A few days ago I sat down and talked with my agent for a couple hours. Every so often I need to do that. There aren't too many agents who can make the time for their clients to do such a thing, and if you can find one who does -- and he's successful on top of it -- well, you hit pay dirt.
He might not want me to write about this, but one of the things my agent said to me was that he wished he could discover a really talented and unique debut author. I'm going to talk about this some more on a future blog post, but what I said to him was this:
You did discover me at a time when I was seriously going to quit writing. This happened to be last summer, when I wrote Grasshopper Jungle. I found writing the book to be a very liberating experience because I had no intention of getting it published. I was only writing it for me. No pressure. I thought it was too crazy, anyway.
To be honest, I think my agent thought it crossed some lines, too. So, anyway, writing that book was kind of like being reborn -- becoming a debut author all over again. Maybe there's some satisfaction in that for him. You'll see when it comes out.
Another thing we talked about was Goodreads. He, like most of my friends, knows how I feel about Goodreads. I refuse to look at reviews there, and I refuse to review books at all. I've got a few books listed on there -- all books by myself or friends of mine -- but I DO NOT review books.
And looking at Goodreads comments, like those on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, can become a serious problem for authors. I do not ever do it. I have all kinds of reasons why, and I'm sure there are some really great, thoughtful, and literate people who post on those sites. But there are a bunch of bullies and ignorant followers, too. I've never been one for beauty contests and prom elections.
[said the indignant ugly kid]
In any event, my blog is linked to my Goodreads profile. Every once in a while, somebody on Goodreads will send me a message or comment on my blog. I ALWAYS pay attention to direct communication, and if it's a message, I respond to 100% of them.
There's a guy on Goodreads named Robert who occasionally comments on my blog.
Yesterday, he said this:
I am really looking forward to reading Winger. Can't you give us a little taste, just to wet our beak a little?
So I told him I would do exactly that.
And here you go, Robert. Here are a few little excerpts (sorry, I can't put up the artwork yet) from Winger:
There's a little story called The Toilet World at the beginning of the book. It occurs even before the prologue, right after the epigraph. The first paragraphs are these:
I said a silent prayer.
Actually, silent is probably the only type of prayer a guy should attempt when his head’s in a toilet.
Ryan Dean West lives on the upper floor -- the boys' floor -- of a dormitory for bad kids. He is convinced Mrs. Singer, the woman in charge downstairs, is a witch who can inflict diarrhea spells and wants to destroy Ryan Dean's life. One night, as he sneaks out of his room to go to the toilet, this happens:
And as I padded in my bare feet to the end of the boys’ floor, I kept thinking about all the horror movies I’d ever seen where you just sit there, yelling inside your head, “Don’t open that door you fucking idiot!”
So what did I do? I opened the door.
Then I almost screamed like a little girl, but I was too scared to do that, and if I hadn’t just done what I did a minute earlier, I would have peed myself, too, because when I opened the door, I was standing there, in nothing but my underwear, face to face with the so-unhot-she-is-quite-likely-the-only-two-legged-female-besides-his-mom-no-wait-including-his-mom-Ryan-Dean-West-wouldn’t-want-to-run-into-at-night-when-he-is-only-wearing-boxers-and-nothing-else Mrs. Singer from downstairs.
And I thought, I am never going to not-have diarrhea for the rest of my life.
I am such a loser.
Ryan Dean's observations on American Literature (and this was taken directly from the lectures of a professor I had as an undergrad):
In Lit class, we had finished reading Billy Budd; and I was convinced by that time that Mr. Wellins was some sort of pervert because he believed that everything we read had something to do with sex. According to him, Rappaccini’s Daughter was about incest, and, he argued, Billy Budd was about homosexuality. Mr. Wellins said that it didn’t matter what a writer intended his work to mean, that the only thing that mattered was what it meant to the reader, and I guess I could see his point, but I still thought he was a creepy old pervert. Anyway, I just thought Melville wrote a good story, but what do I know?
At one point in the book, Ryan Dean and his best friend Joey sneak away from school to buy Halloween costumes. In the middle of the night, they find Ned, this very old man who walks extremely slowly and appears to be lost. The boys struggle with Joey's willingness to always help out:
“Can you boys please give me a ride home? I’ll pay you,” he said.
Please, for once in your life, don’t be nice, Joey.
“What are you doing out here?” Joey said.
“I just went for a walk,” he said.
And I thought, he either lives about twelve feet away from here or he started his walk during the Reagan Administration.
“And then I got caught in this damned rain.”
“Where do you live?” Joey asked.
But it was too late.
So the boys decide to drive Ned home and they get caught in a flash flood. Ryan Dean, who has a very active imagination, is convinced that Ned is a serial murderer who has lured the boys to his secret killing field. And although the boys are in Oregon, Ned seems to think they're in Iowa (my apologies once again to the fine city of Waterloo, Iowa, where much of Grasshopper Jungle takes place):
So there we were, in the middle of the fucking night, in the rain, on an unlighted dirt – make that mud – road somewhere between Oregon and Bolgia Nine in the Eighth Circle of Hell with an axe-wielding sodomist in a walker who thought he was in Waterloo goddamned Iowa.
Ned stared blankly out the windshield. “I don’t remember any of this in Waterloo.”
“Oh, that Waterloo,” I said. “So, Ned, was Napoleon really as short as everyone says?”
So there you go. A little unillustrated teaser from Winger.