Guest Post: Writers Who Write About Their Writing by Shane W. Smith
Here are some thoughts that suggest that writers are not, as people tend to believe, the best people to talk about their work.
In fact, after reading this, you might come to believe that they are the worst possible choice.
1. I’m not qualified to talk about my book
In How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Pierre Bayard notes that:
[Paul]Valery posited that despite appearances, an author is in no position to explain his own work. The work is the product of a creative process that occurs in the writer but transcends him, and it is unfair to reduce it to that act of creation. To understand a text, therefore, there is little point in gathering information about the author, since in the final analysis he serves it only as a temporary shelter. (Bayard, p 16)
I have discovered that this is, to at least some extent true, as the conscious effort of creation is tremendously supplemented by a myriad of subconscious influences that I cannot even identify, let alone qualify or quantify. While, for example, The Lesser Evil is not by any means a deeply subtle text, I can but presume that similar principles are at work here.
2. My book becomes your book
Bayard goes on to describe
an experience familiar to all writers, in which they realise that what is said about their books does not correspond to what they believe they have written. Every writer who has conversed at any length with an attentive reader, or read an article of any length about himself, has had the uncanny experience of discovering the absence of any connection between what he meant to accomplish and what has been grasped of it. There is nothing astonishing in this disjuncture; since their inner books differ by definition, the one the reader has superimposed on the book is unlikely to seem familiar to the writer. (Bayard, p 97-8)
There’s a lot to say on this.
The first and most obvious conclusion that one can grasp from this statement is that by talking about their work, an author is pre-loading their text with extra meaning, colouring the reader’s experience in a certain way, coming closer to ensuring that the reader has the experience the author intended.
Even for the author, I don’t believe that this situation is ideal. Being very new to the prospect of having an audience for my work, I can’t say from experience how it feels to have someone read something into your work that you didn’t realise was there … but it sounds very exciting, not something to be feared or avoided.
Of course, I can imagine circumstances where a universal reading experience would be the ideal, especially in the realm of non-fiction, and also in fictional texts where the author is championing a cause or point of view.
The second conclusion I draw from this has to do with the author’s level of control. Anyone who writes a book is a control freak … on the page, if not in the real world as well. It seems to me that letting go of that book, sending it out into the world to make something of itself would not be too different from releasing a carefully-moulded child in the same way.
The reluctance of an author to relinquish the right of reading to the reader can, in my opinion, damage his/her book’s impact upon its audience. Take everything I say about my work with a grain of salt.
That said, you should probably check out The Lesser Evil, as (I think) it’s a powerful and exciting graphic novel that explores what it’s like to have a dream, and what that dream can end up costing... regardless of whether it comes true. (Feel free to apply any of the above principles while reading it to debunk this byline!)
About the Book
by Shane W. Smith
Published: August 24, 2011
Publisher: Zeta Comics
Stanley Myres, Chancellor of the galactic Senate...Elam Padakan, Overlord of exiled superpower Padakan House...Young Ross Tillman, a student on Messar...When civil war erupts on Messar, these three men aredrawn into the conflict. And as their paths begin to intersectand tangle together, they come to realise that the galaxyhas very different plans for all of their dreams.The Lesser Evil is a graphic novel that examines what itmeans to have a dream... and what that dream can end upcosting, regardless of whether it comes true.
I don't usually read graphic novels but I found this very enjoyable. It had a good storyline. The only downside was some of the pictures were hard to see as they were quite dark. I will definatly check out the next one. - Becky
I have to admit this was somthing very different for me, not only was it my first graphic novel, I'm not the biggest Sci-Fi fan when it comes to books. But that being said, I actually quite enjoyed this. I found it a quick and easy read, fast paced and action packed. - Emma
There are 3 things I loved about this book. (1) It's got great writing, which is rare even for Graphic Novels that aspire to be "literary". (2) I read Lesser Evil while also reading Game of Thrones and I got into how much the Lesser Evil also cared about its characters' inner lives and how they thought and felt about the messes they made. It's Epic but deeply personal. And (3) the author did the book himself with 3D animation software, which kind of blew my mind that a writer can create a comic book without being able to draw. - Robert Simon