Saturday, 27 March 2010

How should you behave once you've "made it"

Well, in my humble opinion, not like this.

Here are a few excepts from that article.

Nicholas Sparks has no love for people who call his stories "romances."

The mega-best-selling author ... stands in the aisle of Book Soup, literally and figuratively defending his turf.

"If you look for me, I'm in the fiction section. Romance has its own section," he says toward the end of a long conversation. Sunshine streams in from Sunset Boulevard. He's smiling. Hard.

"I don't write romance novels." His preferred terminology: "Love stories — it's a very different genre. I would be rejected if I submitted any of my novels as romance novels."

And what, exactly is so wrong with prople calling your books romance? Why do you view that as an insult? Because you think you're better than romance writers. Don't deny it!

Sparks says: "I'm going to interrupt you there. There's a difference between drama and melodrama; evoking genuine emotion, or manipulating emotion. It's a very fine eye-of-the-needle to thread. And it's very rare that it works. That's why I tend to dominate this particular genre. There is this fine line. And I do not verge into melodrama. It's all drama. I try to generate authentic emotional power."

But, well, he always does kill someone by the end of his tales, usually to maximum handkerchief effect.

"Of course!" Sparks says. "I write in a genre that was not defined by me. The examples were not set out by me. They were set out 2,000 years ago by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. They were called the Greek tragedies. A thriller is supposed to thrill. A horror novel is supposed to scare you. A mystery is supposed to keep you turning the pages, guessing 'whodunit?'

"A romance novel is supposed to make you escape into a fantasy of romance. What is the purpose of what I do? These are love stories. They went from (Greek tragedies), to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, then Jane Austen did it, put a new human twist on it. Hemingway did it with A Farewell to Arms."'

He puts himself in the same class as Austen, Shakespere and Hemmingway? You don't do that, other people do that for you.

And even if you were as great as Shakespeare, you're still writing fiction. I highly doubt even Shakespeare has actually changed anyone's life. Convinced someone not to divorce their husband or wife, convinced an alcoholic to quit, made a murderer rethink things and put down the knife.

You are a romance writer, you write fictional stories that people enjoy reading. You are not performing open heart surgery, you are not raising money for starving children, you are not campaigning for new laws to improve peoples lives. You are a writer who is very successful.

End of story.

Cormac McCarthy? "Horrible," he says, looking at Blood Meridian. "This is probably the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written."...

Sparks' favorite tale of youth? "I think A Walk to Remember," he says, citing his own novel. "That's my version of a coming-of-age." He pauses and adds: "You have to sayTo Kill a Mockingbird is an all-time classic."

Any he thinks are overrated?

"I don't like to say bad things about others."

Except McCarthy? "He deserves it," Spark says with a laugh.

Asked what he likes in his own genre, Sparks replies: "There are no authors in my genre. No one is doing what I do."

When others (James Patterson?) are suggested to him, he keeps his lips pursed

And now you have the gall to look down on other, equally or more successful authors. Sure, you don't like to "say bad things" yet somehow you still make your contempt palpable.

In my experience, only those who feel they are lacking feel the need to look down on others. People who are happy with who they are, what they do and how they live don't feel the need to denigrate others. And most certainly not in a public forum.

Secretly, Mr Sparks, you think you are a romance writer (he even calls his books romance a few times) and you hate the fact you're making your living on something you see as cheap and tawdry.

Well, Mr Sparks, who gives a crap? Your readers? Obviously not, they keep buying your books. If your readers are happy, why cant you be? What does it matter if some hack calls your books romance? Why should a total strangers opinion bother you so very much?

It shouldn't. You have written your books, done your best but once you publish, how the public interpret your work is out of your hands. You cannot control how other people see your work and bitching and whining just makes you look petty.

When the interview is over, he has a question of his own.

"You going to call it a romance novel?" he asks.

I had a boyfriend once (we'll call him PSX) who looked down on the working class. Hated them. PSX was a successful businessman, living abroad and seemingly content in his life, yet he had this utter contempt for the working class that I couldn't understand.

I am middle class, privately educated and just as happy in a 5 star restaurant as in a working class house. All through our relationship PSX kept grilling me on middle class behaviour. How did I know how many dinner settings to buy, how did I know which knife and fork to use, how to serve tea properly etc. Then he'd get in little digs, like wasn't I thick to call a toilet a loo, a desert a pudding and I was very foul mouthed for someone "supposedly" middle class.

I have to say, his opinion didn't bother me, I know who I am, I don't feel bad when I use terms like loo, I really don't swear that often, and I wont apologise for the times when I do because I'm usually under stress at those times. And most importantly, I'm not trying to be someone I'm not. I'm me. Love me or loath me, I am who I am and I make no apologies for that.

I've mixed with enough working class people over the years. 2 boyfriends were firmly in the working class camp and happy with it. They didn't mind my middle classness any more than I minded them being working class. I respected them as people and loved them for who they were. And so what if they forgot to put their napkin on their lap sometimes? It's only a napkin, not the end of the world.

I've also done my share of manual labour over the years, jobs I took over the holidays and part time while in college. Sure, a lot of the people I worked with couldn't converse on the finer points of Wagner or discuss the merits of the new Poet Laureate, but who cares? They were nice, fun, decent people. And that's the key, they were people. It doesn't matter how much money you have in the bank, everyone's shit stinks.

Just because I was raised differently than those people, doesn't make me a better person. Or a worse person.

Gradually I have come to the realisation that only pretenders look down on others.

PSX was raised working class and although his whole family have elevated themselves in status, he still feels like a pretender. He still looks down on where he came from like there's something wrong with it because he doesn't want people to think he's one of them.

And Nicholas Sparks looks down on romance writers because he knows that's essentially what he does. He can dress it up however he wants, but love story is just another way of saying romance. But he doesn't want to be a romance writer so he tries to distance himself from them and looks down on them.

Let it go, Nicholas. Trust me, you are never going to change the mind of everyone else in the world. The only person you have any power over is you. So embrace your inner romantic and learn to be proud of what you do, no matter what someone else calls it.

You'll be much happier in the long run!

My books are probably the soap opera of writing. They're fantasy books who's only job is to entertain. Call them whatever the hell you want to, I don't care. If they entertained you, I'm happy. If you didn't like them, I'm sorry but maybe I'm not for you. I haven't liked every book I've ever read.

Call them cheap, tawdry and melodramatic if you want to. Maybe you're right and they are. I didn't set out to write the new Crime and Punishment or to win a Booker prize. I offer you my book for your enjoyment, what you make of it is entirely up to you and wont affect my self image. I know what it is that I write, and I'm happy with it.

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