"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Monday, April 24, 2006

Celebrity Dan and Little Me

Author Dan Brown gave a lecture last night. This is/was quite a
newsworthy event,
not only in the region--AP covered it as well as the local press. It was, as we are accustomed to hearing, "a rare public appearance." To his credit, when he pops up in public he often does so to benefit local nonprofits--as he did for the authors' association about a year go.

Last night, the venue was a wonderful old theatre in a Seacoast city, where I've attended memorable concerts.

Highlights: He actively participated in the making of the movie The Da Vinci Code, and is credited as a producer. He seemed pleased with the outcome, describing the film version as "mesmerising." He regrets the loss of his privacy, due to his worldwide successes and surrounding controversies. He doesn't mind the controversy, as it generates debate on matters spiritual and scientific. His next novel will be finished when it's ready, he takes a long time to get it right. When he get into a tough spot in his manuscript, he works things out by hanging upside down in gravity boots for a about an hour. Oh, and he's so accustomed to being sued now, that at the outset of his talk he joked there were legal forms out in the lobby, if any of the audience members wanted to sue him, too.

Now, I've never met Dan (that I know of) but I certainly know plenty of people who know him. I feel like I know him because at the time his first novel was published, I'd started writing historicals for a major publisher. Our region of the country is small, the bookstores are few and well known, as well as the media outlets. So any author of popular fiction grows familiar with the names and genres of other authors making the rounds at the same time.

As I carried out all my promotional activities, I became aware a local prep school teacher who had written a thriller titled Digital Fortress. For a time in the late 90's, when there were fewer published genre novelists in this area, I belonged (in my own mind, anyway) to a triumvirate of productive but far from world-famous regional writers. Dan was the techno-thriller man, Brendan Dubois was the mystery man, I was the romance chick.

On any given day there might be an article in the paper about one or the other of the guys, or a tv or radio interview. And then I'd be the subject of a similar feature, print or broadcast. And at the time--believe it or not--I was doubtless outselling both of them. Put together.

I suspect I'll see the movie at some point, especially after his glowing review and his contagious exuberance about his involvement in its creation. I've never got round to reading DVC. Don't know whether I will. And that's no slam against Dan--it's not about him, it's about me. I generally read bestsellers approximately a decade after they cool off, if at all. For several reasons, some entirely unrelated to the fellowship among writers, I'm the last person in the world to be snotty about Dan's success or his writing style or anything else about him.

What impressed me most about Dan's comments: everything he said about his writing process, and especially the revision process, rang famililar bells for me. (Well, except the getting up at 4 a.m. to do it, and the gravity boots...) He hit upon the universal truths about the writing life, its challenges. He speaks from a different platform than the average author at the average appearance--his is way bigger, the spotlight is much brighter, the crowd is more intensely interested, due to his celebrity.

And yet deep down, below the surface, internally, there's really no difference at all between him, or me, or any other writer out there banging away at a keyboard. I think the massive size of his paycheck makes people forget that salient fact!

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