One of the things that has changed, in this new socially-enabled world we live in, is the accessibility of authors.
This is not just about me. Writers such as Chuck Palahniuk (The Fight Club), Paul Coelho (The Alchemist) and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaids Tale) are all Tweeting. These are among the most popular authors in the world. There are lots more at it too. Here is a list of 100 mainly US authors for starters http://mashable.com/2009/05/08/twitter-authors/
What I’m interested in is, what this means for authors.
There has been a tendency for authors to be unavailable in the past.
When I grew up the idea of contacting an author was something you might do, but only on the rarest of occasions. You expected to be rebuffed. Many authors didn’t even give interviews, never mind tell you the quotes they like from a master in their genre.
Part of this was presumably due to the cost involved in responding to letters. Authors also adopted a mantle of inaccessibility. Whether it was a natural inclination to shut themselves away, a desire to appear superior, or a perceived need to maintain a cloak of mystery is hard to say. Each of these probably had a role to play.
But all that is in the past now. If you don’t play the social media game, especially as a new author, you risk becoming lost in the flood of hundreds of thousands of new novels and non fiction books being published every year.
So what does this mean for the author, both now and in the future? For now it will require a change of mindset. If you want to despise the internet go ahead. When paper was introduced in the middle ages, making volume production of books possible due to paper’s lower cost, the vellum and parchment lovers despised the new medium and denigrated its ability to expand the reach of authors. Those who despise the internet now, an increasingly social medium, have a similar mindset. This post is addressed to the rest of us.
The Seven Golden Rules of Twitter (being open about your real interests, not where you are, engaging with people, following people, adding your opinion to RTs and posts, being positive, teasing, providing insights) force a writer to come out of their shell. It’s great therapy for the isolated. And a support tool to make us all smile. I certainly have felt supported and have had many enjoyable moments reading the comments of my online friends.
But does all this have a greater significance for writers? Will it affect how we write and what we write about?
I believe that the Internet, our easy accessibility to people and facts, will fundamentally change the stories writers tell.
Being able to contact people, to get their views, is very useful, Being able to find out information without having the luxury of free time to visit great libraries, combined with an easier access to people, will change the stories written in the next 50 years.
Since before James Joyce literary writers have focused on the individual, his or her feelings, internal doubts, interpretations of the world they encounter in any given day. Only a few had experience of the wider world. To write about how a waitress serves you coffee, what the turn of her head might mean, as Raymond Carver does so well, became the ultimate goal for many literary and stream-of-consciousness writers.
I believe that internally focused literary age is coming to an end. Sure, there will be great writers who continue to do that well, but much modern literature is likely to open up to what the world is really about, savage murders in New Orleans, the secrets of Istanbul, the reality of romance in a modern London. Such stories are less cerebral, more tactile, more grounded. The internet and social media is likely to drive this popular literary revolution even further.
If you want to write about the reality of the world, real people, hard facts, your goal is now achievable. It’s time to write 21st century fiction. Don’t let the Ivory-Tower-Literary-Luddites fool you. They are less relevant than ever and will soon be about as popular as early twentieth century experimental poets are now.
Don’t you agree?
To read a post about the possible impact of ereader data on writers, how many people finish a book for instance, go here.
The Secret Riches Visualization ToolandMost people know what The Secret is. They know about the power of positive thinking, repetition, self belief.andFew people know however that these ideas were once the key elements in ancient books of magic. Such books often also contained medical knowledge and practical personal advice. The success of such ideas gave these books a long life. They were much sought after and argued over.andAnd in some periods you could be burnt at the stake for possessing such books.andThese days you can buy books of magic and positive thinking for a relatively low cost, and without much danger to your health. You can even go to seminars on how to see your success, or you can give away your money to people selling seals and hoodoo correspondence courses.andSo what has any of this got to do with Istanbul?andAt the time of the fall of Constantinople (since called Istanbul) in 1453 thousands of scholars fled to Italy. They went to Florence and to Milan and beyond. Among them were physicians, astronomers and mathematicians.andMarsilio Ficino, whose family fled from Constantinople to Italy, was one the most important figures in the Italian Renaissance.andHe was involved, with Cosimo de’Medici, in trying to heal the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.andHe was also a vegetarian, a priest, and at one point was lucky to escape with his life after being accused of magic before Pope Innocent VIII.andNDFicino’s father was a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, who took the young man into his household and became the lifelong patron of Marsilio, who was made tutor to his grandson, Lorenzo de’ Medici.andSo where did Marsilio get his most important ideas?andMany of his thoughts are common sense now, such as advice to keep your body in good order, but some of his other ideas are more far reaching, even to this day.andMarsilio FicinoandIn the Book of Destiny, Marsilio details the links between behavior and consequence. He talks about the list of things that hold sway over a man’s destiny,andHe practised astrology too and believed in talismans and symbols. His most famous prediction was that the son of Lorenzo de’Medici would become Pope. He did.andHis most famous achievement though was in the blending of the occult, the magical traditions of astrology, with the teaching of the Catholic church.andHe wrote a treaty on the Immortality of the Soul, which after his death, became dogma of the Catholic and eventually the Protestant churches. This was a theoretical advancement on the Christian belief that we will all live on after death. His theory synthesized Christianity and Platonism, and created a foundation for the Renaissance.
andHe subscribed to the notion that there was hope for world renovation (best remembered in the word Renaissance – rebirth – itself), which would occur through art, science and technology. He declared that religion’s basis had to be philosophy and believed that Plato should be read in churches. Ficino wrote that the human soul was both immortal and divine, made in the image of God.andThis guy was responsible for the theory behind the Renaissance, and Christianity’s slow acceptance of the idea of human advancement, which underpins the positivism and dynamism of the West over the past five hundred years.The Fall of Constantinople, 1453aSo what’s the puzzle here?andMarsilio’s family had moved from Constantinople before the fall and the ideas he was taught by his uncle, Manuel Chrysoloras, included specific magical concepts such as the power of self belief, the use of ritual repitition and the divinity of the soul.andThe legendary Byzantine manuscript “The Seventh Book of Destiny”, quoted by Marsilio in a letter to his uncle, included detailed magical ideas about positivism and dynamism and the power of the mind and how you can attract good fortune.andThe Seventh Book of Destiny was one of the books specifically targeted for burning during the Inquisition. Every known copy was destroyed for ever, except one, which we know about from a legend of the fall of Constantinople. The legend states that a copy was lost overboard in a metal trunk the night before Constantinople fell on Tuesday, 29 May 1453.andA Venetian galiot, a small galley, with a single mast and twenty fast rowers, had, so the legend goes, managed to reach a hidden gate in the sea wall near the Golden Horn at around midnight, despite a night bombardment of the sea walls by the Ottoman artillery, the most advanced in the world at that time.andFive close members of the last Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos’ entourage, including his sixteen year old illegitimate daughter, given the title of Princess only hours before, were taken on board. Each was allowed to bring only one very small chest.andOne chest was lost into the sea as the passengers boarded, the chest containing Constantine XI’s personal illuminated copy of The Seventh Book of Destiny.andThe position of that small sea gate was well known at the time. And Mehmed the Conqueror had that area of the Bosphorus dredged after the conquest in search of that lost trunk, which was observed going overboard, but the average depth of the water in that area, 160 feet, and the swift currents and eddies, some of which flow in different directions at different levels, must have taken the trunk some distance as it tumbled to the sea floor.andPresent day archeological equipment, including the latest seismological underwater mud-penetrating metal detection equipment are likely to offer the surest route to the rediscovery of that legendary lost trunk. The book containing the lost Secrets of Byzantine magic will eventually be found.andBut when, and what else does The Seventh Book of Destiny talk about?
Glenn Meade is one of the most successful Irish authors of this generation. His novels include the international bestsellers The Sands of Sakarra, Snow Wolf and his latest compelling blockbuster The Second Messiah.
Earlier this year I asked Glenn some questions about his writing. Here are his answers:
1. Glenn, when did you become interested in writing, what drove you to write your first book?
At age four, as I hid under the dining room table in my grandmother’s home in Cabra, I discovered I was in the company of an escaped prisoner from Mountjoy jail (this isn’t fiction, it’s true).
It was Stephen’s Day and he’d absconded while out on Christmas parole–he was a friend of my uncle, who suggested he hide in the house–and the Guards were out searching for the escapee along Cabra’s Mulroy Road.
He told me to keep quiet and read my Dandy Annual. He gave me sixpence.
That’s the first time I realized I could make money from hardbacks, and it’s driven me ever since…
2. How and when did you get your first break, your agent or your publisher, and what was that like?
I wrote a number of stage plays, without much success. I’d had great fun in the process–theatre was lots of laughs but often impoverishment. I had always wanted to write a novel so I sat down and set myself a work schedule of writing six days a week until the novel was done.
It took me longer than I thought–18 months–and I wrote in in longhand, over 500 pages, which meant eventually having to transcribe in onto a computer. It was damned hard work–I still remember the pain of writing and re-writing, and the exhaustion of trying to write and keep a full time job that often involved 50/60 hours a week.
3. What do you think the secret ingredient of your books is? What is that makes them sell?
That’s always a hard one. I’m not sure there is a secret ingredient–there are many ingredients that go into a successful novel but I think above all it’s the emotion the tale imparts and the interest the reader has in your characters. Memorable characters make memorable novels.
Characters, plot, emotion. Those are the three main ingredients. What you do with them as a writer sets you apart.
4. Which of your own books are you most pleased with in terms of writing craft and what makes you feel that way?
Ressurection Day, was the most complex and involved, and required acres of research material. I look back on it as a big accomplishment. It garnered great reviews and media attention but didn’t sell as well as my other books.
Web of Deceit was the most fun to write.
Snow Wolf, Sands of Sakkara, and The Second Messiah all gave me pleasure, too–once they were completed.
5: The Devil’s Disciple shifted your territory with its theme of serial killers and having a female central character. What aspects of writing the Devil’s Disciple did you enjoy most?
Visiting Greensville penitentiary in Virginia–a chilling place–and getting to meet some real psychos, including the Beltway Sniper.
6: What is your daily writing routine? Are you mostly in the States now?
The writer’s life would be ideal–were it not for the writing.
I write in the mornings for 3 hours, then take a long break and write again in the late afternoon/early evening for another 2 or 3 hours.
I spend some time in the US, for research.
7: Can you tell us about your current book?
The Second Messiah.
In the desert near Jerusalem an archaeologist is murdered after he uncovers stunning evidence in a Dead Sea scroll about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The two-thousand-year-old parchment containing enigmatic references to not one but two messiahs is stolen before it can be fully translated.
In Rome, a charismatic American priest with long-hidden secrets is elected pope, setting off widespread panic among some of the faithful who question whether he is the anti-Christ or the world’s new savior.
As the conspiracy over the scroll explodes into a political and religious standoff, two people find themselves on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of unknown assassins in their search for the truth, pursuing a trail of clues that follows history’s footsteps, from forgotten biblical villages to Rome’s gruesome underground catacombs.
Archeologist Jack Cane and Israeli police officer Lela Raul must solve the mystery of the Second Messiah and uncover the real secret behind the message of Jesus before they are permanently silenced and the scroll and its contents are forever lost to humanity.
US Publishers Weekly review:
The Second Messiah
Glenn Meade. Howard, $22.50 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4516-1184-7
The Irish-born author (Snow Wolf) teeters on the edge of genius and sacrilege with this thriller about a subject known since the time of Christ. When archeologist Jack Cane discovers ancient documents that point to the existence of another messiah, he also quickly finds out that both Israeli and Catholic authorities have reason to possess, or suppress, such documents.
Racked with the pain of personal loss, he meets up with an old friend, Lela, who is part of an Israeli police team investigating multiple crimes, including a cold case involving the possible murder of Cane’s parents–also archeologists–20 years earlier. Some who have avoided Christian fiction or only dipped in will find this departure from the mold refreshing, even while some regular readers of Christian fiction may find certain passages revolting.
Fans of Davis Bunn or Dan Brown won’t bat an eye at Meade’s unblinking look at the Vatican and the religious secrecy that fuels such novels. With a plot that screams, a controversial edge, and characters with attitude and something to prove, this has all the makings to be the next Da Vinci Code. (Aug.)
Thanks for the interview Glenn. The Second Messiah is my choice for a Summer read.
I met Glenn at the Listowel Writers Festival a few years ago. His generosity to aspiring writers is legendary and real.
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What is The Istanbul Puzzle?
The Istanbul Puzzle is a thriller/mystery novel, first published January 19, 2012. It's the first in a series of novels featuring Sean Ryan and Isabel Sharp, being published by Harper Collins and a series of other publishers around the world. The Istanbul Puzzle starts when Sean discovers a friend and colleague has been beheaded in Istanbul.
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