Question Time 2015: Answers Part I

You ask. I respond.

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From Rob:

Several questions. What did it feel like to look at something you created as it sat on the book shelf?

Now that you are a seasoned writer, does opening the box with a new book have the same thrill as it did the first time?

At what point will you consider yourself a successful author?

The first time I saw one of my novels on a bookshelf — China Lake, at a Waterstones in London — I stood stunned. The light seemed intensely bright. I think I heard “Circle of Life,” from The Lion King, about how we “blinking, step into the sun.” I probably giggled. I wished my dad was still alive to see my dream come true. I realized that the bookstore was crowded with people who had no idea who I was, and who were buying Jane Austen and Dan Brown books. Who cared? It was fantastic.

That first novel — with the cover in the image above — still makes me smile.

After writing twelve published novels, it’s still a thrill to open a box and see the book itself for the first time. I love books for the worlds they contain: universes of imagination and enlightenment. But damn, I do love books as objects. I love the feel of the cover, and the text and color and atmosphere that it creates. I love the feel of the paper, and the smooth, enticing look of a great typeface and layout. Sure, the first time was special. But I never tire of it. And I always skim the book with a whiff of trepidation, because an overeager and grammar-obsessive proofreader once changed the last line of a chapter — in an intense first person action scene — to keep the sentence from ending with a preposition. The result was stiff and ridiculous and nearly caused me to throw that precious book across the room.

My editors now know that I insist on getting the final look at the manuscript before it goes to the printer.

I consider myself a successful author. How could I not? I’ve had a dozen books published, by the likes of Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, Hodder & Stoughton. My books are translated into more than twenty languages. My writing has paid the rent and put food on the table. China Lake won an Edgar Award.

That’s not to say that I can’t do better. World domination would be nice. But to ignore the success my novels have already had would be neurotic and ungrateful. I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

6 responses to “Question Time 2015: Answers Part I

  1. You deserve your success, and we’re all doing our best to increase that success. I’m glad you still get a thrill out of seeing your books. We sure do!

  2. I haven’t read one of your books yet that I didn’t like…but I do have a soft spot for the Evan Delaney series. And I’d vote for the world domination unless it took too much time away from writing!

  3. Thanks for the wonderful answers. Can’t wait to see what everyone else asked. Thank you for opening up.

  4. Thanks, all!

    Rob: Thanks for asking great questions.

  5. China Lake was the first of your books I tripped over, in a second-hand bookshop in Toronto (the edition pictured above). I was captivated instantly and set about buying all the other Evan/Jesse books.

  6. You definitely deserve all the successes you have in your writing.

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