Thoughts on writing, publishing, and the creative life
I recently self-published two works of fiction: a fantasy for kids (and adults with active imaginations) entitled How Mother Rat Invented the World and a fantasy adventure novel set in the Homeric Bronze Age entitled Swarm Metamorphosis. Although the process of editing, book design, cover creation, printing, distribution, and marketing proved to be a fascinating experience, it also revealed an unexpected tension between my roles as a writer and a publisher.
In entitling this article Author/Auteur, I’m borrowing a term from film-making. An auteur has artistic control over all aspects of a film’s production: writing, directing, casting, producing, and promotion. This contrasts with the division of labor generally involved in studio productions. (For a humorous yet loving take on the joys and trials of being an auteur, watch the film Day For Night by one of the original auteurs, the wonderful Francois Truffaut). The analogy with self-publishing is clear. As a literary auteur, I could not draw on the resources of a “studio,” i.e., a publishing house—I had to do almost everything myself. Although I found self-publishing rewarding (I even became something of a font geek), I did not anticipate how the experience would transform my relationship with my novels—and change me as a person.
While I was writing, my involvement with my books was detailed, prolonged, and intimate: I took Swarm through 21 major drafts and at least a hundred minor editing passes. But, as I moved through the publishing process, the sense of deep connection with the text that accompanies such intensive writing and editing diminished. Although this is a normal consequence of publication and the need to finalize the text, self-publishing only accentuates it. Each phase of book design, printing, distribution, and marketing seemed to take me farther from my intimate relationship with my text. Now, when I read through my published books, I experience them as having been created by someone simultaneously myself and not myself, a doppelganger whose strangeness is only intensified by his familiarity.
How can I explain this? What does it mean for me as a writer and a person?Continue reading