Name: Rocco Lo Bosco
Book Title: Ninety Nine
Genre: Literary Novel
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Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
I don’t think I have much choice about writing. Once I started, I knew I’d probably never stop. It’s my causa sui, my reason for being; it is one of the major ways I create meaning in my life—by writing stories. I use my memory, desire, imagination and craft to carve out artful stories from the roiling, shapeless mass that is life. Writing stories is a way of seeking and positing meaning for myself and the world I experience. Naturally, it’s probably true that existence is empty of meaning, meaning-neutral if you will, but that’s what makes life so pliable to story. Existence allows human consciousness to play at divinity.
Is this your first book?
No. My first novel is Buddha Wept (GreyCore Press). I have just completed a third novel, Midnight at the Red Flamingo, and have a non-fiction title coming out next year, co-written with Dr. Danielle Knafo and titled Love Machines: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Age of Techno-Perversion (Routledge).
With this particular book, how did you publish—traditional, small press, Indie, etc.—and why did you choose this method?
I published with an independent small press, LettersAt3amPress, because the publisher, Michael Ventura, whose fiction and nonfiction writing I have followed and greatly admired for decades, read my novel, loved it and wanted to publish it.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
I began writing seriously in my twenties. I received dozens of rejection letters before my first poem was published. I went from writing poetry to short stories, and eventually I wrote novels. Though I published in literary magazines, I never put the kind of work into publishing and self-promotion that I did into writing. Writing has been a turbocharged compulsion, while publishing merely a desire. The agony-laced joy of being a writer wanes for me once the work is finished, and I must begin the drudge-riddled quest for publication. By then I have started to write something new, and this keeps me afloat while I deal with the grind of seeking representation and/or publication. The “pro” is writing. Still, if one “decides” to write, one had better be prepared for great bouts of solitude. The “con” is publishing. Yet, with the publication of both of my novels, I have found publishers in each case that made the process almost pleasant, because they truly appreciated my work and supported it. My first novel was published by GreyCore Press, and publisher Joan Schweighhardt put a lot of time and effort into get my book, Buddha Wept, into the hands of readers.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
I have learned that many good books get published as well as many bad ones. I have also learned that many good books never find a publisher. I have learned that finding the right agent is very difficult. I have learned that the general decline into a “selfie” culture marked by narcissism, existential confusion, obsession with name, game and fame and the unending worship of the profit god has negatively affected every aspect of our society, including the publishing industry. Though we still see some great novels being published, mainstream publishing has become more about turning a quick buck and moving onto the next thing that momentarily excites. It’s about playing the odds (Will they buy this?), finding the right angles (How do we get them to buy this?), and manufacturing consent (This is really worth buying because everybody is buying it!).
The good news is that technology and social media have allowed non-traditional avenues for writers to publish their work, though of course it makes it easier for a good book to get lost in the mountains of books pouring through the wire.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
I have no recommendations about how to go about publishing. It’s easy enough to find hundreds of books and even more links to websites that offer tons of advice.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
If only death can end your aspiration to write, then you will be a fully committed writer. That doesn’t mean you will be good, only committed. Then read the kind of stuff you like to write. Pick books that are really special to you and study them closely, trying to deeply understand how they are put together. If it’s a novel, ask yourself what makes its characters interesting? How are their individual situations and development part of a larger story? How is the narration and dialogue woven together? What insights, themes and existential murmurs emerge from the events that unfold? Beneath the story being told, what else is being said? What keeps you reading with salivating interest? Ask yourself, “What kinds of questions should I be asking myself to better learn why the books I love work so well to make me love them?” Of course, there are many books available that try to teach one how to write. These can be helpful, though I will not recommend any specific “how to” book because I think each writer will, through research, gravitate toward the texts that best suit his or her own psychological idiom.
Now comes the hard part. When you sit down to write you must put everything you’ve read out of your awareness. There can be no imagined critic standing over your shoulder, otherwise you will become paralyzed. Even if you do sketches and outlines and make copious notes, the time must come when you must boldly leap into the bottomless void of the blank page and hope you find your wings.
That being said, write every day at least two hours. Research time does not count as writing time. If you get stuck, put what you are writing aside and write something else. It doesn’t matter what: letters, poems, journal entries, another book, whatever. This gives your mind time to work on what you’re stuck on without you being in the way.
Learn to like spending a great deal of time by yourself.