Tag: writers

Jessica Knoll sitting at a table in a restaurant

Jessica Knoll Set Out to Be Successful. Why Is That a Bad Thing?

March 21st saw The Cut’s publication of Maggie Bullock’s interview with bestselling author of Luckiest Girl Alive and The Favorite Sister, Jessica Knoll. The interview is entitled “How to Be a Writer and Still Get Really, Really Rich,” and is part of a series called Get That Money, described by The Cut as ‘an exploration of the many ways we think about our finances — what we earn, what we have, and what we want. As part of the series, we’re interviewing women about how they feel about their bank balances.’ The interview features Knoll—whose first book Luckiest Girl Alive is being made into a film by Reese Witherspoon, and whose second book The Favorite Sister is being adapted for television by the producers of Big Little Lies—discussing, in no uncertain terms, how she deliberately set out to write a New York Times bestseller, and intended to become extremely wealthy from writing. She says of the initial sale of the book: “We had an offer from Simon & Schuster. It was quite a large number, but then two more offers came in over the next couple of days and we were able to negotiate and get it even higher. My feeling was, “Yeah, this is exactly what I expected.”’ Knoll goes on to explain that she aspires to Shonda Rhimes-level success, saying “The secret sauce is being an author who can adapt her own material. Then you’re not only looking at the money that the publisher is going to pay you, you’re looking at the money that the studio, network, whatever is going to pay you. And the royalties you’re going to make because the book is on everyone’s radar.”

Her candidness and openness about her motivations is unlike anything I have ever seen from an author, and though personally, I found it extremely interesting and refreshing, it has enraged and seemingly disgusted many.

On TwitterThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author John Boyne called the piece “One of the most depressing author interviews [he’s] ever read,” accuses Knoll of having “no humility, no interest in writing a good book,’ and “bragging about money, movie stars and Porsches.” He ends the tweet by claiming that “Only someone with absolutely zero self-awareness could talk like this.”

At the time of writing, Boyne’s tweet has no less than 108 replies, the majority of which agree with him, saying things like “there’s a writer whose work I never need to read,” wondering how she can be a writer of fiction when she appears to have “so little empathy,” with one person simply commenting “I think she’s awful.” Of course there are those who interject to point out that Knoll was being interviewed specifically about her finances, not her inspiration or writing process, and that humility is not necessarily a prerequisite for writers, but the majority of responses are in agreement with Boyne: that Knoll is a superficial, inherently bad person, whose writing they will never go near.

Elsewhere on Twitter, the sentiment is similar. Knoll “may be a great writer but seems like a really terrible human being,” says one person, while another calls the interview “a perfect hate read.”

 

The Favorite Sister book cover and Jessica Knoll
Image Via Paperbacks Paris

 

I object to this line of thinking. People intentionally become wealthy in myriad ways. I don’t think it’s fair to vilify someone for combining their talent and business sense to do so. In my opinion, it’s snobbery and silly artistic gatekeeping to suggest that she has no empathy or is a bad person for admitting to doing that. The most irksome thing about the interview is the part wherein she mentions that upon purchasing her Porsche, the dealer looked to her husband to confirm her income. That, to me, is what people should be irritated about.

As she mentions in this interview, and speaks about in greater detail elsewhere, Knoll had a hugely traumatic experience as a teenager, which led to an eating disorder and also inspired Luckiest Girl Alive. I would argue that it makes perfect sense and is completely reasonable for someone with Knoll’s past to seek financial security, to be able to afford good therapy, to be able to afford a home. She saw an opportunity, she knew she could do it and do it right, and so she did.

I don’t think artists should get to tell other artists that the reasons they’ve created their work are wrong, especially not writers who have also made a fortune doing what Knoll does. Why is she wrong to want what they have, too? Because one is not supposed admit to wanting it? And one is just supposed to smile politely to oneself when it does happen, and never be so vulgar as to discuss it or admit that it’s an advantage or that they wanted, or God forbid expected, it to happen?

I was relieved to see that I am not the only one irritated by the general reaction to this interview. Among the responses on Twitter were many, mainly from women, who say they are ‘fascinated’ (a word used, interestingly, a number of times) by Knoll’s honesty and praise her for achieving her goals, and I am among them. I have never in my life seen a writer, much less a woman, be so frank about their financial goals and about wielding their talent and knowledge of the industry (Knoll was an editor at Cosmo and was working at Self at Condé Nast when Luckiest Girl Alive was published) in order to get where they wanted to go.

Writer Emma Flynn dismissed Boyne’s point, tweeting ‘I hate the idea that there’s something inherently noble about being a writer.’

I agree with her. It’s ridiculous to denigrate someone for not having the same, apparently vocational, motivations for writing that you deem necessary for the writing to be considered valuable or the writer to be considered legitimate. Is success supposed to be just an unlikely side effect of being a writer, one that, however pleasant it may be, we are not supposed to admit is desirable, and certainly not a motivation? As Flynn says, the idea that writing must be an ‘inherently noble’ pursuit, seems notional. Of course, most writers write for the sheer joy of it, the passion for it, the need for it, the urge. But who’s to say Knoll doesn’t do that too? She has spoken in the past of how writing Luckiest Girl Alive was incredibly cathartic for her and a way of dealing with her trauma,  she is a big reader and among her favorite books are Bright Lights Big City, The Bell Jar and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Knoll is a bonafide writer, a bestselling author, there are both film and television adaptation of her work in production and fair play to her for being as involved as possible in these projects. But even if she hadn’t otherwise discussed her love of reading and writing, and The Cut interview was only one she ever gave, I would still object to criticism of her ‘lack of humility’, or the interview being ‘a hate read.’ Knoll saw her chance, recognized her own abilities, used her position and secured for herself the success she desired. That is to be admired.

 

Featured Image Via WWD.com

 

 

5 Authors Who Were Also Murderers

Just because you wrote a good book doesn’t mean you haven’t killed someone. In fact, just because you haven’t written a good book doesn’t mean you haven’t killed someone. Heck, you could not write a book, not intend to write a book, and still kill someone. But that’s not what this site is about. This site is about books, and occasionally the worlds of literature and murder overlap. Here are 5 authors who murdered someone.

 

5. William S. Burroughs

 

As the story goes, he didn’t mean to kill her, but he did. Key member of the Beat Generation, William S Burroughs appears in Jack Kerouac’s breakout 1957 novel On The Road. Written on one long scroll of paper so he didn’t have to change pages on his typewriter, Jack Kerouac wrote this iconic piece of literature in three weeks in April of 1951, fuelled by coffee. William S. Burroughs was the inspiration behind On The Road‘s character of Old Bull Lee.

 

William S Burroughs sitting at his type writer, hands folded in lap, looking at camera.
IMAGE VIA FAMOUS AUTHORS

William S. Burroughs had his own writing career long before On The Road was published. In fact, his first novel, Junkie, was released in 1953, a first-person narrative about a man struggling with heroin addiction. This novel was published initially under the pseudonym William Lee.

 

Book cover for William Burrough's 'Junkie'
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

But let’s go back to 1951. While in Mexico City, the story goes that Burroughs and his second wife, Joan Vollmer, were drunk. Plus, word has it that Joan was undergoing withdrawal from a heavy amphetamine habit.  Drunk and a little high, they decided to play William Tell.

For those who don’t know, William Tell is a game in which one plays shoots an apple off the top of another person’s head, usually with a crossbow, however in this instance, Joan placed a highball glass on top of her head and William S. Burroughs used a pistol to attempt to shoot it off. Unfortunately, he missed.

 

William S. Borrough's wife, Joan
IMAGE VIA OPEN CULTURE

 

While awaiting trial, Burroughs wrote the novel Queer about a young man looking for Yage, a hallucinogen, in South American. At the end of his trial, Burroughs was given a two-year suspended sentence and in 1959 his magnum opus, Naked Lunch, was published.

 

William S. Burroughs holding a shot gun in a garden, looking at camera.
IMAGE VIA THE TOOLBOX

 

William Seward Burroughs II, post-modernist author and primary figure of the Beat Generation, died on August 2nd, 1997 at the age of eighty-three.

 

5. Anne Perry

 

Anne Perry with arms folded looks at camera, lightly smiling
IMAGE VIA PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE SPEAKERS BUREAU

 

Author of the Thomas Pitt detective series and the William Monk detective series, Anne Perry is an English author whose life story was the basis for Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures. Released in 1994, the film follows the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case about two teenage friends, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, who eventually murdered Parker’s mother.

Parker was sixteen at the time, while Hulme was fifteen. According to The True Crime Library, in Christchurch, New Zealand the girls bludgeoned  the woman to death with half a brick enclosed in an old stocking before running into town and claiming that Parker’s mother had fallen and hit her head.

 

Movie poster for Heavenly Creatures
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Their story fell apart upon closer inspection and the two were arrested. Too young for the death penalty, the girls each received five years in prison.

At the time of the film’s production and release, it was not known that upon her release from prison, Juliet Hulme had changed her name to Anne Perry.

After the film was release and Perry’s identity discovered, the New Zealand Herald claims that, “…Perry has told the London Times Saturday Magazine that although they were never lesbians the relationship was obsessive”.

On her website, Anne Perry write that, “I began the ‘Monk’ series in order to explore a different , darker character, and to raise questions about responsibility, particularly that of a person for acts he cannot remember. How much of a person’s identity is bound up in memory?”

 

3. Blake Leibel

Not everyone who authors graphic novels with graphic descriptions of murder is a murderer themselves, but this guy is.

Blake Leibel wearing glasses look at camera in black and white photograph
IMAGE VIA NATIONAL POST

In 2015 the graphic novel Syndrome was published, containing graphic depictions of bloodletting and, straight from CBS Los Angeles, it transpires that Blake Leibel murdered his girlfriend  and left her body “drained of all of her blood in a crime that a prosecutor said mirrored the script of a graphic novel he co-wrote.”

 

Blake Leibel and Iana Kasian
IMAGE VIA NATIONAL POST

The Los Angeles Times also notes that Leibel “was expressionless. Dressed in a yellow jail shirt and blue scrubs, he uttered only one word, answering “yes” when the judge asked if he would waive his appearance at an upcoming court hearing”.

He was convicted in June 2018.

 

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Image Via Los Angeles Times

Before his graphic novel he worked on 2008’s Spaceballs: The Animated Series, based on the 1987 film by Mel Brooks, as a creative consultant.

 

2. Liu Yongbiao

 

Liu Yongbiao standing next to statue with hand on his foot
IMAGE VIA FOR READING ADDICTS

Back in 2005, Chinese writer Liu Yongbiao broke onto the scene with his story collection, A Film, which won China’a highest provincial critical achievement: the Anhui Literature Prize. In 2010, his novel about a writer implicated in a wave of unsolved murders, The Guilty Secret, was published.

In 2013, he cemented his literary status when he was  elected to the China Writers Association.

 

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Image Via All That’s Interesting

In 1995, on November 29th, 1995, Liu and a friend, Wang Mouming, checked in a guesthouse. All That’s Interesting tells that they had “the intention of robbing other guests” but “[w]hen the two were caught stealing by a guest, Wang and Liu are believed to have used clubs and hammers to kill the guest as well as the guesthouse’s two owners (an elderly couple) and their thirteen-year-old grandson in order to completely cover their tracks.”

Twenty-two years later, Shanghaiist reported that blood samples led investors to the fifty-three-year-old writer and the sixty-four-year-old legal consultant.

 

Liu Yongbiao in custody
IMAGE VIA SOCIAL NEWS DAILY

The NY Post states that Liu told the investagors who arrested him that, “I’ve been waiting for you all this time”.

 

1. Mark “Chopper” Read

Chopper with two guns crossed over his chest and two in his waistband
Image Via Pinterest

Have you read Mr. Read’s work? He wrote crime novels and a several children’s book, one of which was called Hooky the Cripple: The Grim Tale of the Hunchback Who Triumphs, published in 2002 by Pluto Press and illustrated by Adam Cullen.

According to ABC News, Mark Read spent his early ears by robbing drug dealers before kidnapping and torturing members of the criminal underworld. Eventually, he was caught and charged with armed robbery, assault, and kidnapping. Perth Now reports that he only spent only thirteen months outside of prison between the ages of thirty and thirty-eight. He also cut off his ears in prison.

Later in life, Mark Read found solace in writing.

 

Mark 'Chopper' Read with a cigar in his mouth and sunglasses on standing in front of a wall graffitied yellow and red
IMAGE VIA THE TELEGRAPH

In 1991 he wrote the story of his life Chopper, from the inside: The confessions of Mark Brandon Read and several other non-fiction books, but has also dabble in children’s literature.

 

Book cover for Hooky the Cripple featuring a hand holding a bloody knife
IMAGE VIA GOODREADS

There have been several attempts to ban Hooky the Cripple, but movie based around his life, 2000’s Chopper, which stars Eric Bana, received critical praise upon its release.

Back in 2013, Read told the  New York Times  Read said of his past, “Look, honestly, I haven’t killed that many people, probably about four or seven, depending on how you look at it.”

 

Featured Image Via kmuw.org

Recent Studies Show Writers’ Incomes Have Dropped Dramatically

According to a recent New York Times article, survey results show that full-time writers made $20,300 in 2017 and part-time writers made $6,080, a drop from previous years.

 

Image Via Fairhaven.com

 

Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, is quotes in the article as saying that “in the 20th century, a good literary writer could earn a middle-class living just writing.” She goes on to state that just because most people write in their daily lives, does not mean that professional writing is not a skill. “What a professional writer can convey in written word is far superior to what the rest of us can do. As a society we need that, because it’s a way to crystallize ideas, make us see things in a new way and create understanding of who we are as a people, where we are today and where we’re going.

 

Image Via Littlebookishgifts.co.uk

 

The survey shows that, since 2009, the figure for part-time writers has seen a 42% drop from when the income was $10,500. In 2018, across all genres, self-published authors and traditionally published writers produced 5,000 books within the year.

 

Image Via Medium

 

Freelance journalism, print publications, newspapers, and magazines are a reliable source of income for writers, but the decline of freelance journalism creates challenges for writers, thus creating less opportunities. Manjula Martin, author of Scratch; Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, notes:

 

The people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income.

 

The earnings for full-time writers are down 30% since 2009. Times are hard, but as writers, we like to believe that anything is possible.

 

 

Featured Image Via Psmag.com
nanowrimo

The Best Apps for Every Step of NaNoWriMo

So it’s the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, and you only have time to do things like go to school for eight hours, sleep for an inconvenient five or so, and occasionally eat. Writing does take time, but you have more time than you probably think (unless you thought you had twenty-four hours in a day, which is technically accurate but unlikely for a functioning person). While there are some circumstances where you can’t whip out your laptop, there are far fewer cases where it’s unusual to take out your phone. So instead of lamenting your wasted time, use the moments you do have to chip away at that 50k on iPhone or Android… with some (all free!) apps to help you with every step of the process.

 

1. The research process 

 

 

Charlie Kelly from 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'

Image Via Imgur.com

 

Evernote, free for iPhone and Android, is perfect for keeping track of all your research and inspirational quotations. Its Web Clipper feature allows you to incorporate your source material directly into your notes, so you don’t crash your computer (again) with your 22 dubiously-useful open tabs.

 

2. The outline 

 

 

Millie Bobby Brown Gif

Gif Via Tumblr.com

 

Go Writer Lite for iPhone incorporates note-taking into the writing process with the draft board feature, a temporary storage space for text fragments (like that one sentence you just can’t figure out). As a bonus, the app will read your text aloud to you, so you can hear for yourself what sounds the way you imagined it.

 

Workflowy for Android is perfect for complicated outlines, allowing users to see any heading and its subheadings in isolation to prevent distraction (to the extent that it can). The app also includes searchable hashtags, so you can mark problem areas you want to remember for later—and then actually remember them.

 

3. The first draft

 

 

'Tom and Jerry' Gif

Gif Via Github.com

 

Writer for iPhone is more powerful than your typical word processor, saving all drafts of your product so that you never lose any material. In addition to your usual built-in spell check, this app also comes with a built in thesaurus to help you find the right (write?) word. On top of that, the app has simple yet varied table of contents formatting to help you and (and your eventual readers!) stay organized.

 

4. The editing process 

 

 

Frantic Typing Gif

Gif Via Gfycat.com

 

Unlike your typical sticky note phone app, Jotterpad for Android keeps track of your word count, paragraph count, character count, AND reading time. With a built in dictionary and thesaurus, this app is already better than many word processing computer programs. Jotterpad is especially good for your second and third drafts, as its snapshot feature allows you to revert to earlier versions of your story.

 

With any luck, these apps will help you put your (relatively few) moments of down time to work writing the novel of your dreams (or occasionally your nightmares).

 

Featured Image Via WeScreeplay

Cats and authors

10 Famous Authors and Their Feline Muses

Have you ever been to Strand Bookstore in New York City? If you have, then you must have noticed that there are so many cattish things around you: cat pins, cat books, cat stickers, cat pens, cat mugs, cat____ (you can fill in anything you can imagine). Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you cannot deny that images of cats are always linked with artists, writers, and thinkers. So, thanks to Alison Nastasi’s book Writers and Their Cats, now we may know more about this mysterious association!

 

 

After publishing Artists and Their Cats in 2015, Nastasi never gives up researching about the relationship between people who create and cats that linger around them. According to her promo post, this book contains 45 famous authors who shared their homes and hearts with their beloved furry feline friends, including Mark Twain, Alice Walker, Haruki Murakami, and Ursula K. Le Guin. The following is her introduction of 10 authors and their cats:

 

 

1. Haruki Murakami

 

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Image Via publishersweekly

 

Haruki Murakami is a jazz aficionado and owns a floor-to-ceiling vinyl collection that would make any music lover jealous. In the 1970s, Murakami first shared his obsession for music by opening the Tokyo jazz club Peter Cat, named after one of his pets. The Norwegian Wood author wrote his first two novels there, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. Cats are featured in the early books as they always are in Murakami’s stories—elliptical symbols that slink in and out of his character’s lives.

 

 

2. Jirō Osaragi

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

The Osaragi Jirō Memorial Museum in Yokohama, Japan is dedicated to the author Jirō Osaragi and features numerous cat ornaments as an integral part of its feline-themed decor. Osaragi wrote several novels connected to Yokohama, including Gento (Magic Lantern) and lived at the Hotel New Grand for over 10 years (in room 318). It’s often said that the Shōwa-period author cared for over 500 cats throughout his lifetime at his home in Kamakura, Japan—which is sometimes open to the public. Visitors can lounge on Osaragi’s terrace and sip tea while picturing the hundreds of semi-feral cats that once frolicked in the gardens.

 

 

3. Judy Blume

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

The Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret author adored a calico cat she kept that lived to old age—although the author’s most famous cat-centric portrait is a photograph of Blume holding her neighbor’s cat. The writer currently dotes on the many grand-cats in her family.

 

 

4. Stephen King

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

 

The feline protagonists in Stephen King’s novels lead haunted lives. In Pet Sematary, King tells a story of loss inspired by his family’s own tragic experience with their pet cat Smucky who was hit by a car. King’s cat-filled publicity photo for the movie Cat’s Eye, based on several of the author’s short stories, proves that the author’s fascination with the macabre didn’t stop him from being a cat magnet.

 

 

5. Alice Walker

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

“I have always been an outsider,” Alice Walker stated in an author Q&A for her book The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart. “The standard rules and acceptable forms of behavior have never applied to me. In that sense, I was raised wild. And why wouldn’t I be? Why would I attempt to ‘conform’ to a society that doesn’t value my existence, that has done everything to wipe me out? I always knew that I’d have to construct an alternative reality.” The novelist took the same approach when it came to her cats, seeming to favor the outsiders and misfits—like a snaggletoothed stray she took in or the shelter cat Frida, a sweet calico with a rough past that she named after artist Frida Kahlo.

 

 

6. Elizabeth Bishop

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

“[Elizabeth] Bishop’s poetics is one distinguished by tranquil observation, craft-like accuracy, care for the small things of the world, a miniaturist’s discretion and attention,” wrote critic Ernest Hilbert about the American poet. This quiet precision was displayed by the cats Bishop kept and wrote about. One of her pets had a penchant for dissecting its prey like a world-class surgeon.

 

 

7. Helen Gurley Brown

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

 

In the 1970s, Cosmopolitan magazine’s mascot was a pink cartoon pussycat nicknamed Lovey. The sleek feline wore a large bow around its neck and boasted fluttering eyelashes. Lovey embodied the sassy, independent life Cosmo painted for its readers—the kind longtime editor Helen Gurley Brown lived to the fullest with her two chocolate-point Siamese cats by her side.

 

 

8. Jorge Luis Borges

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

Borges took a literary approach to naming one of his favorite felines, a large white cat he called Beppo. The kittenly companion was named after a character in a Lord Byron poem. The Argentine writer was also fond of tigers—evidenced by his short story “Blue Tigers,” about a professor who seeks out an elusive cobalt-colored beast.

 

 

9. Doris Lessing

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing wrote of her affection for cats many times, but she felt a particular affinity for her pet El Magnifico. “He was such a clever cat,” she remarked to the Wall Street Journal in 2008. “We used to have sessions when we tried to be on each other’s level. He knew we were trying. When push came to shove, though, the communication was pretty limited.”

 

 

10. Sylvia Plath

 

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Image via publishersweekly

 

Plath lovers are unanimously charmed by a drawing The Bell Jar novelist left behind of a “curious French cat,” peeking out from behind a wall. She also practically pioneered the “crazy cat lady” trope with the poem, “Ella Mason and Her Eleven Cats.”

 

 

Oh yeah, this is definitely interesting to read. Bookstr folks, are you also cattish writers? 

 

Well, I definitely am.

 

 

Suggested reading:

8 Authors Who Are Famously Cat Crazy

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Publishersweekly