A couple of months ago, best-selling author Matthew Stover proclaimed his presence on the link-sharing geekfest known as Reddit, and graciously answered questions thrown at him from the unwashed masses. This had a great impact on me for several reasons.
Firstly, I’m an avid Redditor, and I love when semi-famous people I know of show up and proclaim their geekitude as well. It’s a great way to connect with your fanbase, and it’s not a bad promotional move either. If you’re a writer with any sort of name recognition or publishing success I’d recommend you consider this as a marketing option.
Secondly, I’m a huge fan of Matt Stover. I became familiar with his work through his Star Wars Novels. He wrote the novelization of the Revenge of the Sith movie, but he’s most known for writing a book called Traitor, which was a pivotal installment in the New Jedi Order series. I don’t want to sound too melodramatic, but this book changed my life. It was more than a sci-fi story — it was filled with complex, mature philosophy and raw emotion. The plot focuses on Han and Leia’s son Jacen, a young Jedi trying to find his place in the universe as he struggles with reconciling his Uncle Luke’s teachings with a violent and cruel alien enemy known as the Yuuzhan Vong. Jacen eventually becomes an (initially) unwilling student of Vergere, an avian alien companion of the Yuuzhan Vong who was once a member of the Old Jedi Order back before Palpatine took over. She takes Jacen on a far different spiritual journey than his Jedi teachings ever did — one that deals in many moral gray areas — and she does so through remarkably cruel tutelage. Throughout the book, you’re never quite sure what her motives are, but there’s a definite method to her madness.
Traitor inspired me to write a story about a young man in our world, struggling to understand existence via the instruction of a madman bent on escaping life as a mere mortal, or immortal. Matt Stover’s work inspired me to write The Remortal.
So, I was obviously tickled pink when I saw him pop up on Reddit and field questions about his life, his profession, and whatever else came up. What struck me most was how honest Stover was about how “bestseller” status doesn’t necessarily equate to an easy living as a writer. He’s a 2-time New York Times Bestseller who has written for the world’s most well-known sci-fi franchise. You’d think he’d be set, right? But so fast. As Stover wrote:
The things most conducive to writing is to be able to pay rent and buy food.
I have always had a day job. Writing has never provided sufficient income for me to retire from the job market. I’m applying for day jobs right now. I have tended bar, waited tables, worked as a fry-cook, a vacuum-clear salesman, an exterminator and I’m not even warmed up. If you have a job you can offer, post a note on my blog.
That’s life in SFF, buckaroo.
Now, Stover’s situation is a little different since most of the profits from his work go straight to LucasArts, but with other authors like Kevin J. Anderson and Tim Zahn enjoying much more “successful” careers, largely (though arguably) because of their work in the Star Wars expanded universe, this is still kind of sobering.
But Stover’s Reddit posts go beyond the topic and money and delve into life lessons, writing, and timeless advice. I particularly liked this tidbit on writer’s block
There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. There is such a thing as depression, and most writers suffer from it. Then everything you write looks like shit, so you can’t move forward. There is also exhaustion, which a lot of depressed people suffer from because the disease fucks with your sleep pattern.
Breaking it is easy. You just remind yourself that your work doesn’t suck, that it looks like shit only to you, and then you tell yourself “I don’t need a [nap, drink, gunshot to the head, whatever]. All I need is a good idea.”
Because that’s the truth.