In The Graduate, of course, the one word intended as the Universal Key was: "Plastics!" But in the life of Kelley Wilde, the Midlist Monster I once was, quite a different magic word was uttered in an SUV by an older writer I admired. This was John Farris, who'd published some Serious Novels while barely out of his teens and then went on to put his mark on the horror and thriller genres. If you've ever read The Fury or seen the Brian DePalma film version, you know who John Farris is. John is the man of whom Stephen King had said that he wanted to be John Farris: great plotter, great plot twister, great master of suspense...and all-around great prose stylist.
Anyway, what was the word? In the SUV that night, we got to talking about the changed publishing landscape. My own trad-pub career had tanked after just four books. And John, while he maintained a solid core of about 100,000 readers, made regular treks to LA to land just one more chance in films--and recapture the glory of the days when he'd worked with DePalma, John Cassavetes, Kirk Douglas...
John was in his sixties the night that we sat there and wondered. And suddenly, in the middle of a longish silence, he cried out: : "Perception, perception, perception!" He could not elaborate on this. Nor did he really have to. He still had a youthful face (King had suggested that Farris had a portrait of Dorian Gray stashed somewhere). He wore his hair longer, stylishly hip. He'd changed, in the years since we'd first met, from bland striped polo-style shirts and chinos to jeans and denim shirts with sunglasses tucked at the neckline. He was a charming raconteur. A man of enormous creative and personal power. He was well-respected by those in the know and had big buckeroos in the bank. That said, he'd put on some pounds and he was in his sixties and his work did not easily translate to film--nothing had clicked since The Fury.
Now, all these years later, the word comes to me. Though John Farris and I drifted when I moved to the West Coast, I know I was given a fabulous gift: this mantra that I've finally begun to understand after all these years. The single word I live by.
And this next week, I'll go into full gladiator mode as I begin to apply what I've learned: redoing my Amazon bio and the book descriptions. The full transformation will be from a struggling ebook writer to--
Ah, but that part is Top Secret..
Stay tuned and remember: Perception, perception, perception!