Inspiration for a book

 by Victor Kline

The role of the artist is not often talked about these days. But I fear there is a subliminal idea of what it is, which has slowly permeated our western culture since the turn of the twentieth century. The original ‘permeators’, as far as I can tell, were that morbid trio of northern European playwrights Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg. These happy campers shared the view that life was pointless and hopeless and that it was their job to draw this cheery fact to the attention of lesser minds, who may have suffered from the delusion that life had a point, or who were foolish enough to imagine there was some hope.

In theatre at least, that viewpoint persisted up to the ‘Angry Young Men’ of the British stage of the 1950s. Only now there was a subtle change. The idea had become not exactly that things were totally hopeless, but rather that they were pretty damn bad, and it was the author’s duty to draw this to the attention of an apathetic world, so that those who held the reins of power would say: “Aha, thank you angry young playwright for alerting us to the fact that there is social inequality. We’ll now rush off and legislate that away.”

Of course the holders of the reins of power, in reality, remained unmoved. But the playwright didn’t care. He had done his duty, and now could go down the pub for a beer with his mates and tell them all what an activist he was.

In the world of novel writing there was a greater variety. People wrote romances and bodice rippers and science fiction and all manner of escapism. But if ‘serious fiction’ be their intention, then of course they had to embrace the hopelessness of the snowbound trio, or the preachy ‘fix this’ of the angry young men.

It never occurred to anyone to think it may just be the real duty of an author to go beyond the winging and offer a solution. Well I guess I have always thought that if you can’t offer a solution, don’t bother. In the modern world we all know very well, from the 24 hour news cycle, just how bad things can get. So just re-affirming, in literary form, how bad things can get, adds little of value to the mix. Give the politicians and social workers and medicos a bit of a blueprint to work from. Use your contemplative time to offer ideas to those too busy to contemplate.

That was the attitude I brought to the writing of The Story of the Good American. I wanted to show how things just might get fixed. But I didn’t want to lock myself away in the British Museum, there to invent theories that took no account of human nature. I wanted to write about something I knew could happen, that I knew was happening.

I chose the amazing work being done by people like Bill and Melinda Gates, whose aim is nothing short of the total abolition of world poverty and disease. But they are no theorists. They are getting out there and making it happen. Their method has its genesis in a simple mind shift. Instead of making the business of business the centre of their world, they have the business of philanthropy at the centre, and their ‘normal’ business becomes a feeder for that. Their shareholders support them because any temporary loss of income will be more than compensated for by the huge extra market they are creating. The destruction of poverty and disease means the creation of a whole new world of consumers for their products.

Then they are also in the business of enlisting other billionaires to their way of thinking. At this stage they have commitments from one-third of the world’s 200 richest individuals. Even that is enough cash to get the job done, and it will get done.

My characters are not Bill and Melinda Gates. They are fictional, exciting characters who find themselves caught up in all sorts of adventure and romance. It is a novel after all. I wanted to write something that was fun to read, that put the emphasis back on old-fashioned storytelling and empathetic characters. But the Gatesian thread is there for anyone who wants to pick it up.

Lastly, and most importantly, I wanted to give the average person like myself a bit of a blueprint too, for how we can fit into this new era which is dawning. How we can shrug off the despair that all the angry young men have been laying on our shoulders for a century, and joyfully do our bit. But if you want to know how that all works, you’ll have to read the book.

Headshot 2Victor 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 is The Story of the Good American. 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. www.victorkline.com

Front Cover“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 book is available in various formats from http://www.amazon.com/Story-Good-American-Victor-Kline/dp/0947245065/ref=sr_1_6_

Meet the Author: Victor Kline

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.

Headshot 2Victor 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 Front Cover“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_