Charlie Lovett interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Dec 5, 2017 1:05:39 AM
Charlie Lovett interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from his website: I was educated at Davidson College (NC) and went into the antiquarian book business.
When I left the book business in the early 1990s, I continued to be a book collector, and now have a large (and growing) collection of rare (and not so rare) books and artifacts connected to Lewis Carroll and his world (my most recent major acquisition is Lewis Carroll’s own 1888 typewriter). I have written five books about Lewis Carroll and countless articles. I have served as the president of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and as editor of the London based Lewis Carroll Review. I have lectured on Lewis Carroll in the US and Europe at places such as the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, UCLA, and Oxford University.
I received my MFA in Writing from Vermont College (now Vermont College of Fine Arts). During my work on this degree, I researched and wrote Love, Ruth.
A dearth of good material for elementary school performance, my wife asked if I would write a play. Thus began my career as a children’s playwright. For eleven years, as Writer-in-Residence at Summit, I wrote plays for third graders and for eighth and ninth graders. Nineteen of my plays have been published, including my first, Twinderella, which won the Shubert Fendrich Playwriting Award, beating over 750 other entries. The plays have proved extremely popular and have been seen in over 3500 productions in all fifty states and more than 20 foreign countries.
My novel The Program, about an evil weight loss clinic, was published by the micro-press Pearlsong Press. My YA novel The Fat Lady Sings was also published by Pearlsong.
But my big break-through as a writer came when I put together two of my passions—rare books and the English countryside—to write The Bookman’s Tale, the book that was ultimately accepted by Viking and by several other publishers worldwide. The Bookman’s Tale was a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes and Noble Recommends selection, and has been translated into several foreign languages. Parade Magazine called the book “[A] delightful tale of love and bibliophilia.” The Bookman’s Tale was published in paperback by Penguin Books.
My next novel, First Impressions (Viking, 2014; Penguin, 2015) is another literary adventure, this one starring Jane Austen. People Magazine called it “a delightful novel that weaves together a modern love story and a literary mystery involving Jane Austen.”
2015 was a busy year for me, being the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I curated a major exhibition called Alice Live! at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. I spoke at the international gathering of Carroll enthusiasts in New York and wrote the introduction to the new Penguin Books edition of Alice. 2016 also saw the publication of my Christmas book, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, which USA Today called “[a] clever, merry, and, yes, convincingly Dickensian reimagining of this Victorian tale.”
My new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, will be published on February 28, 2017. Set in an English cathedral library, and reaching through centuries of English history, it tells the story of bibliophile and Holy Grail enthusiast Arthur Prescott as he works to uncover a centuries-old secret about the cathedral’s history. While editing that book, I also wrote the first draft of a middle grades book, The Book of the Seven Spells.
1. Where are you currently?
I live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and spend about 6 weeks a year in Kingham, Oxfordshire, UK.
2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
While I am now an established writer, in many years of trying to break through as a writer I learned to grab every opportunity, even if it didn’t seem like my kind of writing. I wanted to write novels, but when my wife, who was a theatre arts teacher, asked me if I could write a play for her third graders, I said yes. I had never written a children’s play, and never intended to be a children’s playwright, but that script led to a part time job as “writer in residence” for more than ten years. I wrote twenty children’s plays, and nineteen of them have been published. My plays have been seen in thousands of productions around the world. All because I said yes to a rather odd writing opportunity.
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
Whenever I finish a draft of a novel or finish a major rewrite, I try to read the entire draft through in a single day. It can be pretty brutal, but it helps me see if everything makes sense, if I have repeated myself or left anything out, if the continuity is logical, etc.
4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?
My novels are published in hardcover by Viking and in paperback by Penguin. Both are divisions of Penguin/Random House in New York City.
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
My novels, especially The Lost Book of the Grail, deal directly with this question, so I have many thoughts on the subject. The short answer is that there is plenty of room in the market for both print and digital platforms and both contribute aspects of reading and information storage that the other cannot. If you want to delve into the topic in more depth, read the first discussion between Arthur and Bethany in The Lost Book of the Grail.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Sadly, there is no secret. Publishers publish books that they think will make money. If you write a great book with market potential, it will get published.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
Basically it’s the same as the answer to the question above. I once asked my agent, “What percentage of unsolicited manuscripts do you set aside before you’ve finished reading the first page?” He said, “Basically all of them.” Your first page has one purpose and one purpose only—to get an agent (or editor, or reader) to read the second page. Make it amazing.
8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Again, there are no secrets to becoming a good writer. Do two things and do them A LOT. Read and write.
9. How many books have you written?
10. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Read widely but also read deeply. In other words, read a lot of different kinds of books, but read as many books as possible that are similar to what you want to write. Also remember that a first draft is basically raw material. Many writers think once they’ve written a draft, they’ve written a novel. I think of it this way. I start out with a forest. Creating the first draft is like creating a set of building blocks out of that forest. It’s a lot of work, but a pile of blocks is not a building. The first draft is the beginning of the process, not the end.
11. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
The best twists (like the one at the end of The Lost Book of the Grail) are ones that have two qualities. First, the reader doesn’t see it coming. Second, once it is revealed the reader realizes, “Of course! It couldn’t have been anything else!”
12. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Telling a story that hasn’t been told before.
13. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I spend a lot of time with social media, doing interviews such as this one, podcasts, radio interviews, TV interviews, writing blurbs for other writers, maintaining a website, writing a blog, and writing feature articles that tie-in with my novels. I also visit lots of book clubs (in person and via Skype) and do a lot of public appearances (mostly at libraries and bookstores). Getting published by a major publisher is great, but it changes your career by giving you more responsibilities.
14. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
Even though I was 50 when I got my big break (The Bookman’s Tale) I still don’t have any regrets about the path I have taken as a writer.
15. What saying or mantra do you live by?
I wouldn’t say I live by a saying, but there is one word I don’t use: goal. I don’t say that it is my goal to write 2000 words today. It’s my job. A surgeon can’t decide halfway through a surgery that he has “doctor’s block,” so why should I be allowed to do that? Writing is my job and like any other job it has its good days and bad days, but I still do it.