Thursday, June 2, 2011
Springsteen & Me: Taking Control of Your Writing Career
For those of you thinking this is a post about Bruce Springsteen and me, let me say right here that it is not. I do not know Bruce Springsteen. Of course I know who he is, but until quite recently I hadn’t followed him. So, if you’re interested in Springsteen’s music stop reading now. This post is about how Bruce Springsteen inspired me to take control of my career, and how those of us who are creative can learn from what he did.
In October of 2010 I was having a beer with my publisher. But he wasn’t my publisher then. He was my friend. I didn’t even realize Chris was a publisher until that conversation. Christopher Meeks is a writer who I met attending grad school at USC. We were both aspiring writers on the—then, fledgling—Professional Writing Program. Chris told me he was publishing one of our old professors, acclaimed playwright and novelist, David Scott Milton.
Chris learned his publishing skills working for Peter McWilliams, and has gone on to self-publish two short story collections, a novel and a play. For more on Chris and Peter McWilliams go HERE.
During that conversation in October, Chris mentioned an HBO documentary he’d seen about Bruce Springsteen. It seems after the success of the first album, Springsteen realized he was under the control of his (then) manager. As is typical (I guess) in the music business, the contract Springsteen signed gave his manager total creative control forever. That didn’t sit well with Bruce. In fact, he gambled his future on ending that contract. Springsteen decided he could never record again under those conditions.
Bruce, along with the members of the E Street Band were young, and hungry—but not hungry enough to give away creative control. He’d rather go back to obscurity than turn his ideas over to a gatekeeper. He was an artist. An artist needs to control his art. He didn’t record for three years.
They could have caved to the pressure and made a living, but he stuck to his guns, not recording for THREE WHOLE YEARS. The special is about those years and the first album they recorded after he waited out his manager. Springsteen called the album “a meditation on where are you going to stand.”
I was impressed with the story my friend Chris told about artistic integrity. Luckily, one Saturday afternoon I was flipping channels and saw the documentary was again on HBO. I watched it. It is a brilliant special. It changed me. The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge of Town. The documentary is acclaimed for how he created the music. I love it for the message it sends to those of us struggling out here in the creative community.
Soon after I saw it I asked Chris and White Whisker to be the publisher of Boyfriend From Hell, along with the two other novels in the saga. Why? I was with Tor, a division of McMillan/St. Martin’s Press—a Big Six Publisher. I loved my editor. My first novel , Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, sold very well. But I was not happy with the relationship. There was a disconnect. My editor loved my second novel, but her boss didn’t. They pitched me something else. I went to work on it. But every time I would do a reading or let someone read Boyfriend From Hell, they’d say, this is a great book. So I asked Chris to take a look at it. Fortunately, he thought it was a great book, too.
Me, I think it’s a terrific book. But I am the author. What do I know? I want to let you, the reader, decide. I can’t do that if it’s not out there. One of the E Street band members said “Bruce is a man with a vision, and at the same time he’s a man in search of a vision.” That is exactly how I see myself, constantly in search of the vision inside my head. But aren't we all like that?
When the Never Slow Dance With A Zombie movie option lapsed, I decided to shop the movie myself. I want to do it as a musical. My agent and many others don’t get this idea. Dancing zombies! Come on! That’s a great idea. At least it is to me. I don’t know if I will get it done, but I am in control this time. It feels good.
I am thankful that Chris is delighted with Boyfriend From Hell. Just as many of you decided what cover should go on the book, I want my work in your hands, and not the hands of some gatekeeper. Mind you, I had already published two horror novels under the pseudonym, Sal Conte, back when I was in grad school. I have a twenty plus year career writing TV and film and have been nominated for both an Oscar and an Emmy. So I knew my work wasn’t crap. But can I write paranormal YA?
Like Springsteen, I wanted to be in control of my ideas. I was inspired by him to take control of my career. Is the book good? You will let me know. Can I have a career as a YA author? You will let me know. I’d rather hear it from you than some gatekeeper.
Today I found out the ARCs will be in on the 13th. Reviews will follow. I will know very soon what people think of the book. I am now in total control of my career. I’m not a kid. I need to do everything I can to make this damn thing work. It’s daunting yet exciting. I feel invigorated. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you in advance if you leave a comment. I hope some of you will. I hope all of you read the book. I also hope this inspires some of you who have been sitting on the self-publishing/Indy-publishing fence to take a stand. We can be each other’s cheer leaders. Take control of your careers.
That’s the story behind Boyfriend From Hell, and how I started taking control of my career. Here we go.