filtered through my perspective.  

Now, onward to Martha's question--and thank you, Martha, for keeping
me on track.  It can be tough to do.  (At the Exploratorium, my title
is Director of Publications.  Since I'm more or less a one-person
department, that means I direct myself.  I tell people it's a tough
job, since I don't take direction well.)

Anyway, why the Gold Rush?  The real answer is--that's just the way
the book came to me.  I wanted to write a novel with larger-than-life
characters, that being one of the characteristics of Burroughs--and the
Gold Rush is loaded with larger-than-life characters.  I didn't even
have to make them all up!  One of the things I love about historical
research is making use of characters and events that feel like fiction,
but are fact.  In Wild Angel, the best example of that is the Ancient
Order of E Clampus Vitus, whose members call themselves Clampers.  To
describe the Clampers, I'm going to lift a few paragraphs from Wild
Angel:  

"The Ancient Order of E Clampus Vitus claimed origins in 4004 BC. Some
spoilsports said that the Order had been created in the late 1850s as
a drunken response to the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and other fraternal
orders. Not so, said the Clampers. Adam, the Clampers said, was the
Order's first Noble Grand Humbug, the title given to the leader of a
chapter. The society counted among its past members such luminaries as
Solomon, George Washington, and Henry Ward Beecher. Since these
individuals were conveniently dead, they could neither confirm nor deny
their membership in the order." 
"The Clampers' motto was Credo Quia Absurdum, "I believe because it is
absurd." Their meeting hall was designated the Hall of Comparative
Ovations. Their symbol was the Staff of Relief. Upon initiation, all
members were given "titles of equal importance." Their avowed goal was
to assist widows and orphans, particularly the widows. Their primary
activity was initiating new candidates in extravagant and drunken
rituals. They were reputed to also do good works, but the truth of that
is difficult to ascertain. Since no Clamper could ever recall the
events of a meeting on the following day, the activities of the society
were assured of remaining secret." 

Sounds like something I made up, but all of that is well-documented
and as true as history ever is. There are many tales of Clampers in the
Gold Rush.  If you tour the Gold Country today, you'll see plaques on
historic structures, posted by E Clampus Vitus.  The organization,
which still exists, is an historic drinking society or a drinking
historical society, but drinking is always a part of it.  It's a group
that appreciates absurdity.  I'm quite fond of the Clampers, though I
think it's too bad that they have always been and still are an all male
group.  

Anyway, one reason I like to write novels set in the past is that they
give me a chance to explore the absurdities of history.  The Gold
Rush, being rich in absurdities, was a lovely time to write about.  

You ask how, in such a very male time and place, did I end up with so
many women characters?  Easy.  I wrote it that way.  Every writer views
the world through his or her own set of filters.  I was interested in
the women, and so the women were the ones I wrote about.  Women like my
characters (with the exception of Sarah) were, in fact, present during
the Gold Rush, played a role during this period.  They were in the
minority, but they were there.  

I find it interesting that we are always aware when there are more
women characters in a book than men characters. I had a well-meaning
friend tell me that the problem with my novel The Falling Woman was
that it lacked strong male characters.  Yet few people seem bothered
that there are no women characters in Moby Dick except for a couple of
whales.  

Anyway, I (with the help of Mary and Max) made a conscious choice to
write an action adventure book with a woman in the starring role.  It's
a book for those of us who felt shut out of all the action adventure
books with no women in them.  

As for that villain--I found writing about Jasper Davis to be an
interestingly liberating experience.  In my own work (that is, my work
that is unfiltered by any of my imaginary friends and personalities), I
write about shades of gray:  good people have bad sides, villains are
never completely evil.  But in the world of Burroughs, people are good
and people are evil.  The hell with shades of gray.  Jasper Davis is
out-and-out bad.  It was interesting to write a character who is bad to
the bone.
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #15 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 8 Oct 00 20:20
    
Studies show that most people (men and women) in our culture tend to think
there are more women when the number of women is over about one third.  To
have an actual majority (as the space novel certainly does), rather than the
large minority most people really notice, is a fine thing in this
interviewer's opinion.

Speaking of the space opera, there are two characters (one of either gender)
who seem to appear, with slightly different names, in both novels.

(Leaving out Pat Murphy.  Who appears briefly in each novel, as one of
either gender.  But we'll leave that character aside, maybe.)

Does Max use these characters in a lot of books, or are these books special
in that way?
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #16 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Mon 9 Oct 00 07:59
    
These two characters, Gitana and Gyro Renacus, first showed up in
There and Back Again.  

Gitana, a powerful woman with amazing powers, is parallel to Gandalf
in The Hobbit.  As Max describes her:  "I could tell you many stories
about Gitana and there are many more that no one but Gitana knows to
tell. Some said she was a pirate; some said she was a scavenger; some
say she was an adventurer, in search of glory and profit. If you asked
her, she would just smile and shrug and say that she was a seeker of
truth. And maybe she was. But wherever she went, adventures followed." 
That's Gitana.

Gyro Renacus is a pataphysician.  In There and Back Again, the
pataphysicians are equivalent to the elves in the Hobbit. 
Incidentally, the pataphysicians (like the Clampers) are real, though
most readers think I made them up.  The College of 'Pataphyics was
founded by the French writer Alfred Jarry (author of Ubu Roi).  The
Surrealist counted Jarry as a forerunner of their movement.  I won't
get into a long discussion of pataphysics here.  For more info on the
College, check out http://www.pataphysics.com/pataex.html.  But I have
to note that the spiral-bearing figure that dances across the screen at
www.well.com is a pataphysical figure.  The spiral is the symbol of
the College of 'Pataphysics.  Why a spiral?  Well, as Gyro explains in
There and Back Again, every point on the spiral is a turning point.
That's one of the basic tenets of the College of 'Pataphysics. Each
point along any path is a turning point. 

And I suppose that's the answer to the question.  Every point is a
turning point, and I can't tell you about the other books that Max has
written, since I haven't read (or written) them yet.  

Gyro and Gitana do show up in Wild Angel.  Gyro is the owner and
ringleader of a circus and Gitana is a con artist, Temperance lecturer,
and a mesmerist (among other things).  Gitana shares some traits with
Joan Egypt, a character about whom I've written.  (You can find a story
about Joan Egypt at
http://www.brazenhussies.net/murphy/Flamingos.html) Both Gitana and
Joan Egypt are tricksters—strong and knowledgeable women who see the
absurdity of life and aren't afraid to act upon that knowledge. I do
have plans to write more Joan Egypt stories.  And I'm quite fascinated
by both Gyro and Gitana.  I wouldn't be surprised if they showed up
again, but I don't know for sure.  

I have to confess something that people may already suspect:  I don't
have all this planned out.  In these books, I am flying without a net. 
I know some things--but there are many others that take me by
surprise.  I didn't really know that Gyro and Gitana were going to be
in Wild Angel until they showed up.  

Many of my other novels have been much more rigorously planned.  In
these novels, under the influence of Max, I'm trusting much more to the
process, letting things happen and figuring that Max and I will figure
out what happens next.  It's interesting and more than a bit
unnerving, but fun.  

In every novel that I've written, I've hit a point where I say to
myself, "What the hell are you doing?  This is a complete mess. 
There's no way you're ever going to finish this book."  (Mind you--this
is true no matter how much I plan the novel out beforehand.)  Now, on
my seventh novel, I recognize that as part of the process. I still hit
that point, but at least I can say to myself--"Oh, that's where I am. 
Well, if I just keep going I'll find the way through." Each time it
feels hopeless, and each time I find the way.  

I'd be curious to hear if other writers experience the same thing.  Or
maybe it's just me.  But it seems to happen every time, so I've gotten
used to it.  I don't like it, but I've gotten used to it.  

Oh, one more word on Gyro and Gitana.  In the book I'm currently
writing (Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell), each chapter
begins with a quote from a book by Max Merriwell, Mary Maxwell, or
Weldon Merrimax.  Gyro and Gitana show up in those--so I know that
these characters show up in at least one other book by Max and one
other book by Mary.  
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #17 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Mon 9 Oct 00 11:30
    
You haven't written a book by Max Merriwell writing as Weldon Merrimax yet.
Do you think you might?

(By the way, these are fabulous answers!  And if any writer doesn't feel
completely lost in the process somewhere of writing a novel or even a short
story, I'll bite her on the ankle.)
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #18 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Mon 9 Oct 00 14:37
    
My answer to that question would have been different yesterday than it
is today.  I am just working on the end of Adventures in Time and
Space with Max Merriwell, and I hit some stuff that makes me realize
that I'll never author a Weldon Merrimax book.  Well, maybe never is
too strong a word--but it's very very very unlikely.  

Glad to hear that you share my sense about the process.  I get stuck
on short stories, too--but a short story I can always put away for a
year or so.  With a novel, I usually have so much invested by the time
I get stuck that I can't let it go, I have to keep plugging away until
I reach the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Anyway, I'd be happy to assist in any ankle-biting should we ever meet
such a self-assured author. I'll hold her while you bite, then we can
trade.    

Oh, hey--I realized that I should probably mention, for folks in the
San Francisco Bay Area, that I'll be doing some readings and signings
around town next weekend.  I've teamed up with two other award -winning
women writers--Lisa Goldstein and Michaela Roessner. Together we are
struggling to overcome our natural modesty and self-promote our books
like brazen hussies. So we've put together a little grassroots
marketing effort--Brazen Hussy Promotions, and we're doing bookstore
appearances as the Brazen Hussies.  Anyway, here's where we'll be:  

Friday, October 13, 5:00 PM
Dark Carnival, 3086 Claremont Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705,
510-654-7323

Saturday, October 14, 5:00 PM
Borderlands Books, 534 Laguna Street (at Fell), San Francisco, CA
94102, 415-558-8978

Sunday, October 15, 5:30 PM
Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025, 
(650) 324-4321

OK--end of brief commercial announcement.  

Hey, that reminds me, if anyone is interested, we could also talk a
little about the economics of the book business these days.  I was
talking to someone the other day who commented that he's been
frustrated lately when he finds an author he likes.  He commented that
it seemed like it was really hard to get the author's earlier work.  

That's absolutely true, and it's  a result of some major changes in
the book biz lately.  Most publishers don't keep their backlist in
print anymore.  This relates to the Brazen Hussies.  We are working
together to market our books because that helps keep them alive.  To
quote the Author's Guild Midlist Book study (available on line at
www.authorsguild.com), "Editors describe getting marketing support
in-house as the biggest hurdle a book faces once it is under contract."
 Publishers buy midlist books, but then provide little or no
marketing.  Consequently, the books languish and die. 

The Author's Guild study is fascinating, though depressing, reading. 
I'm far from an expert on the subject, but I've done some research and
read the Author's Guild study on the subject. I'd also be happy to post
tips that I put together with a group of women writers on the top ten
ways to help keep books you love in print.  

I don't know--maybe that's another topic.  Does anyone know if that's
being discussed anywhere--like maybe in books?  
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #19 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Mon 9 Oct 00 15:49
    
If it isn't, it should be.

That's a frustratingly coy answer about Weldon Merrimax!
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #20 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Mon 9 Oct 00 16:31
    
Sorry about that.  I can't tell you more because this book is in the
final stages.  A friend of mine once described writing a novel as: 
"trying to scoop a broken raw egg up off the kitchen floor with your
bare hands."  No way can you get all of it.  

Right now, I'm scrabbling after some of those elusive bits that are
trying to wiggle away.  Some of them have to do with Weldon.  
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #21 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Mon 9 Oct 00 19:45
    
Uh-oh!

So, Mark Twain has quotes at the beginning of each chapter of "Wild Angel",
and Lewis Carroll has quotes at the beginning of each chapter of "There and
Back Again" (all from "The Hunting of the Snark").

What do these gentlemen have to do with these books?
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #22 of 83: Pat Murphy (jaxxx) Mon 9 Oct 00 21:19
    
That's something I figured that out only after I completed both books.
 Originally, I chose "Hunting of the Snark" because I love that bit of
nonsense dearly and I wanted to include some terminology from it in
the book.  (Snarks and boojums, to be exact.)  I quoted Twain because
he was perfect for the historical period and a damn fine writer to
quote.  It was only after completing the books that I realized that
both Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain are pseudonyms. Coincidence or
unconscious choice?  Damned if I know.  

In the third book, each chapter begins with a quote from a book by Max
Merriwell, Mary Maxwell, or Weldon Merrimax.  That is a conscious
choice, but one that makes me feel a bit like a dog, chasing her own
tail.  Circles within circles.  Every point is a turning point. 
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #23 of 83: Beelzebubba (sd) Mon 9 Oct 00 22:04
    
will the Brazen Hussies' blimp be making an appearance at all?

enjoying Wild Angel. supposed that the quotes were to continue from fellow
victorians. waiting for marx and darwin to make appearances.

do you suppose that more authors will be added to the landscape of the
Murphy mythos?
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #24 of 83: Martha Soukup (soukup) Mon 9 Oct 00 23:17
    
Oooh!  Other people asking questions!  Good one, too.
  
inkwell.vue.90 : _Wild Angel_ by Pat Murphy
permalink #25 of 83: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 10 Oct 00 08:06
    


Economics of the book biz: v. worthy discussion.  I was fortunate to live in
walking distance of Powell's City of Books for several years.  If I got
interested in an author, chances were I'd be able to find some of his or her
backlist at Powell's (like say Eleanor Arnason, or Pat Cadigan).

What are your suggestions for keeping books in print?

Back to _Wild Angel_: I am still musing on what worked for me and what left
me wondering.  As a kid, my pulp novels of choice were the Black Stallion
books.  I adored them but always resented that the central non-equine
character was a boy.  So I def. 'got' that Sarah was an updating of that
type of protagonist: the child with a preternatural connection to a wild
beast, an ultimately successful avenger.

Did you consciously decide on how you'd emulate the pulp style, Pat?  Did
you mean to avoid updating it to a more contemporary, sort of "post-modern"
self-parody?
  

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