Welcome to Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson today! She has an amazing story to tell! How many writers can say they not only visited Egypt, but stayed on site at an archaeological dig?
On Respect and Research
by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield built an entire career on the trope that he ‘didn’t get no respect.’ It made him both rich and famous. Lucky him. It doesn’t work that way for most of us.
Writers ‘don’t get no respect’ – that is, if we’re genre writers. Literary writers whose work is often impenetrable and convoluted are lionized, and if they’re dead almost sainted. People who write the books people actually like to read – romances, mysteries – are regarded as a not-too-bright stepchild.
“When are you going to write a real book?” is a question we hear a lot, especially when we publish in electronic versions. “Why don’t you write something of lasting value?” is another. The one that makes me grind my teeth, however, is “I know I could write a book if I just had the time.” Or, “What a way to steal money! Just churn out a couple of books a year and you’re set.”
It’s a wonder some poor writer hasn’t just snapped and done one of them in with a cocktail fork or whatever else sharp is handy.
Another problem is the fact that when we’re writing, we are usually at home, and if we’re at home, we’re fair game. People who would never demand that we leave a regular job to go lunch/shop/hang out/watch their children/whatever have no compunction about demanding it when we work from our home. “You’re just writing – you aren’t really working,” was something I used to hear a lot – back when I answered the telephone!
Fielding these barbs and putdowns has become almost second nature to writers; some of us laugh all the way to the bank, but a lot of us just hold on to our dreams with grim determination and a rictus smile. Even after some 30 books I was one of the latter, until this last trip to Egypt.
Dr. Dirk Huyge, a dear friend and a great help on my last summer’s release THE EGYPTIAN FILE, and I had been talking about doing a mystery set in the reputedly haunted dig house at El Kab, roughly halfway between Luxor and Aswan. Civilians never get asked to stay in dig houses, so when Dirk suggested that The Husband and I come stay for a few days, we jumped at it. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to say nothing of a great research opportunity, but didn’t realize that it would be an incredible boost to my ego!
The dig crew was wonderful – friendly and welcoming and as sweet as could be. I had heard of some of them before – they are each well known and multi-published in their various fields, and each one of them had a very impressive alphabet soup of degrees after their name. As I don’t have any kind of a degree I was more than intimidated by them.
One morning I all of a sudden had the idea of how the book should start. Creeping out of bed so as not to wake The Husband, I grabbed my computer and tiptoed into the common room where everyone worked and ate. Then I started to write. I wrote for most of the morning – we write when the muse grabs us, don’t we? – and only towards lunch was I aware that all of them (those who worked in the house and those newly returned from the field) were moving around more than usual. And all seemed to be moving behind me, very slowly, and somewhat surreptitiously taking a great interest in the words that marched across my computer screen.
It was only when one whispered to another in awe-struck tones, “She’s writing a novel while we watch!” that I realized why. They were impressed! These well-educated, well-published professionals were overawed by my oft-ridiculed storytelling. Seldom have I felt so appreciated or admired. As a gift to them I broke a cardinal rule and allowed anyone who wanted to read the first chapter when it was completed. Normally no one – not even The Husband – sees my work until it is finished.
The ones who did read it were impressed. One even marveled at my speed – 2,000 words in less than a day. (She should see what I can do when I’m in my office, alone, under a hard deadline!) She was working on a doctoral thesis and said 200 words a day were good for her. I told her it was easier for me because, aside from a framework of actualities, I didn’t have to bother with facts! I could create my world the way I wanted to.
Whether she wrote fiction or not, she was a writer and she appreciated what I was doing. So did the others. Genre fiction is not easy to write, despite what the ‘I could write a book if I wanted to’ crowd says. After seeing some of the things that are out there, though, maybe I should say GOOD genre fiction.
Remember, if you have published a book, even a not-so-perfect one, you have done what 90-odd percent of the population has not. You have finished a book. You have created a world and populated that world and created a series of events, all out of nothing but imagination and caffeine. Whether you have been published by a trad publisher or self-pubbed, you have survived the tests of editing, artwork and the grind of publicity. Best of all, you have (hopefully) the final validation of complete strangers buying and reading your book. That is an awesome achievement!
So, what do we say to the ‘why don’t you write a real book crowd’? Probably nothing we could say would make them happy, but I really don’t care about making them happy. And, as I am told on occasion I can be sharp-tongued and snarky, I just smile and tell them when they get their book finished and published, then we can talk about how ‘easy’ it is. Small-souled of me, I know, but oh-so-satisfying!
Writers ‘don’t get no respect’ from people? Believe me, that’s the people’s problem, not ours. We know what we’re worth. Or we should.
All photographs ©2015 Janis Susan May Patterson
Buy links for Curse of the Exile
CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/5530621
Amazon : http://amzn.com/194152012X
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