There’s this guy, named Ronald F. Currie Jr., who just sold his literary novel-in-stories to Viking in the kind of fairy-tale deal that enables one to go in to work the next day and, if one is so inclined, tell his boss to shove it. So I get to say I knew him when: he was this brilliant but completely unknown writer workshopping stories on Zoetrope, which is where I spend much of my procrastination time. Susan Henderson interviews him on her blog:
You’ve had a pretty amazing year so far, going from longtime short-order cook to a guy with a book deal. Can you fill my readers in?
Sure. The past few months have made a lot of my decisions to this point (dropping out of college, not marrying or having kids, working throwaway jobs to protect my writing time and energy) look suddenly pretty smart. As far as the book deal itself, I had a comparatively easy go of it. I first started querying agents in October of last year; by December I’d signed with Simon Lipskar of Writers House (who, despite the fact that he’s a Yankee fan, is a whip-smart, fantastic agent and great all-around guy to boot). Simon started submitting the book near the end of January. There was immediate interest (due as much, I’m convinced, to Simon’s wisdom about where to send the book as to the quality of the book itself) and within two weeks I had a deal. So in the span of three or four months I went from where I’d always been–slinging slop and writing on the side–to where I am now, where I’ve always wanted to be: writing full-time. I feel extraordinarily lucky.
Are you looking towards the next writing project or busy fine-tuning “God Is Dead”?
Both. At the moment I’m revising “God is Dead,” but also going over the concept for my next book with my agent. It should be equally weird; I find I have very little interest in writing anything that doesn’t feature, say, omnipotent dogs who walk on water and speak Aramaic.
One thing I noticed after the news of Ron’s deal broke through my segment of the online writing community was that several other writers then turned to their agents and said, What have you done for me lately? In one case, this was good and productive — the writer in question is highly skilled and accomplished but maybe not so commercial (even for a literary writer), and the writer-agent relationship was indeed a bit broken. In other cases, the writers struck me as impatient and naive, and one was on the verge of quitting an agent I thought she was very lucky to have in the first place. Their perception seemed to be that it was strictly the agent’s fault that they, too, were not being fought over by major publishing houses and awarded six-figure deals. As if Ron’s undeniable talent, particular worldview, years and years of writing apprenticeship (punctuated by sales to respectable literary journals), unique style of satirical yet emotionally moving fiction, and, well, the kindness of the great and mysterious Lady of Luck, had nothing to do with it — or with why he had scored such a big agent in the first place.
I read once that when Brad Pitt first broke through in THELMA AND LOUISE, several of his college buddies dropped their lives and struck off for Hollywood to become movie stars themselves. If Brad could do it, why couldn’t they? It’s great when someone else’s success inspires you in some way — to make a change, take action, try something new. And yet…we always hear about how success can distort your perspective. And God knows it can (I’m reminded of conversations my husband used to have with some of his Silicon Valley colleagues when talking about the people they knew who had become multimillionaires: dividing them into those who had managed to stay sane, and those whose feet had left all contact with planet Earth). We don’t hear so much about how your success can distort the perspectives of the people who come into contact with you. How it can be contagious in all the wrong ways. How, when it’s thrust into someone’s face like that, wielded by some guy who was just an ordinary schmuck the day before*, it might seem like they can reach right out and take it for themselves. Just like that.
*One of the hazards of living in Los Angeles. I remember when a girlfriend of mine was telling me about this guy she had just started to crush on, who suddenly upped and vanished from her social circle. When my friend inquired of another friend what had happened to him, he gave her an odd look and said, “He’s off with his brother. His brother just got cast as Anakin Skywalker.”