|Henry Miller in his Paris apartment in the 1930s|
I'm the last one to bitch, because I can't think of any writer...and I mean any writer worth his or her salt-of-the-earth...who doesn't start out in this racket dreaming of one day moving to Europe for a while to write the Great American Novel.
You start writing because there's something inside you that needs to do it. You hero worship a whole bunch of the writers who came before you. Hemingway writing in Paris, comes to mind. Henry Miller doing the same thing as a middle-aged man. Martha Gelhorn in London and Rome. Even Mark Twain, for as broke as he sometimes was, wrote in Florence.
There's something about writers not being able to stay in any one place for very long, or else the earth will suddenly open up under their feet and swallow them whole. I guess I feel that way when I'm in the 'burbs for too long. All those sharks swimming around me taking bites out of me. Okay, I'm mixing my metaphors here. But then, even an accountant can't wait to get out of the house for a while. A girlfriend of mine once called me unstable. Not because I was a threat in any way, but because she knew I could never be happy standing still. "You always have to stir things up."
Right now, I'm stirring the pot.
Standing still, now there's a concept.
Norman Mailer was in his mid to late sixties when he was woken up at dark-thirty in the morning when his then wife's water broke for what would become his 8th or 9th kid. Story goes, he sat for a while on the edge of the bed, in his wife beater, his head in his hands, lamenting, "All I ever wanted was to live in Paris for a year while I wrote a great novel." Well, old Norman wrote some great books, but did so while trying his damndest to stay one step ahead of the creditors, the wives, the girlfriends, and the kids.
Anyway, back round to my original thesis, which is, I'm not one to bitch. Because here I am, living in Italy for a while, while I work on the Great American Novel (or three). Okay, some of you snotty writing school prof types...you English Department elitists, you know how you are... will automatically scoff at this by convincing yourself that Zandri writes only genre fiction. Certainly nothing that can be confused for the Great American Novel. Well, how's it feel waking up on a Monday morning and heading to work? Sure, in writing school there were more than a handful of profs who chuckled at my romantic vision of what a writer and the writing life could be. But then, these were the same people who would, no doubt, feel the fine hairs on the back of their necks stand up at the thought of my dream actually becoming a reality someday.
So this thesis, I've been on about. Like I keep saying, I'm not one to bitch, but in the near two weeks since I've been in Italy on my three month extended writing retreat, I've completed the first good draft of what will be the eleventh Chase Baker novel. I'm presently completing the galley proofs of The Corruptions which will be out in January in hardcover from Polis Books, and soon I will start on a new stand-alone psychological suspense novel I'm calling, The Girl Who Wasn't There (sometimes it helps to have a title in mind). The bitching part comes into play because since I've been here it seems the world is falling apart back in NY. I never realized how many fires I'm required to put out on a daily basis. But then, those fires are perfectly normal, and it's what some people are referring to when they say, "Life happens." In any case, I'm here to work on my version of the Great American Novel(s), and that's what I plan on doing. Heat or no heat.
I think the best bet, is to shut the phone off, turn off the internet, and isolate myself. Henry Miller wasn't bothered by instant digital communication, and neither should I be.
The good life...it's what you make of it.