Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Don't Write Science Fiction! (not that there's anything wrong with that)

The Hoosier Contrarian has been on summer vacation. I've gotten married, helped plan my oldest son's wedding, finished editing my 2nd book and prepared to move my new wife and her three kids into my home and my 2nd novel is about to be released. It's good to be back.

My first novel has a time travel element. I did that only because it got my character where I wanted him to go, and then I quit talking about time travel. Yet the first publisher classified my novel of romantic historic fiction as “science fiction.”

At my very first book club talk there was a guy at the end of the table in the Greenfield library looking very much like the middle-aged comic book dude from The Simpsons – receding hairline, but long and back pulled into a pony tail, pasty white complexion and a little plump, high-top Chuck Taylors and a They Might Be Giants t-shirt. He couldn’t wait to raise his hand.

“I have to say, you got the time travel science totally wrong.”

“Oh good,” I’m thinking, “he wants to talk about the least important thing in the book?”

“You see, the magic beam your protagonist stuck his arm through to reach into 1893 . . . that would have sheered his arm right off and sent it across the universe because the earth is millions and millions of miles away from where it was in 1893.”

Are you f@#king kidding me!?! The first book talk for my first novel and this is my first question? KILL ME NOW!”

I took a deep breath. Thank God I’d been a high school teacher, used to presiding over hostile audiences. “Did you like the Terminator movies?” I asked.

“They’re passable,” the comic book nerd shrugged, “the second movie being the best.”

“I agree. So when the liquid metal robot who’s morphed himself into a policeman drives a motorcycle out a 3rd story window, jumps off, grabs onto a hovering helicopter, smashes the windshield, morphs back into liquid metal and oozes through the broken glass to take over the helicopter . . . so, at that moment, were you thinking, ‘that’s so fake?’ or did you suspend reality and just enjoy the movie?”

The comic book nerd shrugged sharply and crossed his arms, suddenly indifferent, “Sure, whatever.”

The discussion turned to the meaning of the book and the changes that have come to small town life over 120 years. Future book talks were far more welcoming.

My very first online review appeared on the Barnes & Noble website, starting with, “I don’t normally like science fiction, but . . .” I was so apoplectic I almost didn’t read the positive words that followed.


Within six months of publication, my publisher filed for bankruptcy and all the books immediately became my property. One day while I was doing yard work, a box truck appeared in the driveway with several thousand books. We unloaded them into my garage.

Being an author sounds way more glamorous than it really is.

With no publisher, I was left to promote and sell the books myself. I arranged book talks in big towns with big libraries and had few people show up. I did talks in small towns with no library to standing-room-only crowds. I’d show up at one book store event and be treated like a celebrity, and show up at another to find the manager on duty didn’t even know I was going to be there.

Such is a writer's life when you're a bottom-feeder.

That first novel was re-edited and re-published last year under the new title, Noblesville and in little over a week from now, my 2nd novel, The Salvage Man will be published. After parenting, writing is the hardest I’ve ever worked without meaningful pay.

Last Friday I got a call from a framing shop that had a print of mine ready for pick up. At the cash register a woman looked at my bank card and then up at me in reverence, “Are you Kurt Meyer, the author of Noblesville?”

I smiled, “Yes, I am.”

“I must to tell you how much I love that book. I just finished it and was overwhelmed. How wonderful to be touched so deeply by a story.”

This is where I get uncomfortable. Not as uncomfortable as I was with the comic book nerd, but still uncomfortable. It is a notable Hoosier quality to want recognition, but then not know entirely what to do with it once it arrives. Indiana is the land of corn, race cars, and self-deprecation.

I responded in a way that would make my mother proud, “Thank you so much. That’s very kind of you. I’m so glad you liked it.”

But I was especially relieved she didn’t call it her favorite science fiction novel.

Buy Kurt's novel: Noblesville

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