Good news, as the encroaching idiocracy may still be a ways off. Nonetheless, how does a professional writer stay positive -- and sell books -- in what’s been a fairly depressing reading landscape? Local novelist Will Clarke makes the rounds at Dallas book clubs.
“The most heartening thing is coming to book clubs and talking to people who love books,” he said last night at The Village Apartments, during an intimate chat with about a dozen club members who’d just read his second novel, The Worthy. “You hear about how Americans don’t read anymore, that we’re all dumb. But that’s not true.”
Of course, the book clubs that have emerged across the country in recent years have become crucial venues for the languishing publishing industry, which Clarke demystified with his characteristically self-deprecating humor. “Being an author is a lot like selling Amway,” he said, “And I typically am really good at selling Amway.”
Alas, it's not all about peddling the old products: Clarke has a short story coming out in next month’s Texas Monthly and is working on a third novel that, like Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, is set in Dallas. “The theme is: If you have a gift, you have an obligation to use it,” he said, “and magic is just science that we don’t understand.”
Folks wanted to know how Clarke writes. Like, does he have to lock himself in a cabin somewhere, away from everyone he knows, in order to crank it out? Nope. He typically writes a page per day during his lunch break from his advertising job, he said, pointing out a common pitfall for many an aspiring writer – waiting for a large chunk of time to write.
“Just write every day,” he said. “Try to fill up a picture frame.” In other words, don’t take a week off with the goal of writing War and Peace.
Clarke also offered this bit of advice: Do not think about publishing your book until you’re actually done with your book. It’s “soul-crushing” and ruins the creative process, he said, so just forget about it until you actually have a complete manuscript. Besides, he added, books and stories, much like kids, will do whatever they want regardless of your expectations. If they’re supposed to be read by millions, they will be. If they’re not, they won’t.
“Books have a personality of their own,” he said. “They go out in the world and meet people, and people either love them or hate them.”
Incidentally, Clarke will join local authors Harry Hunsicker and Melanie Wells and singer-songwriter Trish Murphy on April 17 at 6 p.m. at the Garden Café, 5310 Junius St., for a night of songs and stories. --Megan Feldman