Thursday, September 07, 2006

Savannah... Wow....

Okay. This book tour road trip thing is amazing - and challenging. Definitely. I naively didn't realize how many reschedulings and adds there would be every day along the way. It's okay, I can handle it. Um... when do I sleep?

I am going to be a basket case by next week, never mind November.

I'm in Savannah, now. I got here at dusk and it is raining like --- hell --- but I just bought an umbrella (for a California girl the idea of packing an umbrella in SEPTEMBER... sheesh...) and walked right out into historic downtown Savannah.


Now, maybe it's partly the rain, and partly I'm a sucker for brick and Spanish moss - and ghosts - but this city is AMAZING. It's so beautiful and soft and wet and lacy and fucked up all at once. The river. The cobblestones. The fantasic park squares canopied in oaks, every two blocks. The air (you could really just lie back and sleep on it...) The Cotton Exchange (you want to talk about ghosts? The hair is still standing up on the back of my neck...)

I am as wet as it is possible for a human being to be, without having gone deep sea diving in my clothes, and my new umbrella got blown inside out, but I am FULL of stories already. It's like walking into a full-scale diorama of Pirates of the Caribbean, only - American. I only came back in because a lot of speedy reprobate men were starting to hand me these odd little flowers made of some golden fibery plant material I still can't identify (sugar cane??) but which must have some historic significance, because they're just everywhere. I was afraid to linger long enough to ask. I've read ALICE IN WONDERLAND, okay? (But so, what happens if I eat one? Enquiring minds want to know...)

I really think I need to live here for a while and just see what happens. The writing would be unbelievable, I know.

Give me a port town any day, and I'm home.

Must make all kinds of notes now, but FYI I'm guest blogging for May at tomorrow (blog post immediately below).

You know, last words, in case I end up nibbling on one of these golden flowers as a midnight snack and never being heard from again.

Honestly, it's tempting...


Writing is My Insanity

In keeping with the title of May’s blog, I thought the topic for my guest blog was pretty obvious.

My Insanity–is writing.

People always think it’s so cool when you tell them you’re a writer. These are clearly people who are not writers. Writing is a really startlingly crazy thing to do–it just doesn’t always look like it from the outside because it involves so much, well, sitting. But what goes on inside my head–WHO in their right mind would want to be inside my mind?

So why do I write? That’s absurdly simple–I can’t help myself. It’s a ompulsion. I know I’m not alone, there, because I know writers. My friends are writers, I work with writers in the WGA, I run a message board for over 1800 professional screenwriters–so I know. Writers run toward the neurotic, the anxiety-prone, the
obsessive, the compulsive, the obsessive-compulsive, the bipolar - and often all at once. (See Kay Jamison’s excellent TOUCHED WITH FIRE for an analysis of the creative temperament and bipolar disorder.) In fact, I’m quite sure someday someone will identify writing as a form of OCD and there will be a simple medication we can take. Not that most of us WILL take it, of course, because like bipolar people, we writers get off on our disease.

And yes, I think writing, actual writing for a living, is a disease.

Because, look - it’s certainly not EASE, now, is it?

An artist friend of mine recently asked me what was the biggest sacrifice I’ve ever made for my art. This is a good question. There are a million sacrifices, all the time. But my actual answer surprised me. My biggest sacrifice has been peace of mind (and possibly my immortal soul, but that’s another blog. Actually it’s my next novel. Well, all right, never mind.)

Here’s the perfect example of what I’m talking about. My first book, THE HARROWING, comes out this weekend. My first book. Everyone keeps asking me, “Aren’t you excited?” Well, aren’t I? MY FIRST BOOK. Published. In fine bookstores near you. I should be on Cloud Nine.

Instead, I’m still frantically arranging different promotional ploys. I’m trying to keep up with the whole Internet thing (The Dark Salon Blog, MySpace, Writer Action, my own website). I’m trying to pack for my tour. I’m reaching out to libraries. I’m trying to figure out Vertical Response so I can send out an announcement. I’m putting the last touches on my second book, THE PRICE (due in to St. Martin’s on Sept.1), and already, compulsively, outlining the third one.

When do I just stop and celebrate?

The answer is–I won’t. I won’t STOP, anyway. I’m certain to do some celebrating at the many conventions I’m going to on tour this fall. Thank God for conventions–they make me feel I have something resembling a life. In fact, by the time you read this, I’ll be in New Orleans with my friend and soul-sister Heather Graham at her Writers for New Orleans Workshop, talking with Heather and Christine Feehan and Cherry Adair and Deborah Leblanc about vampires and ghosts and other things we love that go bump in the night and taking ghost carriage rides and performing some spooky, sexy musical thing with Heather again for the Saturday show. So, you know–it’s not that I can’t party with the best of them. Since I know that’s coming, I can delay some gratification for another week, right? Maybe the actual definition of professional writing is just that: delayed gratification.

And when I actually, finally HAVE to celebrate, I’m pretty darn good at it.

I asked a friend of mine (who as a retired librarian and library liaison of Sisters in Crime knows everything there is to know about authors and the book biz) if it was weird and abnormal of me to be so NOT excited, and she said that it probably had a lot to do with the fact that (as a screenwriter) I’ve been in the writing business for so long, now. It’s true (and I was relieved to hear someone else be so logical about it.). I’ve made my living at writing for a good long time, now, and I know that the external satisfaction is fleeting and insubstantial.

So if seeing my book in bookstores is not the payoff, and if good reviews are not the payoff, and if being contacted for TV and radio interviews is not the payoff, and having total strangers write me
(already!) and tell me how much they loved my book is not the pay off (although I have to admit that’s pretty startlingly wonderful!)…

What IS the payoff, exactly?

The payoff is simply–FINISHING.

I write because there are these people inside my head who are so real to me that I can’t rest until I make them real for other people. Because for some reason I feel an immense, endless obligation to these people–to let them out of my head into the world. I do all this endless, constant, obsessive thing I do - for the sake of IMAGINARY people.

How crazy is that?

But that–is the only–fleeting–peace.

That’s my insanity. And I love it.


Anonymous said...

So odd that you're in Savannah, b/c I *finally* got around to reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil this week, and had marked a passage to type in here for you:

from the Savannah Morning News, April 2, 1914:


Decides That Sadie Jefferson Is Not Insane

It is no indication of insanity to tango. This was settled yesterday by a lunacy commision which decided that Sadie Jefferson is sane. It was alleged the woman tangoed all the way to police headquarters recently when she was arrested.

Isn't that bizarre and hilarious? After reading John Berendt's book I've been wishing I could go to Savannah for a month and start a new novel. :)

Alexandra Sokoloff said...


And being here I can so see it happening. The streets are just made for dancing (on the way to jail!).

I could live here for years! Definitely a book or two here.

Patry Francis said...

I've always wanted to go to Savannah; and now, after reading your post, I'm with you: I think I'll have to live there at some point.

Enjoy that book tour, rain and all; and if you get to Cape Cod--or even Boston, I'll be there!

Maryelizabeth said...

Excellent way to enjoy Savannah. We always try to spend a little time there beyond driving in and out of the airport when we visit my M-I-L on Hilton Head Island. :)

Richard Cooper said...

I spent eight days in Savannah one summer and didn't want to leave either. The ghosts of Savannah, like those of New Orleans, are very compelling…

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Yeah, Richard, it's the ghosts, isn't it? I don't really go around LOOKING for ghosts - but there are certain places that they're just, well, there.

I wasn't in Savannah long enough to know what kind of ghosts, yet. New Orleans ghosts I'm familiar with - all levels!

Nashville is supposed to be very haunted, too, but I think it's haunted more like LA is haunted. Unfulfilled dreams that linger.