Questions for Christian, 2002

This week, I am introducing a something that I hope will become an annual feature on this site. Throughout the year, I’ve received questions via my Contact form. Some were interesting enough that I’ve decided to pick a few to answer publicly.

Where do you come from?*

I am from Saratoga Springs, New York, going back at least four generations. While I am currently living away from there, I would love to return there someday. I only left because there weren’t enough career opportunities there involving writing or editing — and, at the time, I needed to make sure I could earn enough money to pay off my college loans and establish myself.

How much is your life worth?*

Well, hm, to me it’s priceless, of course. However, I can imagine several other formulas for answering this question. For example, you could compute the cost of my ideal life, the life I would choose to lead, versus the life I actually am leading. In that equation, my ideal life would be to write novels and get them published, but I have not yet done that because of both debt and the need to build up enough money to ensure my family can live comfortably when I do take the plunge and risk not having an income for a while during the time I am writing. So figure my current annual income multiplied by however many years I earn it, minus my debts, plus my assets. That is tens of thousands, or maybe even a few hundred thousand dollars. Or you could just look at what I would want/need to live my ideal life starting tomorrow — i.e., assuming a fiction publishing house were to offer me a contract to complete my novel and write my next novel, etc., as if it were an annual salary. That would eliminate considerations of debt and assets, since I could handle those from the continued income. So that would just mean I need a fiction publisher to match my current salary. Unfortunately, not something they would likely do for a first-time novelist; even many well-established novelists don’t get long-term contracts or earn what I am currently earning as a corporate Web-site geek.

What are your ten favorite fiction novels?

Well, this list is far too short — I love a lot of novels, so this was a hard question to answer and limit to just ten. Also, except for the first five, this list isn’t really in ranked order.

  1. Sleep Till Noon by Mac Schulman
  2. Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff
  3. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  4. Candide by Voltaire
  5. Most of the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
  6. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  7. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  9. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  10. Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

How did you and Lila meet?

We met online, at a time when that was something unique. In 1995, we were members of AOL at the time (as Web professionals, we’ve since outgrown it.) Lila saw in my Profile that I lived in Saratoga Springs, New York and had attended Skidmore College. She wondered if I knew a particular professor and, as it turns out, I had worked for a professor next to his office. We corresponded via e-mail, then Instant Messaging. After a couple of months, Lila headed off for a vacation, saying she would write me when she got back. I didn’t hear from her until a year later, but we quickly picked up our rapport, soon moving it to telephone, as well as Internet. She invited me to Brooklyn for her New Year’s Eve party. When I found a job partway between Saratoga and the City, she moved north and I moved south, getting an apartment together. Finances were tough early on, but we were finally able to have a wonderful wedding this year.

Don’t you feel bad making fun of that First Night belly dancer?

Do I respect her for putting herself out there and trying to entertain people? Of course; I know how risky that can be and how painful it is when you fail. However, she did put herself out there knowing those risks. When my turn comes, I know there may be some critics who may skewer me and my writing. Heck, for all I know…

*Questions from my nephew, Joseph Wagner. Thank you, Joe.


By Christian Lee

Christian Stuart Lee's Rants and Chants has entertained and informed readers since January 2002. Rants and Chants includes non-fiction writing -- anecdotes, essays, movie reviews, and more. He is diligently working on a novel and other projects, which he hopes to publish soon. He is available for freelance writing -- the materials in Rants and Chants will give you a sense of his interests, knowledge, and style.