Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Literary Life

As a teenager, I used to imagine my future life as a writer. I imagined myself twenty years into the future living in a cottage overlooking the Irish Sea, dressed in a pair of silk pajamas, a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other, churning out novels that brought me international acclaim. I imagined a life of quiet seclusion, my only interruptions the daily mail drop, bags and bags of letters from adoring fans who would be content to worship my literary genius from afar.

Fast-forward thirty years to the hard, cold reality of my life as a writer. (a) I’ve never been to Ireland, (b) my fan mail arrives in the form of occasional emails that I’m always thrilled to get, (c) I spend most days dressed in a pair of baggy sweatpants and a stained t-shirt, and (d) I never write clutching a cigarette and a martini (well, not a cigarette anyway).

Writing is no longer about living a life of quiet seclusion. With the advent of podcasts, web sales rankings, and televised book reviews, it’s all about marketing, baby. Image has become just as important as substance. The cult of Youth and Beauty has finally infiltrated the publishing world.

Take a look at the cover photos of some of the writers on the best-selling lists and you’d swear they just walked off the pages of Vogue. Even the literary writers (although done up in tasteful black and white, of course), manage to look youthfully arrogant and, well, fabulous. My son, a Photoshop Wizard, assures me that, with a little work, he can make me look fabulous too.

And I thought all you had to do to be a best-selling writer was write a good book. Silly me.

Byron had a club foot. I’m pretty sure if he wanted to make it in today’s media-saturated publishing market he’d have to do something about that. My new novel, Beach Trip, is set to launch in May and I’m already feeling the pressure for a makeover. I’m thinking fifty pounds, a jowl lift, and a professional teeth-bleaching at the very least.

Forget ghost-writing; the trend of the future will be for ghost-doppelgangers, younger, more attractive actors to fill in on the media circuit for aging, fabulous-challenged writers.

One of my daughters, who looks exactly like I did twenty (okay, thirty) years ago, would be the perfect fill-in for me. I told her with my talent and her looks we’d hit the best-seller lists in no time, we’d be a shoe-in for Oprah and Good Morning America. She thought the idea demeaning to women (she’s currently taking a feminist literature class and has lost her sense of humor.)

Besides, she’s twenty-one. She looks like a goddess. What does she know?

No comments: