Frequently Asked Questions. Sorted by larger topics.
ABOUT THE ULTRA THIN MAN
How long did it take to write the book, and how long to publish it?
If you count when the ideas first came about, that was over a decade ago. It began as a writing exercise and a way for my brother Paul and me to keep in touch when he moved to California. There’s a bit of his work in the opening quarter of the book, and I have him to thank for the title. It wasn’t until 2009 that I picked it up again intent on finishing it, and the last 75% was written in three months. A few more months were spent on rewriting. I sent it to Tor in 2010 and waited. In June of 2012, the book offer was made. There was a rewrite in there, adding to the time Tor had the book.
What formats will the book be in?
Hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, and ebook. Audio rights belong to Tor, and they might do some sort of audio edition down the road, or concurrently.
Did your agent sell the book for you?
I sent the book directly to the editor (I knew him from years back). When the book sold, I then found my agent.
When will we see the film version?
The agency handles media rights, and almost immediately my agent sent my book to their L.A. office to start strategizing about best plans to shop it. Now, there’s never a guarantee anything will happen (most books don’t get made into movies). Sometimes, at best, a book will be “optioned,” buying the movie rights for a certain amount of time, but often those rights revert if nothing moves in that direction.
Is there going to be a sequel? When will I see it?
The Ultra Thin Man was bought in a one-book deal, but yes, I’m working on the sequel. Tor will need to see how UTM does before deciding on offering another contract. It might be another one-book deal, or perhaps, feeling confident enough about the first book’s numbers, they’ll consider several books. I’ve got a working title for the sequel, but for now I’m keeping that to myself.
ABOUT THE PUBLISHING PROCESS
Tor offered the deal for your book. Then what happened?
I worked with my agent, my editor, and the contracts departments of both Tor and Janklow & Nesbit. They came up with a “deal memo” that included rights, percentages, and what the advance money would be. I received my advance in two halves. One half on signing the contract, and one half on delivery and acceptance of the final manuscript.
What did your editor do for your book at the start?
He started going over the book for edits: what to cut, what to expand, what to tweak. I received detailed notes, and also an “editorial letter” about larger structural issues and style considerations.
So the manuscript was accepted. Then all your work as a writer was done, right?
Nope, not even close! Next came line edits. Tor brought on a copyeditor for this purpose. I looked over the copyeditor’s marked up manuscript and made changes, or kept things as they were. My editor had final say, but I was able to ask for corrections to be left alone if there were good reasons to do so.
How about that book cover?
The art department hires an artist. Generally, publishers don’t consult with the authors unless there’s a contractual obligation, but it sometimes depends on the editor. The manuscript is passed on to the art department and the art department passes it along to the artist. With the understanding that Tor’s art department can go in whatever direction needed, I was allowed to send some short character descriptions for the main characters, and a suggestion for what sort of background they could be placed against. Beyond that, writers don’t have much say.
The copyedits are complete, so NOW your work is all done. Yes?
Nope. Once Tor completed the typesetting, I received “page proofs” of the actual book pages (electronically). I still had to look at those carefully, making sure no last typos or boo-boos are in there. But it was not a time for more rewriting or major changes. Soon thereafter the book was on its way to press!
And then when it’s published, they’ll send you on a big book tour!
I did have a small tour. I had a publicist who arranged a number of events, but much of the marketing and bookstore readings and appearances were on me. At least for this first book.
ABOUT WRITING & READING
Who are your favorite authors?
For science fiction, I’m somewhat old school, growing up with Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Patricia McKillip, Joan Vinge, Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton. I could go on. Frank Herbert’s Dune single-handedly threw me into my love affair with this genre. For literary fiction, my favorites are probably Steve Erickson (not the fantasy writer), Cormac McCarthy, Jeanette Winterson, Khaled Hosseini, Toni Morrison, and John Irving. I’m a lover of mystery/crime too: Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, James Lee Burke, James W. Hall, Carl Hiassen.
Dune (Frank Herbert), Tours of the Black Clock (Steve Erickson), The Passion (Jeanette Winterson), The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck), Siddhartha (Herman Hesse), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison), A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving), The Road (Cormac McCarthy), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), Summer of the Apocalypse (James Van Pelt), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick), Get Shorty (Elmore Leonard), the Spenser books (Robert B. Parker). How about a hard to find treasure I read during college days? The Last Western by Thomas S. Klise.
How about nonfiction? Including a “really out there” nonfiction book you treasure?
The “out there” book might be Godel, Escher, Bach, even though I don’t understand most of the math! If I had to narrow nonfiction to a few all-time favorites? Teacher Man (Frank McCourt) and Young Men and Fire (Norman Maclean). Although not too much of a sports fan, I found the book Friday Night Lights (H.G. Bissinger) quite fascinating. For writing reference books, I’d go with The 10% Solution (Ken Rand), The Elements of Style (Strunk & White), Writing Down the Bones (Natalie Goldberg), and On Writing (Stephen King).
Will you pass on some writing advice?
Likely some of that sort of thing will appear on my blog.
Okay, what’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Sit down and write, and leave out all the boring parts.