Got a Question? I’ve Got an Answer (maybe)

I’m here anyway all day laboring away on various projects, attention fragmented, so if you’ve got a question–burning or otherwise–feel free to ask it. These days we tend to think writers should be experts on more than just writing, so in addition to writing/editing/publishing questions, I’ll field any questions you have about Nabokov, Edward Whittemore, Angela Carter, Decadent literature, mushrooms, squid, music, alien babies, weightlifting, Byzantine history, noir, and movies.


  1. says

    And because I can: Will the Gators be able to cover the point spread for once against an SEC opponent this week, after failing miserably last week? :P

  2. Ross says

    1) I’ve always thought that Lolita is about self-deception and the human habit of creating a false self that explains one’s deeds coherently, if not morally. This leads me to think that Humbert is full of shit most of the time– he misinterprets the facts of his story– but I’m not sure if he lies about the fact of those facts. Do you think that he is lying about the the morning at the Enchanted Hunter when he and Lo “technically became lovers?”

    2) I want writing and publishing books to remain a viable business. I cannot afford to buy every book I read (I read lot a lot, make a medium-sized amount of money, and am trying to save). I buy some books, but get a lot more out of the library. Am I failing, morally, because I don’t economically support all the authors whose work enriches my life? Is this counterbalanced by my support of the free lending library, a wonderful democratic institution? (NB: I am in love with and will soon marry a librarian.) Can you suggest criteria for determining which books I should buy rather than borrow? Small presses? Unpopular genres? Your work?

  3. Hellbound Heart says

    after reading and listening to your post on arctic monkeys a little while ago i went out and bought their latest album….not bad at all, compadre!

    what do you consider as the church’s best album/song?

    peace and love……

    another question………why do i LOVE chocolate so much?

  4. jeff vandermeer says

    M–I find the whole history of the Byzantines’ survival fascinating in the sense of how many times they had to combine diplomacy and behind-the-scenes intrigue with military campaigns. Also, their position straddling Europe and Asia. I like the art, but mostly interested in the history. Also their interactions with Venice, their situation during the Crusades, etc.

    Chris–I’d be stumped, too. Anyone got any ideas?


    Ross–(1) I agree with you, but define “lie”? He’s so spinning the facts anyway that it may not matter. On another level, of course it didn’t happen–it’s fiction. (2) This may be a controversial thought, but…make sure you buy fiction by the writers who are midlist and full-time. The economy being what it is, you’re not going to help mid-list writers who have day jobs become full-time writers by buying their books. But more specifically, buy books that don’t fit ready-made marketing categories, because those will have the hardest time finding an audience in the current environment–and buy them equally from large presses as from small.

    Hellbound–I like so much of the Church’s work that I don’t know if I can answer that question. But, Starfish does have a ton of good music on it. But, again, I love most all of it, and my answer would change by the week. You like chocolate because you are human.

  5. says

    Bob: By throwing it against a wall, of course!

    Jeff: The Swedish couple you’re thinking of is most probably Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö.

  6. says

    Hey, Jeff, nobody’s asked about weightlifting. What’s your workout like? How did you balance working out with writing and a day job? And how’s not having the day job changed things?

  7. jeff vandermeer says

    Well, the day job was right next to the gym, so I’d go right after work. If the writing schedule was intense, I’d do full body three days a week. If not, legs/back three times a week, arms/chest/shoulders two times a week, then switch to three times for a/c/s, two times for l/b. I bought gym equipment for the home–free weights, bench, benchpress stand–so that if I couldn’t do a full gym work-out, I could still do something at home.

    Now that I’m don’t have a day job, it’s in many ways easier and better, because I can go the gym during that 2:30 to 4:30 stretch where it’s hard for me to keep focus on the writing or other projects. Lately, I’ve been most interested in building muscle, and so I’ve done more circuit training and cut the outright cardio. So, for example, I’ll let the leg press function as part of a cardio work-out. I’ll do three sets in a row at different foot positions at about 800 pounds and then after the third superset, I’ll take one plate off each side and quickly get back into position to do two sets, take two more plates off, repeat, and do that down to one plate on each side. That’s a pretty good heart-rate spike. Then I’ll also do things like combine latt pull-down with lunges, so that I’m not letting my body rest. Ultimate expression of that is doing lunges the length of the basketball court with two 35-lb weights and then on the way back doing military presses for shoulders, going from that immediately to the leg extension machine and then shoulder shrugs, followed immediately by a little clean-up work on biceps/triceps.

    I’ve been able to up my benchpress to three multi-sets: one at 200 lbs with the barbell, one at 120 lbs using two dumbbells, and then one at 80 also using dumbbells. Then repeat. Chest and shoulder strength is now nicely counterbalancing leg and back strength. I do work on triceps very hard, mostly with free weights, at the end of my work-outs. I’m also trying to target abs more, although abs get worked on a lot of the other exercises. Biceps I do at the very, very end.

    This approach has meant I’ve gained a significant amount of muscle over the last six months, but also I’ve gained a little fat. So now I’m switching the balance to include more straight cardio and cut all alcohol and bad carbs. The idea between now and World Fantasy and the book tour is to shed anywhere from five to ten pounds while either maintaining muscle mass or adding a little to it. If I can do that, then while on the six week tour I can maintain a healthy diet, use body resistance exercises when I can’t find a gym, and hopefully come out the back end having put on five pounds or less. (I know from prior experience on extended tours that it’s impossible not to gain a little weight, although quite frankly it’s a lot easier to not put on weight if you’re touring Europe because there’s so much more walking than in U.S. cities.)

    It’s something I really think about now I’m in my 40s and because I’m doing so many projects. Without the weight-training I would’ve gone insane a long time ago. Because you have to concentrate on just the lifting or you hurt yourself, it’s somewhat meditative. And when I’m stressed from over-work, it also helps calm me down. What I need to do now is take it to the next level, and that really means getting serious about the healthy eating and the alcohol intake–not just now but going forward. It’s easy to fall back into bad habits that don’t support the exercise.

    I’m much healthier at 40 than I was at 30 because of lifting weights, and if I work hard I can be healthier at 50 than at 40. The most important thing is–I love doing it. I used to jog a lot, and not only was I continually hurting my ankles, I *hated* jogging, so it was hard to keep to a regular schedule.

    In general, I think writers need to try to include exercise as part of maintaining their creative edge. The more I keep to a regular schedule, the more creative energy I have. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what weight someone’s at–it’s just about getting the body moving as an antidote to being in front of the computer so much. And being in balance. Okay, I think that’s enough babbling about one of my favorite subjects…

  8. says

    Jeff, you mentioned (and even sic:ed) Henning Menkel in an earlier post. Don’t you mean Henning Mankell, the author of the ‘Kurt Wallander’-books? He’s just as swedish as Sjöwall/Wahlöö and writes books in the crime/mystery genre. There are a lot of movies based on his books in Sweden and if I’m not mistaken there is also a rather new british (or american?) series starring Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander. I’ve never read any of his books myself but he’s extremely popular in my native country Sweden.

  9. says

    Ross and Jeff, on several occasions I have asked my local public library to order books that they didn’t already have on the shelf. They almost always do it. That’s how I first read Veniss Underground, for example (I later bought an autographed copy).

    I’m pretty sure libraries purchase the books (somebody correct me if I’m wrong). The point is, even if I can’t afford a book, I get the library to do it. That still constitutes a sale for the author, so it’s all good.

    And speaking of “buy books that don’t fit ready-made marketing categories,” my new novel might just fit that category. I would love for someone to ask their local public library to order it and let me know what happens.

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