December 9, 2009 I don’t gush autobiographical for a reason.
In my queries a lot of agents want to know about me. “What is it about you that makes you uniquely qualified to write this book?”
Nothing. Picking Up the Ghost is about a poor, African-American kid dealing with ghosts and voodoo in a run down Midwest town. I’m a white, software engineer from San Diego who reads too many comics. But I wrote the book anyway, I used research and imagination.
But they want to be able to market fiction like they market celebrity biographies. Someone they can sell on the talk show circuit. Like James Frey, the Million Little Pieces guy.
Are good writers really that interesting when you put them on paper? Or even better, are financially successful writers interesting on paper? Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown. You know what else these people have in common? They’re not story material.
The only thing interesting about King was his cocaine addiction and that was after he’d hit the best seller list. J.K. Rowling’s life was a struggle but she kept that to herself even as the first Harry Potter book took off. She even kept her gender a secret at first. Meyer was a housewife with fantasies about 17 year old boys.
I’m not saying that these people aren’t interesting in conversation. In fact I’d love to talk to any one of them. I’m just saying their stories, the stories of their lives, like most of us, are pretty dull.
If my success as a writer is determined by how interesting my life has been then I’m doomed because I’ve been working as a software engineer on accounting software for the last five years. I have to believe that the agents are wrong. I’ve been rejected by over twenty of them so of course they’re wrong.
Or maybe I could fictionalize myself. It worked for Hunter S. Thompson, Baron Munchausen and Grant Morrison.