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Notes on the Fay Weldon Interview in the Independent (March 4, 2015)
Posted on March 9, 2015
Headline: Fay Weldon interview: ‘Abandon your dignity and write a racy page-turner’ Writers should “abandon literary dignity” and write page-turning versions of their thoughtful masterpieces for the e-book audience, the acclaimed author Fay Weldon has suggested. Not my kind of headline... The 83-year-old author, who has written more than 50 works including The Life and Loves of a She Devil, told an audience at The Independent Bath Literature Festival that a different type of reader needed a different type of writer. ah... Ms. Weldon is from the write-for-your-audience school. Fine. I prefer to explore the art of writing, then see if anyone is interested in my discoveries. Also, regardless of one's intentions as a writer, marketing is key. Authors should write a literary version for publication in print form, and a racier “good-bad” version for those who use e-readers such as the Kindle. Weldon revealed she had considered expanding a recent e-book novella for print. I like the idea of two versions. Coincidentally, I have been experimenting with a novella form of my latest novel, Bali Wave Ghost.However, the amount of "raciness" in both are the same:almost none. When I am able to do so, I will execute a plan in which every copy of one of my novels is unique. “Writers have to write now for a world where readers are busy, on the move and have little time for contemplation and reflection,” she said. “The writer has to focus on writing better, cutting to the chase and doing more of the readers’ contemplative work for them.” In terms of mobile and ebooks, I agree, almost completely.However,I think the experience of reading a printed book is still rich and meaningful and allows for contemplation and reflection. But both of these points are dependent upon the reader and the reading experience. Weldon expands on the theme on her blog, quoting a survey in The Bookseller last year which showed that 90 per cent of book buyers read e-books with genre and commercial fiction comprehensively outselling literary fiction. (This seems to be the link, though it displays as being posted in 2014.) One e-reader company, Kobo, also revealed the most read books last year were romance, followed by crime and thriller novels and fantasy. In August, academics presented a study that showed Kindle users were “significantly” worse at recalling events in a mystery story than those reading in paperback. A European research network studying the effects of digital text reading said “research shows that the amount of time spent reading long-form texts is in decline, and due to digitisation, reading is becoming more intermittent and fragmented”. This information is not surprising. Now, "everything is mobile" supposedly. I am cautious of studies and surveys. As I write this, a woman is sitting outside reading a paperback. She seems to be deeply engaged with it, and has been for the past 45 minutes at least. Alice Mangen, of Stavanger University in Norway, a lead on the study, said it “might make a difference if the novel is a page-turner or light read…compared to a 500 page, more complex literary novel.” There are so many variables connected with the acts of reading and writing that this statement is difficult for me to comprehend.Writing for the sake of art and writing for the sake of sales are not mutually exclusive ideas.Ms. Mangen's statement appears to be either/or.Harry Potter: isn't it a complex literary novel that is also a page turner? Weldon wrote on her blog that the works that sell best in e-book form were fast-moving event-driven stories “with no lingering on obscure complicated ideas,” and that authors should “abandon literary dignity” and write two versions of the same novel. She added: “Writers can’t expect the same version of their book to serve both markets.” Very interesting idea.I wish there had been follow up questions: Thoughts on sales figures of both versions? What would publishers think of this and how would the different versions be marketed? The two markets: something like "fluffy entertainment" and "lit er a ture"? She continued: “What the new reader wants is surprise, suspense, entertainment and it doesn’t make you any less of a writer, just a more accomplished one. But maybe something is lost just as it is gained.” I believe "old readers" wanted those attributes as well. Her novella The Ted Dreams appeared originally as an e-book before it was published in her new collection Mischief, which provides a survey of her work over five decades. The Ted Dreams was exactly the same in both versions? “I thought for The Ted Dreams I might expand on the themes in print that I had thought might be boring,” she said. “I could still do that but I’d rather get on with what I’m doing now.” I am unclear....so, she did not practice what she is preaching? She said that she can read books by writers such as Martin Amis in book form, but “in electronic form I tire”. Eye fatigue? The weight of the ebook reader? Unpleasant feeling in general? Why? ................ I became aware of this article because of an email notification from Digital Book World. The link to the article was entitled,"Should Authors Write Differently for Digital (the Independent)" I was hoping to read about the following: KEYWORDS AS SUBJECT MATTER Imagine a new genre, one in which trending keywords are "writejacked", that is to say that the authors of (mostly) pre-written novels wait until the moment when they can integrate trending key words into their novels and immediately publish them. The MO here is part 24 hour writing competition, part SEO optimization exercise. I have written a short story that experiments with this idea. Not much to report yet, but drop me a line if you would like to learn more. FAN FICTION Would love to learn about non-vampire, non-TV show related fan fiction. Certainly there must be some great books being produced as fan fiction which are not related to mainstream pop culture. I am also experimenting with this in my collaboration with Ezio Barbero, a novel series based on food and the history of the Majapahit Empire, including excursions into the time of Alexander the Great and WWII. (Mulan meets The DaVinci Code with a dash of Anthony Bourdain). COLLABORATIVE WRITING PROJECTS Kindle Worlds Joe Konrath/Kindle Worlds. Michael Bunker.(Full Disclosure: Michael and I have a project in the works.)Nick Cole There are many others; collaborations have been going on since humans learned to do whatever it is that humans do. NEW WAYS TO WRITE, NEW WAYS TO CONNECT WITH READERS, NEW WAYS TO MAKE BOOKS So much is happening that it is hard to keep track of. Wattpad.Reedsy Uncovered Books, Unglue It, Kickstarter I have experimented with several of these sites. Am always looking for ways to connect with people in the most efficient manner possible.Hopefully I can keep whatever is left of my dignity.