Charles Dubow read along with Tara Conklin. Because of the length of the event, it has been divided into two parts. Tara Conklin was published yesterday.
Charles Dubow’s Indiscretion follows a wealthy couple seduced by a young neighbor during a summer holiday in the Hamptons. He read from the novel along with Tara Conklin at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn.
Dubow always seemed ready to write novels. His first novel he wrote right after he graduated college. It was, he envisioned, the first book in a set of three, a five-hundred plus page manuscript written in longhand on yellow legal pads. He then convinced a girlfriend at the time to type the manuscript manually on a typewriter because he didn’t know how to type. He wrote that before the electronic word processor era.
He describes the glee of sending off that first manuscript announcing its departure with “great fanfare.” He told his friends and family he was submitting it around to publishers. And then he heard nothing back.
Dubow persisted and wrote a second novel. He was still young and enthusiastic until that one hit a brick wall too. He moved on. He found a job. He married, had children. And then sometime twelve years ago he had an idea for Indiscretion. But now he had a mortgage and found himself without any time. He kept thinking about the characters and about the story. Finally, he said to himself, “fuck it, I’m just going to do it.”
Waking at five in the morning, Dubow began writing the novel in earnest between getting his children ready for school and holding down a full-time job. It felt easy to write though because he had spent years thinking about the idea and the synopsis. He liked the characters a lot, he like the story, and it had all the elements of things he enjoyed: sex, food, Paris, Rome, New York.
Dubow’s experience finding an agent is somewhat unconventional. He was friends with his editor, though then they had no professional relationship, only a personal one. He took her to lunch. He sprung on her the “four words nobody wants to hear: I wrote a book,” before handing over a copy. He compares the handoff to a patient giving a doctor a warm jar of urine. But then to his surprise, a few weeks later, his friend calls back: she was interested in publishing the book.
Suddenly Dubow needed an agent. The potential publisher suggested some names, but Dubow says he chose poorly. He chose at first a man to represent him. He wanted the tough guy because he thought he would fight for the best deal. The agent had boxing gloves in his office. But after a while, the relationship soured and Dubow was left still needing an agent.
He started the search all over again. With interest from a publisher, Dubow began from a position of strength. He wanted an agent who would have more than simply a financial relationship to his book. He wanted someone who was going to fight for it because they believed in it, not just because they saw dollar signs. He winnowed the list. The publisher disliked one of his choices, and so the list shrunk further. Finally he selected an agent that seemed very much the opposite of the first person he had originally wanted to work with. He seems happy now with his choice.
Even though Dubow now writes full-time, he continues to work in the early morning. He likes it because the world feels empty. Its quiet and dark and no one else is a round. He adds that after six at night he feels intellectually useless.
Dubow says that the people who read a manuscript play an important role in shaping it. He won’t let his mother or his wife read early drafts. He doesn’t want to let either of them down, and will only show it them when he feels the novel is finished.
The readers Dubow relies on are friends of his in finance. He describes them as smart, but all seemingly with attention deficit disorder. He thinks if a novel can hold their attention, than the story is strong enough. That’s how he knows he’s got the draft close to finished.
Ultimately though, its not about the readers. “The person you are writing for is yourself.”