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Michelle Richmond
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Author, Small Press Publisher, Mom. Interested in outer space, inner space, politics, and prose.
Author, Small Press Publisher, Mom. Interested in outer space, inner space, politics, and prose.

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Five Inspiring Author Interviews

John le Carre on the Merv Griffin Show, 1965

The writer who defined the spy novel with the iconic novels The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy discusses, among other things, why he goes by the name John le Carre, even though his real name is David Cornwall.

"In the secret service, we were encouraged to cultivate anonymity."

He also talks about how he came to write about the Berlin Wall in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

"I wanted to use the bureaucratic experience I had and translate that to the spy world…I wanted to write the literature of involvement. I wanted people to feel, “I’m locked in. I can’t get out. This could be me.”

What I love about this interview is how non-literary it is. Griffin asks, in no uncertain terms, how much money he’s making and how many copies he’s sold. In true sixties fashion, le Carre smokes throughout the interview.

Follow the link to watch the interview and see four others, from Marilyn Robinson to Jorge Luis Borges.


IT TAKES A TEAM TO BUILD A WRITING CAREER

This week, I was interviewed by a grad student in Brooklyn who is doing a dissertation on how writing affects one’s mood, and vice versa. As I was answering her questions, it became clear to me that, while the business of writing is filled with highs and lows, periods of joy and hope punctuated by periods of anxiousness and self-doubt, the writing itself keeps me on an even keel. To be writing is simply my normal state of being, an act that brings me comfort and contentment and a sense of purpose in the world.

But beyond the writing itself is the support system. During the past thirteen years, through the gravy days and the lean ones, the years when I’m publishing and the years when I’m not, there have been two constants. The first is my husband, who reads all of my work, gives me ideas, edits my sentences down to their most essential parts, and makes playlists for every one of my novels. The second is my agent, who believes in my books and goes to bat for me even during those times when I begin to doubt myself. In the big, chaotic world of publishing, it’s a gift to be with an agency where I don’t get lost in the shuffle.

This time last week, I’d just heard news from my agent that she’d sold the rights to my forthcoming novel to a publisher in Israel. Having never been published in Hebrew before, I was elated. By the end of the week, she had received several offers from various countries. When she arrived in London early this week for the London Book Fair, she had already laid the groundwork to get this novel off to a strong start.

While most books are written in private, just a writer alone with the page, you need a team to build a solid writing career. In addition to a hardworking agent who always has your back, you need a talented editor who will guide you toward the best version of the book you want to write and be your ally in-house. I have had the good fortune of working with two tireless editors at Bantam.

You need a publisher who will invest the time, resources, and good faith that’s necessary to get your book in front of readers, and a publicist who will work to get you and your book in front of audiences. There are artists, copy editors, proofreaders, editorial assistants. When it comes to foreign rights, there are subagents who pitch your book abroad, editors who acquire you for their imprint and champion you in-house, translators who live more closely with your novel than anyone else, and the foreign publishers who each give their version of the book a distinct personality. There is the actor who reads your book for audio. There are the reviewers who tell the world that your book exists, and the booksellers who display your book on the shelves and put it in the hands of readers.

Just a few weeks ago, I was worried about what would happen to this book, whether anyone would read it. But thanks to several unexpected developments over the last two weeks, the future of the book seems, if not certain (for nothing is certain in publishing), quite promising.

The writing life is full of ups and downs. Some books are hits, and some are not. There are months when it seems that nothing is happening, and weeks when it seems that everything is happening. But no matter how your work is being received on any given day, there are school lunches to make. There are words to get on the page. There is family, there are friends, and there is the writing itself — those beautiful hours in the chair, when you’re lost inside the story. These things remain, no matter how the world is receiving (or not receiving) your work at any given moment.

I have no idea what’s going to happen over the next few weeks, the next few months. By the time the novel comes out, my son will have moved on from elementary school to middle school. I’ll be a year older, and so will my husband. My little nephew, who has only recently learned to talk, will be heading off to preschool. Life moves quickly, things change so rapidly. I wish the best for this book, as I wish the best for all of my books. After the last few days, I have the feeling that this novel may reach more readers than I’ve ever reached before. But how can I be sure? I can’t. I can only be grateful, enjoy the moment for as long as it lasts, enjoy my family, and keep writing.

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My new novel comes out next summer with Bantam. In the lead-up to the London Book Fair, my amazing agent is getting the word out to foreign sub-agents and publishers.

Our first foreign sale of the new novel went to Yedioth in Israel, in a pre-empt. We'll be publishing with Books in the Attic, an independent publishing house that partners with Yedioth. Books in the Attic has been publishing translations for twenty years. Recent titles include Emma Donohue's ROOM and J.K. Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY.

I'm delighted to join the Books in the Attic family, and so excited for my very first Hebrew translation.

Much is happening on the foreign rights front, and I'll have more to report soon. To me, foreign rights are one of the most exciting parts of being a writer. I love seeing the different covers, and seeing my story translated in languages I don't speak. It feels like such a privilege to know that people in other countries are reading my books. Even though I usually don't meet the translators, I feel that they probably know each book better than anyone, because the relationship between the original text and the act of translating is so intimate.


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I went to AWP this past weekend and had a great time catching up with Bay Area friends and old grad school buddies. I also had the opportunity to join Sandy Long, Mary Rasenberger, Lauren Cerand, and Jason Dravis on a panel sponsored by the Authors Guild, "Author as Entrepreneur."

Lauren talked about how and when to social media to your benefit. I discussed the importance of building an email list and how to find alternate sources of income.

Sandy explained the ins and outs of fair contracts (learn more at the Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative)

Film agent Jason Dravis talked about how film options and adaptations work.

Getting closer...Michael Polish and Kate Bosworth tackle THE YEAR OF FOG

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What do tacos have to do with tech? Read the story, "The Last Taco Truck in Silicon Valley," and watch the video, wherein CNET News Editor-in-Chief Connie Guglielmo and I hit up a taco truck in San Francisco

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A young teacher's moving letter to the child who inspired her to become a teacher.

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I'l be co-hosting (with Pulitzer Prize winning author T.J. Stiles) a wine-cheese-and-chat gathering of Bay Area Authors Guild Members tonight, Friday October 9, at the Booksmith in San Francisco. Current members and authors who are interested in meeting and mingling with other writers, as well as learning more about Authors Guild initiatives in copyright, fair royalties, and contract negotiations, are encouraged to attend. Begins at 7:00 p.m.
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