This is a quote that resonates with me, not as a carpenter (I don’t know my slidey-cut-wood-tool from my bang-in-nails-thing) but as a writer.
We are cursed (in the Chinese sense) to live in Interesting Times. Now, more than any period in history, writers are able to communicate with a global audience. We can create stories and share them with anyone, the best part is; they give us money for them!
Wait, what? Money?
What sorcery is this??
Earnings from writing are a sensitive subject for many. Much like “Fingerless Pete” who died of alcoholism after 50 years working in a saw mill, I can count the number of authors I know who make a comfortable living from their writing on the fingers of one hand.
The analysis says there are of course many people making a fine living from writing. If you tap into a popular demographic and write a book that appeals to devoted readers, such as romance fans.
With time and effort you may develop a fan base and enjoy the success of writer’s like Tracey Alvarez who is currently on the USA Today Best Sellers list with her series of New Zealand set romance novels.
Detective novels are also a big seller. If you manage to combine billionaire dinosaur, steamy erotica, detective novels set in New Zealand’s native bush, you could never show your face at an NZSA meeting, but you would be rich enough not to care.
The social stigma in New Zealand against speculative fiction is as nonsensical as open toed gumboots (not actually a thing – though fashion styles are available where ever good quality rainwear is sold).
In my experience, we are still under the burden of the literary elite who consider anything that isn’t Maurice Gee, Janet Frame, or Keri Hulme, to be unworthy of mention as New Zealand literature.
We have a fantastic history of really top-notch literary figures. Maurice, Janet, and Keri are only three of many. You might have read them in high-school English classes, or studied them at University.
But you know, there’s a whole lot of others who didn’t write stories that were almost non-fictional about the history and culture of New Zealand.
Alan Duff’s ‘Once Were Warriors’ gave me more insight into the realities of New Zealand culture than Gee’s “Plumb” ever did.
If anything, the way the edifice of New Zealand Literature turns its back on the world and insists on focusing on New Zealand only, is weirdly isolationist.
We are on the edge of the world. There is no point in looking at our feet. New Zealand speculative fiction writers are embracing a global view. Of course many stories are based in New Zealand, with New Zealand themes, language, and characters, but they also push the boundaries of what is acceptable to New Zealand readers. We grew up on horror and sci-fi, fantasy and romance. We saw the world change and it’s still changing, faster and faster…. We’ve been torn from the ideals of a generation that writes as if we were still in the 1950’s. We’re flying out into space, exploring ideas and challenging embedded ideas.
The world is a different place. Speculative fiction writers embrace this and say, “yeah, but what if it was even different…er?”
Grand experiments like Mansfield With Monsters, written by Matt and Debbie Cowens, embraced the heritage of fine New Zealand literature and added a layer of weird to it. The result is both cutting-edge and respectful of our literary roots.
There are extremely talented writers in New Zealand. They are producing what people read, be it Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi, and possibly Billionaire Dinosaur Detective Erotica… (if you are writing this sub-genre, then high-five!)
Maybe you’re not making enough money to pay the mortgage from your writing. Maybe you’re not making enough money to buy a coffee. It’s no reason not to write. It’s even less reason not to keep pushing your work out there into the world.
With hard work, and a lot of luck, opportunities will be a side-effect of doing what you love.
Paul Mannering @paul_mannering