Friday, March 26, 2010

That All-Important Bio

by G.M. Malliet

The Guardian.co.uk recently published "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction," a collection of tips from world-famous authors. The list was inspired by Elmore Leonard's rules, the most famous of which undoubtedly is "to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. "

Printed out, the advice from all the authors quoted by the Guardian came to sixteen pages. Even so, I read every word, since you never know when you're going to find that one handy tip that will catapult you onto the NYT best-seller list.

Roddy Doyle's advice, as with so much of his writing, made me smile: "Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – 'He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.' But then get back to work."

How did Roddy know? My aim as a writer has always been, once I've finished writing the book, of course, to be able to put something really knock-out glamorous in the bio or biog on the book's cover. I remember being much taken with the bio of Martha Grimes that appeared on many of her books over the years, to the effect that she divides her time between Washington, D.C., and Santa Fe, New Mexico. How great is that? That's exactly what I always wanted to do. Then Martha apparently sold the place in Santa Fe, because it disappeared from her bio. To say "she lives near Washington, D.C.," while somewhat interesting, is just not the same. I mean, I could do that.

There's also the awe-inspiring bio: "When not rappelling down a mountain in the Swiss Alps, advising heads of state on foreign policy, or discovering new sources of green energy, Famous Author can be found doing volunteer work in one of the dozens of hospital orphanages he's founded worldwide. A Nobel Prize nominee, he was recently cited by President Sarkozy for service to humanity."

You know the kind of thing. The kind of bio that can't possibly be true and still allow the guy time to write blockbuster novels, but somehow is true.

As long as I'm dreaming, though, I think I would rather go with the lazy bio - the achievable bio, as it were: "She divides her time between Seattle and Provence." Or Aspen and Edinburgh. Costa Rica and the Caribbean? Or Tuscany and...but Roddy's right. If I get back to work now, maybe one day...

*******Breaking News*******
My first book, Death of a Cozy Writer, has been translated into French (Mort d'un écrivain bien installé) - I've just received my copies in the mail. It's also available for pre-order at Amazon.fr. So I'm undating my bio to say I'm an international author. Still working on the "divides her time" bit.

Image of Provence from Telegraph.co.uk.

19 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

If those bios WERE real, then I really MIGHT have to make those authors victims in my next book. :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Lisa Bork said...

I often think it would be fun to be a more interesting person but then it looks like too much work.

Jess Lourey said...

Thanks for sharing that list, Gin! The fact that you regularly read the Guardian is evidence of your compellingly fascinating personality, no? Congrats on the French translation! "Mort" is a great eye-grabber.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Congratulations, Gin, on the French edition!

My next bio: When not writing, she divides her time between her day job and cleaning the cat box.

Alan Orloff said...

Tres bien, Gin!

Keith Raffel said...

Dame Gin Malliet, reputedly the inspiration for the Uma Thurman character in Kill Bill, retired from MI6 with a DSO, three citations in dispatches, and a Grand Cross of the Victorian Order. She spends her time now at her chateau in Provence where she raises roses, writes bestselling policiers, and offers foreign policy advice to world leaders. Last year she undertook a special assignment on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan at the request of President Obama.

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith, I would have responded to your comment earlier, but I was being parachuted behind enemy lines.

M Pax said...

I'm suspicious if the bio doesn't mention slippers, coffee and lots of time at the keyboard. :)

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith, I would have responded to your comment earlier, but I was being parachuted behind enemy lines, in my slippers.

Cricket McRae said...

Stop making me laugh and get back to work.

I'm with Lisa. I don't have the time and energy to be interesting.

Keith Raffel said...

Lisa and Cricket, you two fascinating, engaging, and intriguing women, no more false humility.

Mike Dennis said...

Wouldn't you love to see a bio, just once, that went something like this:

A high school dropout and a frequent barroom brawler, he managed to write this novel while smoking plenty of dope and collecting welfare payments over the last year. Unskilled at any real job, he currently divides his time between Cleveland and Detroit.

Alice Loweecey said...

Congrats on the French edition! And the wish-fulfillment bios are funny.

I could easily make a bio that read: "The novel was written in catnip juice on the insides of Fancy Feast wrappers in moments of freedom snatched from the neverending service to her 2 cats."

It's nearly true...

Darrell James said...

G.M.- I divid my time between Southern, California and Tucson, Arizona, does this qualify me for the NYT bestseller list?... One can only dream.

Nice post! I think I'll take a break from my biog-work now and have a beer on the patio.

Donna Hole said...

Cool post; and congrats on the French translation

..........dhole

G.M. Malliet said...

Darrell - You don't own your own vineyard/make your own wine?

Mike - Your comment reminds me somehow of that bumper sticker: My kid can beat up your honor role student.

Thanks to everyone for the congrats. I think I'm as excited about this translation as I was about seeing my first book in print. Going to a French restaurant tonight to celebrate!

Beth Groundwater said...

Congratulations, Gin, on the French edition!

Right now, I'm dividing my time between our Colorado Springs and Breckenridge homes, while trying to get the Colorado Springs one ready to sell. Maintaining two homes is not as glamorous as it sounds, and I am soooo looking forward to downsizing into just one. :)

Kathleen Ernst said...

OK, as if I didn't have enough to worry about, now I'm stressed about having an interesting bio. Congrats on the French edition - perhaps dinner in gay Paris one day?

Deborah Sharp said...

i loved this post, Gin. (And if I could say it in French, to tie in the exciting news about your status as an INTERNATIONAL author, I would. congrats!)
Yep, we fudge the author fotos with Photoshop, we stretch the truth on how much (little?) the writing life pays, we dance around the question of how many books we've sold. Why shouldn't we dream up incredible lies for the bios, too?