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...
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.