What Ever Happened to That Book I Was Writing?
Many of you have been asking me lately, “Hey, did you ever finish your novel?” “What ever happened to that book you were writing?” “Wait, you’re fucking seriously still working on that, bro?” I appreciate the support, but as you can imagine, it would take me a long time to individually tweet both of you back, so I’m going to sit down and do this all in one place. Please note: if you are a literary agent, this is obviously not an "unsolicited submission,” as this responds to your most recent rejections. Agents, please skip ahead to the paragraph beginning, "There is an extraordinary amount of buzz about this book."
The book is nearly (halfway) done. As you’ve probably heard, 1984 was a breakthrough year, when I realized that it was confusing to have Barbette kill her mother with scissors (after Samuel Pisch delivers the trout) if Barbette was going to be driving to Lexington with her mother in the last chapter. Barbette can’t drive and, anyway, the road would be impassable because of the meteor. In the revised version, Barbette kills her mother with Propofol then carries her to Pisch's house, who is cutting out paper dolls with Barbette's scissors. This puts Barbette near the exploding lake. Barbette then delivers her speech, which I am planning to write next spring. In this version, Barbette is a dancer and a pharmacology student, not a country fishmonger.
I did have to delete the character "Barbette" in 1992, at about the same time I named the book Rudolf. Rudolf, who opens the narration, no longer appears in the book, except at the beginning, when he is disemboweled by a pack of starving wolves. A lot of you have asked whether this opening scene could be cut down from 117 pages. I don't know. Do you think Spielberg should have just cut that opening scene in Saving Private Ryan? I think it's important to see what happens to Rudolf and to feel what it would be like to inflict this pain into his bowels. In that way, I think writing it in Wolfen was important. How do you have the perspective otherwise? Rudolf dies, so he can't tell it. So the wolves must talk. It seems easy, but this was largely the 90s for me.
I'm the first to admit that at 6,036 pages the second draft felt sluggish. With the third draft, I added 204 more characters and fleshed out 31 of the plot lines. There is no question that the release of Avatar was a setback and all of the legal wrangling about who came up with what, and when, made it hard to stay focused, especially in jail. What's important is that I now have the security of a signed deal with Jim Cameron that he doesn’t borrow from me and I don’t borrow from him and we stay 75 feet away from one another at all times. Given that after I finish the book I plan on spending most of my time deep sea diving, I don’t expect that to be a problem!
As for my personal life, I really don't think this is anyone's business and I'm loathe to talk about it. I'll just say this: Karen and I did split, in 2003, after she became hysterical about a grayish, sticky puss leaking from my left nipple. It was no more than a tablespoon every couple of hours, and there were certain days I didn't even need to change my shirt or sheets at all. (I've attached a photo. Judge for yourself whether this deserves a "Go to the doctor.") I’m not “underwater” on my “mortgage.” I sent a note to you asking you to send me money, because I, like so many of you, worry about the state of our libraries. Also, I'm not "gay," whatever that even means nowadays. Rudolf and I lived together for 6 years. We made a home together. We slept in the same bed. Then he left. Did this hurt? Sure. Was I intensely angry? There were moments when I wasn’t. Is any of this relevant in any way whatsoever to who I am as a person, or my novel? No.
There is an extraordinary amount of buzz about this book. In the tradition of Clan of the Cave Bear, Annie and Terminator II, Fuck You, Rudolf is the story of survival, pluck, honor killing, and the power of robotics. Erotic, whimsical, haunting, a futuristic historical young adult fantasy full of practical kitchen tips, this soon-to-be-finished (2018) four page micro-novel is being hailed as a “new book” with important things to say to “everyone.” I’d be happy to send you the opening sentence in the next couple of months, and hope to have all revisions done pretty soon.
Self-addressed stamped envelope enclosed.