Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘Il ladro di reliquie

What kind of year has it been?

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The author's daughter

Years from now, when I look back at the last twelve months, I suspect that I’ll think of them as two entirely different periods in my life. On a personal level, this may have been the most rewarding year I’ve ever had. I’ve watched my daughter grow from a tiny, demanding lump—she was less than two weeks old last New Year’s Eve—into a miniature person with her own tastes, opinions, and personality. She’s as smart as they come, and more important, she’s healthy and happy, and every day is a source of new discoveries and delights. My wife ended the year on a professional high note: after six years as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, she landed an extraordinary new journalism job that I hope to talk about more here soon. Her new gig also allows her to work at home more often, which means that we’re spending more time together now than we have since we were married, and if you’ve met her, you know how lucky I am. The year was also peppered with many small personal satisfactions: I traveled a bit, learned a smidgen of coding, picked up the ukulele again, and experienced some great books, shows, music, and movies, a few of which I hope to discuss in a later post.

On the writing side, the verdict was more mixed, although I’m proud of what I accomplished. I started the year with the rewrite and copy edit of Eternal Empire, my third novel, which appeared in stores in September, a fact that still seems a little surreal—it’s by far the fastest that anything I’ve written has gone from delivery to publication. I also saw the appearance in Italy of Il ladro di relique, the first foreign translation of The Icon Thief, although I haven’t lived up to my resolution to use it to teach myself Italian. It all marked the end of a series of books that I’ve been writing and thinking about for most of the last five years, which stands, in itself, as the conclusion of an important chapter in my life. As far as freelance writing went, it was a quiet year, mostly because I haven’t tried to pitch as many stories as before, although I really liked my Salon piece on the twentieth anniversary of The X-Files. But my proudest moment as a writer was undoubtedly receiving the September issue of Analog and seeing “The Whale God” on the cover. (I’m also lucky enough to have a chance to repeat myself soon: my novelette “Cryptids” will be the cover story of their May 2014 issue, apparently with original art by the great Vincent Di Fate. I can’t wait to see it.)

A year's work

Elsewhere, however, there were small disappointments, or postponements, of the kind that inevitably go along with the good. I spent about six months on a major project, actually a revision of a much earlier novel, that doesn’t look like it’s going to get off the ground, at least not in its current form. The rest of the year was spent working up other ideas that, for various reasons, are still in different stages of incompletion: proposals, outlines, pieces written without a clear market in mind. I’m hoping to have some news to report about one or more of them soon, but for now, for the first time in a long while, I’m closing out the year without anything definite on the horizon. Not that I lack for work—I’m currently researching and outlining a hundred-page sample of a new novel that I’m hoping to shop around in the spring—but it comes without the certainty of a contract, which can be emotionally and artistically draining. In some ways, I was slightly spoiled by working on two books in a row that already had a publisher attached. Going back to writing on spec has required a considerable mental readjustment, and I’m still not all the way there, although when I’m deep in the trenches of a day’s writing, nothing else seems to matter.

And this is pretty much how life as an author tends to look. There are periods of greater and lesser certainty, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spend long stretches in which your greatest problem is delivering a contracted manuscript on deadline. In general, though, you’ll find that much of your career is spent in those dusty middle innings: you’re keeping busy, looking for opportunities as they arise, waiting for the next big project that will snap your life back into focus. When you’re in one phase or the other, it’s hard to imagine life looking any other way, and you begin to forget that reality is messier and less predictable. No matter what else you’ve accomplished, every project requires starting over from scratch: there’s no guarantee that the next book or story or article will get the same reception as the last, which is exciting, but also daunting. That’s the nature of the writing life, which resembles a series of incursions into unexplored territory, some of which leave you standing more or less where you began. What remains, in the end, is the craft itself, the routines and rituals you’ve established to plunge back onto the page every morning, and these become the closest thing you have to a permanent possession. I really have no idea what the next year will bring. But that was always part of the point.

Written by nevalalee

December 31, 2013 at 9:31 am

More news from all over

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Il ladro di reliquie

I’m very pleased to announce that Il ladro di reliquie, the Italian translation of The Icon Thief, was released yesterday by Newton Compton. Here’s how the first paragraph reads:

Andrey era quasi al confine quando si imbatté nei ladri. Erano ormai tre giorni che viaggiava. Di norma era era molto cauto al volante, ma a un certo punto nell’ultima ora la sua mente si era messa a vagare e, scendendo da un breve pendio, era quasi andato a sbattere contro due auto parcheggiate lì davanti.

Although I haven’t seen a surge in fan mail from Italy just yet, I’m still excited to see my novel in the language of Dante and Umberto Eco, and I’m looking forward to receiving my author’s copies. In the meantime, as I’ve noted before, you can check out the first three chapters on the book’s official site, and if you happen to read Italian, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

If you’re in the Chicago area, I also have a pair of upcoming author events that I hope some of you reading this will be able to attend. On Wednesday May 8, I’ll be at the Maze Branch of the Oak Park Public Library at 7pm to discuss City of Exiles and the upcoming Eternal Empire, an opportunity that I owe entirely to the generosity and support of librarian Carolyn DeCoursey, who read The Icon Thief, liked it, and was surprised to discover that the author lived only a few blocks away. I’ve also confirmed that I’ll be appearing at the upcoming Printers Row Lit Fest on June 8 and 9, which is always a highlight of any year. My panel discussion last summer with David Heinzmann, Jan Wallentin, Manuel Muñoz, and Sean Cherover was one of the most memorable author events I’ve ever had, and I’m hopeful that this year will be even more special. (If nothing else, I expect that my newest, biggest fan will be in attendance, and I hope she’ll ask some good questions.) Stay tuned for more details.

Written by nevalalee

April 26, 2013 at 8:53 am

The Italian job

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Il ladro di reliquie

On April 25, Newton Compton Editori will release Il ladro di reliquie, the Italian translation of The Icon Thief. It’s been a long wait, but things are starting to move very quickly: although we received the initial offer over a year ago, the publication date remained up in the air for a long time, and the final cover art was sent for my approval only last week. The result, as you can see, is really gorgeous, and you can also read the first three translated chapters on the official site. (For those who are curious about how this process works, Penguin owns world English rights to the novel, but there’s also a dedicated foreign rights agent at my literary agency who systematically shops the book to international publishers, usually with the help of affiliates who know the local markets. Italy happens to have been the first country where we made a sale, but I’m hopeful that one day there will be others.)

Seeing a translation of a novel you’ve written is very different from going through the process for the first time: I’ve been only tangentially involved, and I don’t have much of a say over packaging or marketing, so I’m as curious about the result as anyone else. Once my author’s copies arrive, I’m hoping to diligently work my way through as much of the text as possible, which strikes me as a good way to brush up on my Italian. (I tried something similar years ago with the original text of Foucault’s Pendulum, much of which I know by heart, but gave up after realizing that Eco’s vocabulary was, shall we say, rather specialized.) Reading over the translated pages I’ve seen so far is a slightly surreal experience. At this point, I’ve read The Icon Thief so many times that I have trouble even seeing the words, so trying to parse the Italian allows me to see these scenes with fresh eyes for the first time in years. And for that, I’m already grateful.

Written by nevalalee

April 10, 2013 at 8:21 am

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