On Monday's blog
I invited reader questions. I got several, including this:
Ivanna Hump says:
May 28th, 2007 at 4:43 pm
Who do you like to read?
I was prepared to answer all the questions on Friday, but Ivanna vouldn't vait.
Ivanna Hump says:
May 31st, 2007 at 12:09 am
So you just gonna paste in more pre-fab text or do you feel like answering questions from your possible-would-be-fans?
That was pretty sly . . . asking what we wanted to know about. And then ignoring it. As if you care.
Hmm. I think I might drop your books from my Powells wishlist. (I know it doesn't mean much to you, but that's actually how I manage to spend thousands of dollars on myself and my friends every year ? my Powells wishlist. I'm sure you don't need the cash or the recommendations, though.)
Honestly: Who do you read? Why? I don't give a fuck about your synopses (or worse ? regurgitations!) of your own books. Give it up. Show me why I should spend money on you. For me. For all of my friends. Hell ? I stll actually read and BUY books in this day and age! Tell me (according to your own interests that you want to share ? who do you READ?) why I should buy your book for my mom.
So now I vanna make a public apology to the Hump Man.
Hey Dude (and I'll bet the farm that you're a guy),
I apologize for thinking Ivanna Hump was a joke name and who do you read was a joke question. I should have taken you more seriously.
Obviously you are a person of great passion. As for your perceptive powers, I'm betting you couldn't find horseshit if you were locked in a room full of Clydesdales.
You think I pasted in pre-fab text? Did the phrase being a guest blogger at Powells is like being a substitute teacher feel like a regurgitation? Did you think having one of my characters write a story I've never told anywhere is a synopsis of one of my books?
You say "show me why I should spend money on you." How do I do that, Babushka Lady? By telling you who I read? Would you spend more money if turns out we both love Pop Tarts, the score from Mamma Mia, and cross dressing?
I'm happy to tell people what I read. But not to sell my books. Janet Maslin can tell you how I sell books.
In her review of The Rabbit Factory in the New York Times, Ms. Maslin said that I bring "to mind Robert B. Parker, Janet Evanovich, Dean Koontz, Stuart Woods and a lot of other fast-paced authors." She even said "he's good at what he does." And then she pulled the rug out by saying I'd spent years in the marketing business, and what I really did was cleverly construct a novel to make it appeal to the popular culture.
Like that's a bad thing.
I admit it. When I sat down to write my first book, I thought about what my reader would want to read. Not what I would want them to read.
The answer, I decided, was great characters.
A compelling plot holds it all together, but one of the things I learned on my last tour of duty in LA was that a lot of people don't tune in for the plot. So my target audience (marketing term) was not readers who pick up a thriller for the gore of the crime or the minutiae of the forensics. I wanted to write for people who delight in three dimensional characters who have real lives, genuine sensibilities, visible warts and great senses of humor.
My strength, as I learned from writing for theatre, film, and television is in creating characters people want to spend time with. I grew up reading the Hardy Boys, the Baseball Joe books and the X Bar X Boys. I loved the characters and couldn't wait to pick up the next book in the series. I really didn't care what they did. I just wanted to be with them.
Great characters can provide the reader with a predictable emotional experience; something warm and familiar, something comforting, something they can count on. I created Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs for people who will finish the first book, put it down and say, "I love these guys. I can't wait to see what they do next."
And yes, my cops are funny. Because funny helps cops get through the ugly. Because people like funny. And because, Ivanna Baby, I am one freaking funny man. Maybe not to you. But that's the buzz on the street. Karp's funny.
So in gearing up for my week on Powells.com, I did some research. The toughest part of the assignment is that there's no real assignment. Just a real deadline. Write what you want. Just deliver it by 10 a.m.
I went back and read a lot of past blogs. Some of the bloggers phone it in (I'm on a plane. Peanuts and diet Coke for breakfast. The woman next to me is sneezing. Book tours really suck. Gotta go.).
But some gave me what I came for. Fresh thinking. Smart writing. I didn't read Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, but sight unseen, I'd recommend it. Why? Because his blog on Powells, You Have An Instant Message From Ted Bundy In Hell, totally rocks.
And that was my goal for this week. Write your blog like you write your books. Give the Powell's People a free taste, a few laughs, and maybe you'll get feedback like this:
Tim Truman says:
May 31st, 2007 at 3:02 pm
Excellent wrap-up, Marshall! If the cop dialog in your book is this good, consider me a fan.
Tim, I'm glad you got what you came for. Now let me try to make my Russian girlfriend happy.
Okay, Ivanna Dude, I'll give you some of the authors I've read and loved over the years. No particular order, just off the top of my head.
Mark Twain, Philip Wylie, Frederick Forsyth, Neil Simon, William Shakespeare, Michael Connelly, Miguel de Cervantes, Woody Allen, Bruce Jay Friedman, James Patterson, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Lescroart, Joseph Finder, J. K. Rowling, and Dr. Seuss.
On the other hand, (except for Twain) not everything from their fingers is gold. I mean, Titus Andronicusâ€¦ give me a break, Willy.
Some specific books I've read recently and would recommend (even though you never really told me what you read) are A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read, Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny, and Now You See Me by Margaret Murphy. But I gotta tell you, Ivanna, I don't know if you'll like anything I like, so save your money. Instead, I'll make you a deal.
Karp offers Hump a Deal
There's one part of your post that I totally believe. You're a real reader. You buy a lot of books. And you buy from Powell's. So take my books off your Powell's wishlist. I'll buy you one. Just post your real name to this blog and I'll have Powell's send you half the collected works of Marshall Karp. A copy of The Rabbit Factory.
Free book. But I'm not sending it to Ivanna Hump. Just put your man stones on the line and cough up your name on the same spot where you spit out your trash talk. Or squat back down and shut up.
April Younglove says:
May 28th, 2007 at 11:08 am
Question: what would you do if you met God? Would your personal experience lead you to suspect that you were delusional or would you take it as proof of God's existence?
Wow, April. My first instinct is to say "if I met God? I married her, and boy, does She get pissed off when I leave the toilet seat up." But the straight answer is this: if God showed up, I'd be surprised, but I wouldn't think I was delusional. It would be more than proof; it would be confirmation. And then, of course, I'd want to ask a million questions. Like, "So, God, who do you read?"
I'm counting words, and we have room for a few more questions.
Dan H says:
May 31st, 2007 at 2:06 pm
One burning question remains: Did you make it to Chicago in time to meet Judy?
Damn your ass, Dan. As soon as I posted it, I knew someone would ask. Yes, I made it to Chicago and I picked Judy up at O'Hare. The drive back to New York was tedious and anticlimactic. And in a cut and paste, pre-fab text world, I might just end it there. But my reputation is at stake here. My creative integrity has been challenged. So I'll lay it on the line. Judy is long gone, but she left me with a special gift. Unfortunately, I'm allergic to penicillin, so memories of the trip (and the girl) lingered for many years. Did I foreshadow that in my blog? I mean, Dan, you did say one burning question.
Time for one more from a Powell's reader.
May 30th, 2007 at 5:48 pm
I loved, loved, loved "The Rabbit Factory"! I was thrilled to see the second installment. I have it at home and it's next in queue. And knowing that number three is in the works ? I'm in heaven!
Beth, I sense you're holding back. When you say heaven, I feel you really want to ask about the work I do for The Vitamin Angel Alliance. There's no room here to expound on all the work they do, but I recently wrote a 2-minute spot for Noah Wyle. If you've got a dollar, and you think you'd feel good about actually saving some child's life, take a look at the film.
I wrote those six words, and I'm proud of it.
And finally, here's one last question I get everywhere I go:
Strangers on the Street say:
Excuse me, sir, can you tell me what time it is?
If you get that question as often as I do, here's a great answer.
That's all, folks. Winners of this week's Be A Character In Marshall Karp's Next Book Contest are:
Best question: April Younglove
Random from all who checked in: John King
Best Suck-Up Comment: Tim Truman
To verify that you really exist, and that you actually want to be a character, write to email@example.com.
To those of you who read these ramblings, either out of curiosity, friendship, or family obligation, my sincere gratitude. And to Chris Bolton and all the folks at Powell's, thank you for supporting my life of crime.