Saturday, October 18, 2008

Those Ol' Post Partum Book Blues

I suspect that most heavy-duty readers, and that description has to include just about anyone who bothers to read book blogs like this one, have at one time or another fantasized about living the novelist life for themselves. We imagine how wonderful it would be to make our living by writing books that bring us a nice steady income and enable us to immerse ourselves in a world that we can only imagine from the outside looking in.

What a great day for a writer it must be when it comes time to push another of their "babies" out into the world. Or is it? Not necessarily, according to author William G. Tapply, a man who has produced some 40 books, including over two dozen "Brady Coyne mysteries," a series he began in 1984. Tapply has just pushed another baby out into the big old world, Dark Tiger, his third Stoney Calhoun novel and he's hurting (from St. Martin's Moments in Crime):
Congratulations, you might say. A cause for celebration, right?

Wrong, actually. When I ship this one off to my agent and my editor (well, “ship” is wrong . . . I will email it), I’ll officially be Between Books. And when I’m Between Books, it means I don’t have anything to write about.

It’s an empty feeling. I liken it to the Post Partum Blues.
When the novel is written and edited and revised and shipped off, after about nine months have passed (this is my writing cycle), suddenly it’s no longer inside me. It’s gone, out in the world, off on its own, and I’m left feeling vaguely empty and aimless.

Then I understand all of those writers, of whom there are many, who become alcoholics or drug addicts or suicides or divorcees. Or all of the above. Writers can be a glum lot.

Well, it’s not like that with me. But it is an Empty Feeling.

Some writers just move on to their next good idea, of which, they claim, they have a boundless supply (“Oh, I’ve got a million ideas,” they say, annoyingly, or, “The world is full of ideas”). These happy, irritating souls leave themselves no time to luxuriate in that Empty Feeling. They just keep writing.

For me, alas, a workable idea, an idea that seems like it could sustain a long complicated story with many original characters (ie, a novel), is a rare and wonderful gift, and when I’ve got one, I treasure it.
Being "between books" is not what I imagined it would be like for someone who has written 40 books. If this is a common experience for most authors, Tapply has experienced it more than most of them and I appreciate his frankness. In fact, that's both the good news and the bad news for Mr. Tapply. The bad news is that I have somehow managed to remain unaware of his work up to this point. The good news is that his piece on what he experiences when he finds himself between books has brought him to my attention and I will be reading one of his novels soon.

Mr. Tapply may just be creating a bunch of new fans while between books this time around.

(Click on the link and read the whole piece - there's much more to it than the excerpts I've clipped here.)

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