I never read biographies or autobiographies – I mean, never. It’s not that I have anything against those kind of books, but I much prefer fiction novels. I have to admit though, I got hooked on Rob Lowe’s new autobiography Stories I Only Tell My Friends after reading an excerpt in Vanity Fair while walking on the treadmill at the gym. The excerpt gave a behind the scenes glimpse into the making of the movie The Outsiders, based on the young adult novel by S.E. Hinton. I loved both the book and the movie growing up, and must have seen the film – which launched the careers of actors like Lowe, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, and Ralph Macchio – 20 times as a teenager.
I also enjoyed Lowe’s other early films, including St. Elmo’s Fire, Oxford Blues, Class and Youngblood. (Youngblood, a hockey movie, was another of my favorites in my teenage days.)
Reading Lowe’s book was like revisiting my adolescence. I found it really interesting that Lowe, the Sheen brothers, and the Penn brothers all attended the same high school and used to make amateur movies together. It was fun reading how all the actors portraying “greasers” in The Outsiders bonded as they pursued their movie-making goals together and wondered how this film would affect their futures. I also enjoyed reading about the Brat Pack and how this group of hot Hollywood actors got the nickname – a nickname that they did not appreciate. Another fun part of the book was learning about Lowe’s friendly rivalry and bantering with Michael J. Fox.
I found it admirable how unlike many of his peers, Lowe was able to outgrow his wilder days and settle down as a husband and dad. I hadn’t followed his more recent career endeavors on television shows such as The West Wing and after reading the book, I was glad to see that he’s been able to maintain his career as an in-demand actor after how hard he worked to break into show business. In fact, Lowe used to get picked on during his school days because his acting aspirations set him apart from his peers. He explains in the book that this is why he went on to form such tight friendships with other young actors as finally he’d found people who understood what he was going through – the highs and lows of auditions, the waiting for a big call, the rigorous demands of making a movie, and the wondering how this role will change your life.
This made me realize that actors and writers have a lot in common. Of course, I have some friends that aren’t in the writing or publishing business, but I also have many that share this world with me. Writing and publishing is not a 9-5 job. It’s a different sort of lifestyle fueled by creativity, head-in-the-clouds daydreaming, determination, and discipline. In my every day life over the years I’ve met a few people that write fiction and are pursuing publication, but not many and most aren’t as driven about it as I am. In my twenties, sometimes I felt like I was the only one who had this intense goal of making it as an author. (though obviously I wasn’t the only one, since there was so much competition to get an agent or land a publishing contract.) But it was easy to feel that way.
Thanks to writing organizations and the Internet, I no longer feel isolated. Truthfully, I know a heck of a lot more authors than non-authors. There’s my longtime critique partner and buddy Carol Baier – we’ve been critiquing each other’s books via e-mail for 9 years. Then there’s Hilary McGowan, whom I met in 2005 at the Malice Domestic Convention when we were both named as recipients of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant for new mystery writers. She is one of my closest friends and luckily, I even get to see her in person sometimes. (and speaking of the Brat Pack, Hilary has got a chick lit book that will knock your socks off! More on that when it comes out.) I’ve also found many friendships at Bestseller Bound, a site that brings together indie and small press authors and readers. Darcia Helle founded the site with some input from myself and Maria Savva, though Darcia and Maria have really kept it going. How lucky I am to have found such great friends in Maria, Darcia and everyone over at Bestseller Bound.
In addition, I’ve met wonderful authors and friends through Sisters in Crime, the Guppy subgroup of Sisters in Crime, and at the Kindle Boards. Recently, I got together with several of my fellow authors from Mainly Murder Press and we held a marketing brainstorming session amongst ourselves, followed by a well-attended panel discussion and book-signing for the public. What would I do without my inner circle and larger circle of writing friends, who understand what it takes to write a publishable novel, the ups and downs of submitting to agents, publishers and/or being an independent publisher, the overwhelming amount of promotion and marketing needed to make a career out of writing books, the joys of selling a thousand Kindle books in a month, and the frustrations of a slow month?
Our addiction is checking Kindle sales figures and Amazon rankings several times per day. We obsess a lot and dissect these obsessions with one another, i.e. why did I sell 30 Kindle books on Monday and a mere 2 on Wednesday? You want to know when Kindle authors are the most tense? The first day of the month, when Amazon sales reports start over again at zero. You sold 2000 books last month? That was then. This is now. Today you’re at zero. We all understand that relief of getting the first few sales of the month and seeing the numbers climb back up again. And when they don’t climb up… well, we’ve been there also.
In this age of the Internet, authors hang out in the same places. It’s not uncommon to see the same names over and over again on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon forums, various Yahoo groups and message board communities, and in the same newsletters and ad sites. Essentially, we’re one big pack, but it’s a friendly, welcoming pack. We share each other’s tweets on Twitter, like one another’s Facebook pages, team up for blogging events, on-line chats, and local book signings, review one another’s books, and hang out at the bar during writing conferences. Yeah, we may get a little “bratty” if we receive an unfair one-star review, but only in private with one another. To the world, we must present a professional demeanor. To each other, we can be neurotic and analytical.
Thanks to my fellow authors for all that they do. And thanks to my non-author friends and family, who help me to take a break and remind me of what’s truly important.
As for Rob Lowe’s book, if you’re a longtime fan of this actor, a new fan, or someone who is working hard to fulfill a dream of your own, I’d recommend it. He has an interesting story about the importance of being true to yourself and staying on the right path, a reminder that all of us could use from time to time.