It’s time for another episode of Get Jack’d. This time around I have fantastic author, Jeremy Bates. You won’t want to miss our discussion on brick and mortar shops and the stereotypes that haunt writers.
JW: I read through your blog and something sort of struck me – and this is not a comment on you, but a comment on some of the fun content I read (In particular the piece on America’s Drunkest Authors). Writers tend to get a bad rap for a lot of things:
- Drug users.
- Single minded.
- Generally just odd.
I suffer from two of the above (HINT: I do not drink nor have I ever taken a controlled substance). It’s such an interesting commentary on the writer, but one I think is very much changing. Although I do tend to suffer a bit from introversion, but it comes and goes and depends upon the level and flavor of crazy I have been dealing with that day. But in all honesty, every writer I come across has been up there with some of the most interesting people I have ever met.
Why is that? Is that uniqueness the thing that allows us to create the worlds and the characters we create? Are we all so off kilter that we see the world in a different way, which then feeds into our ability? What about you? On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being Normal and 10 being Freak of Nature), where would you place yourself? Myself? Probably somewhere near 7.
JB: Hi Jack! And thanks for hosting me. Also, very interesting questions. Why are writers all kooks? Kidding. But you’re right. They (we) are a strange breed. I’m no psychologist, but I’d say it’s twofold.
To begin, writing is not easy. It demands a lot of perseverance, hard work, creativity, and talent. Some writers have that mix, some don’t. Regardless, most writers, I would say, at least believe they have that mix, or they wouldn’t be writing, or attempting to do it professionally. That said, anyone who gets involved in something—often at the expense of their personal life/day-job—that is so intrinsically hard to succeed in, with no guarantee of success, not even modest success, makes that person, by definition, a strange breed.
Secondly, it’s the job. Just as morticians likely see the world differently than most people because they are working with dead bodies all day, writers also see/interact with the world differently because writing is a solitary job and the writer is living in his head more often than not. That likely explains some of the anti-social behavior attributed to writers. And the reasons so many writers indulge in alcohol and drugs etc. A release from living with themselves!
So where am I on that scale? I drink and use the occasional controlled substance (don’t know if I should be admitting that!). However, I wouldn’t say I’m introverted or single-minded. Definitely got a bit of odd in me. So how would that rate? I’ll match you and give it a 7!
JW: I am often accused of living inside of my own head most of the time. As I go about my day I never know when I’m going to be hit with the inspiration for something. And when that hits – I’m gone for the moment. Either that or trying to work out a sticky situation in a story or scene I’m getting through. Either way, my mind is often lost within the world of my characters or possible characters/worlds. Zombie Radio is yet another subject that takes up my brain waves. I’m always trying to think of new plots, new people, new music, new topics to introduce. I want to make that tool as interesting as possible for the readers and listeners. In fact, on my lunch break yesterday I had an idea, rushed home, and recorded a short session to be used in today’s entry. It’s fun, but demanding.
One of the things I plan on doing is writing a book that is pure horror. I want it to be truly frightening…not my usual scary-with-humor-zombie-story. I think about that all the time. I’ll get hit with what I think is the plot for that book and my mind will wander off into some strange land that thinks it’s the one. Just another example of how this job constantly takes me away from reality.
But that’s okay … seriously. Reality today really sucks. It’s not the same reality we enjoyed back in the ‘80s. Everything is moving so fast. Hell, look at the publishing industry. It seems overnight book stores were folding up and moving to the ether and now writers across the globe have the means to get their stories told and read. To some that might seem to water down the pool of talent, but to those who know it adds incredible talent to that pool that might not have ever been able to swim in waters once too rough. And other than the ability get our works out to the consumer, one of the things I really enjoy about the new world publishing order is the friends I have made as a writer. Both readers and fellow writers have connected with me and I consider them among some of my closest friends. It’s a small huge world out there and it’s only going to get smaller and … huger.
JB: I have a bad habit (no, not the aforementioned drinking and drugs!). Not that I drift off—all writers do that when—as you said—they are struck by an idea and have to puzzle it out in their head until it’s time to write. My bad habit is that I don’t jot these ideas down. You mentioned you had an idea for Zombie Radio, went home, and recorded some bits. If only I could be so diligent! See, when I get an idea, and if it’s good enough, I believe it will always be floating around inside my head. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and I end up kicking myself when I can’t remember what little twist etc. I’d come up with. Right now I’ve been thinking about how to open my next book. I’ve been knocking around a few ideas for about a month now…and for the most part they’re all still all intact. But there’s one idea which I know was good, though I can’t remember what it is for the life of me! I don’t know why I don’t jot these ideas down. Laziness? Yeah, some. But to be fair, you can’t really call someone lazy who eventually sits down and write four-hundred-plus pages.
Speaking of the changing world, and in particular the publishing industry, I have mixed feelings. When I grew up (and I’m not that old!) a book was a book. I loved going to a book store—even better, a moldy old used book store—picking up books, reading the blurbs, and choosing a couple. Yeah, the Kindle and the gang are convenient, and I’ll probably grow to like reading electronic ink, but for now I’m still nostalgic for digging through boxes, or thumbing through shelves, for rare gems. In regards to the opportunities ebooks have given to authors, it’s a whole different world, and for the most part, a good world.
JW: Agree, there was always something about going to the bookstore and just taking it all in. I will say that most of the chains always had one thing that really drove me away though – bad music. For some strange reason, every large bookstore assumed that every person that reads books enjoys folk music. I’m sorry but the dulcimer is not an instrument I want to hear in the background when I’m trying to find a good horror book.
We just had yet another big chain bookstore close (Borders). We have two bookstores left in Louisville – Carmichaels (mom and pop store with two locations) and Barnes & Noble. I would like to think that Carmichaels will remain (and I believe it will – so long as there are books to sell), and I think B&N did the smart thing and saved themselves by adopting the Nook. But I’m not 100% sure that just having a solid ereader will save a brick and mortar shop. Let’s face it, in the end I believe there are only certain stores that are safe from online retail: Home improvement, Target, WalMart, and Grocery stores. I think everything else is replaceable by its online equivalent.
What would happen if the final brick and mortar book store were to close? People would finally be forced to adopt the ereader. Is it coming to that? Honestly, I think it is. We can all desperately hold on to our romantic notions that it won’t, but there are too many reasons for it to happen:
- Cost effectiveness.
- Less harm to the environment.
- Easier distribution.
- Higher profit margins.
Let’s face it – the bottom line will drive brick and mortars doors closed. But by the time that happens, ereaders will be in every home. Remember, people doubted the PC would be in every home as well.
JB: I’d add car dealerships to the list of stores safe from online retail! I actually just did a blog post about why dead tree books, in certain situations, are better than ereaders….namely, at the beach. They stand up better to water, sand, and theft! Anyway, to switch tracks a little, what do you think about audio books? My fiancée has just gotten a new smartphone, and she’s gotten hooked on listening to audio books. I usually read before I go to sleep, so one night I tried an audio book but was out less than five minutes into it! Not that it was boring, but it was just so passive. When I read a book in bed, I have to turn the pages, read the words, etc…. but with the audio book, it was like I was already half asleep. I think they may be convenient in the car, if you’re driving, or if you’re walking somewhere. But to simply substitute them for reading doesn’t work for me.
JW: Funny you should mention audio books. I used to be one of those voices behind the audio books. I recorded with the American Publishing House for the Blind. It was an incredible experience (and probably went a long way to help me get ZombieRadio up and running so quickly. I can tell you this: Recording audio books is exhausting work. I can also say that when a book is poorly recorded (either from a technology or talent perspective) it can completely ruin a book for a listener. I once listened to Tim Curry read Anne Rice’s Lasher and (as much as I love Mr. Curry) he ruined the experience.
I do believe, and this could be really cool for some indie authors, it would certainly be worth the time to invest in the equipment to offer snippets of books read by the authors. That is part of what I’m doing with Zombie Radio. I want to offer my fans and readers a way to get more from their experience of my zombie novels than just what is on paper (or ereader). I want my readers to be able to connect with me and characters from my works. I can’t think of a better way to offer readers a deeper connection to the work than to give them the experience of hearing one of the characters (although minor) doing his thing “live”.
JB: I agree. Having your book in audio format simply opens up a whole new audience. And I know what you mean when you say recording voice is hard work. I just finished making my YouTube trailer for White Lies. There were only a handful of sentences I had to read, but man did it take a long time to get right (and I’m still not sure it is right!) Getting the proper equipment wasn’t the problem—I had a decent mic and some good audio software). What was so difficult was simply get the tone/pitch etc. to sound decent. When I was fresh out of university, I traveled around Asia for several years and I did some commercials because there was a vast lack of English-speaking extras around. I didn’t do any lines for those commercials, but when I was in South Korea I somehow stumbled into a movie and had a few lines to do (with the biggest actor in SK at the time—which I only found out when the day was done and he had a harem of K-pop girls around him!). I f***** up every line, and it was the first time I gained a respect for what actors do. It’s not easy in front of a camera with thirty people hovering around you, and it’s just as tough with a mic and an empty room!
Links for Jeremy