Friday, February 08, 2008

The School For Scandal

The Guardian had an article on Tuesday by Levi Asher, the New York writer who founded Literary Kicks. LitKicks here is a website that highlights contributions of poetry and prose.

Asher's article, titled "How To Avoid Author Scandals," offers eight rules for writers to remember:

1. Do not use the word "memoir" unless you mean it.

2. If you're not sure whether what you're writing is a memoir or not, guess what? It's a novel.

3. No more than half a page of plagiarism per book.

4. Don't make up exact dates that you can't remember. Instead, be general: "The most important day of my life was the day of my son's birth, in the summer of 2005 ..."

5. Just say no to sending a friend out in public with a wig as you.

6. If you're in a flame war and you're about to go sock puppet, take a 10-minute break and go to a coffee shop without a wi-fi facility. Maybe the walk will cool you down.

7. Go ahead and make up dialogue. Everybody except Tom Wolfe does.

8. Pick a name. "Benjamin Black is John Banville" is just not a good look.

Readers of this blog will recognize the scandals and just plain quirkiness that prompted Asher's list.

Rule #1 refers to Timothy Patrick Barrus AKA Native American writer Nasdijj among others. You can read about him here.

Both Rule #2 and Rule #4 might apply to James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces. You can read about him here.

Kaavya Viswanathan needed to read Rule #3 before writing her first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. Read about her here.

Laura Albert should have read Rule #5 before sending her half sister out in a wig to pretend to be Albert's alter ego J.T. Leroy. Read about her here.

If reporter Michael Hiltzik had read Rule #6, he might still be writing his column and Internet blog for the Los Angeles Times. Read his story here.

Rule #7 probably refers to Tom Wolfe's last novel, I am Charlotte Simmons. After that novel, Wolfe had to leave his publisher of forty-two years to get the advance he wanted for his next book. Read a sample review here.

Asher obviously is not a fan of an author taking multiple names in order to write in different genres. Here's a blogger who feels the same way.

Reading Asher's article was like taking a stroll down memory lane to revisit some of the most infamous scandals of the last two years.


Kaz Augustin said...

Great blog, Maya, and thank you for the explanations...I missed a couple of those.

Re Rule #8 (the names thang), I can understand where an author may want completely different names. If, say, I'm writing erotic romance and have a YA published, I'm not going to have that release under my romance pen-name. I'd choose something different, together with a completely different website, so I don't unintentionally upset any visitors.

In the case of two genres of adult fiction, I like Iain Banks' solution. He writes literature under Iain Banks and science-fiction under Iain M Banks. I can live with that.

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, Kaz. As an erotic romance writer, I feel the same way you do. I would not want to risk offending a reader of another genre by publishing under the same name.

Even someone as popular as Nora Roberts did not risk hurting her "brand." When she began writing harder edged futuristic police procedurals, she used the pseudonym, J.D. Robb. Only after the Robb audience was consolidated did she start putting "Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb on her books."

John Arkwright said...

As a 9 year student (through the PhD) and a professor for 19 years, I thought Wolfe's Dupont (Duke) mostly captured the experience.

I have known those frat boys and athletes who could not construct a sentence without a four letter word. I have seen so so so many young women get away from home and look for approval in all the wrong ways.

I was in graduate school when I attended the huge school that wanted to be a top sports school, so I don't have experience about Rocks for Jocks or Frere Jocks.

But Wolfe's style is journalistic, and since he gets so much right, I trust him on the other stuff.