Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interview with Cory Doctorow by Bill Kenower for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association

Cory Doctorow, well-known science fiction writer, talks fast and doesn't use extraneous words, so he gets a lot of info into this ten-minute interview. For those of you who haven't got the ten minutes to spare, I've summarized a bit of what he says below. Or you can start at about minute four, which is where Doctorow gets into his process and what he thinks it takes to succeed.

Included in his perceptions of what it takes (which were honed over years of not only writing, but working in a bookstore where he got a strong understanding of what happens to books once they're published) are, first of all, believing that you can write a book, and having mentors to help in that belief and in the outcome.

He also talks about developing an understanding of what he calls "the extremely temporary nature of books" when he worked in the bookstore, by which he means the limited shelf life, sales, and presence in consumers' awareness of the great majority of published books.

Selling a book does not mean you've made it, he says, and goes on to talk about what the successful writer's life looks like.

Luck plays an important role in success, according to Doctorow. You do have to work hard and have talent, but those factors alone don't promise success. He speculates that the luck part might be partly that for some reason or other, the publisher or the writer figured out how to get the book into readers' hands better than usually happens.

Doctorow's closing comments revolve around being workmanlike (his bottom line); the value of finishing each day's writing in the middle of a sentence; the likelihood that blood sugar and seratonin levels play a role in a day's output; and the importance of not being "precious" about your writing or about yourself as a writer. He says he was, and talks about the process he went through that burned that out of him and made him a productive writer.

All in all, a fun and informative listen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. Fascinating. Then we must define luck. Luck= Being prepared + searching out, knocking on, and opening the door to opportunity.

    I suspect we create opportunity too. I've always said it's better to get lucky than good. Unless you're both good and lucky.

    Thank you again for sharing another fabulous interview!

    1. I like that a lot, Karlene. luck=being prepared+finding and opening the door to opportunity. I might have to put that up on my wall!