I took a deep breath and self published my latest novel (No Portrait in the Gilded Frame) seven months ago. My wife helped me develop a social media presence. I posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, created an Author’s Page on Amazon and one on Goodreads. I did two giveaways on Goodreads, updated my website, and wrote to bloggers requesting reviews. I started this blog. We promoted the book with friends and family, and gave copies to my writing group members. As part of our marketing strategy, we planned book-signing events at book clubs and at the homes of friends.
I anxiously prepared myself to speak to live audiences, important moments when my efforts of the last four years would be validated. I wished my readers to savor the story of Miriam, the main character in my novel, and hoped they would sympathize with her, and share in her turmoil and suffering. Root for her victories.
Miriam is loosely modeled after a young woman I met before I came to the States, a fascinating person, a soft and interesting beauty, languorous, quite self-absorbed, and passionate about painting and the arts. I didn’t know much about this woman’s upbringing or family, or her true feelings and ambitions, and, in recreating her, I had to work hard at defining who she was. As a boy, I had spent a few summers in Bistrița, a small and picturesque town in Transylvania, and I placed her childhood there. I had lived in Haifa, so I described her youth in that beautiful city by the Mediterranean. I located her adult life in San Diego, which I know well because my son lives there. The arc of Miriam’s travels follows my own immigration history. Yet the most important element of the book is her spiritual evolution. I don’t know if I succeeded in creating a fascinating and deep character — I hope I did. That’s what I look forward to learn from my audience.
Writing, they say, is a solitary act. Yet when I write I am in the good company of authors I have read and loved: Hemingway, Marquez, Dostoyevsky, Updike, Carver, Doerr, Tartt, Vonnegut. They all watch over me. They nod. They shake their heads. I want to climb onto their pedestals. Like them, I want my words to be powerful. I want to get into my readers’ minds and conquer their hearts. I wish readers would remember my sentences without trying, and have them resonate in their memory like recurring rhymes. I strive to be clear in my exposition — no gimmicks, no ambiguous turns of phrase. My characters sound angry, passionate, direct, dreamy, scholarly, or, when warranted, very colloquial — their voices must be true. Together with my characters, in front of my Mac, I am painting the pictures to display in their gilded frames. My question is, do I succeed? Does Miriam succeed? Only my readers, my audience, can give me the answers I seek, the rewards of my labor, the key to my character’s soul.
By comparison, my activities on social media are less rewarding and often time consuming, even if absolutely necessary. For fiction writers who, like myself, didn’t work in academia or attend famous creative writing schools, who don’t have name recognition or contacts in the traditional publishing industry, there are almost no other options. Self-promotion, as hard as it is, is the only game in town. I try my best to learn the ins-and-outs, and make it part of my routine. Consider it my job and keep it to one hour a day, two hours tops (although right now it takes longer).
Slowly I came to realize that writing this blog is something I enjoy. After all, blogging is writing. And it is more. One has to comply with the unwritten blogging rules that force you to be concise, and find catchy titles and attractive graphics. One has to be on a time schedule. One has to remember to satisfy that presumed algorithm buried inside every search engine that can elevate the unknown writer and bring him or her into the limelight.
Blogging is like talking to a live audience, and I now look forward to this challenge. I welcome the questions. I wish to gradually move away from the topics of how I write, and why I write, and where I traveled, and actually post longer fictional stories and excerpts from novels. I hope to receive real and honest feedback: encouragement and constructive criticism, attacks and rebuttals, your recommendations and your likes.