May 19, 2007

10Q with, um, Me

THERE WILL BE A CONTEST ON MONDAY!!!! I thought of one, finally!

But for now, FTK reg Casey wanted me to do 3Q. Then she cheated and asked a bunch more. More proof that writers can’t count for squat…

CM: There are a billion books out there about how to BECOME a writer and get published and look pretty for an agent, etc. What I want to know is, what's it like to BE an author. I mean, do you finally get to stop living paycheck to paycheck?

JJ: Well, that depends on sales... I know working novelists who are regularly making book deals but who must work a day job to keep themselves in milk and Skittles. I know others who subsist bravely from advance to royalty check (our version of paycheck to paycheck), others who are comfortable and secure, others who have homes in different cities and a private jet to take them from one to the other.

The first kind is a LOT more common than the last kind. *grin*

CM: Do people recognize you on the street like they do with actors?

JJ: No.

It has happened a couple of times when I have been in bookstores, though, just shopping. After, I get to make “damn paparazzi” jokes, so I like it, even though it is a little…weird.

CM: Do you read books differently now that you know how they're made (kind of like sausages)?

JJ: In some ways, but this has less to do with behind the scenes stuff and more to do with MONEY. I am, shall we say, FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE… in the background you can hear my husband going, “*cough* tight wad *cough*” so BEFORE when I bought a books, I read them cover to cover. Period. If I spent my TEENY HORDE OF PRECIOUS MONEY on a book, I would wring every possible bit of pleasure out of the thing, even if the pleasures were scant and separated by MANY pages.

I once listened to THE WORST BOOK EVER PERPETRATED on audio. It was SO OVERBLOWN and melodramatic and the main character was such a WHINEY NARCISIST and all All ALL! the female characters just loooooooooved to sexy up to his deep tortured deep whiney depths, and UGH! Did I mention it was unabridged? ELEVEN hours of this guy. I listened to every bleeding minute, groaning and enraged, calling everyone I knew to scream about the horrid lines I had endured while driving to Kroger, and my friends would say, “TAKE IT OUT! GET A NEW AUDIO BOOK! WE BEG YOU! NO GOOD CAN COME OF THIS! YOU ARE GOING TO BURST A BLOOD VESSEL IN YOUR BRAIN.” And I would say, “Dude. I payed 40 bucks for that…” I couldn’t; bear to throw 40 bucks in the fire, even though in some ways, I ALREADY HAD.

And I have always been a book buyer…even back in the day when we were just married and I was a grad student and then a SAHM who made us grocery money by babysitting and he was in his starter job making twenty something thou a year which is NOT A LOT when you live IN Chicago…Even then, I bought books.

I reread, that’s part of why I need to OWN books, but another part is, if I like an author, I want them to get another book deal, and that means they need the sale. I thought of the books I BOUGHT new (as opposed to ones I bought used, or borrowed, or checked out of the library) as VOTES for a writer to keep going. I knew I could not afford to buy every book I read, but I bought my favorites. I understood buying-as-votes about the industry before I ever broke into it. Buying a debut novel or a novel by an author I had never read before was a little sexy---it felt like GAMBLING; I LOVED it when those gambles paid off and was BITTER when I lost---OH I was so bitter about that audio book. I am STILL bitter.

But now, because I am IN this industry, I have SO MANY BOOKS! Reps and trade shows folks and booksellers give me galleys and ARCs, people send me books for blurbs, both my American publisher and my UK publisher send me books, authors I am friends with mail me signed copies of their latest, and I buy books regularly by authors I like and new authors I think I might like and I am in a Signed First Editions Club. (BY THE WAY!!!! The LATEST first ed from that club is the new MICHAEL CHABON. I cannot WAIT to get my claws on THAT puppy. He DELIGHTS me, every word, every time.)

... So now, my TO READ pile is LUXURIOUS and HUGE, and if I don’t LIKE a book, I toss it aside and never re-open it. I not only believe that, “Life is to short to read bad books,” I also think life is probably too short to read good books that just don’t happen to speak to me.

CM: Are you more or less (or have you not changed at all) judgmental of other authors and their styles/writing abilities/getting-published abilities?

JJ: Same. I always read “like a writer.” There are things that get me every time and make me fall in love, and other things that I cannot forgive.

CM: Do you travel more?

JJ: Yes. Now, when I have time off, I want to be at home. *grin*

CM: Do you actually have an ENTIRE DAY to write?

JJ: HAHAHHAHAHAHA! No. Instead, I have children.

No no, actually I DO get whole days to write. But I wrote for years before I sold gods in Alabama ---short stories, many one act and two full length plays, two unpublished novels--- and I ALWAYS had whole days to write. My husband would take my kids out of town and GIVE me long weekends with just me, the cat, and the computer. He took my career seriously LONG before anyone in NYC did. *grin*

To finish TGWSS, I went to a hotel for a week and LIVED in sweatpants, fed only on Twix bars and Shiraz. So. I guess the answer is YES, but that’s not NEW.

CM: Do you see your family less/more/the same?

JJ: A little less. Because of the travel. But when I am at home, my schedule is the same. I am a mom and wife first, novelist second. I write when my kids are at school and have a mother’s helper three mornings a week in summer, and Scott gives me those weekends 4 or 5 times a book. Next year, Maisy goes to Kindergarten instead of a 3 hour little preschool thing---WOW. I wonder if I will WRITE more or SLEEP more? Probably neither. Probably I will play World of Warcraft more…

CM: Do you get to be Real Life Friends with other authors (other than ones you might already know from your normal Outside Your Publisher life), or do you just see them at publishing house parties?

Both. Some writers you meet and you click and are friends. Others you meet and like and then you are always happy to see them at conferences and whatnot, but you don’t call them when you are passing through their town and ask to sleep on their couch, you know? Others are very shy, introverted people who hole up in their rooms, and I try not to inflict my rowdy self upon them, even if (especially if) they are my heroes.

I am generally found in the bar at these sorts of things. (I don’t get drunk---if I drink too much, I have to go to sleep and miss the fun parts, plus too many times I have seen the people who DO get drunk kinda…inadvertently BECOME the fun parts. *grin*) But I stay down in the bar and I nurse my pretty cocktails along and enjoy being with ACTUAL ALIVE PEOPLE. In my work at home, I mostly only get to play with IMAGINARY people. After the bar closes, I am with the last lingering die hards, hanging out like derelicts in Sonny Brewer’s room. The only writers I have ever met who have consistently beaten me at LAST AT THE PARTY are Lee Child, Tommy Franklin, and Beth Ann Fennelly. Those three are secretly made of robot parts. They do not sleep.

CM: Are other people ( i.e., family and friends) more or less critical of your writing as you continue with your career?

JJ: My family has always been and remains WILDLY supportive and crazy about my stuff. I worried there would be this post publishing reaction where my writing group and crit partners would start to go SOFTER on me, but, um, not MY crit partners. LORD they hit me in the face with BRICKS when I get off the track…I love them for that.

CM: Is it different than you thought it would be?

JJ: Yes.

Isn’t everything?

Posted by joshilyn at May 19, 2007 7:31 AM

I love that you still torture yourself about that terrible audiobook - I've slogged painfully through a few looong novels like that, determined to make it to the bitter end (in the vain hope that the story would get better at some point), and still torment myself over those.
At least I didn't have to wrack my brain as to whether to throw them in my "donations" bin or not . . .

Posted by: Brigitte at May 19, 2007 8:09 AM

I totally want to become a novelist just so that I can hang out with you more. Too bad it will never happen. I guess I'll just have to move to Georgia instead. ;)

Posted by: Mir at May 19, 2007 9:04 AM

Yay Casey for the 10Q interview! I loved reading the answers.

Joss, I especially loved what you said about buying books being like voting for the writer to keep going. That's exactly how I've always seen it. I'll use the library or used book stores to try out new-to-me writers. But if I find a writer whose writing I love, I will buy new, preferably in hardcover and from an indie bookseller.

I think I was wildly fortunate in my parents. When I was growing up, we went to the library, but also no matter how tight money was, they always seemed to squeeze out money for books - for themselves and for my brother, sister, and me. I learned by a great example. :-)

Posted by: DebR at May 19, 2007 9:24 AM

Thank you SO much for answering! I'm especially glad to find out that my "voting" (which is totally what my fiance and I do when we go to the bookstore -- "OHMYGOD, get the new SuperWriter Guy's book NOW because we want him to keep writing!") actually counts!

Also, I promise if I am ever randomly in a bookstore in Georgia (my family's in Fairhope, Alabama, it could happen) and I see you, I will be calm, cool and collected so it will not be a weird experience. But then, when you leave, I will do much squealing and embarrasing of anyone unfortunate enough to be with me.

Posted by: Casey at May 19, 2007 9:46 AM

Wow! Thank you. This was very cool. (And thanks to Casey too, for suggesting it).

Mother's Helper in the summer is a great idea. I am SO stealing it. Ditto the weekends off. I get them too, but more along the lines of one a book. Four to five makes a heck of lot more sense.

Oh, and I"m dying to know what the audiobook was on which you wasted $40.

Posted by: Katrina Stonoff at May 19, 2007 12:57 PM

What server and what character is your WOW ?

I've a night elf hunter and a blood elf hunter on Farstriders...

Posted by: tina at May 19, 2007 2:53 PM

My son is a huge WoW player, and every time he comes into the room when I am reading a blog he says "Is that the one that plays Warcraft?"

Even 14 year old boys think you're cool. No easy feat, let me tell you!

Posted by: Laura at May 19, 2007 3:15 PM

I didn't realize that Maisy and my son are the same age--I'm a little giddy that he's starting Kindergarten in the fall LOL. Mainly because my hubby works from home most days ;)

I was at BAM yesterday and found your books. There was one lone copy of BG wedged next to GIA (which had a copy facing out), so I turned it face out (hee I'm such a rebel). Then I found another section of BEST! SELLERS! and there were more copies of BG.

I am insane about buying books. Mostly new, but sometimes used....I probably have over 3000 books here. I canNOT wait to add your latest book to my collection :)

If Heaven doesn't have a library, I'm not sure I want to go......

Posted by: Angel at May 19, 2007 4:01 PM

Thank you Casey for asking great "writer" questions and thank you Joshilyn for answering them. I know a number of REAL WRITERS in REAL LIFE and I know that they are just like you and me (well, this is presuming that you are as odd as I am) and they have dentist appointments and kids who have tantrums and dishes in the sink and husbands who snore. But I still sometimes find myself slipping into believing that secretly, when we're not all watching, writers are more magical or glamorous or superhero powered than other people. If anything, they might be a tad more eccentric than your average Joe but, like I mentioned, eccentric is pretty much my personal baseline.

Posted by: Laume at May 19, 2007 10:20 PM

Excellent post, loved it! I especially loved the part about everything being different than you thought it would be.

And *I* would be the last one at the bar. Especially if we were drinking tequila because I totally win at drinking tequila.

Posted by: Heather Cook at May 20, 2007 12:11 AM

Fun, fun, fun!

My boy's starting kindergarten in the fall. Both kids at the same school AND riding the bus. Hurrah! I have this idea that I'll actually get my life organized, but it prolly won't happen.

Happy Fall!

Posted by: Edgy Mama at May 20, 2007 10:36 AM

Oh, you've struck a nerve with the book-buying versus borrowing. I always feel guilty, but the truth is, my book budget is teeny tiny small right now. I used to spend all my extra money on books. Then I got married and we started saving money like fiends. Then we had kids, who are just so cute they get almost all my extra money. (I admit, I knit, and I do buy yarn. That gets my other extra money, not that there's a lot of it. Extra, that is.) We buy the kids books, all the time, but for myself, I'm a heavy library user right now. And I feel guilty about it. But I'm sure nobody is going to say libraries are bad. They're very good things, and I do anticipate having a book budget for myself once again, and I do buy books for myself of course, but more often, right now, only ones I consider reference that I want to have around again and again. I will buy fiction books, too, just not as often. And I could never keep up with the storage--I go through books that fast. But I feel GUILTY and you're not helping!

Posted by: amy at May 20, 2007 10:40 AM

Please, Miss, could you expand on an answer?

JJ: Same. I always read “like a writer.” There are things that get me every time and make me fall in love, and other things that I cannot forgive.

What can you not forgive?

Posted by: hollygee at May 20, 2007 10:50 AM

Just bought (new) and read Between. I liked gods, but I love Between. Beautiful, visual, I see the screenplay already.

Thanks Josh.

Posted by: parrotzmom at May 20, 2007 2:04 PM

Just dropping in a comment to say I LOVED your talk at the AWC yesterday. I knew who you were, but I've never read your books, but lawdy, after seeing the explosion that was your presentation??? I gotta buy you. Well, not YOU exactly (unless you're for sale as an outspoken pal and designated driver), but one of your books. Or all of them. I'll start with one. How's that?

Posted by: Cheryl at May 20, 2007 7:56 PM

Fun! Thanks Casey for asking, and thank YOU for answering.

I'm a book buyer too, and I've done that I-must-read-it-all-because-I-bought-it-dammit thing, but I don't do it anymore. I will watch a bad movie all the way through IF (and this is a big IF) I think I can learn something from it, since my husband and I write screenplays together. It has to be bad in an interesting (and potentially fixable) way, though, for me to torture myself with it. If it's just terrible and irredeemable, I'll turn it off or walk out.

Oh! I would totally squee! if I ran into you in a bookstore. I hope that the squeeing would be internal and not weird for you, but I make no promises.

Posted by: Aimee at May 21, 2007 10:48 AM

This is SUCH a stupid question, but I always imagine Lee Child as being uber-cool. Is he?

Yes, I am a total dork.

Posted by: jennielynn at May 21, 2007 10:48 AM

Lee Child is uber-cooliest.

ALSO I am on disc 4 of the latest Reacher novel on CD and it is my favorite since the LAST time Nagley showed up. I heart Nagley. Nagley forever.


Posted by: Joshilyn at May 21, 2007 11:03 AM

See, most-excellent posts like this just make my internal agonizing worse. I'm in a job I hate, not because of the job but because it's just a dang J-O-B, and whenever faced with the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question I'm forced to answer "pass." because I just haven't figured it out yet. Yet I love to write.

Now, ever since reading your books and your blog, I'm beginning to think I want to write for a living (as opposed to the "for fun" writing I've done all my life) and this kind of post makes it seem possible. And possible can be SO dangerous! Heck, "possible" made me start my own blog, so it's already worked it's terrible evil. Curse you, possible! (Jam on, Joss, you bookstore Rock Star!)

Posted by: Femtastic at May 21, 2007 12:09 PM


Um, THIS Monday? Like today??
Just askin'... :-)

Posted by: DebR at May 21, 2007 4:10 PM

Yay! This was a great interview. As always, you are a delight to read. And of course, am looking forward to the contest! Is it open to Canadians?

Posted by: Lindsey at May 21, 2007 5:45 PM

lol, DebR. I've been coming here all day thinking, Dude, it IS Monday, right?? :-)

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