Have you seen the movie “Romancing the Stone” lately? I caught it tonight on a cable channel and was struck by how much detail I’d forgotten. For instance, it slipped my mind that Kathleen Turner’s character is a…romance novelist! Who lives a lonely existence in an upstairs apartment with a…cat! And spends all day in her pajamas, writing her books on a…typewriter!
My, how far we novelists have come since 1984. OK…maybe not.
I will confess to waking up with a really great idea and plugging away at it, never discarding the pajamas. And then around 3:00 pm the UPS guy knocks on the door and, while he doesn’t actually shriek, his expression says, Lady…not a good look for you. What he says out loud is, “sign here”…and I sign, trying not to breathe on him because I can’t remember if I’ve brushed my teeth yet.
And, yes—the life of a novelist can get pretty isolated. It’s a solitary career by design, but as playwright and painter Lorraine Hansberry once said: “The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.” Lorraine says nothing about the cat requirement, so I’ll pass on that one.
But…a typewriter? It’s the classic scene where novelist Kathleen types “THE END,” rips the paper out of the machine, adds it to the tall stack, boxes it up, then goes downtown to hand-deliver the entire book in typed, paginated order to her editor over drinks in a restaurant. And it’s with a bit of nostalgic sadness that I tell you this: it doesn’t happen that way anymore.
I’ve never even met my editor. I don’t type “THE END,” and I’ve never had an unmarked copy of the manuscript. When it’s ready for submission, I attach it to an email, hit the “send” button and…poof! It’s gone. A little later, my editor confirms via email that she received it, and I don’t hear another word until the content edit.
Yeah…I think a lot of the procedural romance is gone. We’ve become pretty efficient, but at what cost? *sigh* There’s a cat at my door. I’m gonna see if he needs a job.