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Posts Tagged ‘writer’s life’

My new book, The Reckless Oath We Made, is nearly here. In just one week, it will be on sale everywhere, but even now it’s out in the world. People have advance copies to read, and if you’re a Book of the Month member, it’s one of the August selections.

I’m starting to hear from people who’ve read both All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and The Reckless Oath We Made, which is a little scary, because people can’t help but compare the two books. The verdict? They’re very different books.

The funny thing about having an unexpected bestseller like All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is that it creates expectations. Publishing wants me to write another book that is somehow exactly like my bestseller, but different. Readers who’ve only read that one book by me expect that all my books will be like that one.

The problem is that I’ve never been interested in writing the same book over and over. There are authors and genres that specialize in recreating the same sensations and feelings over a series of books. In fact, that’s one of the big selling points for a known author with a particular style: you always know what you’re going to get.

It’s true that I frequently revisit certain themes in my writing–poverty, drugs, mental illness, dysfunctional families–but I like to investigate those themes through different characters, different points of view, even different styles. I suppose I could try to recreate the feeling behind ATUAWT, but I don’t see the appeal. Lightning may strike the same place twice, but why would you want it to?

So if you pick up The Reckless Oath We Made expecting it to be exactly like All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, you might be disappointed. If you come to it looking for a new story with new characters, I think I can show you something interesting and moving. Does The Reckless Oath We Made have poverty, drugs, mental illness, and dysfunctional families? Oh yeah. It also has a lot of other things: knights, a waitress in distress, a prison escape, suitcases full of weed, a castle in the Flint Hills, love, loyalty, a heartbreaking betrayal or two, and even some medieval dirty talk.

You still have time to pre-order it from my local bookstore. If you do, you’ll get a signed hardcover first edition and some bonus book swag.

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I have been rather scarce these days, because I’ve been completing a serious revision on my next book. So often, people talk about writing as a mental task only. Soft work for soft people. The people who talk like this have never wrestled 300,000 words of chaos into a coherent story that will fit inside the covers of a book, and make people who read it laugh and cry. Writing is emotional labor, and intellectual labor, and physical labor. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
 
The printed manuscript weighs only eight pounds, and in its electronic form, it weighs nothing. The first few times I lift it, only testing its heft, but before it’s done, I will press, curl, and squat it millions of times. I will lift it until every muscle in my body sings an aria of pain. My shoulders have locked up, and my arms are burning with twenty years of nerve damage caused by this work.
 
Lift with your legs, that’s the advice about furniture, but when it comes to stories, you must lift with your whole body, including your heart, your viscera, the slippery goo of your brain.
 
At the end of this telling, my fingers are raw, my eyes are red, and veins in my legs have burst in protest of the punishment. There is no longer any writing position–sitting, standing, lying down–that doesn’t hurt.
 
So when they tell you that writing isn’t hard work, nothing like ditch digging or fire fighting, show them your wrecked back, your ruined hands, your rheumy eyes, the raw spaces between your flesh and your soul.

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