we're back now at 8:36 with a fist -- first, excuse me -- for one of the most successful writers of his generation.
is the master -- i think you'll agree -- of the
. but his latest book, number 23 if you're counting, is something different. it's a selection of short stories called "
." nice to see you again.
always good to be here, matt.
and the most fun you've had writing a book, i understand.
it was a lot of fun. the stories sort of piled up over the last 15, 20 years, and they weren't really complete until early this year, and i got busy and wrapped them all up. but the editing, the rewriting was just a whole lot of fun. a lot of humor in the stories.
but when you say you wrapped them all up -- i read that one story took you about two weeks to write. another has been tumbling around in your brain for 20 years. how do you keep a story in ann unfinished mode for that amount of time?
well, a lot of ideas. all seven of these stories began as potential novels. the idea was there.
and they just weren't big enough --
weren't long enough.
-- to stretch into 700 pages?
they weren't long enough. i couldn't mentally see the entire book. i couldn't work out the -- you know, you have to have a great beginning, a compelling opening, a finish that's probably unpredictable. in the middle you've got to sustain the narrative tension for 300 pages, and that's the hard part.
one thing i know has got to be easier. if you start writing a short story and you run into a problem -- and all writers have problems, plot problems, whatever -- it's got to be easier to fix a short story than to go back in the middle of a novel and try to fix it.
far easier. the problem with -- the trick with a novel is don't have the problem. plan it, outline. think it all the way through before -- i've learned that lesson many times the hard way. i outlined an entire book --
, all the way to chapter 40, and that may take several years.
so there's no guess work. when you sit down to write the final version, you've taken a lot of the guesswork out of it.
oh, yeah. i know the
, the subplots, the characters. it's -- the outlining is not any fun, but it's crucial.
interesting in that you call it "
," which by the way was featured in your first book "
time to kill
." give me a sense for
and what is it about that place that resonates in your writing mind?
it's smalltown mississippi, smalltown south,
. it's where i grew up. i
in a town similar to that, lived in a town similar to that. that's my courthouse, my courtroom. seven of the stories -- four of the seven deal with smalltown lawyers doing crazy things, things i saw, things i thought about. it's a lot of the stuff i lived. some of it's pure fiction. a couple stories have no lawyers, but there's a lot of smalltown color and a lot of humor and some tragedy.
let me get away from small towns then for a second and let's talk about
, shall we? whoa, what was that?
i'm afraid to look.
i know. last week, the
american booksellers association
to investigate what they call predatory pricing of certain books being sold by amazon, target and walmart. your book is one of ten that is being discounted dramatically. i think the book sells for what, $24?
it's a $24 book, and you can buy it at walmart, amazon and now target online for about $9.
now if i'm a consumer, i would say why buy it for $24 if i can buy it online for $9. and as a author and writer, you say what?
truthfully, it doesn't affect me, what i get --
not individually --
in the short-term, but it's a disaster in the long-term. the book is worth $24. that enables me to make a royalty, the publisher to make a profit and the
to make a profit. it's a
. we've been paying that for a long time. if a new book is now worth $9, we have seriously devalued that book, and who knows where it's going to go from there? keep in mind, they're losing money. they're paying about $10 or $11 for that book they're selling for $9 --
they're doing it for a competitive edge, trying to underprice their competition --
that's why it's a short-term, it's short-sided, short-term, and they're
. i can't tell them how to run amazon, but they know what they're doing, i think, but we're going to get to a point -- if a book is worth $10, okay, whether it's a discounted hardback at amazon or an e-book sold by amazon for the kindle -- if we're at $10, okay, then suddenly, the whole industry's going to change. you're going to lose public shers, book stores. i'm probably going to be all right, but at spirg writers are going to have a very
do you think it's a
and they can charge what they want, especially if they're taking a loss on it?
. there's no
. i'm not issuing to sue amazon or walmart. they've sold a lot of books, but the future is very uncertain with books. and the deep discount will take care of itself. the uncertainty comes with the e-market. five years from now, how many of us are going to be reading books on kindles, these sony readers, these beautiful gadgets and devices that are going to get better and better and cheaper and cheaper? if it's hatch of us, then you'll wipe out tons of publishers and book stores and we'd buy it all online.
a story we'll be filing, certainly of interest on you. the new book is "
." thank you for being with us. you can read an excerpt at todayshow.com.