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.
- Sleep Till Noon by Mac Schulman
- Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
- Candide by Voltaire
- Most of the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
- The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- 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.