At the same time, Harry Potter comes out and people are plowing through an 800 page book in four days.
Yeah, that's the thing. People will give flack to books like The Da Vinci Code, but boy it got a lot of people reading. I work downtown, and as I'm walking to get things to eat, there's a guy walking and reading The Da Vinci Code. And I think reading should be cool like that.
I'm writing a dark, comic thing, so I'm used to abandoning whole passages if there's not enough funny stuff going on. Pacing is a huge issue and we're competing with things like TV and movies that are edited a lot tighter.
Myself, I've always read, but the types of things I've read were always popular fiction things. Up until college, I'd just devour Stephen King and that was it, you know? I'd devour crime novels, science fiction, that's what I read. As I got older, I began to expand my taste into books and seeing what else is out there.
And did you ever have the desire to write the fabulous gay West Hollywood gossiping boys beach read?
The thing is, it's been written. (laughs) I was interviewed not too long ago and they said, 'Well, why do you write?' and I said, and I forgot who said this, but I agree with what she said: I want to write books that wouldn't have been written if it weren't for me. And there weren't books like 'Letters to Montgomery Clift' or 'Talking to the Moon.'
And what kind of feedback do you get from there, since they do touch all these different populations? Is it across the board?
Yeah, I do hear from people who are appreciative of the work. Some people are like, 'I had no idea' and 'Thank you for what you're doing.' You also get the ones like 'The book was slow,' 'I didn't get it, what's going on?' Which is fine.
And are you one of the people that, when the book comes out, you're hitting Amazon every day and tracking your sales numbers?
I did with my first book. Oh my gosh, I was checking all the time. But what I also know about Amazon is ... someone I know tried to get at how do they decide numbers, and apparently people at Amazon are very cagey about it. And, at the bookstore where I work, this guy came to the store and said 'My book is number one on Amazon in this particular genre.' Which was true, it was the number one book in that particular genre. So, my boss called the publisher and said, we were talking to this writer, he's the number one in his genre, can you tell us how many books he's sold, since that will give us an idea of how many books to order. And the woman on the phone said, we haven't sold any through Amazon. (laughs) So, it was like, 'What?!' So, who knows how the ranking goes.
Wow, I always just assumed it was sales and pre-orders. I didn't know it was some weird formula. Well, I think Amazon is also dangerous with reviews, since human nature leads to a lot one and five-star reviews, with little in between. People are most inclined to write when they have a strong opinion about it. Do you take the negative reviews OK as constructive criticism and move on with it?
I wish I could say that I'm that enlightened. But, no, it hurts when I hear something negative about a book I worked on for five years. You know? My goodness. The very first review of the book was not a great review of the book. All of the reviews after that were really terrific, but this one was just 'Oh my goodness' you know?
You can still quote it verbatim?
I was just like, 'Oh no...' But gosh, when they say there's something wrong with it, or they point something out, it's just 'Ouch!' I mean, yeah, I developed the novel, but there's a whole process to getting a book written. My agent reads it, my editor reads it, several friends read it before it becomes what you see. So, I try and catch everything. But, still, you can't please everyone. You just can't. That's one thing I do accept. But it sucks, it hurts.
When you talk to actors, when a show they're in gets a bad review, they can blame the writer, the director, the other actors, but you've gone from solo shows to solo writing, so you're used to taking the lion's share of everything.
That's exactly right. The thing with doing what we do, we become one huge target. There's praise and people will say wonderful things about you, but people can also say really nasty things about you. That's part of the business. You've got to buck up and take it.
For me, it's like, why did I wait so long to listen to the voice that said I was supposed to be doing this? Even on the site people will talk about horrible writer's block, and I'm like, then just write horrible stuff that day. Just keep pushing. What kind of advice do you give to young writers?
Some really good advice given to me early in my writing life is: start with ten minutes a day. Keep it simple. You can write about anything, as long as it's for ten minutes. And start developing that kind of discipline and mental muscle. That's advice I've taken to heart. Of course, sometimes I faltered and wasn't able to even do that. I couldn't write for ten minutes a day, sometimes for days or weeks at a time. You know? But if I at least do ten minutes, it's good. Right now, a friend of mine who's a writer, I committed to him I'd do 15 minutes every day and I've been pretty good about that. Except for Sunday. I didn't write on purpose on Sunday because I was starting a second draft on Monday, so I decided to chill for a second.
You can't take Sunday as a day of rest, you're a Buddhist. There's no special holy day. (laughs)
Yeah, yeah, but I would have taken the day off before even if it were a Wednesday.
OK, it just coincidentally fell on other people's Sabbath.
(laughs) Yeah, that's one thing I'm striving for as a Buddhist, is when something shitty happens, like I get a shitty review or something, that it doesn't affect me as much.
I'll weigh in on that once I get nailed with reviews, I guess. My only negative reviews on Oasis were parents writing 'LEAVE MY SON ALONE, YOU PEDOPHILE!' but they were always so humorous, I could never take them seriously. I'd just write back that I have to be supportive of your kid until you are.