Thursday, October 15, 2009

James and Me

I had the pleasure of hosting James Ellroy when he came to Skylight Books. The first time I met him, I was scared of him. He has an overwhelming personality and he's VERY conservative politically. He's also an amazing writer. (And he was kind enough to blurb my second novel.)

I've had the pleasure of introducing him several times now and he never fails to entertain. He's boisterous and rude and you can't pull your eyes and ears away from him!

He has some interesting writing tips that I might try.

1. He outlines the sh*t out of a book before he writes a word! Hundreds of pages of notes before he writes a novel. He figures it out waaaaaay before hand.

2. He said imagination trumps research. I research the heck out of a project. I interview people, read tons of books to get a feel of a period. He said research does not necessarily make a good book. Imagination makes a good book.

3. He cuts himself away from the world. He doesn't watch TV, see movies, read papers. All of his writing is prior to 1972. He doesn't want to be in the current state of the world today. (I'm partially there. I don't have a TV.)

4. Writers grow. This may sound obvious, but I'm a writer with two books under his belt. James has seventeen! He may be famous for The Black Dahlia, but he said he's done with writing about murdered women. I wonder about writing about other things, other communities. I'm curious what my future books will be, then again, I'm curious about the future person I will become who will write those future books.

This quote is currently taped to my bathroom mirror:

"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us." Joseph Campbell

To see me nervously interview James Ellroy, click here.


Cheryl said...

Those first three tips make me think Mr. Ellroy and I might not totally hit it off. I only reluctantly outline; I think that, just like research, imagination has its limits; and I LOVE immersing myself in as much culture as I have time for. But it takes all kinds, right?

tfcinnyc said...

Whoa! I just watched that interview. First impression: he reminded me (in his persona -- all the world's a stage) of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (who, in contrast to Mr. Ellroy, was very liberal, except when it came to guns and firearms of any sort. I had the pleasure of meeting him one time, and he accused me of tape recording his comments and then he tried to set me on fire). I've only read the Black Dahlia, which I admired but kind of grossed me out at the same time (severed bodies aren't my thing), so I don't know much about about James Ellroy, but I do think he's an impressive writer.

Don Cummings said...

Oh Man! I outline, too. but not like he does.

Noel! How fun you get to host these writers. They are in fine company.