There’s a great scene in the otherwise overrated film “Ali” (What can I say? I’m not a Michael Mann fan) when Will Smith as Muhammad Ali playfully banters with an unrecognizable Jon Voight as the legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell. At one point, Ali taunts Cosell, “I was talking to your wife the other day, and I said, ‘Listen…why are you doing this to yourself?’”
It’s my favorite moment in the film, and it’s a question I’ve been asking myself for years, from the first word I wrote for my upcoming novel Danger Peak (which was “October,” btw) to typing this blog right now: “Why am I doing this to myself?” In other words, why did I write a book? Some might assume fame and fortune, but when you live in a country that no longer reads, writing a book is probably the worst and most time-intensive method to get rich and famous. Writing a book probably won’t make me famous (thank Jeebus), but it may draw a white-hot spotlight on me, the author, for better or worse. This is anathema to introverts like me, though my editor assured me that most writers are introverts. “That’s why they write,” she quipped.
Anyway, here I am writing my first real entry in my brand-spanking new blog to promote my book. The trick I’m trying to accomplish is to draw attention to my book but not necessarily myself, which may not be possible. (This is the reason this website is named after my book and not me.) As another writer, whose name escapes me, once said, “I don’t want to be famous; I want my book to be famous.” So again, the question persists: Why?
I have two answers. First, writing a full-length book has been on my bucket list since at least my early 20s. (And no, I don’t count my self-published poetry book that sold two copies. Thanks, Mom and Dad!) When I first saw the movie “Fight Club,” and Brad Pitt asked his two stooges in the backseat of the car he was driving what they wished they accomplished in their lives before dying, I immediately thought, “Write a book.”
Going further back, I had always wanted to write a book since I was a kid. In fact, Danger Peak is based on a 30-paged short story I wrote in 1988 (hence, one of the reasons why the book takes place in the late ‘80s). It was originally titled ExciteBike, since the story was somewhat inspired by the classic, 8-bit Nintendo game, but I quickly learned that the name was copyrighted. I then changed it to Action Bike, and when I finally wrote the full-length book, an agent told me that the name was “too masculine” and would drive away half my readers, so I changed it to the more gender-friendly Danger Peak.
The second, and last, reason why I decided to finally write my book is a not-so-humble answer. I honestly feel I wrote an exciting, original story that deserves to have the widest readership possible. In a world of reboots, sequels, and prequels, it’s rare to have an excellent, original story to share, and it would be a shame for the book to be tucked in my desk drawer for the rest of my life (well, “tucked” inside my laptop computer folder). In other words, have you ever heard of another story about a brave teenaged boy who, with the help of his two best friends and eccentric technology teacher, builds a super-powered motorbike to climb and defeat the magical mountain that claimed his older brother’s life? I know I haven’t. I wrote dozens of short stories when I was a kid, but I didn’t turn any of them into full-fledged novels. This one was different. This one spoke to me, as I hope it speaks to others.
I won’t go so far as to say that I was channeling the book from a Higher Power, but I did write the main beats of the story as a child, when you’re closer to that “Other World” and have easier access to tap into that profound, supernatural energy. This is the reason kids have a much greater imagination than adults. (I love watching my youngest play with her dolls; the kid performs a full-blown soap opera.) It’s also one of the reasons why Danger Peak’s subtitle is “A Kid Adventure.” It’s about kids and being a kid — and for the kid in all of us.
So come along and join the ride, as I blog about my journey to publication. Feel free to leave a comment (no trolls, please), and don’t forget to sign up for blog updates, which will be about once a week. Enter your email address and click “Sign Up” in the opt-in box at the bottom of the Blog/FREE Book page, and once you confirm your email address in an automatically generated email, you’ll be emailed a free PDF copy of Lists, Life, and Other Unimportant Details, an over 270-paged compendium of my best blogs and published articles over the past 25 years, all assembled into a neat package. And don’t worry, I hate spam. I will never sell your information to anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
P.S.: The title of my poetry book was The Darkest Side: A Collection of Twisted Nursery Rhymes. (I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan.)
P.P.S.: I wrote this blog before Will Smith won his first Oscar for “King Richard” Sunday night (right after slapping Chris Rock). Coincidences like these always tend to pop up in my life. (For those who don’t know, Smith was first nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the movie “Ali.”)
P.P.P.S.: Next week’s blog: Why the ‘80s?
4 responses to “Why Am I Doing This to Myself?”
Interesting blog post!
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Thanks! I try, lol.
I totally believe in tapping The Source when it comes to writing—or anything else in life, really. I believe we’re all radio receivers, and that our ideas are just us listening in to the radio waves of the universe. Okay, end woo-woo now. Wishing you all the best with your book!
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