I figure I’ll answer questions in batches of three or so, to keep the posts from being stupidly long.
Question the first: How easy/difficult was it to
score arrange “special” tours when you were on your research trip in England? Did you have to get a letter from your publisher, or was, “I’m writing a novel!” sufficient?
Answer the first: Pretty easy. I think I got a slightly sniffy reaction from one woman I e-mailed — in the vein of “we’re really quite busy, you know” — but that was just the go-between; the woman who ended up giving me that tour was fantastic. Mostly people are very glad to help. After all, you’re expressing an interest in a topic they’ve decided to devote either their careers or their volunteer time to; they like geeking out about it with somebody.
I’ve only once been asked to bring proof of writerliness, and that was for the library and archives at the Globe Theatre. They set up the appointment no problem, but I had to bring a letter from my publisher to show at the security desk.
Question the second: What is your absolute favorite thing about being a writer, and what is your absolute least favorite thing about it?
Answer the second: Favorite is probably how I’m always doing something new. I was talking with my brother about this last month; my whole life, I’ve never found myself doing the same thing for more than about three or four months at a stretch. I’ve been in school, with new classes every semester, or I’ve worked at summer jobs, which by their nature are limited, or I’ve been writing novels, which generally take me about the same length of time. (Sure, I’m still sitting at the computer typing words, but it’s different characters and settings and plots; there’s substantial variety.) I have to go back to high school to find the last time I did the same tasks on the same topics for even so long as nine months consecutively.
Least favorite is probably the solitude. This is fundamentally about me spending long hours with my keyboard and monitor, which sucks in certain ways. I think that’s why a part of me thinks it would be fun to work in TV or movies; I’d still write, but it would be social. Downside: I’d have to deal with other people. The truth is that I’m often a solitary person; it’s just that this job can feed that tendency too strongly, and I have to guard against that. (In fact, if I can kick this bug out of my system, the plan is to use this weekend to launch Project Get A Social Life.)
Question the third: If you could redo one thing about your career, what would it be?
Answer the third: . . . nothing?
Seriously, the answers that leap to mind are not in my control. It would be cheating to say “be a NYT-bestselling debut novelist!” Because even if I had a redo, I couldn’t be assured of making that happen. In fact, my sales might well be worse; Doppelganger earned out its advance handily, and has done well enough that my publisher reissued it, which is not the general fate of first novels. I’ll keep that result, thanks.
So I have to look for mistakes I know hurt me, and there just aren’t any bad enough to merit erasure. I’m glad the first novel I submitted wasn’t the first one I sold, because it wasn’t nearly as strong as it could be, but the act of submitting it wasn’t a bad idea; it got my feet in the water and earned me some personalized rejections. Etc. There’s only one thing I’ve done so far that I seriously regretted, but it’s worked out okay in the end, so even that I wouldn’t change. (Sorry, not sharing what it was, for personal and professional reasons. I know, that’s kind of cheating on this whole “answer a question” thing.)
I don’t think I’ve had a perfect run so far, but it’s good enough that I don’t feel an overwhelming desire to redo any of it.
If you’d like to ask a question, head on over here.