"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
- Hunter S. Thompson.
Why write a book?
In an age of video games, reality television and blogosphere hyper-saturation, it might seem like we don't need any more novels.
But when I started writing my book, it was more for escape than anything else. I just had to get away.
I certainly didn't write my book to get published. In fact, I seriously handicapped my chances by writing my novel in free verse. Not really a "marketable proposition." Yes, it was a love story, and yes it involved dogs (and who doesn't love dogs?) But they were blood-thirsty werewolf-ish dogs who played cards, busted up crystal meth labs, and every so often ate people alive. Not exactly Benji. Not exactly My Dog Skip.
But it was that free verse part that really freaked people out. When friends heard that, they started giving me a wide berth at parties "Oh, free verse, yeah, um, I think the hostess needs help there with the dishes."
But that didn't matter because I honestly didn't write it because I wanted people to buy it. I wrote it because I liked the characters and I wanted to see what they did. I could control them in a way I couldn't control the world around me.
And it wasn't poetry, exactly. To be truthful, most poetry sort of freaks me out. I wanted it to read like a graphic novel without the pictures, or a hard boiled pulp fiction tale with all the extra words cooked out of it, or the lyrics on the back of some old Bowie or T-Rex record gone horribly awry.
The important thing was it was an opportunity to get away, to get lost wandering in a strange and distant world, one filled with mad dogs, odd bridge games, and twisted verse. When I was writing, I was somewhere far from the Scooter Libbys, the Dick Cheneys and the other darker, scarier beasts of our times. Considering the state of the nation, getting lost was okay with me.
Then an odd thing started happening. The real world started overshadowing my story, biting into my fantasy with its own out-of-control weirdness. First the Michael Vick scandal hit, with a 130 million dollar NFL superstar being thrown into prison because of a mad dog fighting ring.
Then four women at the world bridge championship sparked an international controversy when they held up a sign reading "We didn't vote for Bush." The scandal they provoked filled up the pages of the New York Times for a week. A bridge scandal? In this day and age?
Finally, Beowulf, the 8th century epic poem of Nordic violence, was turned into a major motion picture featuring a naked Angelina Jolie, somehow grossing nearly 100 million dollars worldwide. A blockbuster poem? Come on.
All proving that these days, there's really no getting away. As we tumble into a global environmental crisis, as the systems we count on to bind civilization together begin to fray and tear at the seams, the impossibilities of fiction simply pale beside the unimaginable realities of our fragile modern world.
Finally, to me, there's something even more unimaginable: my book, Sharp Teeth goes on sale today.
Crazy times, crazy world, indeed.