Thursday, December 17, 2009

Terence Taylor answers questions regarding writing & his new horror novel, Bite Marks

Q. Welcome Terence.
A. Thanks for inviting me! I’ve been looking forward to talking with you. Sorry it’s taken so long.

Q. You turned away from many years of writing for children’s television to attempt capturing an adult audience with your new novel Bite Marks. What led to the shift in focus and medium?
A. Crazy, right? I’ve always loved the horror/fantasy genre, since I was a kid reading my grandmother’s collection of fairy tales, classic mythology, monster mags, comic books, ghost stories, UFO handbooks…but I never thought of it as anything but a hobby. I didn’t put enough time into my fiction to really pursue it, but when work slowed down in L.A., I had time to explore and decided to finish my vampire novel, give it a real shot. I didn’t want to wake up at seventy sorry I never tried.
I’d kind of fallen into children’s television after college when I got a job on a low budget TV program produced by the New York State Education Department called “Vegetable Soup”. I wanted to be a filmmaker then and the show was shot on 16mm film and assembled in video. It taught me everything it took to get a story on film, from initial concept to casting, propping, location scouting…and what worked and didn’t work in scripts.
I ended up writing for the show within a year, and can claim to this day that I’ve written for Bette Midler, who was just starting out and did the voice of an animated character called “Woody the Spoon”. We did a documentary about a young choreographer named Debbie Allen, who went on to “FAME” and fame, and one of our directors, Doug Cheek, went on to make a classic B horror movie called C.H.U.D…. It was an amazing experience and I was lucky enough to roll from one job to the next for the next few years (with long breaks between), I slowly stopped doing production and one day realized I was making a living writing children’s television.
I’d been writing horror fiction in my free time since my twenties. I spent all day writing sweet kid-friendly scripts, and then unleashed my dark side and frustrations in my night work. I think it came out even darker because of the contrast with my day job. It’s taken me this long to find the balance in my work, the purpose — and the children’s writing actually helped me with that.
It’s amazing how much you can give kids to think about at an early age — they’re far more aware of what’s happening around them than adults want to believe — what they crave is clarity and context to understand it. Most of the shows I did for kids dealt with fears and conflict resolution. I learned to create a world they could believe in, no matter how far-fetched, how to keep an audience’s attention and entertain while still making serious points.
I find it amusing that all of that’s worked its way into my current work. I write what I think of as post-modern pulp fiction, very fun to write and to read, but hope it also has more style and substance than the average commercial horror novel out there. I know mine is hard to put down, so at least I kept those skills…

Q. I noticed you have an agent and one of the largest publishers in the U.S. working for you. How do you believe this has impacted the reception of your debut novel?
A. I’m never sure from day to day exactly who’s working for who…still working that one out! The biggest value of the agent was in getting me the publisher. There was little or no way an unpublished author like myself, even with my modest TV background, could have reached that editor or sold her that manuscript the way they did, ending in a two-book deal my first time out.
Because it’s my first novel, I honestly don’t know yet how the size of my publisher has impacted the book’s reception. I know they were able to get it into bookstore chains across the country, because friends sent cell phone pictures to me from all over. I know reviews have been good, which has been great after the long road I took to get here. Obviously, I’d like to think that the book itself is driving the reviews and not my publisher. I don’t think they could, or all their books would have good reviews.
I’ve been extremely lucky in that the senior editor who bought my book has backed it up in many, many ways. She released me as a trade paperback, a more affordable price for people to try a first time author, timed the book’s release around Halloween, the best of all possible times to promote a new vampire novel, and scheduled the release of the second soon after for April 2010. I’m widely distributed in major chains and independent book dealers, and also online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. I think having a big publisher definitely helped me to get a much wider mainstream distribution with a bigger advance than I might have had with a smaller press.
Other than that, being published by a large publisher is also like being a member of a really big family. I have an average of 750 brothers and sister annually at St. Martin’s. It’s lovely to have so much company, but you can’t always get as much attention as you’d like. Now that the first book is out and the second is on its way through press production, my editor has to turn her attention to the next round of books to get into print. That’s just the reality. There’s still support, but not the snappy immediate attention the new, more needy kids get.

Q. Did you bring your agent with you from the world of television, or did you have to find someone new to represent you? Did you have any difficulty landing a publisher? In other words, what was your approach to getting published as a novelist?
A. The road to mainstream commercial publication can be a long and painful one. There are many valid and useful alternatives to getting your work into the world these days, but I’ll tell you how my book got published — soon to be a New School course, or a lecture at a Learning Annex near you. If I run too long, edit me down, but my experience may be interesting to those trying to sell a first novel, and will be my most complete telling of how it all happened.
The agent system is different for film/TV and literary works…the most obvious being that “Hollywood” agents tend to represent writers, while literary agents sign on books. That doesn’t mean that novelists don’t have a written or implied commitment to their agents after several book sales. But in TV the beginning is usually a two-year contract to represent you, while in literary you sign a contract for an agent to represent a specific book until it is sold or considered — usually by them — to be unsellable.
First, I finished my novel before I tried to sell it. Few publishers are willing to commit to an unfinished manuscript from an unpublished author, unless there’s a compelling market for it because of who they are or what they do, something that makes it a guaranteed sale to bookstores and readers — like fame in another field, scandal or other mass market appeal. I also wanted to know that I could finish the book before I tried to sell it, since writing it was my primary motivation when I started, not making money.
I spent five years finishing the first viable draft of “Bite Marks”. Once I felt it was ready to send to publishers, I gathered a list of agents. There are many options for publication these days, but I wanted to start with a traditional route, and then go on to other methods if that didn’t work. There are a wealth of websites on agents and how to avoid getting screwed…I recommend reading them carefully. The Science Fiction Writers Association has a great site page on the subject,
Do the work to find out what agents should and shouldn’t do. “Real” agents don’t charge you to read your manuscript, direct you to editors who will “fix” it for a price, or many of the other horror stories you will find online. They’re allowed to get reimbursed after a sale for expenses of copying and shipping to publishers, and occasional other incidentals, all of which should be established between you up front before signing anything.
A quick search will give you sites with agent lists, most with background on who they are and what they represent. There’s also a reference book at almost any major library, a three-volume set I can’t remember the name of, which lists useful information on book editors, publishers, and literary agents. The latest edition of “Jeff Herman’s guide to book publishers, editors, & literary agents” would also be good — I found my agent in it, and he gives invaluable info on their likes, dislikes and backgrounds. Your best bet is to start submitting to agents that represent books similar to yours. Most will have relationships with editors at publishers in that area.
I wrote a cover letter, a bio giving my professional background and any pertinent facts about my life that related to my writing, a synopsis of the book (all one page or less), then added the first fifty pages of the manuscript. Most agents tell you not to send a sample with your query letter — an author friend recommended throwing it in anyway. If they start reading and like it, they’re more likely to ask for the rest, saving you a step. If they don’t, you’ve lost nothing. In my first letter I was unpublished. By the second round, I’d had a story in an anthology and that helped. Bring up anything that may inspire interest in you and your work.
I sent out over twenty packets the first time, each with a self-addressed stamped envelope to return the contents. (many agents don’t mind multiple submissions as long as they know, unless they specifically say so) For the next month I had an almost daily stab to the heart each time I saw one come back. Learn to let it go. Rejection hurts, but it’s business, not personal. Make a list and check off the returns so you know who said no, and start on your next round of submissions as soon as you’ve heard from the last of the first.
As a friend told me, make the process as mechanical and automatic as possible. Keep emotion out of it, as hard as that is. Most replies were almost immediate form letters, just sent back as soon as they arrived. About five were personal replies, encouraging, but telling me they couldn’t do anything with it. Two remain lost to this day. I can only imagine the SASE postage was steamed off for their own use, not an agent I’d want anyway.
The second round I sent out maybe six months later, on a Friday, and got a call Monday from the agent I eventually signed with, asking me to send what I wanted her to see. I sent my first published story and the manuscript. A few weeks later, while I kept receiving new rejections, I got a phone call from her associate telling me the agent loved the short story and was taking the manuscript on a two-week vacation. When she got back we arranged a meeting.
My friends were excited, but I knew from experience in L.A. that a mere meeting didn’t mean I had an agent yet. We talked about the story and the book, and I was told that while they loved the premise, the manuscript wasn’t ready to send out yet. They expressed their concerns (It was too long, and wandered…) and we talked about the next step. Once I established that they’d actually sign the book before I went back to the manuscript, I picked up my almost 600 page first novel and went home to think, with no idea of what to do with it. By the time I went to bed I’d restructured the opening and two weeks later had cut the book down to under 400 pages and rewritten many opening chapters.
I waited months to hear back from them, and when I finally did, I wasn’t happy. They e-mailed me four pages of notes on what they felt was still missing — not how to fix anything, but all the story elements that needed work.
This is a key point in the story. If I’d said screw it and kept sending it around, I might have found an agent eventually, but instead, after two days of sulking, I re-read the notes and realized I couldn’t argue with any of them. They’d pinpointed every weakness in my telling of the story. The agent made it clear that she still loved the book, but if I wasn’t going to deal with the notes, they felt they couldn’t sell it. They’d give it just one more read, so my next round would be my last.
I said yes — I’d never written a novel on my own before, and knew the manuscript had problems. Most importantly, they weren’t telling me what to do, but what they felt needed doing. Unlike L.A., where anyone giving notes almost always seemed to be trying to get me to write what they would if they could. In this case, I had strong notes based on their read and that of two other readers, who sat in with them for an afternoon while they all compared notes.
More and more editors these days come from a publishing or other editorial background. The advantage is that they often keep contacts at publishing houses, but more importantly, have a better sense of why books get published. Because of their track record I knew I didn’t know more than they did about “the business”. I had to trust them, and based on what I knew, I did. I was lucky to get the agents I did, and am glad I listened to them. It changed me for life.
The next year was spent doing deeper research on historic events, alchemy, and answering questions as simple as “Why did Steven and Lori break up?” My original answer had been that they’d just drifted apart, separated by work. The final answer was far more thought out, added depth to both characters, their backgrounds and past relationships, and became a key part of the theme of the overall story. The same was true for all the other notes, all were questions that fleshed out the story and the characters when properly answered.
I spent a year rewriting the book from top to bottom, replaced flowery old text from over ten years ago when I started the book with new chapters written with the experience I’d gained since them. Dug deeper into motivations, emotions. Names and characters changed, the story developed and improved. I didn’t need to go that far for the agent — I did it for myself. I didn’t just “murder my darlings”, as the old saying goes, I slaughtered them wholesale, consumed and digested them to feed new growth, and have hundreds of pages from earlier drafts that will never see the light of day.
Just as exercise improves the body, my writing had become leaner and stronger in the last few years of writing daily, more descriptive with fewer words, and my focus stayed on the story, not how cleverly I was telling it or how many big words I knew. In the year of rewriting the book and the following year writing the second, I found my voice as a writer and went from being a wordsmith to a storyteller. It’s made the process of writing so much more pleasurable. Instead of starting with language, I put myself into the setting of the story, surround myself with the characters involved, turn on some music and let the moment play out, see what happens and write it all down. Later I go back and clean up words (which I do, again and again…), and edit events to fit into the story better, etc.
The process of writing has become more visceral than intellectual, more felt than thought out, and more exciting to me. In a strange way, I’ve gone back to the way I wrote scripts — seeing the moment in my head, and then describing it concretely on paper for others. The manuscript I gave back to the agent was a hell of a better read, told the story I wanted to tell far better, and was a much easier sell.
Out of over twenty publishers, five were interested enough to take part in the final bidding. I was still rejected collectively by more agents and publishers than J.K. Rowling ever was — (though I got more for my first advance…probably the only time I’ll ever match or exceed her success!) but it only takes one publisher to make an offer to get you into print.

Q. Who are the authors or individuals who inspired you to write a long piece of horror fiction?
A. So many. I’ve been an avid reader most of my life, until I moved to L.A. and drove everywhere instead of reading on the subway. I always loved dark fantasy and satire, and grew up on Roald Dahl, John Collier, Ray Bradbury, Saki, then graduated to Ishmael Reed, William Burroughs, and George Orwell. Most of my favorites made their mark in short stories, but Burroughs and Reed, and later, Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”, showed me how the longer form could have amazing freedom and even more pervasive power.
Another major unconscious influence I’ve just rediscovered is Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” which I read when I was around ten, because my mom had it in the house from a trip to Paris. I couldn’t have understood even a fraction of what it was about at that age, but it left a strong impression on me to this day. I re-read it recently only to discover that a lot of elements in my current work reflect his portrayal of a realistic social setting disrupted by supernatural events, with believable and sympathetic characters on both sides, so in an odd way a long dead Russian author inspired me to write my first novel.
Needless to say, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Octavia Butler and Anne Rice also showed me the way, as their work came out in print. Reading them assured me that there could be a future for me in genre fiction. They all wrote wildly imaginative tales of terror, but really well, and used them to tell stories about more than monsters. They wrote about life.

Q. Please tell my audience, in your own words, what your book is about and why they should buy it.
A. You actually gave one of the best summations, so I will excerpt your review — “An insane vampire has carelessly begun a sequence of events that could reveal the existence of a large society of the undead to humans. He’ll stop at nothing to hide his latest debacle from the overseers of his kind, just as they’ll do whatever it takes to put an end to his troublesome ways—if he fails… Now the creature is loose and is creating a nest of protectors and hunters. When the population of an entire neighbourhood disappears and zombies, spewing a terrifying mutation of the AIDS virus, begin roaming the streets of New York, someone’s going to notice…” I just love that.
Your audience should buy it and tell two friends to buy it, who should tell two friends, and so on, and so forth, on and on, so eventually I can make enough money to do nothing but write these books, because that would make me happier than anything, to spend the rest of my life on my own inner island where my wild things roam.
But seriously…it’s a beautifully written book about a place you haven’t been before, a paranormal world of elegance and dark desires, cruel violence and soaring romanticism. I‘ve done my best to create as convincing a story as I can, one that moves at a breakneck pace and only slows to fill you with fresh dread as you learn more about the pasts of the participants.
This is the best and worst time in the world for the book to come out — there’s a huge interest in vampire stories now, because of the media hype over the success of “Twilight” and “True Blood”, but they are more of a romance and a mystery than novels about the vampires and their lives. There seems to be a softening of the vampire myth in recent years — books are either trying to turn the myth into something else, like the two big hits, or the books are about the hunters, and vampires are automatically the bad guys.
I wanted to bring scary back, to tell a story that was as chilling as I remembered Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” was when I read it, but with characters as complex as Anne Rice’s, showing a broad range of morality among the undead. Are all vampires evil? What effect does such power have over who you are? How does it change you over centuries? What would I do if I found out they were real? It was an exciting chance to explore my idea of what the “reality” of a vampire lifestyle might be in a real world New York, versus an idyllic romanticized fantasy. I don’t think being a vampire works for everyone. Immortality doesn’t answer any more questions than wealth — you are who you are, and still have to live with that.
Last, but not least, many readers have told me that “Bite Marks” is the most fun they’ve had reading in a while, and the reviews say the rest. And if you like it, there’s plenty more to come…

Q. I’ve reviewed your book on The Deepening World of Fiction, and while I gave it a strong recommendation, I did have two criticisms…
1. “…even though Bite Marks is about vampires, the central story is the unresolved break-up of Steven and Lori, and I believe Taylor should have spent more time building up these and his other human characters. Taylor’s humans appear as weak and ineffectual bystanders. Yes, this makes his monsters even more scary, but it’s my opinion that the choice weakens the reader’s connection to the story and will probably leave many people feeling like something was missing.”
2. “…the way the baby vampire was dealt with at the end of the book didn’t quite fit in with the world portrayed in the rest of the story. Not only that–which brings us to my second criticism, the choice just mentioned also rendered the human participants useless.”
These criticisms are just my opinion, so I would be interested in your response to them. It’s a chance for you to call me out, so to speak.
A. At last! I was ready to come looking for you after I read that, ready to get Spanish Inquisition on your ass…I’m kidding, of course. I have people for that. Large, nasty people who do dreadful things they probably shouldn’t, and never get caught…
The truth is that a week before “Bite Marks” came out I freaked, because I finally totally understood that there’d be thousands of copies of my life’s work to date appearing simultaneously across the planet, and that anyone who could get hold of one could express their opinion of what I’d done.
You don’t think about how much of yourself you‘ve put into a creative work until you let it out of its safe little cage to fly free, and realize it can now be shot down by anyone with a slingshot, gun, or nuclear capabilities. So far, I have only been pricked a few times, which speaks to the quality of the book. What has been more interesting is how some readers’ reactions are letting me see the book differently. Your comments fell into that category, which are exciting to read.
On the first point, I could be flip and say “dude, it’s ‘A VAMPIRE Testament,’ not ‘A HUMAN Testament’, of course they’re more interesting,” but it isn’t often that writers get to clarify their intent. To be honest, I was so close to my characters that it never occurred to me that Steven and Lori, Jim and the rest of my humans would look weak or ineffectual next to my vampires. I mean, sure, humans vs. vampires, vamps are always going to be “stronger,” but we’re talking character here, not “power”. The resulting balance was largely because most of my human protagonists were in their teens or late twenties — at those ages, I myself felt ineffectual and powerless, and that was what I put into the characters, without thinking twice.
Also, a big part of what I wanted to do with the book was depict realistic humans like the people I spent the 80s with, who would react as we would have. I often feel that heroes in horror movies jump into battling larger than life evil forces a little too easily. It’s why Steven and Lori’s first reaction after finding out that vampires are real is to run and hide. It didn’t occur to me that put up against beings that were hundreds of years old, with that much more experience, that my humans would naturally look much less potent. My feeling was that they were doing the best that they could with what they had. I see your point, though I thought their human frailty would connect readers, that they’d identify more, so it wasn’t meant to put them off, and hopefully won’t.
And you’re right — the emotional spine of the story for me from the beginning was always Steven and Lori coming to terms with the end of their relationship and parting, if not as friends, then at least cleanly and honestly, with closure. Everything around them is a blown up metaphor about childbirth, childrearing and people’s relationship to reproduction and its responsibilities — Steven doesn’t want kids because of his childhood, Lori can’t bear a child to full term, so she yearns to do so, as does Perenelle, who was barren in life and raised Adam as a surrogate son… When I was rewriting the book, I had a sign on the collage wall in front of me — “It’s the Baby, Stupid” — to remind me that Baby was the central connection between all the characters, and that the issue of issue had significance to them all.
As I said earlier, “Bite Marks” was the distillation of a much larger original manuscript that took a long time for me to condense and streamline. The nicest comment I got was from someone who said I had written the “Crash” of vampire novels, an ensemble story with multiple storylines that all come together in the end to make one point. Though I truly love the end result, I concede there may be a few weak welds here and there. The second book is much tighter, though no less interesting.
A bit of a spoiler — in the next novel, we rejoin Steven and Lori 20 years later, in maturity, in very different places. They’re much stronger, and continue to step up in power and strength through the third novel. So part of any seeming ineffectiveness in this novel is the beginning of a build over time.
As far as your notes on the ending, I felt that I’d built up the alchemy subplot with Rahman well enough and had established that the essence of alchemy was transformation for readers to accept the final changes in the participants. I agree that it raises that occult element to a new level, but it’s carried on in book two. It’s the first fanfare of a slowly rising leitmotif that played in the background through book one, but rises into a major theme in book two.
As far as “useless” goes: Hey, Steven and Lori got the National Guard to Sheep Meadow Station after going into a quarantined area with Jim and Angel to find the vampire baby during a blizzard; the soldiers are holding their own against the inhuman Autochthones; and Adam’s human minions flood the gallery at his summons to fight for him…even though the infant ends up turning into a life force vacuum sucking up everyone in range, until then I thought the humans were doing pretty well. Me — I would have been on a bus out of town as soon as I found out what was happening, but that doesn’t make for an exciting hero or novel.
Now, if you mean that the ultimate dénouement was out of their hands, that Steven and Lori stood by helpless while Rahman’s mad experiment hoisted him on his own petard, I will agree. But are they any less involved than the people fighting back in vain for say, the last third of “War of the Worlds”, until Earth bacteria already present in the air kills the Martians? I think in both, and others like them, the endings tell us that even when we have no control over larger than life conflicts around us (a common feeling today), there are still lessons to learn, ways to survive — not just physically, but emotionally. I still think Rahman being overcome by his own hubris, as developed in the story up until then, is more valid than having Steven and Lori shoot him down with a bazooka they find in a nearby National Guard Humvee…and more real and identifiable.
I also wanted people to see themselves in the vampires. They’re written with a range for that reason, to show three uses of great power: abuse, self-consideration, and compassion, in Adam, Rahman, and Perenelle. Despite their supernatural nature, I wrote them as supernatural beings with human depths — they’re all extremely aware of their lost humanity and how it informs their afterlives, which to me made them relatable. I wanted readers to be as involved with them as they are with my humans, because the whole story is in how the two interact and the balance of power shifts over time.

Q. Do you plan a sequel to Bite Marks, or do you have another project in mind?
A. I’ve made reference to the second novel, which is called “Blood Pressure”. It’s book two of what I’m calling The Vampire Testaments. I think if it was common knowledge that “Bite Marks” was the first of a trilogy (yeah, yet another one) some minor reservations could be dismissed, but “Bite Marks” was always meant to stand alone no matter what happened next, so I won’t use that as an excuse. It’s more an explanation of intent, since you were kind enough to give me a forum to clarify my intentions.
I had an inspirational dream while finishing “Bite Marks” that helped me find the end of the first novel and gave me the seeds of the second. By the time I figured out enough of the second story to pitch it with the first manuscript, I saw the whole arc and realized I needed three books to complete it. Fortunately when my editor read the end of the second book and saw where it was going, she didn’t even flinch. Have I said how much I love her?
The Vampire Testaments is actually one epic novel, divided into three volumes, spanning three generations of a war between vampires and humans, focusing on events in New York City, the war’s epicenter. The third book of the opening trilogy will take place in 2027, 20 years after book two, which takes place in 2007, 20 years after book one.
Once it’s complete, I have other standalone stories about my vampires planned, since they have vast life spans and centuries of experience not covered in the first three books. Part of the joy of finishing the first novel was constructing a densely populated and complex world I could explore almost indefinitely, though I have many other novels I want to write.
Right now I’m working on one called “A Perfect Pandemonium”, which I keep describing as “Orpheus and Eurydice meets Faust”, about a cable deal with the Devil. It’s the story of a reluctant hero recovering from losing the love of his life, enlisted in his dreams to help save the world from an early Apocalypse. It’s going to be the start of a separate series of novels, The Prometheus Papers, contemporary tales from the files of The Prometheus Partnership, a private foundation trying to keep supernatural forces from taking us out. The books will be slightly more satirical than The Vampire Testaments, which to me are deadly serious. The first is a definite homage to “The Master and Margarita”, my childhood love.
There’s more to come, but one step at a time. First I have to finish the trilogy.

Q. Terence, you are obviously a talented and a skilled writer: what advice would you give authors who are still struggling to break into the publishing world?
A. Well, thank you! It’s nice to hear that, as long and hard as I worked to become the writer I am. My first advice is twofold: persevere, but be realistic. Don’t give up after one rejection, two or even twenty. Too many writers get too easily discouraged. But if something isn’t working, reconsider what you’re doing.
Find friends or other writers whose opinions you trust who will read your work and give you objective unbiased feedback. Join a writing group to get feedback. Don’t rely on only your own opinion of your work, but do trust your instincts. If you keep getting rejections, consider the possibility that the world can’t be wrong. If people keep telling you something doesn’t work, consider that they may have a point, and revisit what you’ve written. I always go with Stephen King’s point in “On Writing” that you give work to at least four people and address the notes that they have in common. Anything individual you can take or leave. Problems they all agree on need to be addressed.
Second, consider what it is you really want. If you want a commercial living as a published writer with a major commercial mainstream publisher, odds are you won’t get there writing an intensely personal novel of appeal to a handful of people. Sure, those who buy your novel about a Yak shepherd in the big city who dreams of home and talks to the ghosts of his ancestors, written in an obscure Esperanto sub-dialect told in reverse chronological order, may love it and feel it’s the best novel about a Yak shepherd in the big city who dreams of home and talks to the ghosts of his ancestors, written in an obscure Esperanto sub-dialect told in reverse chronological order that they’ve ever read, but you probably won’t sell the movie rights its first year out. Be realistic. If that is the book you want to write more than anything else, then write it, but don’t expect it to do something it can’t.
More than anything else, WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE, not just something to make money or any other reasons you may have. Most of what a writer does is write. I truly enjoy writing my books and wrote horror long before I was published. I would love to have my writing support me, and because of what I write, it could, but I’ll keep working freelance to pay bills as long as I must, because I’d be writing even if I wasn’t being published, and any benefit beyond that is only a bonus.
I now know that the public speaking, readings and signings, interviews, praise or critique, all of that is fleeting and any ego charge you get or fears you have of it go away as soon as they’re over. The real writing life is writing. None of the rest happens unless you do it, and if you don’t truly love to write more than anything else, and aren’t willing to commit to it 100%, why do you want to be published? Only a handful of authors become bestsellers, as only a handful of actors become stars. If you only want to be published to make money, believe me, there are many much easier ways to make much more money.
That said, if you want to be published because you want to share your writing with the world, or select readers of like minds, there are more ways to do that than ever, from online blogs to on demand digital press, small specialty publishers to self-publishing. If being read is your goal, more than making a living, you can accomplish that by going to Google or WordPress and starting an online blog page you can empty anything in your head onto.
This is the 21st century. Digital combined with the Internet is the new movable type, the latest innovation that redefines how we communicate. If you sell your novel online yourself to a million people who download it to their e-readers for a buck a pop, are you any less successful than a hardcover author selling the same number of books and getting as much, if not less, per sale from his publisher?
Be clear on what you want, be flexible, and be willing to do the work and take the time it takes. Behind every overnight sensation is a long story of real work and struggle. It’s never too late to start. Look at me.

Q. Thank you, and all the best in your new writing adventures.
A. Thank you! It’s always great to talk about my work with people who get and enjoy it, especially when they call me on issues they see. No writer can ever take his or her work for granted. I pray I don’t ever stop growing or listening as a writer.

For more of Clayton Bye's writing, visit his website or become a fan.