J.K. Rowling has pulled her own short-lived “Richard Bachman.” Richard Bachman is the pseudonym that Stephen King wrote seven books under before his true authorship was revealed—not by an anonymous tip but by a shrewd reader who recognized the master’s hand.
What is interesting to me about the J.K. Rowling story, featured in the New York Times, is that in-spite of having what must have been the enthusiastic support of “his” publishing house, publicist, and what I can only imagine must be a stellar literary agent, with reviews that would make any author’s heart Electric Slide with joy, “Robert Galbraith” sold 500* books. I am not putting that amount down. I should be so lucky and hope to be. It is EXCELLENT for us mere mortals, but it certainly is not J.K. Rowling standards. I am happy for her that anonymously she garnered critical acclaim, but is a good book not good enough?
Author Patrick Wensink’s candid essay My Amazon Bestseller Made Me Nothing revealed that his book sales of 4000 copies did not make him any money. Do you need to be already famous to succeed? It would seem that literary success can’t be measured only by copies sold or profits banked. J.K. Rowling found success in the freedom to create and be evaluated apart from her fame. I find that situation far from being discouraging, but rather, one in which a writer can challenge herself and perhaps even succeed on her own terms.
*a correction from the original amount of 1500 which was the hardcover print run and not the actual number of books sold.
“To write is to risk being misread or misunderstood. Words that survive their author are cut loose. They drift, take new shape, sprout new meanings. And there is always their ordinary ambiguity.”
I have taken a little bit of heat for my short stories that I do not feel is justified. After giving the criticism some consideration, I’ve concluded my stories are not for everyone, and misunderstanding can’t be avoided. Some people can only hear what they already believe.
It is the responsibility of the serious writer to remind the reader of their mortality. Whether that be through the visceral communication of the beauty and humour of humanity and creation, or the humility of impending tragedy, either work puts to good use the time of the writer and the reader.
I don’t believe that poets have more feelings than people that are not artistically inclined. I think poets allow their feelings to live their lives more unencumbered than is common. That freedom overflows to the page.
I have given myself permission to experience my emotions as intense as they are, and to respond to that intensity without concern for the scrutiny of observers.
It is a self-sustaining system. You affirm your feelings and they intensify. Likewise, if you suppress your feeling, you will know them less and less until you will not be able to say or write about them with accuarcy.
I was once in a theatre full of people, at a concert, where I was the only one dancing. I don’t think that happened because I am irrepressible and the only one present that experienced the music as moving. I was just willing to be publicly devastated by it.