My first published novel, Asking Anna, is out today as an eBook; the print book should follow next week. It’s fun and cheap and you should definitely read it. Here’s the dust-jacket description:
Maybe marriage would be like a tumor: something that grows on you with time. At least that’s what Steven Deutsch thinks as he fingers the ring in his pocket, trying to decide whether he should ask Anna Sherman to marry him. Steven is almost thirty, going on twenty, and the future still feels like something that happens to other people. Still, he knows Anna won’t simply agree to be his long-term girlfriend forever.
When Steven flies to Seattle for what should be a routine medical follow up, he brings Anna and hits on a plan: he’ll introduce her to his friends from home and poll them about whether, based on their immediate judgment, he should ask Anna. But the plan goes awry when old lovers resurface, along with the cancer Steven thought he’d beaten, and the simple scheme he hoped would solve his problem does everything but.
Asking Anna is a comedy, in the tradition of Alain de Botton’s On Love and Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, about how the baggage you bring on a trip isn’t just the kind packed in a suitcase.
I’ll be writing more about Asking Anna next week. I’ve been writing fiction with what I’d call a reasonably high level of seriousness since I was 19; I’d rather not do the math on how long ago that was, but let’s call it more than a decade. It took me four to six false starts to get to the first complete novel (as described in slightly more detail here) and another two completed novels to finish one that someone else might actually want to read. Asking Anna came a couple novels after that.
People who don’t write novels are often surprised to hear about aborted and unreadably bad novels, but producing a few before finding the knack is a pretty common trajectory among writers who, again, produce work that someone else might actually want to read (this may sound like a low standard, but even hitting it is much harder than is widely supposed). It takes a long time to really figure out how to tell a story and how to use the primary tool authors use to tell stories (words) effectively. It’s also hard to find other people who can a) know enough to give good feedback (which doesn’t mean “nice” feedback), b) who are sufficiently sympathetic to what you’re trying to do to not dismiss it outright and c) are interested enough to really talk about writing in general and one’s work in specific.
The preceding paragraph may be getting too far into the weeds of novel writing, but everything in it was a surprise to me when I finally figured it out, and surprises are often worth sharing and worth writing about.
Very congratulations etc as well. I look forward to buying/reading/reviewing it. (I think I can get that done by the end of 2014). Probably the most interesting thing about your post is the line “I’ve been writing fiction with what I’d call a reasonably high level of seriousness since I was 19”. At what age does a person achieve a reasonably high level of competence and seriousness? I think it was junior or senior year of high school that I felt I understood why literature was “important”. During college I tried to write with “seriousness” and to a limited extent succeeded — at least when compared to peers. (But my storytelling skills kind of sucked). I entered grad school in creative writing — and had improved my style and maybe my voice, but my storytelling skills didn’t seem as strong. By about 28 or 29 I felt I had mastered my voice and precise expression. For about 7 years I didn’t do any meaningful writing to speak of (though I did soak up a lot of life experience). For about 7-8 years I did genre writing and perfected it (I think early 40s is when you pull everything together and write your best). At the same time, I haven’t done any long forms, so I suspect the mechanics wouldn’t come naturally to me — though my writing skills would be up to the task. The hardest thing about writing a novel — I’m guessing — is knowing how and when to delete entire scenes or 2-3 page chunks of content. Mastering line-editing seems easier by comparison.
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