Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Thoughts on switching publishers

My publisher, Jerry Brennan of Tortoise Books, recently wrote a blog post to share his thoughts about taking over publishing and production duties for The Fugue. Writers aspiring to publish novels should read it. Today I want to expand a bit on Jerry’s thoughts.

It turns out that, unbeknownst to either of us, Jerry and I were students at Columbia University at exactly the same time. He was at the J-school while I attended classes one building to the north at the School of the Arts.

I often used to peer at the J-school and feel pangs of jealousy. Journalism students, I was sure, didn’t struggle with feelings of illegitimacy the way I did as a mere writing student. They were all sure of themselves and would one day offer society valuable skill. How could I know one of them would be publishing my book?

It’s possible that Jerry and I ate in the cafeteria at the same time or stood queued up in the bookstore at the very same hour. I would pass the J-school every single day, no matter if I was going to class or to the library. Al Gore was teaching there, and I once tried to pry in to a lecture only to get paranoid at the last minute and hide away. Jerry attended those classes.

I’ve known Jerry on Facebook and Twitter ever since the publication of Finding the Moon in Sugar in 2009. He and I caught wind of one another through Chicago’s indie writing community. Of course, I had no idea we had been classmates, trading places in rather classic ships-in-the-night fashion. I was quite literally working on the earliest version of The Fugue while Jerry was studying under Al Gore.

I experienced a roller coaster of a day this past February when CCLaP and I parted ways. In less than twelve hours, I went from being suddenly unpublished to published again, with a new marketing plan and a ton of support.

As with virtually anything in life, luck and diligence conspired to see me find a second deal. And I see no small bit of weirdness in the story, that a book I had essentially put under my bed, hung up as a failure, ended up published not once but twice, and in the span of less than a day, the second time by a guy from essentially the same graduating class.

I got good advice from wise people when I published Finding the Moon in Sugar. Here it is: reach out to everyone you can and take an active interest in other people’s businesses and stories; look at others in the publishing world as collaborators, not competitors, and understand that a team effort is necessary for a book to do well. Of course, many things are just beyond your control. You go to graduate school, at least partially, to “develop a network”. How fitting that a guy in my network was someone who shared my college experience when neither of us had any idea until the ink had dried on the contract.

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The Pre-Birth Menu

Choose your parents. Choose to be born during a specific period of history. Choose your gender. Choose your race, ethnicity, language and social class. Choose your level of intellect, your various talents, the size and shape of your body, the color of your eyes, the strength in your arms and legs. Choose your level of health. Choose your personality, character and unequalled tenacity.

Then choose the conflicts and accidents to befall you. Be aware: the pre-birth menu does not offer the choice of “no accident”. You must choose something. Nazis or Soviets should bust down your door, a tsunami must wreck your village, a pipeline should explode near your place of work, a father should beat you, a Sandusky molest you, a priest have his way with you, or a stray bullet must pierce your (very much beloved) infant brother’s skull. If you’re to avoid violence or natural disaster, you must at least choose to face some injury or illness, either a physical defect or mental trait that renders you stubborn, foolish or relentlessly sad. Perhaps you’ll be obese, depressed or suffer from acid reflux. There’s just no way out of this. We’ve yet to see anyone, even members of the über-class, spend a life without conflict. Jesus was tortured to death. The Buddha found suffering everywhere. Socrates drank hemlock. Bill Gates is a nerd. Warren Buffett feels guilty about his secretary’s taxes.

Now, conflicts and disasters aside, build your business (or maintain your occupation) yourself. Mine your own ore. Smelt your own metal. Forge every single tool, nail, screw and bolt, every girder and corrugated sheet. Farm your own trees; cut and transport your own lumber. In the process, make your own energy; dig your own wells. Fix every last thing yourself. Raise and educate your children without any teachers, schools, scientists or coaches. Heal every ailment; treat every sore without a single doctor or nurse. Also, make your own weapons (also without scientists) to defeat or neutralize your enemies without any help from conscripts, volunteers or manic patriots. In the process, grow, raise, harvest and cook your own food. While eating, think things through carefully, tenaciously: have you prepared yourself for every possible calamity, including your certain death?

In short, have you dug your own grave? And can you be sure to remain standing near its foot at the hour of your death? Because if you happen to drop dead in some other place, you cannot expect anyone to drag your cadaver across the empire of your ego. They’ll all be too busy fending for themselves to notice that you’re gone.