When Reading A Book Is A Commitment

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The comedian Jim Gaffigan does a funny routine on reading:

Every now and then I’ll read a book, I’ll be so proud of myself, I’ll try and squeeze it into conversation. People will be like, “Hey Jim, how ya do-” “I read a book! Two hundred and fifty pages!” “That’s great, what was it about?” “No idea! Took me three years!”

"Hot Pocket!"

“Hot Pocket!”

I’ve been neglecting my blog because I’ve been writing like crazy. I’m at the threshold of 60,000 words. For context, The Grandfather Clock has about 66,000 words (200 pages.) This one is looking like it will be maybe 80,000 – 85,000. These stats might not mean much to a reader, but writers count words as milestones.

I have to be honest, as a reader I hesitate to pick up something that is too long. 500 pages sometimes worries me. It’s a big time investment, especially if the book is a clunker. I am not one of those people who forces myself to finish a book that I’m not enjoying. Life is too short. I’ll turn off a movie an hour in. I’ve left rock concerts (Chris Isaak and O.A.R. separately to be specific – too Elvis-impersonator-y / had sold their souls for slick radio sound, respectively.)

For the same reason, I find it very hard to get in to a television dramas. Unless I can binge the entire thing on Netflix, I can’t commit to caring about a show for the next 7 years. (I’m writing this while watching Mad Men.) My wife and I didn’t watch Breaking Bad until the final season was wrapping up, despite my brother insisting I watch it for half a decade.

So when I downloaded the audio book of Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts with plans to switch back and forth between the audio and paperback, I got nervous when it clocked in at over 40 hours. The file wouldn’t fit on my phone. Most audio books I “read” are 15 to 20 hours long and take 2-3 weeks for me to get through while I’m crisscrossing Florida roads in my day job. When my good friend brought me her copy of the book, I found out it was over 1,000 pages (12 years of reading for Mr. Gaffigan.) We’re in Gone With The Wind territory here. This thing better be good. And…

I am loving it. Savoring every word. It’s the sort of book that inspires me as a writer. Right now, I’m writing a much lighter thriller trilogy. When I’m done I will have three books that won’t be as long as one Shantaram.

Assuming you’ve already read The Grandfather Clock, and since the sequel isn’t ready, I suggest you pick up Shantaram. It’s the story of an Australian fugitive living in the slums of Bombay. I have to recommend the audio version because the reader, Humphrey Bower, does an amazing job with the many accents in the book. I looked him up and apparently he did the audio version of another of my favorite books (mentioned on my blog HERE), The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

And no, I’m receiving nothing from The Association of Great Australian Fiction for plugging these books. It’s a coincidence, but I do expect my blog stats to get a couple visits from Down Under. If you’re Australian, drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com. Tell me 5 misconceptions Americans have about your countrymen and I’ll work it in to a blog post. We can teach Americans that you aren’t just The Wiggles*, Nicole Kidman and Crocodile Dundee.

Thanks for reading!

-Jonathan Kile

* We took our son to see The Wiggles and we stayed for the entire show.

Better than Chris Isaak.

Better than Chris Isaak.

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So an author walks into a book club…

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The other night I had the pleasure of having my book discussed by the good readers and writers of the “Critical Drinking” Book Club. To set the scene, Critical Drinking is a book club organized by Wordier Than Thou, one of the St. Pete/Tampa area’s fine literary organizations. This particular meeting was at the Gulfport History Museum. Gulfport is town within a city, bordered on 3 sides by St. Petersburg, and one side by water or, more accurately, a waterfront with bars that open at 8am. It’s a village with equal parts Canadian retirees, lesbians, fisherman, artists, and people who abstain from traditional work. I’m not knocking Gulfport – my wife and I lived there for 6 years had two children and outgrew the house… it’s an awesome place. The mayor is an environmentalist, bartender and lead singer in a band. It’s what Key West used to be and most wish it were still.

So there was some poetry to the fact that the club met 5 blocks from where I wrote The Grandfather Clock. I have to thank fellow writer and blogger Cathy Salustri, who has been personally responsible for nearly all of the media mentions of my book and invitations to book events. I have a feeling that when it comes to repaying her, she’ll make it count.

I entered the familiar space to a few friendly faces. Some people I knew, others that I just knew of. I’ve been to book clubs before, but never one in which the author was there. I’ve slammed books in book clubs before, and I definitely would have held my tongue if the author were there to punch me in the face. So, while I really really wanted honest critique, I also wanted it to be mostly positive, and at least kind.

The reaction was incredible. I could tell that people genuinely enjoyed it, and still offered their critique of what could have been better (the end felt rushed, certain characters needed more purpose – all things that I knew.) What was really fun was having a group of people so eager to discuss my book in great depth. Beyond my discussions with my editor, I hadn’t heard such in depth analysis. It was also a great opportunity to meet other writers and get advice. I made some connections that I know will grow. I was particularly flattered when two people who’d read the book on Kindle purchased a hard copy from the museum shop and asked me to sign them.

I’m making great progress on my next book. I expect to have the manuscript done THIS MONTH. Then it’ll be in the hands of my beta readers and editor, during which time I’ll start the 3rd book in the series. Other than being the final book in the series (teardrop), it’s a blank slate. I have a seed of an idea, but I may not use it. Look for Book 2 to come out… September? I’ve said “Summer 2015” which gives me until September 20th to make good on that promise. If I’m late I’ll blame my editor.

By the way, I recently developed a split personality on social media. My readers can now “Like” me on Facebook, without getting pictures of family trips and milestones. For updates and commentary related to writing, but not Blog-worthy, LOOK HERE. Also, if you’re in the St. Pete area, Keep St. Pete Lit has started a Facebook group of local writers and is offering really high quality and non-intimidating free writing classes on weekends. They are totally free, no catch.

Thanks for reading!

-J

jkilewrites@gmail.com