Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Jeffrey Eugenides on second novels

with 5 comments

No one is waiting for you to write your first book. No one cares if you finish it. But after your first, if it goes well, everyone seems to be waiting. You’re suddenly considered to be a professional writer, a fiction machine, but you know very well that you’re just getting going. You go from having nothing to lose to having everything to lose, and that’s what creates the panic…In my own case, I decided to give myself the time to learn the things I needed to know in order to write my second book, rather than just writing it in a rush because there were now people eager to read it. Finally, of course, I had to leave the country. In Berlin I regained the blessed anonymity I’d had while writing The Virgin Suicides. I got back to thinking only about the book…Now [since Middlesex] I’ve lost the anonymity I had in Berlin and so am moving to Chicago. If things continue to go well, I will end up living in Elko, Nevada.

Jeffrey Eugenides, quoted in The New Yorker

Written by nevalalee

March 5, 2011 at 9:44 am

5 Responses

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  1. Some food for thought here! I’ve been working on some short stories lately and seeing as I have not yet been published I guess I could let myself think I have an advantage there, what with nobody giving me deadlines or breathing down my neck. ;)
    Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    R S Hare

    March 5, 2011 at 10:03 am

  2. You should enjoy it while it lasts! When you do get published, you’ll probably be glad for the validation, but I suspect that you’ll also miss the independence you once had.


    March 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm

  3. I’ve never been to Elko and am never likely to go there, but it looks a decent enough place to set up home and write. Much as I like big cities – I was brought up in one, lived in another for quite a few years and visited many more – I prefer to just go when I need to be there these days, and live in a small town and near to the countryside…

    As for deadlines and breathing down necks, though – that can happen anywhere these days courtesy of email.

    Jon Vagg

    March 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm

  4. I personally prefer the city, if only because a writer’s life is already so introverted that, by being near a place like Chicago or New York, it averages out into something approximating a normal human existence. (That said, I may change my tune within the next few years.)


    March 5, 2011 at 7:48 pm

  5. JV:

    I’m like you..I need the trees, the ocean and nature to feel alive and refreshed….like scrubbed free of negativity…

    but ANL, I am also like you…

    I need the city to feel normal. It’s the human contact. I see stories everywhere and that’s what makes me happy too!


    March 5, 2011 at 8:55 pm

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