Question time: Stephen King, writing, contests, and knowing my characters

Let’s finish up the Q & A.

Mike S. asks: “You gained a lot of attention thanks to Stephen King’s article about you in Entertainment Weekly. When (or if, depending on how modest you feel) you are in the position King was, who will you launch?”

If I reach the position Stephen King occupies in the writers’ pantheon, it will likely mean I’ve sold my soul to the devil. That, or the universe has split into weird quantum droplets in which I’m the queen of a marble-size cosmos. Not saying it won’t ever happen. But I’m not picking out my royal wardrobe, or uncapping my pen to sign over my immortal essence to Lucifer. Or Ned Flanders, as the case may be.

In all seriousness, Stephen King was exceptionally generous to support my writing so publicly. Paying it forward is the best thing I could do. Right now, I try to support talented authors by offering them review quotes and mentioning them online (especially on Facebook and Twitter). As for naming one name… when somebody knocks me flat on my butt with their writing, this blog will be the first place I talk about it.

Jason asks: “Speaking of Mr. King, have you ever had any extended opportunity to talk with him about writing – and if you did, what sorts of things did you discuss?”

Me to Stephen King: Why can’t you write faster? What’s up with that?

No, not really. Our conversations are more about how to win at writing-cosmos marbles.

Dana Jean asks: “What are your thoughts on contests? And pay-to-be-read publications?”

Writing contests can be great. Many years ago I won second prize in a humorous short story contest run by Stanford magazine. It boosted my confidence tremendously, and convinced me that pursuing my writing was worthwhile.

Of course, some contests are better than others. And all contests are subjective — entrants are subject to the whims of the judges. And anybody who wants to enter a contest should check out the sponsors. (Established newspaper or magazine? Fly-by-night outfit that wants only to rake in entry fees?) Contests can help writers gain experience. But don’t expect the judges to supply feedback. Don’t expect a contest win to lead directly to offers from major publishers. And watch out for contests that ask for all rights to an entry, or tell all entrants they’re winners, and ask them to pony up lots of money to have their “winning story” published.

By “pay-to-be-read publications,” do you mean magazines and online zines that will review your book for a fee? I’ve never used them. I understand how writers without marketing support from a publisher, or any likelihood of being reviewed in big newspapers and magazines, might find them useful. But something about the concept makes me uneasy. If I were reading those publications, I’d be uncertain whether I was getting an honest review or a paid-for puff piece. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s my first reaction.

Or are you asking about vanity presses? I know people who have paid to have their books published. All I can say is: It’s their money.

This is a separate question from the value to writers of the burgeoning self-publishing industry in the digital age. That’s a new story for this new century, and if I ever have something worthwhile to add to the conversation, I’ll let you know.

PatTheHat asks: “Well, if perchance you flew over The Mighty BlueGrass, did ya see me wavin’?”

Yes! That’s why the pilot buzzed the field where you were standing. I sure thought it was hilarious when you threw yourself face-first to the grass to avoid being mowed down, like Cary Grant in North By Northwest.

Pat also asks:

Okay, so a bona fide question then (no seriously, I know I can do it).
How much main character background/likes/dislikes/childhood allergies/yada yada, are we the reader not privy to, if any?

I mean I know you know them pretty good by now, and like any good pals, there’s always so much you really don’t know, but how well did you know, or thought you knew about them, before you introduced them to us?

Or possibly, it’s really not all that important to go into much depth?

Pat, my characters have asked for privacy. I know all about them — what they read, what they eat, what TV they watch late at night, which pop stars they have huge crushes on — but have promised not to tell. And they trust me. Either that, or they’re secretly plotting to get rid of me so their skeletons stay forever buried. I’m looking at you, Evan.

So that’s all for now.

3 responses to “Question time: Stephen King, writing, contests, and knowing my characters

  1. Dammit, Meg, you’re a fiction writer, not a doctor! Couldn’t you *make* *up* some stories about Stephen King?! Sheesh. Oh, wait, yeah, I guess he might not like that . . . I suppose it would depend on the story.

  2. Sends my 5000 page novel, Remembrance of Times Not Long Past by A Goldfish, for the praise it is due, to Ms Gardiner. Some people say it is repetitive, like the several mentions of castles never before visited and divers in this part of the bowl who have also never been seen before. Phillistines!

    Is that a castle?

  3. Sheesh, no good dish!
    (uncanny, you knew I was going right for the smut, didn’t ya 🙂 ? )

    Oh that, nah, you can find me face down in the dirt justa about anytime of day…well, nobody has ever said I remind them of a ballerina, more like an ol’ goat wearin’ ice skates.
    (oh by the way, what a great movie! What a Great director!!, What a GREAT actor!!!…I would destroy entire villages built from the sorrows of orphans, just to be Cary Grant for a day…okay, for an hour, maybe two, I mean that much cool would probably kill me if not taken in proper moderation..sorry kids 😉 )

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