I’ve really backed off any kind of promotional activity lately, figuring I’ve thrown enough rocks into the stream behind most of my “old” books to give them enough of a push out into the big bad world. Anyway, the newest one, The Girl in the Trees, hasn’t had even a pebble tossed behind it yet, so I’m giving it a Goodreads giveaway for the paperback version (from Lulu), even though of course it’s always free through Smashwords. “The Girl” is a different sort of book for me, except in its unlikeliness to find its proper audience. My wife had been reading the Anne of Green Gables books, and was also a fan of the Little House on the Prairie stuff when she was young. I never really was, but it occurred to me that nowadays, being a young person out on a ranch or a farm somewhere in the middle of nowhere could easily be as connected – internet-wise – as anybody else in the world. She could be out there all alone and yet still have a social network and manage all of the family finances as long as she had a smart phone and wireless service. Where I live almost qualifies – we had no cell phone coverage until a couple of years ago, and internet via DSL came in less than a decade ago. How might that change an Anne of Green Gables story? That’s partly what “The Girl” is about. It’s also a sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy of a young person who wants to be left alone (like I did when I was that age). The story scratched a bit of that itch for me. I don’t think the world of the story. In fact, lately I’m not particularly impressed with much of what I’ve written. Judging by the density of originality (being the ratio of “new stuff per page”, my favorite criterion), I probably hit my peak with Secret Sidewalk more than five years ago (though maybe 2010’s Death Ray Butterfly came close but was not as well written, IMHO).
I’ve also been wondering if those authors who say they “love” hearing from their readers really mean it – I mean, after a while, isn’t it always a card drawn more or less the same small deck of responses? I guess when the readers are full of adoration then maybe, but still, you’d think it would get stale before too long. I’ve barely heard from any readers directly, but I’ve “heard” from some of them through reviews and ratings in various online locales and while I appreciate their taking the time to say anything, mainly it’s for other readers (to warn them off or set their expectations appropriately) and not for me. I don’t know. I just wonder. It probably depends upon the person.
When I worked in bookstores, I was often involved in author book signings, which ranged from the ridiculous (Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones) to the sublime (Lily Tomlin, still one of my all-time heroes) and everything in between, and you could tell that some of these “authors” (many, like those just named, were not actually writers) really DID love interacting with their audience. I remember especially Tom Robbins, of Still Life with Woodpecker fame, who was happy to sign the bared breasts of his adoring fans, using a unique pen for each set. William Burroughs, likewise, seemed to get quite a kick out of his notoriety. Some, like a certain cookbook celebrity, were just happy to get sloshed on someone else’s dime. I could understand the business of those who were performers but I always thought the actual writers were a bit out of place at these things.