February 1st, 2020

“Genius is 1 Percent Inspiration and 99 Percent Perspiration.”
– Thomas Edison
 Hello from the Writing Cave, where I am hard at work on my column for The New York Times Book Review.

As many of you know, I write about gothic, horror and dark fiction for The New York Times four or five times a year. While there are only between six to eight books reviewed in each column, I read (or at least read the beginning of) dozens and dozens of novels before choosing the books for my column.

My number one requirement is good writing. Of course, a story needs to grab me, and I need to feel intrigued by the characters and the world of the novel, but if a book is poorly written, I won’t feel engaged enough with the book to include it. Some people might object to this, saying that the gothic and horror genre is pulpy, that it is ‘popular’ and doesn’t need to have the polish of, say, literary fiction.

I totally disagree on this point. Some of the best horror writing is literary. Just look at the Brontes, or Mary Shelley, or Wilkie Collins, or contemporary writers like Caitlin R. Kiernan, Paul Tremblay, or Sarah Perry. If you haven’t read those authors, I suggest you do!

Last weekend I was in Philadelphia at the American Library Association’s annual Midwinter conference. I signed copies of The Ancestor for librarians who, it must be noted, are a fun crowd. Or maybe they were reacting to the cookies I brought:

It was enormously inspiring to see so many people celebrating books! There were hundreds and hundreds of tables with new books stacked up for librarians to take. But I have to admit, to see the sheer number of books being published each year is a little overwhelming. Writing a book requires a singularity of vision and purpose: I need to pretend that the book I’m writing is important, and while there are others, mine is the only one that matters. It is a little lie we novelists live with to get through the difficult periods of writing and revising.

After the conference, I walked over to Reading Terminal Market, a fantastic indoor market that reminded me of the market I used to shop at in Nimes, France.

I found a chocolate shop with Year of the Rat chocolates.

And these incredible looking candied apples.

I love this color and look at it from time to time to help dispel the gloom of my upstate week. It has been rainy and gray for days, and while this is great for my writing (I am at my desk and don’t feel drawn to go outside), it does make me feel a little melancholy. Maybe that is why I am drawn to write the things I do? Who can say…

Last week there was a giveaway on Goodreads. Some of you entered, but not all of you could win. I feel bad about that and would like to offer a free preview of my book. I will be sending out a message asking if you would like to receive a PDF with the first chapters of The Ancestor, so that you don’t have to wait to see what my new book is about. You can also just respond to me here and ask for the excerpt and I will send it right away.

Thank you (as always) for sharing my week with me. I hope you find much inspiration this week and pleasure in your work.



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