Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Does Success Affect An Author?

~Sia McKye~

“LUCK is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Which is a bigger worry for an author, do you think? Being a success? Or being a failure. Actually, both are tied into one package for a published author.

I’ve had several friends who have had a successful first book. A couple have had very successful first books. I’ve seen the pressure in bringing out the second book. The stress to meet the deadlines of the contract. The worries of, “what if people hate the second one? What if I can’t write a second or third one to match my first?” Authors face insecurities even with a moderately successful book. Sometimes, just getting a first book published will do that to an author. Yet many authors rise to the occasion and you can see their growth in the stories they pen. They get better and more refined with each book. The anxiety is real, though. The pressure to keep creating books that keep your reader’s interest enough to buy them, has to be tough.

But what if you were an author who wrote a blockbuster? Like Dan Brown?

Whether you love him or hate him, Dan Brown writes some stories that grab people’s attention. His detractors feel he can’t write worth beans (implausible, inaccurate, mechanical love plots) and can’t understand why he’s made the money or garnered the attention he has with his books. I imagine he’s laughing all the way to the bank despite the critics; although the criticism has to sting. I’d say the greater mystery to solve, was how did Dan Brown become such a phenomenon? Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Dan Brown? It must be people’s love of conspiracies. It reminds me of looking at one of those hidden picture puzzles. You look at it one way and see only the surface picture. Look at it another way, and you see hidden pictures within the surface. In my opinion, many conspiracy theories are like that. Some are just plain fabricated by plucking straws out of headlines, assasinations, or whatnot.

What I found interesting was that Dan Brown had three other novels out by the time that The DaVinci Code became a phenomenon (over 80 million copies sold worldwide and stayed on the Times Bestseller’s list 136 weeks) in 2003. Of course the hoopla over it caused people to take an interest in those three novels, one of which was Digital Fortress, Deception Point, (neither of which were hot sellers) and of course, Angels and Demons, the prequel to the Code, also became a best seller although nowhere near The Da Vinci Code figures. Both were made into movies and on opening weekends in 2006 DVC made $77 million and Angels and Demons grossed about $48 million. Now we have The Lost Symbol about to be released with a first run of 5 million in North America and another 1.5 million for overseas markets. The contents, other than the clues deliberately released, has been a closely guarded secret other than in general terms—it’s about masons, there is a corresponding thread to a church in Scotland, is set mostly in Washington DC, set with his Langdon character, and a movie is already in the works.

I mention this only because, as a writer, I have to wonder how the pressure of this success has affected Dan Brown. I know from reading various articles, that the pressure to succeed did affect him. This is his first book since the DaVinci Code. He was already writing The Lost Symbol when The DaVinci Code went ballistic. He was quoted as saying, “The thing that happened to me and must happen to any writer who's had success is that I temporarily became very self-aware. Instead of writing and saying, "This is what the character does," you say, "Wait, millions of people are going to read this." ... You're temporarily crippled....[later] The furor died down, and I realized that none of it had any relevance to what I was doing. I'm just a guy who tells a story."

I’m wondering how long that realization took to develop? I can’t imagine writing under such pressure. The strain of having to prove you aren’t a one hit wonder has to be horrendous. Perhaps that’s why he dropped out of sight for a while. The Lost Symbol was originally slated for release in 2005. I’m sure fighting plagiarism lawsuits was part of his absence, but how much of it was to escape the pressure? Dan Brown said that there was a time, during which he “self-aware” he couldn’t write. Imagine that? Here you have contracts for the new book and you can’t write. I’m thinking by saying ‘temporarily crippled’ is another way of saying writers block. It's been six years since he published The Da Vinci Code. Gone long enough for people to start wondering where he was last year. Lots of speculation. Lots of cryptic tidbits released to the press about this upcoming book released yesterday. If you’ve noticed, there has been a deliberate but subtle build up of Dan Brown since April of this year when it was announced that The Lost Symbol would be released September 15th. Less subtle the past three months with the leaking of ‘clues’ via twitter and other social networks.

I curious about Doubleday’s worries, recouping the money invested I’m sure, and how much of those worries has filtered down to Dan Brown. Epecially with the delays in this book's release and the recent layoffs within the publisher's staff. Which would add another layer of pressure to any author.

I have to wonder if Dan Brown worries about such mundane things as, what if the Symbol isn’t as good as DVC? What if it falls flat? I know it would be a worry of mine.

How do you think you would handle such pressure as a writer? As a published author, how do you handle the doubts and pressure?

Granted, we all would love to have a blockbuster book out, but have you ever thought of how it would change your life? Your writing? Could you divorce yourself from the publicity? Would it be hard to write the next book knowing it would be read by millions of people? And by vocal critics ready to rip you apart?

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Chest Full Of Treasures

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw

I'd like to welcome my friend, Adina Pelle, to Over Coffee. Adina is a debut author of Ghost Words And Other Echoes. A book that New York Bestselling author, Warren Adler, calls "A true exploration of a woman's emotional and erotic life."

Ghost Words is a wonderful collection of short stories based on Adina's philosophical and geographic wanderings through life, and as a way to make sense of the many echoes of her memories. It's beautifully written and almost poetic in her use of imagery and the rhythm of her words.

Adina discusses what made her decide to write these thoughts down and then publish them. Her journey, so to speak.

I bow, like a pauper, before a chest full of treasures in front of all the writers and their books, with all their marvelous characters enchanting my imagination from an early age. Just like the small and insignificant creek later becomes the mighty Mississippi, the books I read and loved as a child started with a gentle prick to my imagination and blossomed in the splendor of my intellect later in life, especially when I started fancying the idea of being a writer myself. And honestly, as I type the word “writer” now, the surrealism of the concept makes me stop and scratch my head.

As I remember, when I was a kid, besides being extremely weird, imaginary friends and all, I hated going to sleep at night. I was absolutely convinced that everything remotely interesting in the world must happen after I go to sleep. It made perfect sense since life was boring and annoying during the day. Nobody liked chores or, creamed spinach, or scary Miss Chloe with her ugly mole on her chin flunking everybody in her chemistry class, so the way my mind rationalized it, all the fun things must be happening during the night.

Thirty or so years later, I maintain the same philosophy even though I do not mind creamed spinach now and Miss Chloe is but a vague memory. I don’t sleep at night and instead I wander around the house trying to look busy and efficient. Intellectually efficient at least as I usually write my stories at night...

And seriously, the story of my coming out from the folds of being a lonely insomniac and becoming a writer, packs in slightly more than lack of sleep.

I embarked on this road mostly by mistake: out of sheer boredom and some selfish therapeutic need to stare at my thoughts on paper or relive memories long buried away in my middle-aged cortex. This way I thought I spared my husband or my therapist, who, between you, me and the internet shivered every time I walked into his office, the agony of listening to my ramblings and trying to fix me.

I remember the face and calm voice of my shrink while pointing out an escape into fiction as a possible panacea to all my psychological distress and boredom, be that through reading or writing.

So, immediately following that session, I went home and stared for a couple of minutes at a blank page. Soon, I managed to put some order in the chaos of my thoughts and I was flabbergasted with the result. I wrote a short essay on the art of living and I could not get enough of the sight of my own words, orderly and rather coherently lined up against the white screen of my laptop.

From that point on, the monster I created needed to be fed. My entire life has been a social and geographic pilgrimage and it didn’t take long for me to realize my true self revolved around my travels and my imagination.

Born in the same town the roman poet Ovid lived his last years and died I came to be inspired by the written word and its power from a very early age. Ovid’s Metamorphosis was always on my desk even if for a couple of years his words made little to no sense to me.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last you create what you will.”

So there you have it. I quickly realized how I lived my entire life with the secret hope of learning the words of the universal language of human expression. How everything I did and do now starts with words and returns to being words after reaching their destination.

Just like a perfect storm, with all the details of my chagrin into place, I slowly became a committed translator of my very own and different perceptions of reality.

It is a tough road to travel. I am aware of it and I am fully expecting disappointment alongside success, but the way I see it, any disappointment, any amount of it at any point in time is preferable to a life of error.
What do you think? How have books opened worlds to you? How do they shape your perceptions of the world?


Adina Pelle was born in Constanta, the same town the roman poet Ovid lived his last years and died. Ovid’s Metamorphosis ignited her love for the written word from a very early age.

As a lonely and rather peculiar child, she was engulfed in books most of her free time. From Russian, British, French literature, love, pain, and social justice became reflected through an astonishing amount of reading.

She lived in many places all over the world before moving permanently to USA twenty years ago. This pilgrimage gave her a unique perception of the world.

She worked for years in the Art business managing Art Galleries in Philadelphia, Chicago and Pittsburgh and later became a business analyst for an insurance company. As a result, when crafting her stories she combines the dispassionate attitude of a scientist with the sensitivity and psychological understanding of an artist.

She now lives in Connecticut with her husband Stan.

You can read an excerpt:

Visit Adina's Blog: