A few days ago, a Mondoville student interviewed me about Broken Glass Waltzes, as part of an article about the Mondoville English program’s two novelists (the other of course being John Carenen, and you should be reading his stuff as well.) Because the article will run in the school paper, and because said paper runs as part of the Mondoville tri-weekly, the article will come out on Wednesday. If it’s accessible online, I’ll give you a holler.
In the course of the interview, the student asked me if I had another book in the works. I told her I do, and gave her my current working title, but I told her I have a long way to go with it. Which is true — as I’ve mentioned, I seem to be in a bit of a fallow period right now (or perhaps more accurately, I can find any number of things to do other than work on the book.)
Fortunately — very fortunately — I have a regular gig here at Mondoville, which allows me to keep half a roof over our heads. I don’t have to write to keep the lights on and make a payment on the Spawn’s braces. And as it happens, I’m fine with that. So what I am, at best, is a part-time writer (and part-time musician, and, and, and…).
That isn’t a complaint. I’m going to flatter myself into thinking that I’ve acquired a skosh of self-knowledge over the years, and one of the things I know is that I’m not particularly self-disciplined. I don’t have the discipline to do the work every day the way that Lawrence Block does, or any number of genuine pros. The closest I came was during my years at the magazine, and it nearly drove me out of my skull — or off an overpass.
And while I do love writing, and although I started making up songs and stories when I was still a toddler (and have the audiotapes to prove it), I’m glad I don’t have to rely on whatever talent I have for it — and that I’m not feeling guilty about that.
As S.J. Perelman famously observed, “The Muse is a tough buck.” And it has ever been thus. Brian Keene — a solidly successful horror writer — knows this as well, and his discussion of what it means to be a pro these days is worthwhile reading:
Now, I’m going to dump some cold water on those of you who think success or best-seller status automatically equal big dollar signs. I have been prolific over the last fifteen years, and have been lucky enough to keep my work in print to the extent that I receive royalty checks for various works each and every month. I’ve also had books turned into film, adapted for comics, and more. I’ve been on CNN, Howard Stern, a documentary on the History Channel, and a trivia question answer on an ABC game show. My readers include rock stars, movie stars, stand-up comedians, professional athletes, a few politicians, a few more porno actresses, and even a daytime soap opera diva. I am one of the most popular horror writers of my generation. I say that not brag or sound arrogant, but to set the stage for what I am about to tell you. I am one of the most popular horror writers of my generation—
—and on average, I make between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. Sometimes it’s a little bit more. Sometimes, it’s less. That’s an average.
There are other costs as well (as Keene describes), and when I think of those expenses, I find comfort in the idea of being a part-timer.