What’s bugging me…

Is that I have three novels within spitting distance of completion and I can’t get any of them finished.

The only one that interests me is the one that I suspect might actually turn out to need a lot of structural work once I read the ‘completed’ MS. The other two? One just isn’t sparking, and one has two scenes to be written that I just can’t work out how to handle.

And of course, now two fresh stories are nibbling at my brain. One is another contemporary romance and again loosely focused on disability (paraplegia, blindness) and the other is a new SF story set around Confluence, a rather strange space station with a disconcerting AI….

Damn. I really can’t start anything new. Refrain and Coda is still on the back burner, as is Sickbay.

I really need some clear writing time.

A great interview with Art Spiegelman

On the 25th anniversary of Maus, The Guardian has run an excellent interview with the writer.

Parts I particularly liked:

My favourite part of the book, though, is the section in which Spiegelman reproduces the rejection letters he received when his agent, Jonathan Silverman, first sent Maus out to publishers. Oh dear. This is embarrassing. Behold New York’s literary taste-makers acting like a bunch of cowardy custards. “Thank you for letting me see Maus,” says Hilary Hinzmann, of Henry Holt. “The idea behind it is brilliant, but it never, for me, quite gets on track.” Gerald Howard, at Penguin, is a little more up front, but still, he won’t quite take all the blame for turning it down: “In part, my passing has to do with the natural nervousness one has in publishing something so very new and possibly (to some people) off-putting. But more crucially I don’t think Maus is a completely successful work, in that it seems in some way conventional.”

At St Martin’s Press, Bob Miller admits that he found the book “quite affecting” (hell, he even managed to read right to the end). But what on earth would he tell the sales department? “I can’t see how to advance the thing into bookstores.” Even the great Robert Gottlieb of Knopf, publisher of Catch-22, doesn’t get it. “It is clever and funny,” he writes. “But right now, we are publishing several comic strip/cartoon type books and I think it is too soon to take on another one.”

On surviving the holocaust:

But unimaginable suffering, Spiegelman wants us to understand, doesn’t make a person better; it just makes them suffer.

On ebooks:

“The books that have a right to be books make use of their bookness. Graphic novels – who knew that term would stick! – continue to do well because they use their bookness.”

On people’s response to his being a Jew:

“The only parts of Jewishness I can embrace easily are the parts that are unembraceable. In other words, I am happy being a rootless cosmopolitan, alienated in most environments that I fall into. And I’m proud of being somebody who synthesised different kinds of culture – it is a fundamental aspect of the diaspora Jew. I’m uneasy with the notion of the Jew as a fighting machine, the two-fisted Israeli.”

Go read.

What I’m reading

Well, that should be what I’m going to read…some time…

Two boxes of books arrived this week – woohoo! Lots of great fantasy titles to snuggle down with:

Night of Knives – Ian Esslemont

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Mistborn trilogy – Brandon Sanderson

Evil for Evil and The Escapement – KJ Parker (I’ll have to go back and read Devices and Desires first)

Deep Water – Pamela Freeman

A Sword from Red Ice – JV Jones

Hawkspar – Holly Lisle

Several of these I’ve picked up because of podcasts. Adventures in Scifi Publishing is the main one, along with Writing Excuses, The Secrets and several others. It’s curious to watch the podcasting roll around – there’s a core of writers who use everything the internet has to offer to get themselves out there – Lafferty, Sanderson, Scalzi, Buckell to name a few, and another bunch who are happy to be interviewed: Weis, Hickman, Niven, Bear, Wolf, Reynolds etc. But beyond them is another layer who don’t seem to participate at all, Hobb/Lindholm, Wurts, Martin, Moon being good examples.

I admit that I’m curious; are they simply refusing to be interviewed? And if so, why? It’s strange looking down the podcast interview lists – the same names come up again and again, but at least half the really big writers never appear. Maybe you hit a point where the returns in sales are minimal, and it’s just not worth the effort. Maybe they’ve saturated the market…lucky, lucky people.

And I suppose I shouldn’t make too much of a noise about it. After all, maybe it’s the one final place that the big names don’t have a stranglehold on, and we shouldn’t make too much noise for fear they’ll trample all over it…