VICTOR’S TOP WRITING TIP: Be true to yourself. Only write what you burn to write. If that is nothing for the time being then so be it. To write what you don’t really want to write because publishers or publicists or critics or friends and family tell you to, is a profanity. It defeats the purpose of becoming a writer in the first place and leads inevitably to bitterness. Get yourself a back-up job so you have what Humphrey Bogart called ‘fuck you money’. If you have less time to write, so be it. If you are writing what you want to write you’ll find the time.
Victor Kline started his working life as Sydney’s youngest barrister. He worked as a Federal prosecutor in Sydney and later as a defence counsel in the Northern Territory in its Wild West days. He has been a playwright, theatre director and actor Off-Broadway and in various parts of Australia. He is the author of the novel Rough Justice and the bestselling memoir The House at Anzac Parade, as well as several produced plays. His most recent novel The Story of the Good American has just published worldwide. As well as New York and Central Australia, Victor has lived and worked in London, Paris, the South of France and New Guinea. He currently lives back in Sydney with wife Katharine and a little grey cat called Spud. For more information about Victor and his books, visit his website. www.victorkline.com AUTHOR INSIGHT
Why do you write? I can do no better than quote Camus when he said “A writer is someone who has to write.” There is something inside every writer that won’t settle for not writing. What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I am also a barrister but no longer doing court work. Instead I work as Editor of the Federal Court Reports. This is work I can do from home and which liberates me to write when I want to. So I have the best of both worlds. I have left brain and right brain activity. And I have financial security. Not the big bucks of the practising barrister, but enough to get by and take the pressure off, so I am never tempted to write anything I don’t absolutely want to write. What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think my obstacle is no different from anyone else’s obstacle, ie the book blindness of publishers. This is not a criticism of them. It’s just a fact of life that if you have to look at literally thousands of manuscripts, you lose the joy of reading which took you into the job in the first place, and you lose your ability to spot quality. It just become one big tasteless soup. In the end the only way you can choose one book over another is to go for hackneyed stuff that seems to be like stuff that has sold in the past. But of course the public don’t want that. They want something new and different. But the new and different never gets published until it has been rejected by dozens if not hundreds of publishers. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Diary of Adrian Mole, etc etc, were all rejected endless times before going on to sell millions, usually picked up by a small publishing house after all the majors had said no. Of course it’s not just publishing where this happens. It infests every industry, especially every creative industry. The Beatles were rejected by every record label in the UK. What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I want to tell stories, meaning I want to tell about things that are different and interesting. Just as the primitive bard did, in his loin cloth, around the fire. I also want to talk about fascinating people, bring them to life, be they ‘real’ or ‘fictional’, just as that same bard did. Writing gives me the chance to do all that. It’s what makes me feel alive. —the worst? Again, like everyone else, the critics. These are usually people who have fallen into the job on the newspaper because the editor wouldn’t trust them with anything else. They usually have no idea what they are reading, don’t want to be either reading or reviewing, miss the point of the book, talk nonsense, and drink a lot to dull the pain. Fortunately in the modern world where books can be bought on line and in e-book form, and the reader has the chance to review the book on the site from which it was bought, the potential reader has a lot of genuine ordinary people like themselves to listen to. They don’t need to be guided by a critic, who they never quite trusted anyway. So the critics have lost their bite and certainly their monopoly. Furthermore we now have a world of bloggers who are doing what they are doing because they love it, and from whom the reader can also get some real guidance about what to buy. I myself, for my last two books, have made the decision not to offer my book to newspaper critics. I trust bloggers and I trust the reading public. I can get all the publicity I need from them and from radio and television interviews. Unlike reviewers, who often feel they are not doing their job unless they find something to be snarly about, interviewers know that the best interview comes from a general positivity. So one’s book is presented to the public in a much better light. I have found that giving the critics the flick has not hurt my sales in the least. Quite the contrary. What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would marry my wife Katharine a lot sooner. If I had had her around when I was staring out I think I would have got where I wanted a lot sooner and with a great deal less pain. She is smart and is an enormous help at all stages of the writing and publishing process. What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? A lot of authors, Graham Greene being the archetypal example, will tell you that the best way to write is to have the discipline to sit down every day and write a certain number of words, however you feel at the time. Now that might work for them, but I wish someone had told me it is not something that works for everyone. I have found for myself that I do much better if I listen to my instincts, and write only when they are telling me to do so. As a result I may not write for weeks, but when I do, I write prose or dialogue that usually needs very little revision and is what I really ‘need’ to say. Forcing myself to write a certain amount each day just ended up creating a lot of material needing massive revision, often to the point of having to just chuck it away and start again. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Be true to yourself.
BOOK BYTE The Story of the Good American “An adventure, a romance, a game changer.” A hobo, a billionaire and the woman they both love. An unusual prescription. Some remarkable cures. Joe Starling was Pete A. Vanderveer’s right hand man. But one day Joe just up and left the billionaire. He left New York City too. Turned up years later in his home town of Sydney, Australia, shining shoes in the Pitt Street Mall. What happened in between, to Joe and Pete and to the woman they both loved, was very likely to change the world? The Story of the Good American is available in paperback and e-book formats from http://www.amazon.com/Story-Good-American-Victor-Kline/dp/0947245065/ref=sr_1_6_