Sunday, November 30, 2003
We didn't finish with Murder of Angels yesterday. It's the most tedious work, picking back over a manuscript, trying to remain objective, trying to care about the idiotically arbitrary, inconsistant, illogical rules of the English language. By 6 p.m., my nerves were shot and Jennifer took over while Spooky and I went to cook dinner. After dinner, Jennifer went on alone and made it to the end, but there were a lot of things she couldn't make decisions about, so she couldn't actually finish. So. Today I have to finish with the last of the grammatical corrections, make last minutes changes (a particular character can't be driving an Oldsmobile, because Narcissa drives an Olds in Low Red Moon, and so forth), check continuity problems (not only within this manuscript, but between this manuscript and Silk), write an author's note/acknowledgements, triple-check a whole bunch of stuff, and then make a single rtf from ten distinct MS Word files. And I have to e-mail the whole thing off to John Morgan before midnight.
Tomorrow, it will actually be a relief to only have to write.
A couple of things today. First, my thanks to Poppy, who wrote the following about Low Red Moon in my discussion forum yesterday (and I hope she will forgive me for quoting it here):
If you don't like Deacon because he is a fuckup who has made some very poor choices - even though he is trying with every fiber of his being not to be that person any more - then wouldn't you tend to like Chance for being the rational voice who calls him on his bullshit? If Chance gets on your nerves for being so inflexibly rational that she believes her husband is either delusional or a liar, then wouldn't you like Deacon for being the antithesis of her rationality? Personally, I liked them both, but then I've always found perfect, idealized characters annoying and unconvincing.
The most conventionally "sympathetic" characters in the novel are probably Sadie Jasper and Alice Sprinkle, both of whom get drawn into a terrible situation because they are generous souls who try to help people they care about. But, hey, Alice is a dyke, and Sadie dresses funny and lives in a bad part of town, so I guess Joe Q. Amazon can't "identify" with them.
For me, the characters were so well drawn that I even caught myself empathizing with Narcissa. She is a vicious, self-aggrandizing monster, but you can see why she is, and the bit toward the end where she wants to "slip away, back to that numb spot by the sea" (I don't have the book at hand and am probably misquoting a little) just about broke my heart
A million thanks for those words. I needed them very badly yesterday evening, as I struggled with minute decisions and the knowledge that so many people would never give a shit about the characters in Murder of Angels. Or, rather, as I struggled with the knowledge that so many people would simply never "get it." At one point, I actually stopped and wrote the following on a sticky note:
In a perfect world, writers would not be subjected to readers.
Which is not to say that I do not treasure those of my readers who care, and who understand, and who are willing to work at reading a book that I've worked at writing. I treasure them immensely. But it's easy to begin to hate the fact that your art is constrained by the predjudices and ignorance of a greater mass of humanity upon whom you are, in fact, dependant for your livelihood. I have to write for all those people, too, not just for intelligent, patient, tolerant readers, or I have to accept static sales figures and agents and editors who will gradually lose interest in what I am doing. The last two books, Low Red Moon and Murder of Angels, I've been walking a razorwire tightrope between these two things - writing solely to satisfy myself and my faithful readers, and trying to fathom the unsecond-guessable minds of the great unwashed in hopes of expanding my readership. Do I continue to struggle to write literate, meaningful dark fiction, because that's what I do, and because all writers should strive at all times to do their best and only their best, and because there's so little of quality dark fiction in the world? Or do I accept that very few people want literate, meaningful dark fiction, and cave in to the whims of the no-brows who have made this Age of Irony what it is, in the faint hope that I'll sell more books if I only write stories that are easier to read. Stories with pretty, simple, flawless, easily loveable people who face the Big Bad Thing, making the world once again safe for soccer moms and leafblowers, all wrapped up with the gaudy pink bow of the cherished Happy Ending?
And that, in a way, leads me to the second, very much related thing, which I will only touch on briefly as I went on at such length about the first thing.
At dinner the other night, a well-meaning friend made a comment, the upshot of which is that, as a moderately successful writer, one who supports herself solely by her wrtiting, I have a very easy life. I think Poppy sort of touched on this in a recent livejournal entry, actually. Here's the thing. It really is a pretty goddamned good life, once I get past the constant, gnawing doubt, the coldsweats that come any time I allow myself to consider how precarious my situation is, the unstable bank accounts, the absence of health care or any realistic hope of retirement, the mess that eleven years of constant typing has made of my wrists, the depression that keeps me on pills that only make me ill in other ways, the almost constant isolation that comes with working alone, the unhealthy habits I develop to try to make it all a little easier, the publishers who don't pay me for months after they're supposed to, the whims of editors, the dull-witted, illiterate, wanna-be copyeditors who mutilate my work, the anonymous (and not so anonymous) internet cranks who aren't simply happy attacking my work but who find it necessary to also engage in ad hominem slander, the deadlines, the anxiety that comes from the unending necessity of disgorging ideas that are fresh and original and exciting and something I can actually write, and so on and on and on and on.
If you can get past all that, yes, it's easy as falling off a log.