“If I were more trite I’d be successful!”


I’ve been neglecting this space lately except for link salads and new announcements (Twenty Palaces print edition! Buying from B&N earns more for me than Amazon orders do!) mostly because I’ve been on a big push to finish initial major revisions for all three books in The Great Way.

That’s done and I’ve sent them to my agent. Next I have a short story to revise and more Kickstarter work to wrap up. Unfinished tasks unrelated to actually making the trilogy include:

* Fate game supplement for TGW.
* Fate game supplement for KEY/EGG.
* Straighten out notes for Twenty Palaces short story.
* Write Twenty Palaces short story.
* Compile that story plus others (with introductions) into a collection.
* Assorted tasks associated with all that shit, including covers.

Actually, that list doesn’t look too bad from here.

However! In an attempt to remake the habit of posting here, let me resurrect a post that I started and abandoned last July(!) regarding British crime writer John Connor, spurred by this advertisement interview.

Mostly, I was annoyed by this quote:

He says: “It’s been a struggle all along. If you come at it from the point of view of wanting to write something interesting and worthwhile and entertaining, well, those are the three things that makes it hard if you want to produce something other than some stupid trite piece of content.

“You set yourself a goal of doing any of those things in one genre. It’s easy to do two of those, but doing all three feels like one long compromise. It ended up being a long way from doing what I wanted to do at the start.”

See, Connor (actually a pen name, for some reason) is a former prosecutor, and he pretty much hates the way popular mystery and thriller writers portray crime and its effects.

Which is completely fair. He has real world experience and he can call bullshit on what he (and others, too) call the torture pron aspects of the genre. Frankly, I’m not such a big fan of torture pron either, so I’m sympathetic.

And getting the emotions right–that is, treating tragedies like tragedies and not excuses for heroic rage–is a laudable goal. He earned another measure of sympathy with that one.

Still, it’s painful to see him blaming his perfectly ordinary midlist career on his integrity. Without having read any of his books:

First of all, as pen names go, “John Connor” is terrible. It’s bland. It’s easily misspelled (as “Conner” or “Jon”). It doesn’t even let the cover designer set his last name in huge type; six letters isn’t bad, but a four-letter long last name has size. It would be more memorable if he followed Donald Westlake’s advice of using a super-common last name and an unusual first name. “Connor Johns” is a better pen name than what he’s chosen.

Second, I’ve read plenty of books by actual cops and other people with law enforcement day jobs, and while it’s great for marketing, for the most part I prefer books by outsiders.

It’s not that I’m against realism; it’s that realism often has a certain plodding flatness to it. Every job comes with a certain amount of tedium, even the sort they make hit TV shows of. That’s why you don’t give the boring rote work to the lead character; that’s for the supporting cast to explain with a phone call. That’s why you don’t have them wander aimlessly through the clues; make that shit into a trail. Be fun.

Third, if you approach your own genre with this attitude:

“I have experienced those crimes – that’s half my problem. I’ve experienced them and I know what they’re like which makes me think: ‘You can’t do that just for entertainment!’”

Maybe you should be writing something else.