Call It a Side Project…

CoverF_500pxSo last year I wrote a novel about my worst fear: the death of
bookstores. The story came to me in a flash, in response to something
that was happening around me at that very moment, but for a few months
I fought against the idea of writing it. I'm a nonfiction writer, with
four books on the shelf and fifth one in the works. Surely jumping into
fiction would be a risky career move at this point.

But the fact is that when I'm not doing research for one of my own
books, I read nothing but novels. I was that kid who always wanted to
be a writer when she grew up, and it was not nonfiction that inspired
me. It was fiction. So eventually I decided to quit fighting the
impulse. I cleared my schedule and gave myself a little time to write a
novel. I didn’t tell anyone—not my agent, not my editor. I didn’t write
a book proposal or seek out a book contract. I didn’t worry about the
marketing plan. I just wrote.

And it was glorious. Delicious and delirious and intoxicating.
Here’s what I loved about it: when you write fiction, you get to make
stuff up. For me, as a nonfiction writer wedded to facts and research,
that felt risky and transgressive. I wrote for several hours every day,
thinking all the while, "Can I really do this?" If I got bored with a
character, I could drive him off a cliff. If I hated the house I'd
constructed for one of my characters to live in, I could burn it down.
Being a character in a novel-in-progress, I realized, is dangerous
business: mine were subjected to sex changes, disastrous love affairs,
and run-ins with the law, all because I wanted to test the limits of my
new-found power.

Really, it was amazing. There was no fact-checking, no deadline, and
no contract to fulfill. Just the sheer joy of telling a story that
delighted the hell out of me. And because I was working in complete
obscurity, I didn’t even worry about whether it was any good. I just

But now what?  Well, I've decided to undertake a little experiment.  I'm releasing it in digital form as a kind of beta test, a way to get feedback from readers. You can read all about it here.  And if you own a Kindle or an iPhone, you can download a copy.  If you own a Sony Reader or if you want to read it on your computer, you can do that, too.

What about a print version, you ask?  That may be coming soon.  Stay tuned.

Here, by the way, is a preview, courtesy of Scribd, the document-sharing site that is fast becoming the YouTube of text. 

The Last Bookstore in America

3 thoughts on “Call It a Side Project…”

  1. You could change the title and call it “The Last Nursery in America” and it would probably be right on. I find that bookstores and nurseries are both confronted by the same competition. Book stores have Borders as a mass merchant, and Amazon as the mail order competition. The nursery has Home Depot and others as mass merchants, and even Amazon as online competition.
    I hope as we proceed through these strange days that people will come to realize the importance of the local book store and nursery. It’s not just about paper bound together and sold, or plants grown and sold, but about the fabric of the community, and what we want it to look like. Do we really want to buy everything from a warehouse in Nevada, or a mass merchant who’s allegiance is really with the corporate headquarters, and not the neighborhood?
    Things are changing and I think the days of the locally owned business are looking better. Let’s hope.

  2. That’s cool that you’ve decided to try your hand at fiction – I would imagine it’d be a very different experience – the sheer freedom in just “making things up” as you mentioned. I also fear the death of bookstores. I have found that the past several books I have sought after specifically in a bookstore have not been available. I did just get back from Border’s today and interestingly, found a LOT of toys, games, school supplies, and even food. Seems like a transition is being made…Lots of cute little trinkets, but at the same time…in a bookstore?? Mixed feelings.

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