Fireworks Over the Detroit River.
As we ease into the holiday, I sometimes look back on things I’ve talked about here. I often get asked why I write, and if you follow this blog you know it’s one of the subjects I’ve mentioned before.
I don’t know that I’ve ever said it’s sometimes a tough question to answer … but it is.
It got tougher this week when I had to answer my grandson about it. He knows I’ve been writing books, and our conversation (which came out of the blue, mind you) went something like this:
“How many books did you sell today, Grandpa?”
Now, I had been watching him and his friend Gavin play with water balloons in the back yard, so his question caught me totally by surprise. “I don’t know, Lucas.”
“Well,” he said, putting his balloon down carefully on the grass, “How many did you sell yesterday?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
He rolled his eyes. “How many have you sold altogether?”
“I’d have to look it up, Lucas … I don’t know that either.”
He put his hands on his hips and gave me a stern look. “Well, don’t you think you should?”
When I shrugged, he looked at me, still dead serious, and asked, “Why else do you write them?”
After he was asleep, I mentioned his earlier cross examination to my wife, and together we had a good laugh.
Making a lot of money writing books would be nice, but I’ve explained here before that I don’t really do it for the money. I write because I have stories to tell.
Besides, I’m still working on the whole marketing thing, and that’s hard to explain to a nine-year-old.
Of course, I hope people will begin to notice my work so sales will take off. I often tell folks I sell enough right now to buy my bride a nice dinner out once in a while. She usually rolls her eyes if she hears me say it (I’m beginning to think the whole family practices the look).
I have stories to tell.
I sometimes think my bride is right when she says that can’t be the real reason. She thinks I do it for the acclaim, although I doubt I have to point out to her that sales haven’t been exactly been overwhelming the past four years, despite some good reviews.
For instance, I had several good reviews this week for my latest novel, BLOOD LAKE. One was from Carla Trueheart for Readers’ Favorite who gave it Four Stars and said: “… extremely original … characters were done very well … I do recommend it ….”
Another came from The BookLife Prize in Fiction (Publishers Weekly), who said “… Strong prose and well-developed characters are the novel’s strengths …”
The other was from Top Book Reviewers who loved it.
However, sales for the book the first few weeks have only been so-so (but it is still early).
So Why Do It?
Thinking about it made me pause and look up top-selling authors I’ve read, to see if they had ever commented on why they write.
What I discovered was interesting.
Born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien, Anne is an American author perhaps best known for her popular and influential series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles. When you listen to her comments, you realize the motivations for an author to write can sometimes be far different from what you imagined:
“Writers write about what obsesses them … I lost my mother when I was fourteen. My daughter died at the age of six. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.”
Eric Arthur Blair (1903–1950), who used the pen name George Orwell, is probably best known for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945). In his 1946 essay, Why I Write, he revealed what he believed are four explicit motives for writing.
“Sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.” The essay examines these motives in his own work, then boldly concludes: “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
King’s memoir On Writing, published in 2000, offers advice about the craft through tales of his childhood and life-changing incidents like his near-fatal accident in 1999. He said that, in the end, all writing is about “enriching the lives of those who read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”
Although many may imagine him brooding at his desk, King’s ultimate reasons for writing are far more cheerful. “It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over,” he said. “Getting happy, okay?”
If I had sales like his I’d be very happy, indeed.
Never one of my favorite authors, Mickey Spillane (1918–2006) started as a writer for comic books. While critics scorned his artless plots, reliance on unlikely coincidence and simplistic understanding of the law, he answered them with the terse comment: “If the public likes you, you’re good.”
There’s a kernel of truth in his remark. While, in my opinion, he never got to be a noticeably better writer, Spillane felt age and experience made him better, and he pressed on (a large following undoubtedly helped, too).
“If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge and if he’s good,” Spillane said, “the older he gets, the better he writes.”
I’m not sure that’s true (it wasn’t, in his case) but, given my age, as far as I’m concerned that’s great news (wink). I’ll have to share it with my grandson.
I don’t compare myself to any of these well-known literary figures, but I understand what drove them. It’s the same thing that’s had me publish six books in a little over four years, and keeps me working now on number seven.
I have stories to tell.
Although my bride would rather it was for the money.
Why do you write?
My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it over the holiday. You just might like it.
You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.
Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.