Author Spotlight - Lev Parikian
Today, I bring you a guest post from my fellow Unbounder and all-round fascinating person, Lev Parikian. His book Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? has been released this week and Lev joins us as the first stop on his blog tour. I'll include the schedule at the bottom of the post so you can follow along.
How to Write a Book
‘So what do you do?’
‘I’m a musician … and a writer.’
I always have to remind myself to add the ‘writer’ bit – it’s only recently felt legitimate, partly because the answer to the next question used to be a bit awkward. The next question is often on the lines of ‘Oh yeah? Have you written anything I might have heard of?’
If you’re lucky it’s the less toe-curling ‘What have you written?’
Until five years ago the answer would have been ‘Oh nothing much’ – code for ‘A lot of unfinished or unpublished rubbish’. Then I amended it to ‘Oh, I’ve written this book about conducting, it’s a sort of funny, well kind of funny, I mean I think it’s funny but you can’t say that about yourself, can you, gosh isn’t it hot in here?’
But now I can look my interlocutor boldly in the eye and say ‘I have a book out next Thursday. It’s called Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? and it’s utterly brilliant and you should definitely buy at least twenty copies right now.’
(I do, in fact, miss out everything after the question mark. I’m vain and brazen, but even I have my limits.)
It’s what happens next that’s interesting. Sometimes you get a vague ‘Oh really? I’ll look out for it’ (which we both know is a lie); sometimes it’s a genuinely interested ‘Oh that sounds fascinating. Tell me about it’ (which is lovely); and just occasionally I get ‘Oh yes, I’ve heard about that. Sounds great.’
Marry me now, O wonderful stranger.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the ones every writer dreads.
‘Oh yeah? The next J K Rowling, are you?’
(No. No I’m not. Nobody is. I’m not even the right gender.)
‘Going to win the Booker Prize?’
(Very unlikely, especially considering my book is non-fiction nature writing, and the Man Booker is for fiction.)
And so on.
To be fair, these questions are no worse than those I’d ask if I were talking to, say, an actuary (always assuming that there were one very, very famous actuary in the world, and also a prize for actuary-ing that a lot of average people have heard of). I know nothing about actuary-ing, so any conversation I might have about it would tend towards the fatuous, on my side at least.
But there’s one response that, for some reason, makes my hair itch more than the others.
’I might write a book one day.’
I have to bite my tongue with this one. It’s the most tempting thing in the world to say ‘Ok then, off you go. Nobody’s stopping you. But heed this: you will fail, because nobody who has ever said that has EVER WRITTEN A BOOK.’
The trouble is that writing is, in one sense, very, very easy. You just sit down and throw words onto a screen. Anyone who uses words (and that’s pretty much everyone) can do it.
The difficult bit is making sure that before you start you kill the evil part of you that sits on your shoulder whispering ‘That’s not good enough. Nor’s that. Nor’s that. Nope. Uh uh. Rubbish. It’s all rubbish.’
But then, having killed that pernicious entity, and thrown all those thousands of words at the screen, you have to get in touch with a related part of you that’s able to look at what you’ve written, acknowledge that it is indeed rubbish, but that that’s ok, and this is what we have to do to make it better, now have some chocolate and stop crying and we’ll work at it together, shall we?
And then you just do that many, many times until what you have is a readable book.
In short, writing (and this has been said by many people more knowledgeable and better qualified than me) is rewriting.
So now you know how it’s done. See you back here in a couple of years.
Lev Parikian is a conductor, writer and hopeless birdwatcher. His
first book, Waving, Not Drowning, was published in 2013. His
numerous conducting credits include the re-recording of the theme tune
for Hancock’s Half Hour for Radio 4. As a birdwatcher, his most
prized sightings are a golden oriole in the Alpujarras and a black
redstart at Dungeness Power Station. Lev’s book, Why Do Birds
Suddenly Disappear?, can be bought on Amazon or Hive. He is
currently crowdfunding his second Unbound book, the long and the short
of it, a collection of forty pieces of writing in which the
readers get even more control of the process by supplying subjects for
Lev to write about.
On a personal note, I receive Lev's newsletter every month and it is always a joy to read. You can learn more about his many areas of interest and follow him at levparikian.com and follow the blog tour below: