Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Author, Chapter Twenty-Five: The Rest of the Time

June 26

Now, I know I told you that this is not what I'm like the rest of the time, you know? Like this eating frozen pizza, drinking bourbon all day thing, it's not the way I am. And I know that if that's all you see, that's all you're gonna think my life is like.

You'll see something a bit different when my kids come up here, but I want you to know what it's really like. I know that one reason why you're here is because you want this, and you should want this, you should be motivated to market the shit out of yourself when you're ready, but the life you see me lead, I'll admit it, it might not be that appealing. Or it might be appealing now, but believe me, you can't live like this after 30, at least not for very long.

I have four homes. I have this place, I got a cabin in Montana, a condo in London and a house in Portland, where I grew up. My parents are both dead, but at least four months out of the year I live in Portland. In between books, I guess you might say.

When I'm done here, I go to my cabin, which is an hour outside of Whitefish, Montana. That's where I get my shit together after spending two or three months trying to poison myself here. There's a landline, but no cell phone, no internet. I spend the first month meditating and going on long runs. I spend the second month negotiating with my editor via fax and talking about the edits on my new book.

Then I move to New York for a month and I stay in this apartment suite that the publisher maintains. I've gotten the same one a couple of times, but it varies. And for the most part, I never get to appreciate where I am anyway. By that time it's fucking winter and New York winters suck. I have a car that takes me to meetings, to the gym, and back home.

I'll spend hours in an office with my editor, sometimes with my agent as well, and sometimes the arguments will go all the way up to the publisher. Most of the time I win, but sometimes they make me see reason. Usually a month is all it takes and then the book is finished.

Then, a month or so later, they'll send me proofs of the cover and a marketing plan. My books usually come out in February, so after I spend Christmas with the kids at the house in Portland, every other year, anyway, and then spend a month getting ready for all the press bullshit. By this time I've probably lost the 20 pounds I put on over the summer.

February and part of March will be all about the book. I'll hit 50 cities in 30 days, doing signings, jumping through hoops, appearing on local or national TV shows and it sounds fun, and it is for the first week, but when it's over you just wish you could sleep for a month.

April and May are touring months. I do speaking engagements at other times if I care or if they offer me enough money, but mostly I do college appearances and fiction conferences and publishing shows and shit in those two months. I go to London when I can, a week a season when I can manage it. If I get done early here I might take some time over there, but that hasn't happened for a while. Usually I get a week there in December and one in the spring. One in the fall if the editing of the book goes easy.

Februaries are the worst and the best. I love getting out there and meeting the people who like me enough to spend $25 or $30 of their hard earned money on my book every year, you know? I love meeting those people, looking into their eyes, shaking their hands. Sure, some of them are creepy, or intense, or weird, but they're what makes me successful. Hundreds of thousands of them turn out every year to buy whatever it is I've cranked out. That's amazing to me. Even after all these years.

But those Februaries are exhausting. Thirty different hotel rooms in as many days, city after city until you don't remember where you are, answering the same 10 fucking questions over and over again until you wish that your readers were a little less retarded. Explaining how you make things up about the occult, you don't spend your life in a goth-inspired home, sleeping in a coffin and sacrificing goats. That Wilcox is not me, he's not a friend of mine, he was created as a fictional character, maybe as the best friend you always had, not with integrity and bravery, but with guile and a survival instinct to rival a cockroach.

But the bitch of it is, is I envy you a little bit. You, who could afford to take three months this summer and live with me. I don't have three months to spare, anywhere. I'm a slave of my own schedule now. At least six or seven months a year are spent creating and selling the damn thing, between writing it, editing it, and plugging it. If I want to spend some of my money to take a ridiculous cruise with this incredibly hot 22-year-old Brazilian girl who has a tongue ring and thinks I'm a genius, I have to argue with all these people, my publisher, my assistants, my ex-wife, my agent. I have this money and no time or place to spend it.

So boo hoo, poor little rich boy, right? And I'm not saying I want out, but I'm telling you that I'm a prisoner of my own success. What's working is working so we're going to keep at it. And if I want to go to London in September because writing the book really took it out of me this year, there are people who are going to tell me I can't.

And of course, my ex-wife will be there to give me a guilt trip about being so selfish as to take a vacation when the kids need me, even though she's conditioned them to barely give a shit about me anymore, to show up here and faithfully serve their time with crackpot dad who doesn't have time for them, to go back home to that harpy who just...

You know what, that harpy just wants what's best for her kids. For our kids, although they are less our kids every year. So yeah, when I want to take a break and go to London for Christmas instead of putting up with her insufferable family to spend the season relaxing instead of listening to passive aggressive bullshit for a week, she makes me feel crappy about it. And I'm enough of a bitch that I let her. And she's right, of course, what kind of a dick am I that I treasure my own security and sanity above that of my progeny?

I've been writing for more than 20 years and I'll be damned if I really believe that if I took a year off the world would forget about me, but that possibility eats at me. When you have so many other writers, with bigger names and higher sales, you feel like you can't take a break. I could take one year off, take one summer where I don't come back here, where I take a month to explore Europe with my kids and then the next year when I write another book, no one will be excited to see me any more. In this short attention span universe, maybe they will have forgotten me.

So you think about selling the rights to your books for movies, because then your name will be out and about more, people won't get to forget you, but then you're paralyzed with fear that what is produced will be bullshit and you'd rather be forgotten than associated with tasteless pap created under the heading of your name.
So you come out here again and again and keep following the same pattern. It ain't broke, so don't fix it, but sometimes I feel like a goddamn hamster on a wheel, you know.

But you know what, it's probably my fault. You can see how hands on I am, so I never just let them take my book and run with it. I have to be part of all of it, so I have to lose a month in New York.

And let me tell you, those weeks when I'm in London? Best of my fucking life. Well, my adult life, maybe. I feel everything melt away when I get off that plane and I get to just be me, the simple me who goes to plays and museums and who bitches about the miserable London weather, even though secretly I love it. That's who I want to be all the time. Of course, I suppose the truth is if I lived there, I would cease to be that guy. I'm only that happy for a week at a time because I don't have that constantly. Or else I'd get tired of that.

Sometimes I think that if I didn't have a responsibility to see these books get published, if I hadn't started down this track as a kid who craved success, that all I'd do is sit here and write and write and write and no one would ever read any of this shit, it would just go on a pile and I'd just keep going until...I dunno. I starved to death? My liver exploded? I can see the headlines now, the winter grounds keeper discovers me in the house in November, rotting away, slumped over my laptop. Wrote himself to death. It'd be the author's equivalent of dying with your boots on.

No comments:

Post a Comment