It’s Q&A Friday. I don’t know if that’s going to be a regular thing or not, but we’ll throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. So if I don’t answer your question today, feel free to send them to me and I’ll answer them next week. You can tweet me, reach me on Facebook, or, for the personal touch, e-mail me at email@example.com. I’m here to offer wisdom. All you need to do is ask.
Here are today’s questions:
What would you do if you were suddenly unable to write?
A bit vague here. I’m assuming you mean I suddenly came down with a terrible case of writer’s block and wasn’t being prevented from writing by evil alien mind control.
First of all, if I couldn’t write, I’d be in pretty bad shape. I have no other marketable skills, no real job experience, no higher education. I’m a smart guy, sure, but nothing that would help me find a job. I’d probably go back to loading boxes at UPS, if I could. It’s hard work, but it’s a good job. There was a lot I liked about it.
If I had my druthers though, I’d probably pursue other artistic endeavors. I’m a fair cartoonist and given enough time, I wouldn’t mind pursuing that. And I considered, very briefly, being a juggler, though I never got good enough to really do that. But if I had the luxury of a little bit of time, I’d definitely consider it.
But ideally, if I had to find another job, it would be in the field of behavioral economics. I absolutely love behavioral economics. Almost as much as I love dinobots. And if you’ve been paying attention, that’s an awful lot.
Why are you such a shameless capitalist?
Honestly, I’m only on the internet to get people excited about my books. I wouldn’t have a blog if I didn’t think it helped my writing career. I have great ideas and am endlessly engaging, but there are tons of people like that on the internet, so it’s not like I’m anything unique.
Being a novelologist is a bit weird because I need lots of people to get excited about what I do to have any kind of career. When I was loading boxes in the back of trucks, all I had to do was keep my boss happy. But I don’t have just one boss anymore. I have lots and lots of bosses, and I have to sell myself to a lot of people. I have to raise my visibility. I have to convince the general public that in an age when we are overwhelmed with media choices, I have something worthwhile to offer.
I wouldn’t consider it shameless. I just consider it the truth. I’m glad if you like me. I’m happier if you buy my books. I’ve got bills to pay, and my only career choices outside of writing are juggling and cartooning. So it’s not like I’ve got a lot of options.
After completing a manuscript have publishers made you change anything? Also is being an author a stress free life?
To answer the second part first, is any life stress free? The life of a professional novelologist might look glamorous on the outside, but I have my trials and tribulations. Like the other day, my solid gold robot butler ran amok and kicked a peasant. That’s probably going to be a lawsuit. And, despite the millions of dollars I’ve sunk into research, I still don’t have laser vision. So it’s not all rainbows and puppy kisses.
As to the first part, I’ve never had an editor change a manuscript. Not without my permission anyway. But I’ve had editorial suggestions offered, and they have resulted (with my collaboration) in changes in the manuscript. It’s how the business works, and I appreciate what publishers do. I wouldn’t be where I am without the hard-working people at the publishing companies, my agent, and dozens of other people I haven’t even met.
I’m assuming this question is also about the notion that a publisher’s unwanted feedback and the damage it might do to a book. I’m not biting though because I just don’t believe it’s true. At least, not for me. In the end, even with the changes made during the editorial process, I am happy with the way all my books came out. If you don’t like the writing within those pages, it rests almost entirely on my shoulders.
I’m not one of those writers who thinks every word is sacred. I don’t consider the editor my enemy. And everyone writes better with a good editor beside them. Yes, even me, as hard as that might be to believe.
When has a villain taken things too far?
For me, a malicious villain is an uninteresting villain. I can tolerate ruthless bad guys who nuke planets, but if they stop to kick a puppy along the way, I immediately don’t care. They stop being characters and start being caricatures.
I know it’s true that there are such depraved souls out there, but it’s an ugly truth and unless I’m reading a horror story, I’m not interested in experiencing it. Even then, I prefer my horror more brutal and efficient. Jason Vorhees might kill you, but he doesn’t do so out of malice. He’s just made to kill. And the xenomorphs are much the same. Even the predator alien is merciless but not sadistic.
Also, villains who cry…gah, I hate that. Especially if it’s a shallow attempt to make them more sympathetic.
But worst of all is probably a villain who is too far ahead of everyone that he basically becomes a living deus ex machina that allows the writer to justify the most ridiculous story elements. This is one of my biggest complaints about The Dark Knight. The Joker can do anything and everything, and it is past absurd. I find such villains ridiculous and unworthy of my time because they basically can do whatever the hell they want to advance the story without any justification.
A good bad guy needs to make mistakes. I don’t care how smart he or she is. You always hear complaints about how boring an invincible hero is, but an invincible bad guy is just as boring.
So that’s all for this Q&A Friday. Catch you next time, folks.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,