The Nygren Interview; Or, My Life As A Winner (*1)

How classy does THAT sound? My buddy David Nygren, who blogs as/at The Urban Elitist, runs an occasional series of interviews with writers (of which he is himself one).

A few weeks ago, he asked if I'd answer a few questions. I said yes, and he posted the results of our e-interview today. This seems to be my week for baring my soul: first my detailed excursion into my drinking-and-drugging past, and now, the ugly facts of my so-called life as a writer.

[WARNING: what follows is digression into the politics of writing/publishing. a topic I rarely discuss here because, frankly, it's boring as hell.]

Because I used David's interview as a vehicle for violating the Great Taboo of the writing world: I talked numbers. (*2)

Among writers, numbers are the great unmentionable.  That's because some writers --- not all of them, but some --- love to play "Mine's Bigger." The "mine" in this case being the royalty statement (number of books sold) or bank account. They follow other writers' Amazon ranking (which, I'm here to tell you, don't mean much) or other publishing numbers, watching, vulture-like, for evidence that a book has "failed."

(This, by the way, is a game based on speculation, rather than fact, because none of the "public" numbers mean much of anything.)

"Failure" meaning it's not on a "bestseller" list of one kind or another. (Never mind that of the hundreds of thousands of books sold every year, only a few dozen land on a "bestseller" list. And never mind that most of those lists are representative of not much of anything.)

And when they have enough "evidence" in hand, it's pounce time: "HA HA HAAAAAAAAA! His/Her book FAILED!" Which is followed by :"He/She is a LOSER!"

Because, sadly, many writers confuse the content of one's character with the content of one's checkbook. (Apologies to Dr. King.)

I'm here to tell you: I'm not a "successful" writer. I've not made much money, or sold many books.

But if we're measuring "success" in terms of moral character or integrity, or peace of heart and mind, or "happiness," by fucking god, I'm a success.

So, long-winded way of explaining one reason why I don't hang out much with other writers, or spend time at writers' forums. (The other reason being, as I noted in the interview, that it's counter-productive. Makes more sense to hang out with the general public. That's where the action is.)

End of boring digression.


*1: With a nod to an essay I wrote a couple of years ago whose subtitle was "My Life As A Loser."

*2: If I could do it over, I'dve added another number: 18,000. That's the number of copies sold of Ambitious Brew, through December 31, 2008. Copies sold, not copies read --- because as I noted in the interview, many, many readers read used copies. Not sure how to calculate the number of copies read (including library copies). Triple the number sold? Quadruple?