A Letter from Robert McCammon


McCammon's update letter from April 21, 2010

On April 21, 2010, Robert McCammon wrote this update for the website.


Hi, everyone, and as always, thanks very much for all the comments.

Big news today!

I've been meaning to answer more of your questions but I've been very busy for the last month. Subterranean Press is doing what I consider the definitive edition of The Wolf's Hour in November or thereabouts, and I was asked to do an introduction.

So I started thinking about what I could say in this introduction. It would most likely be something boring, like talking about my interest in the werewolf legend and in World War II history and how I decided to do the mash-up.

But, I didn't think that would be good enough, so I thought...okay, I'll write a new Michael Gallatin short story.

What started out as a short story ended up as 123 pages of new Michael Gallatin material. I guess this would be called a "novella". Anyway, the story takes place after the events depicted in The Wolf's Hour. It's also made me start thinking about writing some more Gallatin material in the short form (say, a book of two novellas and three short stories) because my problem with writing a Wolf's Hour sequel is that I don't want to repeat myself. In the shorter form, it might be possible to do some different things that I couldn't do in novel length.

The new Michael Gallatin story is done and will appear in all editions of The Wolf's Hour published by Subterranean Press.

So, for all who've been asking about a Wolf's Hour sequel, this is probably the best I can do right now. More stories may come later. We'll see what the response is and if it's strong enough there will definitely be more Michael Gallatin.

Okay.

Working now on The Providence Rider. Moving pretty well there but I did devote the last month, as I said, to the Gallatin story. The Five is still making the rounds of publishers but no offers yet. The question was asked if The Five is a "dark" novel, and though it does have supernatural and "dark" elements it also has "light" elements, so it's not strictly along the lines of my earlier work.

You know, I've been puzzled as to why The Five hasn't been picked up by someone, because I think it's the best book I've ever written. But tonight I kind of came to this conclusion:

I was at a library benefit tonight and had the opportunity to speak with a couple of other writers, and we were talking as writers do about the business, and publishers, and genres and such.

Never in the history of publishing (at least never in my thirty years of being in the business) has the role of "genre" been so tight. I mean, everything has to fit a category.

That's just the way it is. People in publishing are very afraid of losing their jobs these days, so what's going to be bought and pushed is usually the "safe"—meaning "it's been successful before"—choice.

So I was thinking on the drive back how the one thing I've always wanted to achieve and feel I have achieved is a double-edged sword.

The Five is unlike anything else being published today. There is absolutely nothing else like it out there. Also, the same can be said of the Matthew Corbett series.

What I've worked very hard to achieve is being unique. Being the kind of writer who does work that no one else does. Of going my own way, on my own road, and feeling I'm doing the right (or write) thing.

I think I've created my own genre that no one else shares. For instance, a woman came up to me and asked me to describe Boy's Life. Is it "horror", is it "fantasy", is it "literary", or "mystery"...or what?

My answer to that was: you know, I think it's something altogether different.

My trials and tribulations in the publishing business began with Boy's Life. I think I created something that no one else could do. Which kind of astounds me when I think about it, but Boy's Life follows no publisher's model of success. That's also true of the Matthew Corbett series and certainly true of The Five.

So I think I've achieved my desire to be unique. Now...in this world nothing is free, so if you walk to a different drummer you might find yourself on the path that no one else wants to walk. But still...this is something I should be very proud of, I think. I believe what I'm doing is good and important, or obviously I wouldn't want to be doing it, and because it has no previous "model" it stands on its own.

I think that's what I've always wanted to achieve. So here it is, but again the world being what it is, a price must be paid for everything.

Now...don't worry about The Five. It's going to find a good home and I think it'll have a strong future. You know, the plans you make don't always work out but I'm here to tell you, guys, there is always...always...another plan.

So thanks again for your comments. I have to say, I'm writing this late night near two o'clock and I'm pretty tired after the library benefit, but I got one question from a gentleman who lives in Charleston (and I tried to go back and look up his name on the Facebook page but I couldn't find it, I guess my eyes are going too) concerning the fact that there's mention of a "lightning rod" in Speaks the Nightbird when that particular item wasn't invented until much later.

I wanted to address this because I don't want to "duck" a research question. The answer is, this is one of those things that invariably will bite you. And there will be more than one in each book. Writing about history is fraught with research perils. You can take care of a thousand things (and there really will be thousands of things to take care of) but a few are going to get past you, no doubt about it.

I don't have a research assistant or staff. It's just me. And, I have to say, I've gotten more careful about researching as the series has progressed, because I'm aware of earlier mistakes I've made. I hate making mistakes, but after they're made and in print all you can do is grit your teeth and hope you won't make any more, which is kind of the impossible dream.

As I've said before, you're never going to write a perfectly accurate historical novel. I think I threw in that "lightning rod" comment just as an aside, and this is where you can get hammered because I was probably too busy researching a dozen other things to think about an aside. My bad, and I hope it won't happen again but I know it will. I will never, ever tell you all the mistakes I've made in this series so far because some of them are real screamers. At least, I screamed when I realized they were in print, too late to be removed from the eyes of experts who know everything under the sun about a single subject. I just have to do the best I can do in any book, which will certainly fall short of being perfect.

Did you guys like the podcast? I'm getting ready to do a second one. I really enjoy doing them, and some of the songs and bands you'll be hearing are mentioned in The Five by the character Terry Spitzenham, who plays keyboards and is the band's retro freak and encyclopedia of, as the drummer Berke Bonnevey puts it, "the moldy territory".

Lots of good things ahead, guys. Very excited. Oh! Almost forgot! How about Chuck Hartsell's video for Mister Slaughter? We're doing videos also for Speaks the Nightbird and Queen of Bedlam. Chuck also wants to do a video for The Wolf's Hour.

And...we're planning on doing a longer form music video for The Five. I've written the words for some of the songs in The Five, so what we might do is put music to one of them and fire that up with a band doing the original song in the video.

How about it? Summertime is coming, guys!

Thanks for all your support and good wishes, and I'll check in with you a little later on.

Best,
Rick

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