me in the piazza

I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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How it grabs you (and you grab it)

I'm cross-posting this on Minotaur's Moments in Crime and my own blog because I think it'll interest both crews. Or maybe it only interests me.

I headed out to Newark this morning to do an interview on WBGO, Newark Public Radio. Radio interviews don't intimidate me; I enjoy them. Newark doesn't intimidate me; I spent four years in Buffalo, so Newark is almost nostalgic. (And besides I have a Cory Booker t-shirt.) The PATH train doesn't intimidate me and I left plenty of time. But I was filled with anxiety and trepidation from the moment I left home. Why? Because all this activity -- this blog, the interview, and the disjointed tour I'm about to start -- is in support of my new book, and when a book's first released it's like opening the door and letting your child walk out into the world without you. It doesn't look back, just goes charging out there. But it's a piece of your heart and you worry: what if people don't like it? Don't understand it? Don't treat it well? There's nothing you can do.

But I've felt this before -- ten times before -- so I settled on the train and took out the book I'm reading. Never leave home without a book, is my motto. The time you do will be the time you're stuck on the train for two hours. Now, the point of reading when you're nervous is to distract yourself, right? But I got this even bigger wave of anxiety when I opened the thing. I'm having a big love-hate relationship with this book, and I had a lightbulb moment. The book is Conn Iggulden's GENGHIS, a historical novel about, uh-huh, Genghis Khan. It's terrific. But it makes frighteningly clear over and over the absolute vulnerability of the people of the Mongolian plains. Raiders could, and did, sweep over the hills at any moment to steal each other's herds, and when they did, they slaughtered people. It's not like there were bad guys, who did this, and good guys, who were the victims. Everyone raided and everyone was raided. Even one warrior alone, out hunting, was vulnerable to a bigger warrior alone and often people went around the next hill and never came back.

At some other time, I might see something else -- strength, honor, trust, hard work, the power of the will -- as the main message of this book. Right now, all I'm seeing is warriors riding across the plains, visible from miles away to people with nowhere to run or hide. And what I realized was, my whole reaction to this book is being colored by what's going on in my head right now. The element that's resonating with me may not even be part of Iggulden's main message, but it's what I'm taking away.

I remember reading Margaret Atwood's THE BLIND ASSASSIN in the aftermath of 9/11. Again, at a different time I might have reacted to different things, but what I saw then was the hallucinatory structure. Back and forth through time, space and voice, the book never gave the reader a chance to find firm footing.

So I wonder: have you guys felt this? This strange combination of recognition and reluctance as you're reading a particular book at a particular time, something you might have reacted to differently a year before or a year later, but right now it's hitting you right where you live?

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