Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My next book, and Making Records from Phil Ramone, and a TV interview

I’ve read that it’s bad luck for a writer to tell people about the book he’s writing at that moment. I’m not sure why that might be; it’s often impossible to figure out the origin of arcane superstitions like that. I’m not a big believer in superstition, though I have made some harmless concessions to the idea. For example, I no longer carry my bull whip, I do not seek out fresh cat, nor will I eat cat if it’s offered to me. And I do exercise greater care when crossing streets, especially on Sundays.

In any case, at this moment, I do not need to be concerned because I am not telling you about my next book. Rather, I am asking YOUR opinion. So if anyone should be superstitious here, it is you.

I’ve talked before how the response to Look Me in the Eye was (and is) far beyond anything I expected. And it’s clear that readers want more. I’ll certainly write more, but what’s important in the next book? This is the chance for you to be heard.

I’ve been asked if I’ll write more funny stories. I suppose I will. I’ll be offering more insights into Asperger’s too. What are some of your specific suggestions and wishes? What do you wish there was “more of” in Look Me in the Eye? Now that you’ve read it, what would you want to read next? What questions remain unanswered?

Do you wonder what happened to the Montagoonians? . . . Where Cubby is now? . . . If Unit 3 really did get abducted by aliens?

Or do you just want to read my secret tricks for holding a conversation or catching trout with bread crumbs and a stick?

It’s going to take a while to write the next book, so the time to speak up is now. And on the topic of “it’s going to take a while” . . . .

It was eleven months ago today that my agent, Christopher Schelling, read the manuscript for Look Me in the Eye. In those eleven months, we showed the book to publishers, gave it to Crown, Rachel Klayman and I completed the edits and rewrites, we got it produced, and it became a bestseller.

It seemed slow when it was happening but it sure seems fast, looking back.

* * * * *

This weekend I read an interesting book – Making Records, by Phil Ramone.

Phil is a very talented producer who’s made countless records over the past 50 years.

The book was interesting to me because I too love music production, and most of all because the writing is very Aspergian. What makes me say that, you ask?

First of all, Making Records is essentially a book about machines and processes. It’s about the mechanical aspects of making records. How to set the studio up, selecting equipment, placing people . . . all the things a producer must do.

I can see that he toned down the technical details, but despite that, much of his book remains very technical, and there is little of no emotion in the story. As I said . . . classic Aspergian writing.

He’s presented making records in much the same way that I presented the stories of my time in the music world in Look Me in the Eye, but he did far more, for far longer.

But the emotion, the feelings . . . 300 pages and there is not one page of wife, son, or any “from the heart” stories. Some people would write about how they and those close to them felt about the work he did, but it’s not in this book. Very Aspergian indeed.

And yet it’s clear that Phil loves the music, and the people he’s made it with. He’s done so much, and for all he’s accomplished, the story is humbly told. He’s truly one of the greats in music production.

One thing that I found particularly fascinating was the way in which he seems to have an instinct for providing what other people need. He talks about “listening to the musicians,” and many other small things he did to find what his clients or bosses needed. Once he know what people wanted, he set about to provide it. Simple as that sounds, few people see and live it. I think that instinct is one of the keys to his success. Dr. Kathy Dyer, who teaches with my book in the Elms College autism program, remarked on seeing the same instinct in me. Both Phil and I portray that in similar ways through our writing, and it’s rare.

I can’t tell if Phil has a touch of Asperger’s, or the fellow who co-wrote the book, or both. But whichever it is, I’m proud to welcome them to the community! I hope a few more of my Aspergian blog readers will pick up Phil’s story and tell me what they (you) think . . . .

Making Records is a very technical story. If you loved my music stories, you’ll love this book. I liked it a lot.

* * * *

And in other news . . .

Here’s an interview I did a while back on a Midwest TV show. I've posted it here because folks in the blogosphere enjoyed it and brought it to my attention so I now offer it to you:

http://www.themorningblend.com/NewsArticle/tabid/1474/xmid/15000/Default.aspx

23 comments:

Megan said...

Hello!!
I want to tell you that I LOVED your book! ( Loved your brothers books as well ). I am the a proud mother to a 7 year old boy with Asperger's. Reading your book was so amazing because you both are so similiar. I found your book to be a great help to me because it gave me insight into a world that is very hard for me to understand.
So..for your next book, maybe you could write about your new role as an author doing signings, publicity, etc, and how you, as an person on the spectrum, deal with the social pressures.
I do appreciate all that you do to make others aware of Asperger's!!

Angulimalo said...

Humour...it's subjective. It also either works or it dies. What will have you chuckling all day may well leave me wondering what the point was. So my advice would be don't do humour.
I agree with Megan...like it or not you're now a role model/inspiration.
I would have liked it more if you had explained more of how the Aspergian mind works. Does your experience cross into other forms of Autism? Have you taken someone who is non-communicative and been able to get them communicating? Your insights are invaluable, why lessen their impact with a sequel of funny stories. Actually there is a way that you could do that: there is a book "Who ordered this truck load of dung " by my Teacher Ajahn Brahm, (Amazon.com stocks it)which is silly stories...but the stories have a point. Look at that book and see if that format would work for you.
Either way keep up the good work and I hope to see you in Oz soon.

Brisa said...

Hmmm....

Perhaps you can co-write your next book with your wife or a series of close friends. That way you can explore the differences between the way you perceive/react to things and they way a non-aspie sees the same situations. You could also discuss the way others (preferably ones who care about you) would describe you and your condition verses the way you see yourself and your use of coping skills.

I am also curious about how you reacted when you first found out about aspergers. Were you happy, insulted, relieved, angry, curious? At any point did you believe that, instead of just being odd or different, you were now being classified as clinically defective on some level? Do you interact socially with any other people with aspergers?

I enjoyed your book and I really connected with some parts of your book and your life. I am a fellow aspie and I look forward to reading more of your work.

Thanks, Brian

Tena said...

Humour...it's subjective. It also either works or it dies. What will have you chuckling all day may well leave me wondering what the point was. So my advice would be don't do humour.

I agree that humor is subjective. But if you've got it in your bone marrow, you simply can't avoid using it. You might as well let someone else write your book. Humor is a gift, so use it.

John Elder Robison said...

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. The responses to the word "humor" surprised me. I wrote Look Me in the Eye as a serious story, and so many people wrote me to say, among other things, that parts were very funny.

Now, I had not intended or known that, but I recognize that people reacted that way. So I suggested that I write the next book in the same way, and you write back, "don't use humor!"

So I'm not sure what to make of it.

Tena said...

Hi John,

Another thought about humor:

I'm not suggesting that a writer should attempt to be funny. That's self-conscious and tries too hard. Rather, if your natural inclination is to be sly or ironic, or if you are skillful at using the literary equivalant of a double-take, go for it. That's who you are.

Brisa said...

I kind of agree that most of your stories are not meant to be humorous and I am also somewhat surprised when people point out how much a particular part made them laugh. Although, I can relate to the joy that you feel with a properly executed prank…

As for myself, I enjoy humor, but what makes me laugh is can often be twisted or strange on some level. I think that I am able to make others laugh by pointing out ironies, being sarcastic and using my random thought process to pop out semi-appropriate non-sequiturs from time to time. Many times, things that I find completely logical or even somewhat tragic (in my own head) make people laugh, so I've learned to use what I can.

Maybe your stories are comparable to some of Wes Anderson’s movies (Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, etc.). They deal with deeply tragic, painful issues, but if the viewer is in the right mood, you can see the greater humorous context of the whole situations. Just a thought.

Trish Ryan said...

"Don't eat cat."

Seems to me you have a book of practical self-help advice in you :)

On a more serious note, I'd be interested to read about how adulthood has gone for you and your brother as you've coexisted in the midst of your differences. I love the description in the book about how your house is practical and your brother's is frilly. That strikes me as a starting point for some fun & poignant essays on family life.

Stacy said...

I finished Look Me In The Eye a couple weeks ago. I absolutely loved it. It's rare that I finish a book in two days during the work week (since that involves putting aside all the things I'm supposed to be doing after work) but I stayed up entirely too late for a couple of nights with your book. Like many others, I found it hilarious, laughing out loud at many points. I have to say my favorite part involved the ferry to Detroit.

I guess what I would have wanted "more of" is stories about your adult life. There was a lot about your childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, but not much after your mid-twenties.

sex scenes at starbucks said...
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sex scenes at starbucks said...

Any interest in fiction, John? What about a YA with an Aspergerian as the protag?

Chumplet said...
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Chumplet said...

First, I have to apologize because I haven't been able to afford your book just yet, so I didn't get an extensive look inside. If there's anything left over from our celebratory dinner at Burger King, your book is the first thing on my shopping list.

If you haven't already touched on your exploits with touring rock bands in the 70's, I think this would make a great subject for your next book. There must be a zillion stories about exploding robotic guitars - but you would never have an exploding guitar mishap, would you?

Yes... a different take on the heyday of ROCK AND ROLL!

John Elder Robison said...

Sex Scenes, I do continue to think about a book for teens. I've thought of fictionalizing my story and setting it in today's world, with today's schools, kids, music, etc.

That's not going to be my next book, but very possibly a little later . . .

And Chumplet, I do have guitar stories in the book. To my surprise, they have gotten a bit of a mixed review from readers. Some people say, they are too much! Other readers say, Give us more!

It's almost like I should do a rock'n'roll book all on its own, and I don't know if I have a whole music book in me just yet.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Angulimalo said...

John.
Whatever you do, do it honestly. People have inbuilt BS meters and they generally don't like being preached at. If there are parts of "Look Me in The Eye" that you want to expand, then expand them. You write in a manner which in my limited experience of teenagers is accessible to them....so need for a book addressed at them. I guess the best advice is: "Write and see where the story takes you". Let the story of John Elder Robison do the writing....something will present itself.

kevathens said...

I'd like to hear more about the relationship between you and your brother. You guys have a really interesting dynamic, judging from the clips, photos, and Look Me in the Eye.

Maureen said...

I recently finished your book and really enjoyed it. I am a pediatric speech therapist and occasionally work with kids with Asperger's (as well as kids on the autism spectrum). I'd like to know more about how to help these kids & understand them better. What can teachers, parents, therapists, and even peers do to help Aspergians? Thanks for writing the book--I'm looking forward to more!

Michelle O'Neil said...

As a parent, I would love for your book to address some "do's and don'ts." I often want to protect my child, but the fact that you weren't sheltered seems to have given you so many opportunities to grow.

Would love some suggestions on how to teach a child with Asperger's how to advocate for themselves.

I also LOVED the scenes in your book that revolved around your family. They were touching and funny and did reveal the way your mind works (did I get the best sister?) which was delightful to take in.

Gina Pintar said...

Funny you should write this today because I was thinking about sending you an email about how the book helped me. I probably will still do that as it is very personal.

My 6 year old son has a diagnosis of high functioning autism. He has limited expressive language but *I* know he hears and understands much more than he can express. I am fighting to get others to recognize this. He is delayed in his social interaction with others. By that I mean that at 6, he relates to others like a 3yr old.

I would like to hear more about how you learned to have conversations and social interactions.

I really enjoyed the book and would love to hear more about the stories you started. Also, more about when you were a child relating to other children.

I read fiction, true crime, biography and autobiography. I hope you know I am complimenting you when I tell your that your autobiography reads like fiction. Write like that again.

Piglet said...

i have no idea on how to respond about what i'd like your next book to be about.

i do know that i'll buy it, b/c you are a sure bet.

Jen P said...

I appreciate adult perspectives since there is limited resources for this group of Aspergians. I personally would like some insight on strategies as a family member, particularly a wife. As well as what the Adult Aspergian might want to be aware of to help his partners in parenting and business.

Kim said...

I finished reading your book this weekend and I just wish it had been on the shelves four years ago when our son was diagnosed. His 2nd grade teacher insisted that since he was so gifted that he could not possibly have Aspergers. He was just tricking us all. She also insisted our son be removed from her classroom and have a full psych evaluation when his reaction to a classmate falling was to smile. This is something that our son often does when bad things happen.
Page 30 explained so much.

As for an encore -- advice on how to support an Aspergian child, how to keep them interested in school and tips for being a supportive parent. Our son tells us he just sees the schematics in his mind. I just wish his father and I could see those pictures as vividly as he does and understand him better. Your book has helped us immensely.

Augusta Dawg said...

Since I met you and bought a car from
you I have been fascinated from our
early meeting (not many would trust a
stranger with a $50,000 car to test
drive for an entire weekend before a
purchase)and more so today. You have a great gift of communication that is
a blessing to many with Aspergers. A
close friend of mine has quad boys and one of the 8 yr olds has autism.
I can't wait to give them a copy of
your book, just in case it will help them with the challenges ahead. I'm still looking for that
'78 Bentley that slipped through
my fingers. Look forward to your
next book. Don't forget all your car friends.