The Spy Who Loathed Me is my fifth novel, and it's done!
Unfortunately, traditional publishing is done too, so I need your help getting The Spy Who Loathed Me out into the world. With the money raised in this campaign, I’m going to publish a paperback edition of The Spy Who Loathed Me, and all contributors will get an electronic copy of the book in PDF format. Those who contribute $25 or more get at least one signed copy of the book.
I’m not asking you to finance my creative process—the coffee bill alone was obscene—but I am asking for help in the particulars of publishing: designing an eye-catching cover, formatting and designing the interior of the book, hiring an editor/ proof-reader, and financing some publicity.
Do you like to laugh? The Spy Who Loathed Me is a satiric novel, and it completes a trilogy I began with the publication in England of my first novel, Echo Valley. T.C. Boyle said in the cover blurb that Echo Valley was “a fine, funny, well-paced and well-written book."
The Spy Who Loathed Me is as loaded with deluded misfits, absurd complications, and escalating madness as Echo Valley, and provides a fitting introduction to Tom Huttle, the hapless writer who is the hero of that novel.
Set in 1982, The Spy Who Loathed Me plays on several of the themes that have fascinated and amused me for much of my life, particularly political fanatics, show business, and spies.
Why these three things? I’ll take them in order:
1) Political fanatics. My dad, a fervent anti-communist, was Exhibit A. When I was 12 he threatened to break my leg if I didn’t read a biography of J. Edgar Hoover. Given that I already had a broken leg, I took the threat seriously. It was a dreadful book but I probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind as I read it. Anyway, the female protagonist of the The Spy Who Loathed Me is Eva Tarasova, a KGB agent and a dedicated commie. Feel free to point out the irony.
2) Show business: Growing up, I loved TV--especially comedy--and wanted to write for television for as long as I can remember. But I was a suburban kid with absolutely no connections, so what were the chances? I wrote a few comic bits with a theater group in college, and later on penned the occasional humorous essay when I was a reporter. But only after I volunteered at a guerilla TV outfit in San Francisco, VideoWest, and wrote and produced comedy sketches for their shows on the PBS affiliate KQED, did the comedy bug’s venom really take hold. Even if it was PBS, my work was on TV! Inspired by my success, I moved to L.A. in 1981 to break into network sitcoms. It took a few years, but with a partner I sold a script to Murphy Brown, on CBS, then got a staff position on an ABC show, Baby Talk, which was (and it wasn't my fault) a pretty bad show. However, it co-starred this young actor… what was his name again… oh, I remember: George Clooney.
I understand George has done well for himself. The fact is, though, that I never would have been on staff if it weren’t for my agent, Ari Emanuel, who is now, quite seriously, the most powerful talent agent in the country.
Happy to have helped launch your careers, Ari and George.
3) Spies: I grew up during the Cold War, when TV was awash with spy shows. I loved Secret Agent, The Saint, Mission: Impossible and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But being a devotee of comedy, Get Smart and I Spy were more my style. In 1981, while I was busy writing sitcom spec scripts and doing anything I could to break into show biz, I spotted an ad in Time Magazine. The CIA was recruiting. My assault on show biz wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped, so I figured my experience as a reporter and an avid follower of TV spy shows made me an excellent candidate for the CIA. I wrote a sincere letter to the agency, explaining why I would be a good spy. Sometime later—and I swear this is true--an unmarked envelope arrived at my apartment. Inside was a letter inviting me in for an interview.
A short story I wrote about that interview was the seed that grew into The Spy Who Loathed Me.
So you’re probably wondering if I’m really a CIA agent. I’d feel more comfortable if you didn’t ask that question. Really.
Suffice it to say that my fascination with espionage, political fanatics, and Hollywood continued, and to give you a better idea of how all three are woven together in The Spy Who Loathed Me, here’s the cover blurb:
For FBI Special Agent Terrence Tillberry, being in love with Petra Tarasova is wonderful, except for two things: First, she’s in the KGB. Second, she can’t stand him. And Terrence isn't exactly a prize. Since his divorce, he's ballooned in weight, thanks to a diet of Hostess fruit pies and Twinkies, and for that and other reasons, his boss hates him. The financial strain of caring for his increasingly demented mother hasn’t helped Terrence feel any less desperate, either. Luck seems to turn his way when he discovers a secret list of CIA operatives. Treason might just be the way to win Petra’s heart, and selling the list to her might solve the rest of his problems, too. Petra has other goals, though, and to reach them she draws Terrence into the ultimate showbiz fantasy. But when the bodies start piling up, Terrence realizes that his problems are only just beginning.
Click here to read the unedited Chapter One of The Spy Who Loathed Me.
There are lots of reasons to love this book. It’s loaded with quirky characters. There’s intrigue. There are wild sex scenes. And it’s funny. Plus, it has lots of information about Leonid Brezhnev and Soviet crop yields. Perhaps best of all, it has Terrence Tillberry’s day-dreaming, toe-stubbing, tongue-tied infatuation with the wily and elusive Petra Tarasova.
As for Tom Huttle, the character who who got this whole thing started: He thinks he's working for the employee magazine of an insurance company, but he's tangled up in something much bigger and more dangerous than he imagines. When Terrence isn’t scheming to win Petra’s heart, he’s trying to trap Tom Huttle, and if that means Tom dies in a hail of bullets, well, so be it. No one ever said love wasn’t dangerous.
People do die in this book. But love prevails. In the end, everyone discovers that the world is a lot more complicated than it first appears.
So, bringing this book to the world is the grand ambition, and I need your help to do it. Any amount you contribute is appreciated, and I thank you up front for even thinking about it. Here’s what I’ll spend the money on:
1) Cover design. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but, well, that’s what they say. Cover design is hugely important, and I’ve got a great designer in mind. I’m budgeting $250. The cover used in this campaign was created by Barbara Morgenroth, but for various reasons I'm unable to use it for the actual book.
2) Typographical design: Have you ever noticed that at the end of high-quality hard-back books there’s often a paragraph about the origin of the typeface? That’s just the typeface! The layout, and all the other features that make up the interior of a book are important. The same designer who does the cover also designs the interior for $250.
3) An Editor/ proof-reader: This book has in it all of my experience, and has been workshopped in the wonderful Deb Norton’s writing group. But everyone benefits from an editor to point out inconsistencies, illogic, and topygraphical errors. Other than the proof-reading, I do this sort of work for other people, so you’d think I could do it myself. But if I were a dentist no one would expect me to fix my own teeth--although apparently some people do it. $1,000.
5) Printing: Printing costs are complicated to calculate if you don’t know the size of the print run. I’m budgeting $750 to publish a high quality Print on Demand (POD) Trade Paperback edition.
6) Kickstarter’s and Amazon’s commissions. All this amazing technology and innovation isn’t free. Kickstarter charges 5 percent. Amazon charges a little less for credit card processing, for a total of $300. Again, a guesstimate, but probably pretty accurate.
7) Postage, packaging: I’ll need to put each book in an envelope and ship it. At fifty cents for the envelope, and $2 to ship via Media Mail, the cost to process 100 books is $250. I’ll lick all those envelopes personally, too.
8) Publicity: I’m going unconventional with this. I’m going to budget $150 to www.fiverr.com which will pay 30 people to do promotions for the book. I’m going to choose the weirdest, funniest ones.
9) Travel for readings: I’ll drive to readings under 500 miles away, but any farther is out of the question, especially the return trip after those martinis. My time is free, and my car gets good mileage, but planes are expensive. $750.
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