EVERY AUTHOR NEEDS A CHAMPION—AND IT IS BEST IF SHE IS A WOMAN
I have never forgotten how tough it was to learn to write—and then to sell my first book. After several false starts—I committed totally in 1986—but it wasn’t until December 1990 that GAMES OF THE HANGMAN sold.
It wasn’t bought by a major publisher. It was accepted by Grove Press, a relatively small publishing house, which—in those days—was more associated with pushing the boundaries of censorship than anything else. Perhaps the fairly graphic sex in my book resonated… Perhaps I scraped through by a single orgasm.
Which reminds me—there is a back-story to all this—involving an assistant to my agent—I keep on forgetting. It was really only thanks to her that I got my break. Something about my writing turned her on. Perhaps there is more truth to my orgasm quip than I realize.
Everyone needs a champion—and sex is a great motivator.
Grove were established in 1951 and, over the years, published a whole string of highly regarded avant-garde authors. They included: Jean Jenet; Jack Kerouac; William Burroughs; Allen Ginsberg, Malcolm X, Henry Miller; D.H. Lawrence (LADY’S CHATERLEY’S LOVER) and the Marquis de Sade.
I was a natural fit, now I think about it.
Five long years had gone by—a long time as most people count it. My sense of time is rather different. I will tend to spend as long on a project as it takes—and am more interested in the outcome than how long it takes.
Does that mean I’m slow—perhaps extremely slow?
It means I tend to do difficult things, which initially—almost invariably—are beyond my capabilities.
Of course, I’m still learning to write—and still struggling to sell my books—but when you have never done it before, it seems to an impossible task—and, statistically—in those pre-Amazon days—it pretty much was. Self-publishing was not really a viable option then, so your fate was in the hands of agents and traditional publishers.
God help you—because, mostly, they will not. You have been warned.
In truth, getting published by a traditional publisher is something of a Faustian bargain. On the one hand, you are almost certainly achieving your life’s ambition. On the other hand, if you have spoken to other published authors, you will know that you are largely dealing with people who cause the Devil to check that his tail is still there when he encounters them. He keeps them in a special ultra-high security section of Hell, with the heat turned up just a little higher. Agents and publishers—as you would expect—all go to Hell.
Authors, of course, never go to Hell. Since , by definition, our life is Purgatory, we go straight to Heaven. In fact, since our role in life is to illuminate the human condition—I guess we are really angels.
Never quite thought of it that way before. Makes me feel kind of warm and feathery.