Two Worlds

July 16th, 2007

This blog has languished unattended for the past couple of weeks while I did the pathetically few things a writer can to to help sell his or her new book, and focused on writing a new one.

Okay, this is a schizophrenic set of responsibilities to begin with. Part of me is out there meeting people, including some very nice booksellers and readers, and signing copies of a book I’m finally beginning to remember writing (reading pieces of it out loud helps). The other part of me is somewhere else entirely, wandering around aimlessly in the first stages of a new story, with no idea where it’s taking me. Essentially, I’m living in two worlds that might not even be orbiting the same star.

I pull up to a bookstore to see stacks of a book that looks vaguely familiar – oh, yeah, they’re mine – and the place is full of people who have willingly knocked a hole in their schedule to be there, to listen to a writer most of them don’t know read from and answer questions about a book they haven’t read. Generally speaking, the bookstore owner says a few nice words while I stand there trying not to look embarrassed, and then it’s time for me to read for 5-10 minutes. I’ve decided, just for the hell of it, never to read the same selection twice, so I’m gradually getting reacquainted with a few sections of the book. (It’s still pretty unfamiliar to me, though; at a reading a couple of days back, I was doing a scene with a gasp-inducing moment in it, and I gasped before the audience did. Then they gasped and we all laughed together.)

Following the reading, there’a s Q&A, and there are always people who got an advance copy and are apparently preparing a doctoral thesis on it, and they’ve come absolutely loaded with questions I haven’t got a chance in hell of being able to answer. If you want to feel like a complete fool some time, write a book and then try to answer questions from people who know more about it than you do.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. I work very, very hard on these books. I write them the best I can, and then I write them again, and then I write them again. Between the time I write them and the time I answer questions about them, however, I’ve spent a year doing all that on a completely different story, which is much fresher in my mind. And even if it weren’t, can I reasonably be expected to ad lib the history of Nescafe in Thailand? So sometimes I just have to feel like an idiot. And then there’s the new book.

I’m sure the world is full of writers who get an idea in its entirety – beginning, middle, and end, with all the characters fleshed out and wearing their Sunday best. I’m just not one of them. What I get is a sort of feeling, kind of a cloud that seems to me to have something to do with the inner reaches of my characters. Then I get a whole bunch of scenes that seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with each other (and may prove not to), and all I can do is wander around inside that cloud of feeling and shape those scenes the best I can in the expectation that suddenly a bridge will appear.

Maybe it’ll be a character with one foot in each of two stories. Maybe it’ll be some sort of revelation about Poke or Rose or Miaow – something basic and perhaps even formative I never knew before. And that discovery will suddenly weave a couple of the story strands into something like a braid, and I’ll have a much clearer idea of which direction is up. And then, all of a sudden, all these other characters will pop up – more than I can possibly use – and each of them will tug one or more of the stories in an interesting direction.

Or not.

At the moment, what I’ve got is a bunch of very interesting scenes, some of whom involve people I don’t know at all, and pretty much the only thing the scenes have in common is that they’re written in English.

And by the way, the online reviews for A Nail Through The Heart have been way beyond kind. Check out the Nail page and look at some of them.

One Response to “Two Worlds”

  1. Colleen Choy Says:

    Hi! Tim,

    I am so happy to read your blog for July. I was waiting for it, and then I was worried when I didn’t see you post it. I’m glad that you’re well and writing again.

    Reading your blog is so enjoyable, you’re so descriptive in your writing. It is fun to read your blog and know how the readers reacted at your book signing event. Your words vividly describes how well the readers know about your new book.

    All the Best to You

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