Wednesday, May 23, 2007

LAA - League of Arthritic Authors

We here at LAA have a few thoughts we'd like to share with you. But first, we have a question for you:

    Eh? What was that, sonny? Speak up, God damn it! You young people today, you all mumble. And your music -- !

Okay, so I've been thinking about age a lot lately. Rather, I've been thinking about being old. More specifically, I've been fretting about being an author and not being young. Most specifically, I've been hyperventilating about being a non-famous, non-established published author who is not young.

Why? Because I have the impression, or perhaps it's really an irrational fear, that what I said about myself above will cause my next novel to be dismissed by agents and/or editors simply because I'm a non-famous, non-established published author who is not young.

Some months ago, I asked Miss Snark about this. My question was never answered, but another, very similar one was. (She said she had been asked this before, meaning that at least three of us are hyperventilating about this matter.) Her answer was that an agent you query of course won't know your age and, more important, won't care about it. Don't worry about it, she said. She ended with her usual, and very good, advice: Write well. Just concentrate on that.

However, over the years, I've heard of authors being dropped by their publishers because of their age. I've also heard of second/third/etc. novels not being picked up, despite a good sales record for the published books, because of the author's age. I just hope this doesn't apply to genre writers. We don't have to look young and beautiful. How often do you see one of us on a TV talk show? (And it's a good thing you don't....)

I can't quite help the fretting, but while fretting I'll also write well. (I'd say "Continue to write well, as I always do," but that sounds awfully conceited.) (Oh, heck. Why pretend! When it comes to my writing, I am conceited.) I'll also keep fretting.

You hear that, sonny? Eh? What? Speak up!


Chris said...

This is the part of the story when the experienced writer plucks a charming and attractive creative-writing student with designs for greatness and not a whit of writing ability to pose as the author for all public appearances/interviews/photos.

Of course, then a beautiful girl (his editor, one assumes, since fiction has taught me all editors are beautiful, glamorous women in their late 20s) falls for him, and he's torn by his desire to hold on to his newfound ill-gotten gains or to come clean, professing his love for her and potentially losing everything in the process. In the romantic-comedy version, it works: he gets the girl, and the (ahem) experienced writer gets the acclaim he so rightly deserves. In the world in which I write, I suppose you'd have to off him. the upside is your book would skyrocket in popularity; the downside is, you'd have to start again with another hapless sucker.

Okay, yeah, I spend too much time reading books and watching movies. But is that really much of a surprise?

David said...

I like that plot. Do it as a very dark comic novel, filled with cynicism and murder and a series of hapless suckers, and it would work.

For some reason, I don't know why, it makes me think of Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Chris said...

Yeah, as I wrote it, I pictured some saccharine romantic comedy, but the thought of the protagonist knocking off the earnest young chap and trolling for another put me in mind of THE PLAYER; sort of a dark, biting satire of a story, and a commentary on the profession as well. I think the grace note would have to be that the last guy wasn't his first. Mayhap there's a decent story in there after all...

alternatefish said...

well heck, everything I see makes me think of Kind Hearts and Coronets.

I am hesitant to enter the age discussion because, well, of my age, but from what I understand the only reason it makes a difference is agents and editors are usually looking for authors they can turn into a career. an author who seems to have all of his or her productive years behind them would seem like a worse investment than a twenty-year-old who could presumably write and earn a publisher money for another fifty years.

But I think Miss Snark's advice holds true; if you write a good book, someone will want to buy it. I don't think any editor is going to say, "well, I think this manuscript may be the next insert great classic here, but the author's seventy-nine and a half, so I probably shouldn't take it." I'm going to go turn my music up. you like rap, right? :)

David said...

Aiiee, no, anything but rap!

Make that, anything but rap or country&western!

No, wait, make that anything but rap, country&western, or easy listening.

Wait, I mean ... I'm beginning to sound like the Spanish Inquisition skit on Monty Python. "Our main weapon is ... "

Yes, length of career. That was the other thing I was thinking of in this matter. Based on the longevity of my family, I should have 20-30 years of writing ahead of me, which is more than the writing years ahead of many much younger writers whose health habits are awful. But that's not the sort of thing one puts in a query letter!

Write well. Write well. Wanders off talking to himself -- but in a very vigorous and youthful manner.

Lahdeedah said...


You have aged, yes.
But you have rippling muscles.
And if Clint Eastwood can still have a career in Hollywood, I can't see why you can't have a writing one.

I mean... think about it....

Besides, there's always Just For Men hair and beard dye, I picture you a pale sandy brown shade....

Travis Erwin said...

I once had an agent tell me that nobody younger than thirty-five should write fiction because they haven't seen enough of life to write about it.

I was twenty nine at the time so I thought that was hogwash then as I do now even though I'm knocking on the door of thirty-five. Think I'll query her on my birthday. At least she'll have to come up with a new excuse now.

And recently I read about a ninety eight year old man getting published for the first time. Surely you got him beat.

David said...

travis, interesting advice/opinion from that agent. Of course, there are plenty of 29 year olds who are quite wise enough to write good books and plenty of 63 years olds who aren't.

lahdeedah, thanks for saying "rippling muscles." I'll treasure that. Maybe I'll even have that engraved on my tombstone: "He was old, but some of his muscles still rippled faintly." The problem with the Eastwood comparison is that he made it when he was young and then was able to stay in the game. Same for old writers, such as Clarke. It's much harder to break in/break in again when you're already old.

On the other hand, there's the caes of the 98-year-old man travis referred to. Gotta remember that.