It is always important how writers organize their social media. Writers of today are busier than they ever were, and if you know anything about social media, then you know how demanding it can be. Most every writer has an established goal, is creating a brand, and knows what type of reader that they attract. The very best way to manage your writing career is use your supreme organizational skills in managing your social media accounts.
It is also a good idea to always be on the lookout for better way to employ social media. There are always more effective and more efficient ways out there. You really need to get your social media activities down to a finite amount of time each day. Some writers may devote 30 minutes or even an hour each and then get back to their real job – writing.
Let us check out some ways make your social media activities more manageable—and perhaps even more enjoyable too.
Set Up a Social Media Calendar
I have found just a normal desk organizer to work great for social media activities. This is a great way to manage things like blog post and guest blog postings. This is also where you keep track of personal things like vacations and holidays —so that you will not miss any important social media appointment – they are very important because they are part of your brand.
Take Advantage of a Social Media Scheduler like Hootsuite or Buffer
There are several great tools out there, so we would be foolish not to take advantage of them. Many people I know will often sit down and schedule an entire month of tweets or fanpage posts in one sitting. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all done for a whole month ahead of time?
Know the Places to Find Good Content
One of the best things you can do is set up a feed reader like Feedly and follow the good writing blogs and writers who have helped your writing career. Do not be afraid to share and comment about tools and techniques that have proven to be very valuable to you. These are the very best things to share on your social media.
Always ask yourself about the things your readers are most concerned about. What are the kinds of things that they would value and share with their friends? You will never go wrong from sharing content this way. It will almost always connect with your followers on social media.
Establish a Solid Social Media File
This is the sort of place that you store your ideas about social media. Do not forget that images and videos are a big part of the social world. In fact, several studies have shown that they are even more popular than text on social media. So feel free to use them liberally.
But whenever you get new ideas about what you would like to share, get in the habit of placing your notes somewhere for later. Personally, I like using a spreadsheet to keep my ideas. I know lots of people who use Notepad or Evernote for this purpose.
Create a Spreadsheet to Keep your Plan on Track
Spreadsheets are something I like to use for everything. I treat it like a big notebook to organize all of my plans and ideas. So I can recommend them enough. I like to treat each spreadsheet as a “project” and then use the tabs within the spreadsheet as different elements of that project.
The great thing is today everyone has access to free spreadsheet usage simply by signing up for a Gmail account. I urge you to take advantage of this if you haven’t already.
As hopefully you have seen from this article that it is important how writers organize their social media.
When writers are starting out, they usually have no clue as to how to build your author brand. In fact, they usually are not even considering what to do about branding at all. Another problem with this is that many times you might accidentally build your author brand in a way that is undesirable. Thus, if you do not manage the way your brand is built, then it is going to get built for you. So why not build your brand as a writer in a desirable way?
Always ask yourself just who are the ones that are reading your books and material? What are their dreams and desires? How old are they and how much money do they earn?
Believe it or not, it is critical to know these things about your fans. You might look at them as an avatar – perhaps a character in your story that seems a little fictional, but is not really.
This is not something you decide to find out in one evening. It takes a bit of time to define your ideal ready in a way that will be worthwhile. You actually need to live in their shoes for a bit – just as you would a character one of your stories.
Cultivate a voice for your brand
Once you know who your brand is trying to speak to, it’s time to look inwardly at yourself.
No, this does not mean you are reinventing yourself into a fictional character that others would like you to be.
This is the process finding the qualities in yourself to enhance and emphasize in public. You find the right tone for your readers and use this tone across your social media accounts and your marketing content. It is not a phony way to communicate; instead it is a consistent way to communicate.
Over time, you blend the values of your readers and your own values into the voice of your brand. It takes time, but become more effective over time.
Figure out your Unique Selling Point
This is very important. You need to be able to tell anyone what your brand offers that no other brand in your genre offers. This is the very reason when your readers buy your books instead of someone else’s books.
Set some Parameters and Standards
This is where you establish more brand consistency, so your readers know what to expect. They need to know when you post a new blog post, when you will post a new video (if you do videos), when you will release new books, etc.
The important thing to note here is it really doesn’t matter what your parameters and standards are, it only matters that you set them and fulfill them religiously. Once they are set, you must never fail to meet them.
Understand what is being branded
This is a very common mistake for authors who have enjoyed a successful book. They forget what they are branding and it is understandable. What happens is they become the brand of this wildly successful book. You have to remember that you will be creating future books and stories – so YOU have to continue to build your author brand
Cultivate a Look for your brand
Instant recognition is a powerful thing, so why not let it work for you when you build your author brand? Find a theme, a style and a set of colors that works best for you and stick with them.
Many writers and authors are seeking to gain publicity in marketing their books, and they believe this is the ultimate way to acquire book publicity. However, your overall success as a writer defends on how effectively you get yourself in front of as many potential prospects and readers as possible.
There are lots of methods that ought to be a part of your book promotional strategy to help you get your message out, and acquiring publicity is probably the most important one. The overall benefit of getting free exposure from trusted sources is absolutely priceless. Thus, writers shouldn’t assume that you gain publicity in marketing your book, it is also gained in other ways.
Three Ways Authors Can Get Publicity
The big challenge for all authors is to figure out how to approach getting book publicity handled. Fortunately, there are three proven ways to get book publicity.
Most writers believe that there are just two options:
1.Hiring a book publicity service
2.Do It Yourself
3.DIY PR with Outsourcing
Three PR methods and how they compare
1. Hiring a book publicity service
The biggest benefit of this option is that you will have an experienced professional taking care of your book publicity for you. So now you lay back and take it easy while they handle all the PR.
This can be a wonderful set up because it allows you to focus on other things pertaining to the promotion of your book. It all depends on it you hired a good and reputable firm.
The Cons – This approach can be very expensive. There is also the possibility that your affairs get placed on the back burner as your firm focuses on other clients.
2. Do it Yourself (DIY) PR
As a writer, you can most definitely conduct all of your own book publicity, and you can even experience phenomenal success by doing it. While you save an enormous expense of using inexpensive a PR firm, you will swapping your money for your time when you implement your own publicity plan.
In order to succeed, you have to overcome the fact that you are an unknown. Therefore, you have to generate a lot of passion and energy to get people to listen to your message.
There are many other things you have to learn as well. You have to learn how the media operates, and you will have to come up with ideas that will get potential readers hooked on your story. And probably the hardest part is coming up with the media contacts you will need to generate your own publicity.
The Cons – PR is very time-consuming and absorb your time take you away from other important work that you need to be accomplishing. You most likely will not understand many of the nuances concerning the media at first. And finally you will not have the needed media contacts because you’re starting from scratch, so there is a huge learning curve which takes time.
3. Hybrid – DIY PR with Outsourcing
This option is probably the best of all worlds, as the hybrid approach features a way to in which to maximize your time as well as your budget to get book publicity. It will also cut down and shorten the learning curve by letting you outsource the tasks at which you have no skills.
The Cons – The challenge here is having the ability to hire good people. This means you will have to have some decent working knowledge and understanding about PR. In addition, searching for quality PR freelancers will take up much of your time because they also need to understand that you do not gain publicity in marketing your books as publicity is best gained in other ways.
Amazingly, we are learning that a majority of successful writers are pretty much doing the same stuff. Needless to say, there are the secrets of successful writers. And conversely, unsuccessful writers are not doing these things. So then our next question should be what exactly are those writers who are successful doing?
Do they know someone special or important? Does someone close to them know someone powerful or influential? Yes, these things would certainly help, but many of these writers had no access to any of this. In fact, most of them started out just like me and you are.
Experts break this down into four secrets of successful writers and what they are doing:
Successful writers have a clear message.
Successful writers create a platform for that message.
Successful writers serve the people who want to hear that message.
Successful writers are not shy or afraid to earn money from delivering that message.
How do we do what Successful Writers do?
If you want to earn a full time living from your words, then you actually need much more than just talent. You have to be more than just a fabulous writer. Of course it is critical, but it is just not enough.
And you have to have more than just passion, too. Even passion isn’t enough to keep you going after many hours of practice. Passion just won’t protect you from the stings of the critics or the pain of failure.
What you do need to enjoy writing success
The biggest thing you do need is a plan and a roadmap. And this roadmap needs to have proven path or process that great writers have used before you. You must know what needs to be done, when to do it, and why it will matter in the long run.
The thing is that if you want to succeed at writing, then you should focus on being effective. You first do this by allowing yourself to become a writer and acting like a writer. This will change your state of mind. The next thing you should do is share what you know to connect with your reader. You let what you know help people. And you also create a community around your cause and message. Attract all the fans that you can to help propel your message. The big question is, will reach them? Or will you wait in the hopes of drawing them in – which is what most people make the mistake of doing.
There are actually several online courses out there that can help you along. You just need to make sure that they provide a path for you to reach your chosen goals – because you need a proven path above everything else.
Another thing to help you build your own platform is the build yourself an email list. If you have large list of subscribers, then you have the ability to extend your message across great distances. And you have a way to market your future work as well. And do not forget that you also have your own community of hopefully thousands of very supportive fans who are ready and willing to help get the message out about your message and your work.
Don’t you believe it is time to finally be serious about your writing craft and really going after your writing dreams? You can start by following the secret of successful writers.
It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.
If you write fiction, then it is probably a great idea to put your work in front of as many people as you possibly can. All successful authors will tell you that promoting your book and stories is probably more critical than writing it in the first place.
One of the most overlooked ways of promoting your book is to use podcasts to promote your fiction. I guarantee you that most writers you will talk to are not using podcasts. This is truly a shame because it is actually a great way to get your voice heard by potentially lots of readers.
Why Do Your Write?
You have to ask yourself why you write and express your creativity. Is it for the love of reading or reaching people with your message? Regardless of the reasons, when you decide to podcast your fiction, you could actually life-changing.
Many of today’s authors and writers choose to make the jump into podcasting their fiction after many years. Perhaps the biggest example of this is the American horror and sci-fi writer Scott Sigler. In the year 2007, Sigler changed his approach from merely giving away free content to podcasting, and was then nailing the Amazon best seller list consistently because of his awesome book Ancestor.
And while deciding to crank up podcast is not a guarantee to experience these kinds of successes like Sigler enjoyed, there are still lots of ways it would still benefit you.
Let us look at five primary reasons why writers ought to podcast their stories
1) Read Your Work Aloud
This may seem obvious, but lots of good writers tend to overlook this as a part of this process. Your verbiage and monologues probably read wonderfully inside your head. But when you read them aloud you will amazingly find a few clunky sentences. It is actually an easy and very effective way to polish your craft.
2) Polish Your Dialogue
There are lots of various ways to podcast your fiction, but when you read out your words verbatim, you turn them into an audio drama. Regardless of how you go about it, the character dialogue will always be an important of the story. Reading aloud allows you to test your dialog and polish it accordingly.
3) Get Some Feedback
When you start podcasting, you are getting some of your work out there for the public. This is something that you can present to online writing communities and ask for their opinions. You will find that many of these communities are very eager to help each other with their writing skills.
4) Build a Fanbase
One of the most rewarding parts of having a regular and routine podcast is that it allows you to build a fanbase. There is nothing more that contributes more to the success of an author is to have loyal fans who are eager to read their next novel.
5) Expanding Opportunities
Whenever you are publishing a regular podcast, you will gain more and more listeners. Each time your podcast is downloaded, this mean you have a new connection which can lead to more and more opportunities. Why? Because each download is not necessarily another fan and person wanting some fiction, there are influential publishers, literary agents, or even celebrities who could also be downloading your podcast – any of these could be life changing.
“Individual memory, history, and the novel, are all selective: no one remembers everything, each historian picks out the facts he or she chooses to find significant, and every novel, whether historical or not, must limit its own scope. No one can tell all the stories there are.”
–Margaret Atwood, “In Search of Alias Grace: Writing Canadian Historical Fiction.”
March, 2015. I am sitting in the National Library of Ireland, scrolling through microform of an 1820s County Kerry newspaper. My eyes ache—this is the fourth day I have spent in front of the reader. As I wind through the pages of miniscule print, zooming in on articles and reading them only to discover their irrelevance, I feel familiar threads of anxiety knot in the depths of my stomach.
Next to me, carefully pasted in the front of my notebook, is an article reported from the 1826 Tralee assizes by the Morning Post. It describes the trial of “Ann Roche, an old woman of very advanced age” indicted for a serious crime “committed under the delusion of the grossest superstition.” The woman claimed she had been trying to “put the fairy out” of a child she described as “fairy struck.”
I found this article in 2011, and have spent the last four years plagued by questions of who Ann Roche was and whether she believed her own defense. Did she truly accept the existence (and malice) of the fairies? What had she done and why? I have told my publishers I am writing a novel about her. I have committed myself to her story, and am writing under deadline.
The only thing is, I have been searching for Ann for two years now, and have found nothing except the original article. I had accepted that there would be gaps in the record, the usual silences and omissions one comes across, particularly when looking for the stories of the marginalized or criminal, but I have scoured all the usual genealogical resources, various databases and records, and she has remained altogether absent. Elusive. Faceless.
I have now come to Ireland to find her. I wind through the microform. Nothing.
This is hopeless, I think. I will never be able to write this novel.
I never intended to write historical fiction. In my early twenties I wanted to be a poet or a playwright. A writer of forms that were deeper than they were wide, as I thought of them then. I’m certain I held a vague, un-interrogated dislike of stories “inspired by fact,” and if pressed, would have likely said that they seemed exploitative or exhibited laziness on the writer’s part. I considered historical fiction less exhumation of the partial past, and more ready-made “dot-to-dot” exercises in fiction: imaginative romps from one historical event to another, reeking with creative license for its own sake. At worst I probably considered the genre—as Hilary Mantel once said—“chick-lit with wimples.” At best, it was history bent out of shape, warped to fit the writer’s whim.
I was wrong, of course, and my opinions on historical fiction changed around 2009, the year of Mantel’s Booker Prize win for Wolf Hall, and a time of much debate regarding the accuracy of history, and whether the obligation of the fiction writer is to value history’s “objective truth,” or disrupt the notion that such a thing is possible altogether. It was also the year I began writing a novel based on the life and death of a woman called Agnes Magnúsdóttir.
As a teenager I left my home in South Australia for twelve months and lived in Sauðárkrókur, northern Iceland. It was a transformative experience for me, not least that it gave my 17-year-old self a renewed love and appreciation of story and its power to connect us to the past and to each other. The fjords, valleys and mountains surrounding the village were rich with history—sites of sagas, local legends and myths—and the Icelanders often narrated the landscape to me within a context of story.
“This road curves to avoid those elf rocks. That’s where the huldufólk live.”
“This is the hot spring where the outlaw, Grettir the Strong, bathed to revive himself after swimming from the island of Drangey.”
“This is the valley where the parents of the first European born in North America settled.”
One tale that emerged from the landscape and lingered with me long after I returned to Australia was that of the murders of Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson. In 1828 the two men, a local herbalist and a sheep thief, were stabbed to death as they slept. Three people were convicted of the crime, of which two, a local teenager called Friðrik, and Natan’s servant, Agnes, were sentenced to death. Friðrik and Agnes were beheaded in 1830 at a valley mouth now spliced by Iceland’s main highway, and driving back and forth from Reykjavík, the site of these executions (the last in Iceland) was often pointed out to me. When I pressed people for further information about Agnes, however, particularly in regard to motive, little was offered beyond a shrug and a suggestion that she was a “bad” woman.
“But who was she really? What was her life like? What was she like?”
No one could tell me.
It was this desire to know who Agnes truly was that led me to write a novel about her, five years later.
From the outset I was painfully aware of my status as an Australian writing about an Icelandic history and a culture that wasn’t my own. Did I have a right to tell this story? I was also anxious to avoid any accusation that I was exploiting the dead for entertainment—these were, of course, the criticisms I often leveled at some other works of historical fiction. In my desire to write a work of emendation rather than appropriation, I undertook a rigorous approach to the mixing of fact and fiction, deciding to research as widely and as thoroughly as possible. If facts were solid, I would not alter them. If facts were questionable, or contradictory, or openly prejudiced, I would use my wider research to select the most likely scenario. And finally, if there were gaps left unfilled, I was at liberty to invent, although such invention would need to fall within the parameters of the reasonable; parameters set, again, by wider research into the times Agnes lived in.
These rules proved useful to me. The research took years and was difficult, but it unearthed rich material. I found Agnes in censuses, parish records and local histories, and found that my wider reading into 19th-century life in Iceland gave weight to the facts of her life I unearthed. Burial Rites, published in 2013, was a book I felt to be anchored to research, that nonetheless offered a foray into the unknowable emotional lives of my characters. I regarded the novel as a speculative biography: a work not of uncontestable historical accuracy, but one that contested the understanding of infallible historical truth, and in doing so, suggested the possibility of multiple interpretations.
In the author talks that followed publication, readers immediately wanted to know what was fact and what was fiction, what was true and what was false.
“I can’t tell you,” I replied. “The waters have been muddied.”
Scrolling through the microfilm on my last day in the library, I wonder whether it is possible to write a work of historical fiction about a woman without any biographical information, without any facts at all. I have been hoping to undertake the same methodology I used for Burial Rites—as I had found Agnes, so I would find Ann—but it is becoming clearer with each day that my research is futile.
Suddenly I see a name on the screen. Anne Roche. I stop, zoom in on the text, speed-read.
“There are three women confined to our County Jail, charged on the verdict of the Coroner’s Jury… Their names are Anne Roche, Honora Leahy and Mary Clifford.”
My heart starts beating furiously.
“Nance Roche, who is described as superannuated and having of necessity, retired from the bustle and frail vanities of this wicked world, now claims a mysterious intimacy with certain busy beings, respectfully denominated, Good People—hints at her profound knowledge and powerful influence on their supernatural agency, and is deeply skilled in every Fairy Herb and Nostrum.”
I print out the article with shaking hands. This, I think, this is enough.
I never found anything more concerning the life of Ann Roche other than the information contained in those two newspaper articles, found four years apart. And yet, those brief articles contained enough information to guide my wider research. I seized on the possibility of three central characters, rather than one. I turned my attention to pre-famine Ireland’s rich folk culture, and to the herbalism and belief in “sympathetic magic” practiced by “fairy doctors.” I spoke with librarians, curators and academics in Dublin, Cork and Killarney to ascertain what might have happened prior to the trial, and to learn what kinds of lives these women would have led, according to the various social statuses ascribed to each in the newspaper report. I immersed myself in information until I felt saturated with familiarity—if not of the specific facts regarding the lives of these women, then certainly of the world in which they lived.
The Good People was written within the realms of the plausible. All but the conclusion of the book—the incidents described in the only primary source material I could find—is invented, and yet all invention is so heavily influenced by what is known about similar criminal cases, about folkloric practices, about the lives of women who lived in poverty in rural Ireland, that the warp and weft, the play between fact and fiction, cannot be separated. Is it true? No. Is it false? No, not that either. It is somewhere in between. An approximation. A likelihood. A work of possibility.
In 1981, British author Rebecca West was interviewed by fellow writer and compatriot Marina Warner for The Paris Review. Their conversation, shared as part of the magazine’s renowned series “The Art of Fiction,” meanders from West’s literary influences to her experiences with fascism, which she explored extensively in her travel writing from Eastern Europe in the 1930s through her coverage of the Nuremberg trials for The New Yorker.
Those two subjects—literary influences and fascism—are connected by an unexpected element in West’s interview, as she says:
I longed, when I was young, to write as well as Mark Twain. It’s beautiful stuff and I always liked him. . . . He was a man of very great shrewdness. The earliest article on the Nazis, on Nazism, a sort of first foretaste, a prophetic view of the war, was an article by Mark Twain in Harper’s in, I should think, the 1890s.
A basic understanding of history belies West’s comments. Mark Twain died in 1910; the Nazi Party that Adolph Hitler led into infamy was founded in 1920. There is no apparent overlap during which Twain could know of, much less write an article about, Nazis.
Yet the mistake is not with West, but with that perfunctory understanding of history. After all, for her, this was not “history”—these were the times she lived through. And she may be right: Twain might have written the first article on Nazism. His vision might have been so keen that he saw the first Nazis marching decades before anyone flew the swastika flag.
Published in Harper’s Magazine in 1898, “Stirring Times in Austria” was one in a series of articles that Mark Twain wrote while traveling through Europe before the turn of the century. In it, Twain recounts the political scene in Austria in late 1897, paying special attention to the happenings of parliament in Vienna. “The atmosphere is brimful of political electricity,” is how he puts it.
As Twain explains, the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the time was a patchwork of peoples. The Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Serbians, Croatians, Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians, Slovaks, Slovenes, Italians and others who made up the empire all had their own cultures and political ambitions. But rather than tearing them apart, these differences kept them chained together, as they were unable to meaningfully organize to challenge the ruling imperial system. As Twain is told by an Austro-Hungarian, “All the nations in the empire hate the government—but they all hate each other, too … The nation that rises must rise alone; then the others would joyfully join the government against her.”
Twain recounts one of these rows. In order to cinch a majority with the aid of the Czechs, the reigning parliament declared theirs the official language of Bohemia. Incensed, the German opposition resolved to delay a vote on the financial terms of continued Austro-Hungarian unity, threatening to tear the Empire in half. The opposition’s obstruction was met with the majority’s disregard for procedure, and rather than either side backing down, the animosity only grew. Obstruction gave way to sabotage, shouts to insults (“Jew” is a favored slur), fistfights to bludgeonings. After the majority forced through legislation which allowed them to literally throw out unruly members of parliament, the opposition physically forced the majority leader from his stand.
And then, as Twain puts it, “We see what history will be talking of five centuries hence: a uniformed and helmeted battalion of bronzed and stalwart men marching in double file down the floor of the House—a free parliament profaned by an invasion of brute force.” The police cleared the majority leader’s rostrum of opposition members, ejecting them, and then standing guard so that parliament could proceed. Twain describes how, in the following days, the majority fell apart, pogroms broke out across the empire and martial law was enacted. He intimates that neither parliament nor constitution nor monarchy might stand for long.
It’s certain that the article by Mark Twain that Rebecca West refers to in her Paris Review interview is “Stirring Times in Austria.” Besides correctly identifying the publication and guessing its date to within the decade, West also describes other aspects of the story— some accurate, yet others apparently not so.
One person who West highlights from Twain’s article is Karl Lueger (misspelled “Luger” in The Paris Review). Lueger is identified by Twain as the mayor of Vienna, a member of the Christian Social Party and one voice in a quarrel, but nothing further. Today, Lueger is recognized as advancing political anti-Semitism so far as to make it a social force dominating everyday life in turn-of-the-19th-century Vienna. Adolph Hitler, who in his early twenties lived in Lueger’s Vienna, spoke of the mayor favorably in Mein Kampf, writing, “If Dr. Karl Lueger had lived in Germany he would have been ranked among the great leaders of our people.”
Regarding Lueger’s Christian Social Party (which Twain sometimes refers to as “Socialists,” although they were as socialist as the National Socialists—that is to say, not), Twain identifies them as the opposition that physically removed the majority leader from parliament before being put out themselves by the police. Thirty-six years later, in 1933, the Christian Social Party joined the Fatherland Front, the ruling organ of Austrian fascism. For his part, Hitler believed that the Christian Social Party was “anti-Semitic only in outward appearance” and that this was “worse than if it had made no pretenses at all to anti-Semitism; for the pretense gave rise to a false sense of security among people who believed the enemy had been taken by the ears.” The Fatherland Front was banned in 1938, when Hitler annexed Austria.
West also mentions a George Schwartz, “who started the first Nazi paper,” yet he is not named anywhere in Twain’s article. It is possible that she meant Georg Ritter von Schonerer, whom Twain describes as a bull of a man, charging crowds and threatening violence. Beyond Twain’s work, Schonerer was the founder of the Pan-German Party, as well as a virulent anti-Semite whose followers addressed him as “Fuhrer” and greeted him with “Heil.” Hitler wrote that Schonerer had “the wisdom of a prophet.”
As far as the “first Nazi paper” goes, it’s possible that West conflates Schwartz (that is, Schonerer) for Lueger. The latter was publisher of the Deutsche Volksblatt, a newspaper so violently anti-Semitic that Vienna’s Archbishop denounced its “heathenish race hatred.” Even Hitler writes that he was “not in accord with [the Deutsche Volksblatt’s] anti-Semitic tone” when he first began reading it, but “again and again I found that its arguments gave me grounds for serious thought.”
The last particular that West ascribes to “Stirring Times in Austria” is “the very first notice that I’ve ever found of the Austrian Nazi Party, that started it all” yet that name is nowhere to be found in Twain’s article. The Austrian Nazi Party (officially the German National Socialist Workers’ Party) was formerly the German Workers’ Party—which was founded six years after Twain’s article was written. But among the party’s founders is Karl Hermann Wolf, whom Twain focuses on throughout his article as the lead obstructionist and open proponent of violence, exclaiming in parliament, “We intend to find out, here and now, which is the hardest, a Pole’s skull or a German’s!” (emphasis Twain’s). At the time, Wolf was a member of the German Radical Party. He would go on to found the German Workers’ Party in 1903, which became the Austrian Nazi Party in 1918 and developed many of the ideas that Hitler adopted with the German Nazi Party in 1920. It is a lineage that, in Twain’s article, is as paradoxically clear as it is hidden. Like a monstrous family tree, you’ve got to dig up the roots before you can find where the poison fruit came from.
Still, the question remains: Did Mark Twain really see the seeds of Nazism decades before they sprouted? Or is Rebecca West mistakenly imbuing one of her earliest literary heroes with her own personal understanding of fascism?
While West undoubtedly picks up on the personalities in Twain’s article who would go on to deeply influence Adolph Hitler and widely shape Nazi ideology, Twain himself glosses over the aspects of these men that struck Hitler or provided the building blocks of Nazism. The opportunistic anti-Semitism of Karl Lueger and his Christian Social Party are never mentioned. Georg Ritter von Schonerer’s violence is described as typical of the wider scene in parliament—his cult of personality completely unremarked upon. And though the men who were arguably responsible for the first Nazi newspaper and the original Nazi party are indeed in the room, Twain is ignorant of these facts.
What Twain does understand is the dynamic at work: the breakdown of a society that claims to predicate itself on the rule of law and civil government. In a supposedly republican body like parliament, the brandishing of weapons by politicians is only upstaged in alarm by the sudden appearance of the police, who restore order by force. The necessity of martial law in the halls of power reveals that a government apparently based on principle is in fact based on violence. Once that’s understood, fighting becomes just another tool alongside legislating to be leveraged in the political arena. Realpolitik is realized in the starkest sense possible.
The fascist use of force to subvert supposedly republican means of governance, which leads to escalating violence all around, is something Twain perceived clearly. The Holocaust is not. He gives no indication that he saw genocide over the horizon—not in this article and not in the follow up, “Concerning the Jews,” in which he acknowledges the role of Jews as scapegoats in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is where West has the benefit of hindsight: Twain could see the imminent collapse; West was able to recognize that wreckage as the raw material of the concentration camps. According to West, Twain saw “what it must all lead to,” but he couldn’t have even imagined it. Only someone like West, who had lived through it and had the perception to connect the dots, could see the line from Twain’s reporting in 1897 to Nuremberg in 1945.
We’ve yet to come upon the 500-year mark through which Twain believed we would still be speaking of the police invasion of parliament in Vienna. Hardly 120 years have elapsed and already we fail to acknowledge the event as even noteworthy. This isn’t reason to pan Twain’s opinion, but to concede the unimaginable horror of the last century. And, perhaps in speaking to West’s point, Twain’s article is an opportunity to understand that the seeds of fascism take root long, long before they finally spring up.
Charm isn’t the right word, but there’s something about New York as it was in the 1970s that still holds a grip on us today. We all have our reasons. Depending on taste, it might be the low rents, the lunch counters, the music, the art scene, or maybe just the sense that the city was more connected to its past and people then, and though it was a difficult place to live, the ones who managed could look all comers and questioners in the eye and tell them to go screw, or in the more genteel parlance of Bobby Short at the Carlyle, “I happen to like this town.” The latest vision of the city in the bad-old days comes Sundays this fall, with HBO’s The Deuce, created by David Simon and George Pelecanos. The series focuses on Times Square in the 70s, long before Giuliani’s Adult Entertainment Ordinance, at a time when the area was awash in sex and sleaze, a magnet for hustlers of all stripes. For the writers’ room, Simon and Pelecanos have assembled a murderers’ row of literary talent, including Richard Price, Megan Abbott, and Lisa Lutz, not to mention Pelecanos himself. The Deuce might well earn a place beside The French Connection, Taxi Driver, and Dog Day Afternoon as another seminal portrait of a city on the brink.
But in addition to Sunday night viewing, why not look to the writers of the era, the ones whose gritty fictions first helped define what was happening here during that turbulent decade? Postwar crime fiction was largely an urban-set phenomenon, and in the 70s, New York City played host to some of the era’s defining stories. The spirit of the 60s had turned ugly, poverty and violence were rampant, and paranoia was in the air. The same themes that energized American New Wave cinema were found in the pages of latest thrillers and noir meditations. Reading them now, the attitudes toward race and sex often seem outdated or downright offensive. But you’ll also find the seeds of many of the issues still gnawing at our city and society today, from police brutality to the widening income gap to institutional racism and misogyny.
Here are ten crime novels that helped to define New York City in the 1970s.
Judith Rossner, Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Probably the best, most complex crime novel of the decade, Rossner’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar actually began as a non-fiction story for Esquire. The piece was about Roseann Quinn, a New York City schoolteacher murdered on New Year’s Day in 1973 by a man she’d brought home from a bar. The magazine killed the story, supposedly so as not to unfairly influence the murderer’s trial. Rossner decided to change the names, expand the scope, and turn the article into a novel. In Looking for Mr. Goodbar, “Theresa Dunn” spends nights looking for companionship at the city’s singles bars. Goodbar is, in some ways, a flâneuse novel, with wicked portraits of the insecure, abusive men who pass through Dunn’s life. Rossner expertly captures the city’s nightlife, but from a woman’s perspective the scene takes on a deeply sinister tone; for all the supposed liberation of the era, sex could still bring about a kind of hell.
Lawrence Block, In the Midst of Death
It’s hard to think of a writer more emblematic of the city and the era than Lawrence Block, who started off in the 70s with gritty, vengeful stories from the city on the edge and is still cranking them out some 40 years later. 1976 saw the launch of Block’s Matt Scudder series. Scudder is an NYPD washout, haunted by drink and past sins. He lives in a Manhattan flophouse and spends his days at Armstrong’s Bar, flipping through the papers covering the latest atrocities. Occasionally, somebody plucks Scudder’s heartstrings and he springs into (unlicensed) action. In the Midst of Death is Block’s take on the Serpico-era efforts to clean up the force, with a back-alley Madonna thrown in to appeal to Scudder’s particular brand of chivalry.
Lawrence Block, The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling
Bernie Rhodenbarr, the hero of Block’s other big series launched in the 70s, is in many ways Matt Scudder’s opposite—a cat burglar with a literary sensibility and a come-what-may attitude toward life. After a few nighttime misadventures, Rhodenbarr decides to give himself a day job, opening up Barnegat Books in the Village. The store gives him ample excuse to chat literature, and it gives Block a reason to send his hero across the peripheries of the downtown art and letters scene. But used books just don’t pay the bills, so of course Bernie is back to his old habits soon enough. In The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, it’s a Maltese Falcon setup: a precious antique, a hired hand, and a hero who refuses to be the fall guy.
Chester Himes, Blind Man with a Pistol
Himes’ Harlem Cycle series actually wrapped with this novel in 1969, but at the end of the run, the issues simmering uptown were the same that would come to define the following decade: income inequality, the spread of hard drugs, a counterculture gone sour, sexual violence, and storefront religion taking hold in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In Blind Man with a Pistol, Himes’ iconic detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, are looking into the death of a white movie producer caught in a nasty situation in Harlem. The investigation takes them across the city, which is the real main character here: a dark, twisted vision of where things are, and where they’re headed. (It’s worth noting that during this period, Himes had already left New York and the US was living in self-imposed exile in Europe.)
John Godey, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
For most, the 1974 movie is what comes to mind first, but the novel, written by Morton Freedgood under his Godey pseudonym, was a hit in its own right. The story, set underneath New York, in the dreaded MTA tunnels, mainlined the city’s anxieties of the era: terrorists, hijackings, stalled trains, public apathy. Supposedly the story struck such a nerve that to this day MTA dispatchers do their best to avoid scheduling any 6 trains departing Pelham at 1:23 pm. (Trains are assigned a call number based on their departure time—hence the name of the downtown 6 train.)
Donald E. Westlake, Cops and Robbers
Westlake’s Cops and Robbers offers up a vision of beat cop corruption taken to the extreme: Tom and Joe are miserable flatfoots who drive in from Long Island every day to have another piece of their souls chipped away. They hate the job and the city, and eventually, what shred of integrity they had left disappears. One day, Joe finds himself, in uniform, robbing a liquor store. The trick works and his pockets are lined. Soon, the two partners team up with the mob and plan a heist of bearer bonds from a Wall Street operation. This is New York City at its most craven—the city’s guardians turning against the place they’re sworn to protect. Plus a look at the toxic city-suburbs dynamic of the 1970s, in the era of white flight and isolationism. (For companion viewing, check out the documentary, The Seven Five, now on Netflix.)
Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street
While not technically a crime novel, DeLillo’s third book taps into the same current of urban sleaze and a head-shaking wonder at how quickly and how extremely the 60s went to seed. The titular street isn’t today’s glitzy address or even the Great Jones Street of the art scene that would flourish in galleries and dive bars as the decade wore on. This was a Great Jones still connected to the old Bowery culture—a place for outcasts and washouts willing the days by and waiting on death. Bucky Wunderlick is a famous rocker living in a downtown flop. The money managers and record labels are banging on his door, while the streets are abuzz over a new drug that’s going to sweep the culture away. This isn’t DeLillo at his best, by any means, but it’s a powerful and deranged portrait of the start of something new for the city.
Martin Cruz Smith, Gypsy in Amber
Martin Cruz Smith would later rise to fame with Gorky Park and his Arkady Renko series, but in the 70s, he was just starting out in the mystery world with Gypsy in Amber. Romano Grey is a New York-based antiques expert and an occasional consultant for law enforcement in need of esoteric advice. He’s also a prominent member of the city’s gypsy population. In Gypsy in Amber, an antiques delivery goes awry, bodies begin to drop, and Grey is forced to navigate his peoples’ complex, cloistered world to get at the truth and to keep the gaja (non-gypsy) forces from putting an innocent man in prison. This is a slice of the city you probably won’t find anywhere else.
Lawrence Sanders, The Edward X. Delaney / Deadly Sin series
Sanders struck it big in 1971 with The Anderson Tapes, a bestselling thriller built out of fictional police reports and surveillance transcripts telling the story of “Duke” Anderson, recently released from Sing Sing and looking to make a score with a divorcee at a luxury high-rise on the Upper East Side. That book introduced Edward “Iron Balls” Delaney, the hard-nosed detective Sanders would stick with through the rest of the decade (and four more novels). The early books take a weary look at New York as a city full of hustlers, marks, and cops. Delaney eventually leaves the force, but these books are at their best as procedurals taking a close look at the police work. The Anderson Tapes, especially, taps into the coming decade’s sense of paranoia and its obsession with surveillance and the ever-present, corrupt state.
James Mills, Report to the Commissioner
Another novel built in part on documents—interoffice memos, reports, transcripts. This one follows the story of Bo Lockley, who, with his left-leaning views and sensitive outlook, is an unlikely recruit to the NYPD. In an attempt to prove his mettle, Lockley crashes an undercover operation targeting a Times Square pimp. Lockley’s vision of the city is ambivalent, the same as his feelings toward police work. It’s one more wrinkle in the troubled story of the NYPD in a difficult decade.
Stephen King—prolific writer, mega-bestseller, living author with the most film adaptations to his name, crowned king of horror but by no means limited to that genre—turns 70 today. Despite (or perhaps because of) his relentless success, there have been many conversations over the years about whether Stephen King is a “great writer” or not. (I recommend this hilarious essay about the experience of reading It.) Some of the contention has originated with King himself—in his aggressive acceptance speech upon winning the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, he admitted to early bitterness about literary writers and called readers of literary fiction “out of touch with their own culture.” To which Shirley Hazzard, winning the National Book Award for fiction that year, responded, essentially: slow your roll. But the truth is that lots of people love Stephen King’s books, and that they’ve ushered many readers—and many eventual writers—through their adolescence. For many, his books were the first to show what could be done with literature, beyond what was taught in school. Which is a wonderful thing. Here are twelve literary authors on their love for King, and the influence he’s had on their work.
Photo: Alyssa Loh
“One writer . . . is Stephen King, who was also a formative influence on me, but he can do the whole spectrum from splatter to realism to the genuinely weird.” (Electric Literature)
“How do you learn how to do something? You watch your sibling do it. Or you watch your parents do it. And as long as you don’t plagiarize, there isn’t any problem with copying. What I mean by that—let’s say there was a Stephen King story that took place in Maine with a bunch of white working class people working in a factory in the middle of the night. I didn’t know anything about that, but I would write a short story that was about some black factory workers at a factory in Queens at midnight and then it turns out that there’s a pathway down to an underground maze of rats. And it was a complete steal of one of Stephen King’s stories but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was teaching myself to tell a story and how to include the details that I knew, of a story that I knew.” (LA Times)
“The first book I ever loved, like walked around with it and never let it go, was probably Stephen King’s It. First, I’ll admit part of the lure was being able to show off that I was reading a book that massive. 1,000 pages or so. Even as a paperback that’s a beast. I slapped it down where ever I could just so people could feel the tremor.
But really the reason I loved the book is because children died in it. Right from the opening scene. I know this sounds morbid. I guess that’s because it is morbid. But I found the varieties of threat, and murder, done to children extremely appealing. When I was young I thought it was just the surprise of finding such things written down in a novel. But as an adult I now think there was also something so gratifying about having a book acknowledge, admit, revel in the feeling of childhood. That you are under constant threat, that you have very little power, that there are forces in the world that simply will do you harm. Adults don’t like to think about this, but kids can’t ever forget such things are true. It didn’t lie to me.” (Literary Hub)
Photo Courtesy Lauren Groff
“I love Stephen King and I owe him more than I could ever express. I love his wild imagination and his vivid scenes, many of which populate my nightmares even decades after I last read the books they’re in. But the greatest thing I gleaned most from reading Stephen King is his big-hearted glee, the way he treats writing with gratitude, the way he sees his job not as the source of anguish and pain many writers self-pityingly see it as, but rather as something he’s over-the-moon delighted to be lucky enough to do. If I could steal one thing from King, and keep it close to my heart forever, it is his sense of almost-holy glee when it comes to writing.” (Salon)
Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine
“My family read a lot of commercial fiction. We always had the latest Stephen King. My mother would read it first, and then my sister, and then I would get it, starting in fifth grade. The first big book I read was Night Shift by Stephen King, you know, a huge book of short stories. And so for many years I just wanted to write horror fiction.” (Literary Hub)
“I was a big horror and science fiction fan growing up. My brother and I would rent horror movies every weekend and in junior high I was reading Stephen King and Isaac Asimov. It was those guys who made me want to write in the first place, so it made sense to me that I would eventually do a horror novel, even if it seems strange going from a coming-of-age story like my last novel, Sag Harbor, to a zombie apocalypse. Zombies are a great rhetorical prop to talk about people and paranoia and they are a good vehicle for my misanthropy.” (The Guardian)
“[In college] I wanted to write the black Shining or the black Salem’s Lot . . . Take any Stephen King title and put ‘the black’ in front of it. That’s basically what I wanted to do.” (VCU)
Photo: Sharona Jacobs Photography
“I do reread books and stories, all the time. Often children’s books and ghost stories, especially anthologies of ghost stories. Stephen King’s novels or collections. I reread things that I loved, or that had a particular effect on me. I once asked a bunch of horror writers why it was still pleasurable to reread scary stories when their power to scare us has diminished. The writer Nick Mamatas said, ‘I read to feel a sense of dread.’” (LARB)
Photo: Nina Subin
“Stephen King saved my life. . . . Stephen King saved my life strictly in the sense that after an especially humiliating junior high school afternoon (acid-washed jeans, a chair puddled with red paint, you get the rest), it was re-reading Itthat persuaded me not to run away and join the circus. Or at least not to quit school and get a job at the Gap. If the Losers Club could defeat knife-wielding bullies and a monstrous sewer clown, I reasoned, then surely I could take a stab at surviving the junior high cafeteria. After that day, the books I loved became the books I lived on. They were fresh air and security blanket in one; they were not only an acknowledgment that evil existed (you needed only meet my gym teacher to buy that) but an assurance that someone like me, needy and lonely and young, could defeat it.” (The Atlantic)
Photo: Lee Towndrow
“I always tell people my literary influences are Stephen King, John Steinbeck, and my mother, my grandfather and the Brady Bunch.” (Interview with Thomson Highway)
“Oh my gosh. Stephen King, who was always writing about underdogs, and bullied kids, and kids fighting back against overwhelming, often supernatural forces [has stuck with me]. The world aligned against them.
As an Indian boy growing up on a reservation, I always identified with his protagonists. Stephen King, fighting the monsters.” (State Impact)
Photo: Ben King
“I admire Stephen King not primarily for being our foremost writer of horror and suspense—though he is that—but as an artist of colloquial English, a master storyteller whose voice is so natural and unaffected that it seems to be coming from deep in our collective unconscious, the wellspring of small-town middle America. For me, as for many other ‘literary’ writers, King’s masterpiece is Different Seasons. Every one of those novellas is a great achievement.” (Salon)
Photo: Jennifer May
“Stephen King’s It awakened my brain, opened up emotional chambers I didn’t know existed. I related so closely to the seven kids who make up the Losers’ Club—their dreams and anxieties my own—and by following them into adulthood, I grew up a little myself. I remember passages from that book so vividly I might as well have lived them. And this is not unique to It, which was published in 1986 and is getting a new film adaptation on September 8. I might own nearly all of King’s books, but really, they own me. And I’m not alone in this way. So many of us were raised by him.
. . .
He is there—on every train track, at every lakeside cabin, in every culvert and marsh and funeral parlor, every bathroom and walk-in freezer and hogpen and high school dance—imprisoning me in a world of wonder and horror. Dostoyevsky might have said that “we all come out from Gogol’s overcoat,” but for this loyal reader, we all come out of King’s sewer grate. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say his cultural influence might be second only to Shakespeare’s.” (Departures)
Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
“Swamplandia! . . . owes a big debt to Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I think that’s one of the most beautiful books. For King it’s pretty quiet, about this nine year old girl wandering around the woods in Appalachia. It’s weird to me that King is as popular as he is, you know? Because of the places he goes. That’s an acknowledgement of how weird we all must be, and how we love the dark. I feel like he’s some organ, doing extrasensory processing for all of us!” (The Millions)
Photo: Sarah Soquel Morhaim
Bret Easton Ellis:
“The impetus to write [Lunar Park] came from wanting to mimic the books I loved as a boy and a teenager—specifically the Stephen King novels I devoured as well as both the Warren Comics of the 70’s (Creepy, Eerie, Vampirilla) and the slightly less edgy EC Comics (Vault of Horror, Tales From the Crypt). I guess I basically wanted to re-experience the pleasure I got from reading something like The Shining or The Dark Half.” (The Cult)
“He was a major writer for me as a kid, and as an adolescent. I was thrilled every time a Stephen King book came out. I’d spend pocket money on hardbacks. Man, they were the first hardbacks that I demanded my parents get for me. I remember buying It and thinking it was the most epic horror novel—that it was the Ulysses of horror.
. . .
When the idea first occurred to me, I thought I’m going to write my Stephen King novel. I was at a ranch, in North Dakota, walking around. It was a week after Christmas. It was snowy. I went for a walk by myself. I’d just finished writing American Psycho, I’d just sent it off the week before, a week before Christmas. And I wanted to write something different—something fun. Writing American Psycho was fun—but it also took me into weird dark places. I didn’t want to write something that was so violent and so pornographic. During that walk I thought ‘haunted house’. Yeah, haunted house! I’d said in interviews at the time that I was thinking about a high school and vampires because I liked ‘Salem’s Lot so much. And I could’ve gone there, I suppose – but the haunted house thing kept announcing itself. That was IT! There was NOTHING! ELSE! Just a full throttle fun house ride! That was all I wanted to do. Simple.” (Bookmunch)
Photo: Gasper Tringale
“I love pop culture—the Rolling Stones, the Doors, David Lynch, things like that. That’s why I said I don’t like elitism. I like horror films, Stephen King, Raymond Chandler, detective stories. I don’t want to write those things. What I want to do is use those structures, not the content. I like to put my content in that structure. That’s my way, my style. So both of those kinds of writers don’t like me. Entertainment writers don’t like me, and serious literature people don’t like me. I’m kind of in-between, doing a new kind of thing.” (Salon)
Photo: Elijah Tubbs
“I also grew up as a reader of fantasy and sci-fi. I can talk Cormac McCarthy all day but Stephen King is just as important to me. It’s good to allow yourself to be influenced by whatever you’re really influenced by, not just what you supposed to be influenced by.” (12th St)
With each passing year, it struck me as a diminishment for literary culture to peer into the future of writing but immediately restrict its keyhole to a nationality—or a genre.What happens if you take these restrictions off, and start reading across generations?
In that spirit The Future of New Writing issue of Freeman’s was born, and for the past two years, sometimes haphazardly or by luck, but with increasing direction, I have gathered names (see below), called in texts, bought and borrowed books, and read with the goal of trying to find out who were the best emerging writers.
Passing what I liked or thought I liked on to Allison Malecha, we read the work of over 100 writers, and relied upon the advice of hundreds of writers and critics, translators, bookstore owners, festival directors, publishers and academics.
I preferred this method to a jury because it would allow us to include writers who were strange or provoked strong reactions, the kinds of writers prone to rejection by consensus decisions.
Choosing the list this way also mimicked the fashion by which literature travels in general—less on an express train to a judge and jury, where it must account for itself, but hitchhiking from one fellow-traveler to another.
So here are 29 passengers we think will continue to be traveling into the future—perhaps even define it.
A Yi · Garnette Cadogan · Elaine Castillo · Marius Chivu · Mariana Enríquez · Athena Farrokhzad · Daniel Galera · Johan Harstad · Ishion Hutchinson · Tania James · Mieko Kawakami · Édouard Louis · Valeria Luiselli · Fiona McFarlane · Dinaw Mengestu · Nadifa Mohamed · Sayaka Murata · Heather O’Neill · Pola Oloixarac · Diego Enrique Osorno · Ross Raisin · Sunjeev Sahota · Samanta Schweblin · David Searcy · Solmaz Sharif · Andrés Felipe Solano · Ocean Vuong · Claire Vaye Watkins · Xu Zechen
The Future of New Writing will be launched in New York City, Thursday October 5th at the New School, 66 West 12th Street ,with Garnette Cadogan, Elaine Castillo, Valeria Luiselli and Dinaw Mengestu. Tickets are available here.
Not in New York? Catch Freeman and various contributors in Vancouver, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, Austin, Portland (OR), Colgate University, and Vassar College.