Mark Terry

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What's Your Trap?


September 3, 2008
As a full-time freelance writer, I've been wondering if fiction isn't a bit of a trap. I think everybody has one and for the professional writer, fiction probably is that trap.

I mean, really, truthfully, take this little test.

1. Have you ever fantasized about a six-figure or seven-figure advance?

2. Have you ever fantasized about doing an interview on Good Morning, America or Oprah or The Today Show or Larry King?

3. Have you ever fantasized about a book signing where the line runs out the door?

4. Have you ever wondered who would play your main character in a movie made from one of your books?

5. Have you ever wondered what you would eat while you're having lunch with Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford or Gwyneth Paltrow?

That said, I think there are a lot of good reasons to write fiction. Um, just none of them come to mind at the moment. Wait...

Because you can.  Yeah, that's not bad. That's right up there with why climb a mountain, right? Because it's there.

And, hmmm, because it's fun. Frankly, this may be the best answer. I actually got kudos from a visiting karate master when he went down the line asking everybody why they were studying Sanchin-Ryu. People were saying, "To be able to defend myself," and "to improve myself" and I was the last one and I said, "Because I like it."

I mean, really, if I didn't, I'm pretty sure I could find other things to do on Tuesday night.

Part of what's driving me slightly (more) insane is the notion that writing novels should be part of my workday. After all, I'm a writer, it's how I make a living, shouldn't it just be part of my workday?

Well, not so much recently. I tried to write a page of a novel yesterday but today I'm totally blank on it. On the other hand, I'm working on a kids' novel in the evenings and I seem to be enjoying that most of the time. But sometimes, feeling like I MUST write fiction rather than I WANT to write fiction makes me feel like the person with their fingers in the Chinese Finger Trap up there. I keep asking myself, "What are you doing? Why are you doing this?"

Yes, I love writing fiction.

But, there's only so much time and energy to go around and...

Oh hell. Here are my answers.

1. Yes

2. Yes, Good Morning, America. I don't have a lot to say to Oprah, although I'd be glad to plug a product on her show so her cult members can rush the bookstores to buy my books, whether they read them or not. (True story, I was at a Barnes & Noble a few years back and someone was at the information desk saying, "I don't know the name of the book or the author or what it's about, but it was on Oprah this week." And the clerk KNEW which book it was!). But I'd like to meet Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Kate Snow, Bill Weir, Sam Champion, Chris Cuomo et al.

3. Sure, particularly during book signings where nobody buys a book. And if that's never happened to you, then let me assure you it's a little corner of hell reserved just for unheard of authors.

4. I'm partial to George Clooney or Nick Cage for Derek Stillwater, but I'm open-minded.

5. Actually, no. But I'd be glad to have lunch with any of them, although really, I'm not that big a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, although I liked her in "Iron Man."

Cheers,
Mark Terry


14 Comments:

Blogger Erica Orloff said...

1. Have you ever fantasized about a six-figure or seven-figure advance?

YES, if I could JUSt get ahead of the bills and now college tuition!

2. Have you ever fantasized about doing an interview on Good Morning, America or Oprah or The Today Show or Larry King?

No, but I would like to be on Charlie Rose. And Inside the Actors Studio. Just so I could crack up at James Lipton.

3. Have you ever fantasized about a book signing where the line runs out the door?

Yes. That actually happened to me once. I signed over a thousand books in two days at a licensing convention--it was a blast.

4. Have you ever wondered who would play your main character in a movie made from one of your books?

I always wanted DeNiro to play the dad in The Roofer. Ava was Jennifer Connolly. Always her.

5. Have you ever wondered what you would eat while you're having lunch with Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford or Gwyneth Paltrow?

Hmm . . . no. But I would LOVE to go out for sushi with Wes Anderson.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Amy Nathan said...

The questions are:

Have I ever STOPPED fantasizing about a six or seven figure advance?

What will I wear on Oprah, and will it make me look fat?

Which pen is best for signing thousands of books in one day?

No question with this one...Virginia Madsen IS Tracy, my main character.

Will I be having lunch with Virginia and Oprah in Chicago, New York or LA, and of course, what will I wear and will it make me look fat?

9:46 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Erica,
Somehow you and I are often on the same page. I love being a freelancer, but there's constant pressure to work to keep money coming in, isn't there?

Thousand books in 2 days--bet your wrist and hand hurt (in a good way, I suppose).

Amy,
Beware Oprah's big yellow chair. I always thought it made Mitch Albom look like a little kid.

10:01 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

1. Of course!
2. Nightmare! I'd be terrified! Well, I'd find my zone. I'd go into performing mode, but I'd still be sick to death to my stomach beforehand.
3. No. How would I have time to talk to each person, then?
4. My characters tend not to look like actors or actresses. They just look like themselves.
5. Yes, definitely! I'd love to have lunch with Gwyneth Paltrow. I'd probably have brown rice. ;-)

I write fiction to get it out of my head. Seriously, it used to take me two hours and up to fall asleep, for the stories going on up there. The first night I finished a story, I fell asleep instantly. I've been addicted ever since.

10:57 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Wait! I forgot. There was one. What's his name? He played a sexual surrogate in that movie set in England with that girl who plays the character living with a gay guy on sitcom TV. Will and Grace? Yes. I forgot his name, but man, let me tell you...

12:12 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Spy,
I almost understood that.

No, no, never mind. I didn't. Say what?

12:27 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Fine, fine, fine. You couldn't understand that??? LOL!

Found him! Debra Messing played with Dermot Mulroney in The Wedding Date. I LOVED Dermot Mulroney. I'm pretty sure at least 2-3 of my characters were Dermot Mulroneys.

12:32 PM  
Blogger MissWrite said...

Actually for none of the reasons you stated. I wrote a post on pretty much this very subject just this morning. While I write a lot of things during the day that pay a LOT better than any fiction I've ever written, and am currently working on a non-fic due at the end of this month that has already paid better than any fiction I have ever typed out... I still find myself thinking of story lines, and characters as I work.

It's an illness I tell you. A danged blamed terminal sickness that cannot be recovered from.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Honest to God, Misswrite, there's no freakin' way I ever would have come up with that thought from your blog:

"Last night while I was working I kept having an image of a tall muscular cowboy transplanted to the city walking in a store to buy Harley parts and falling for a woman behind the counter that looked like a lean blonde mustang ready to be tamed. "

Nev-er.

But I like your point about the storylines.

My brother is a composer (and a professor of music composition and theory, etc) and I once asked him if he always had music going on in his head. He said, "Yeah, and sometimes it pops out."

1:39 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Okay, Spy. I had to hunt him down. The only recent movie I've seen him in was "Must Love Dogs." He was the parent of the kindergartner who was separated with his wife and seemed like a good guy but really wasn't. (You know, that was really NOT a good movie, but like most men I'd watch Diane Lane just, well, because. And I sort of liked how John Cusack read all his lines like he was getting Red Bull intravenously, because I've been in manic moods like that when the thoughts go a lot faster than my mouth can go).

1:44 PM  
Blogger MissWrite said...

I am laughing so hard here I have tears running down my cheeks... I guess I should have been a little more clear that the cowboy and blonde bimbo was a story line, not some erotic fantasy I was having while I worked... erm... I guess you could say it was both.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Yes to all of the above. I dream these things at night hoping they will manifest.

Nicolas Cage would make a great Derek. I think he's got that innate charm we read from Derek.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Bernita said...

No to all five.
Is there something wrong with me?

4:06 AM  
Blogger Zoe Winters said...

Mark, this is fantastic, and pretty much sums up the impetus behind me doing things the way I'm doing them. Because I want to do what I wnat to do. I want to write what I want to write. I do not want to turn my passion into a J-O-B. Now if I can share it, and if I can work out a business plan, and I can make a little money, or even just break even so I can continue to fund my passion, whatever, but...I'm not writing on anyone's deadline but my own.

It took me a long damn time to decide this absolutely, but there it is. Because I know it WOULD feel like the chinese finger trap of "what am I doing? Why am I doing this?" All the big stuff is so rare and hard to get, any good money is rare and hard to get, any notoriety is rare and hard to get. What the hell? I'm doing it my way, and screw what anybody else thinks of that.

On book signings, I've never really fantasized about book signings. I'm mildly agoraphobic sometimes, and the hardest thing for me is to be somewhere at a certain time because I'm expected to be there and people are waiting on me. So book signings are probably never ever in my future. Which doesn't mean I wouldn't try to find ways to connect with readers, just not that way.

3:33 PM  

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