Art In Fiction

Exploring Art & the Business of Writing: An Interview with Courtney Maum, Author of Costalegre

October 16, 2020 Carol Cram & Courtney Maum Season 1 Episode 16
Art In Fiction
Exploring Art & the Business of Writing: An Interview with Courtney Maum, Author of Costalegre
Chapters
0:00
Welcome
2:25
Costalegre
4:50
Why Courtney wrote about the Surrealists
7:27
Writing from a teenage girl's point of view
8:43
Writing about the arts
11:45
Writing in the voice of another gender
13:30
I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
14:50
Satire in I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
16:17
On installation art
18:40
Advertisement - ProWritingAid
19:40
Before and After the Book Deal, A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book.
24:30
Making money as an author
27:45
Marketing a book
29:30
Courtney's artists' retreat at The Cabins
31:17
Courtney's writing routine
32:34
Extro
Art In Fiction
Exploring Art & the Business of Writing: An Interview with Courtney Maum, Author of Costalegre
Oct 16, 2020 Season 1 Episode 16
Carol Cram & Courtney Maum

Welcome to EPISODE 16 of the Art In Fiction Podcast.

Courtney Maum is the bestselling author of three novels as well as a fabulous writing guidebook for authors.

In this lively episode, I chat with Courtney about her two novels listed on Art In Fiction, Costalegre and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and her new book for authors:  Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book.

Highlights:

  • Costalegre and its relationship to Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter Pegeen
  • Role of Surrealist artists and visual art in Costalegre
  • Coming-of-age theme in Costalegre
  • Overview of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
  • Role of installation and contemporary art in the novel
  • Use of satire in the novel
  • Writing from the point of view of a different gender
  • Role of Paris in I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
  • Genesis of Before and After the Book Deal : A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book
  • Valuable information for published authors 
  • Financial matters related to publishing 
  • The role that marketing plays in an author's life
  • "The Cabins"--an artists' retreat founded by Courtney Maum

Press Play right now and be sure to check out Courtney Maum's novels Costalegre and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, both found in the Visual Arts category on Art In Fiction.

Courtney Maum's website: http://www.courtneymaum.com
The Cabins: https://www.thecabinsretreat.com/

Link to 20% Off ProWritingAid

Photo Credit:
 Colin Lane

Music Credits
The intro music on the Art In Fiction Podcast is from Symbolist Waltz from the album Alive in Seattle and the ad music is from The Fever from the album Full Moon. Both pieces are composed by Gregg Simpson and performed by Lunar Adventures. Follow the links to download the full tracks.

This website contains affiliate links. If you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you. 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to EPISODE 16 of the Art In Fiction Podcast.

Courtney Maum is the bestselling author of three novels as well as a fabulous writing guidebook for authors.

In this lively episode, I chat with Courtney about her two novels listed on Art In Fiction, Costalegre and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and her new book for authors:  Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book.

Highlights:

  • Costalegre and its relationship to Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter Pegeen
  • Role of Surrealist artists and visual art in Costalegre
  • Coming-of-age theme in Costalegre
  • Overview of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
  • Role of installation and contemporary art in the novel
  • Use of satire in the novel
  • Writing from the point of view of a different gender
  • Role of Paris in I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
  • Genesis of Before and After the Book Deal : A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book
  • Valuable information for published authors 
  • Financial matters related to publishing 
  • The role that marketing plays in an author's life
  • "The Cabins"--an artists' retreat founded by Courtney Maum

Press Play right now and be sure to check out Courtney Maum's novels Costalegre and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, both found in the Visual Arts category on Art In Fiction.

Courtney Maum's website: http://www.courtneymaum.com
The Cabins: https://www.thecabinsretreat.com/

Link to 20% Off ProWritingAid

Photo Credit:
 Colin Lane

Music Credits
The intro music on the Art In Fiction Podcast is from Symbolist Waltz from the album Alive in Seattle and the ad music is from The Fever from the album Full Moon. Both pieces are composed by Gregg Simpson and performed by Lunar Adventures. Follow the links to download the full tracks.

This website contains affiliate links. If you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you. 

Carol Cram:

Hello and welcome to the Art In Fiction Podcast. My name is Carol Cram and in today’s episode I’m speaking with Courtney Maum, the author of three novels: Costalegre (a GOOP book club pick and one of Glamour Magazine’s top books of the decade), I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You ,and Touch (a New York Times Editor’s Choice and NPR Best Book of the Year selection). Courtney is also the author of the popular guidebook Before and After the Book Deal, A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book, and a forthcoming memoir, The Year of the Horses

Courtney’s writing has been widely published in such outlets as The New York Times and O, the Oprah Magazine, and her short story This is Not Your Fault was
made into an Audible Original at Amazon. Courtney is the founder of the
collaborative retreat program The Cabins, and she has a creativity advice newsletter you can subscribe to at CourtneyMaum.com 

Welcome to the Art In Fiction Podcast, Courtney.

Courtney Maum:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Carol Cram:

I'm really excited to chat to you today about two of your novels that are listed on Art In Fiction - Costalegre and I'm Having So Much Fun Here Without You, which I just finished and had a great, oh my gosh, I love that novel. I like both of them very, very much.

Courtney Maum:

They're different, right? They're quite different.

Carol Cram:

Very different. But then, I love that, as an author myself, I like to write a whole bunch of different things.

Courtney Maum:

Ah, good. So we're kindred spirits.

Carol Cram:

Exactly. I think, well, you know, who wants to write the same thing over and over again? So I love that they're so different. Both of them are listed in the Visual Arts category on Art In Fiction because of course, they both have so much to do with visual art, although they have many other things as well. 

So why don't we start with Costalegre? I absolutely love this novel because I'm a big fan of the Surrealists. My husband is a Surrealist, actually, he's a painter. And, I remember when he read the biography of Peggy Guggenheim on the train one time in Europe and he kept quoting to me about it.

Courtney Maum:

Oh, I bet. I bet he did.

Carol Cram:

You've got a whole novel that is basically based on Peggy Guggenheim. So can you tell us a little bit about Costalegre?

Courtney Maum:

Sure. I'd love to. So, Costalegre is my first historical novel. It takes place right before World War II and it's a reimagined version of what actually happened. It revisits the exodus of Surrealist artists out of World War II Germany, where their lives were threatened by Hitler. Now, in real life, um, Peggy Guggenheim, the, the art collector and American heiress, did help a lot of these Surrealist artists and some Surrealist novelists as well get out of Europe. They went to New York, but in my book, they go to this crumbling ocean castle she has in western Mexico, a place called Costalegre. And the book is written in a diary format from her daughter's point of view. It's based on her daughter Pegeen - that woman is fictionalized as Lara in the book, but it's a diary format and there's entries, there's pictures, there's lists of, you know, things she hates about her mother. And the whole book is very much based on the real relationship between Peggy Guggenheim and Pegeen Vale.

Carol Cram:

Yes. And I really enjoyed also all the sort of vignettes shown from Lara's point of view of these Surrealist artists and how kind of wacky they were.

Courtney Maum:

They were pretty wacky.

Carol Cram:

It's such a fascinating time in history, and these people are amazing and some of them were real, weren't they?

Courtney Maum:

Well, you know, Lara and Leonora are based off of their real-life counterparts Pegeen and Peggy, and then all the other artists are based off, sort of they're, they're composites of real people, because there are so many interesting people in Peggy Guggenheim's entourage that I had to blend some of them together so that I could fit everybody in. So, everyone in it is based off of real people. And if you, if you read the book and you, there's an author's note in the back that kind of gets into who, who is who.

It doesn't really matter though. You, you can, I think, you know, my goal is that one could appreciate this book if they have no knowledge of Surrealism and no knowledge of, you know, art history. That's why, one of the reasons, all the names are fictionalized. You don't have to know anything about art, I hope, to appreciate the book. I don't have much background in art history. So...

Carol Cram:

Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. What was your background? Why the Surrealists?

Courtney Maum:

Yeah, I became interested in Surrealism. I think maybe, I remember being 13 years old. Oddly, I think my first entry point was Georgia O'Keeffe who a lot of people would not think of as a Surrealist, but her work was actually really, especially her early work, was really influenced by Surrealists and through her, I discovered Dali. 

I used to love to paint. When I was a teenager, I was really, really into oil painting. So, just sort of on my own and with the support of a teacher, I had a wonderful AP art teacher who was very supportive, and I had a little group that we would hang out after school. And, you know, it was like a breakfast club, but after-school club and talk about art and she would lend me books and so sort of I DIY-ed it. And then in college, I studied comparative literature, which I think is actually a great major because you look at, you know, international literature, but the way it's been influenced by arts and politics and film. And so I kind of kept up with the Surrealists.

But I think I just find most periods right before war, especially World War I and World War II, the artistic movements, which were basically protest movements, are so interesting. And, you know, artists tend to be sensitive beings. They, they sometimes can have sort of a divine sense of what's coming and, you know, the Surrealists really felt like to me, kind of, the only appropriate reaction to the Holocaust. You know, what else are you going to do - a landscape painting? 

I think it was very bold and courageous what they were doing and, you know, especially the women and even, even Peggy Guggenheim. I mean, the time at which she was collecting this work, people really considered it, like, not even vulgar, just trash, trash. And I talk about this in the book, that when she tried to, she tried to get the Louvre to protect her collection when everyone was fleeing Europe and they, they refused to. They actually wrote a letter that said, you know, we would never house such trash, which, you know, maybe they regret now.

Carol Cram:

I guess you've been to Peggy Guggenheim's museum in Venice.

Courtney Maum:

I have not, actually. I haven't, no it's on my bucket list. I haven't.

Carol Cram:

Oh, it's so gorgeous. Every time we go to Venice, we always go there. It's fantastic. She's a, she's an amazing, um, character. So to write a novel based off her character is, is wonderful. It's something, not a story that actually has been told that much.

But I think what I really enjoyed about the novel is that you chose to do it from the point of view of the 15-year-old girl. So yes, there was a lot of stuff about the arts and everything in it, but really it was her coming of age, kind of, also dealing with a mother who was...

Courtney Maum:

A little self-absorbed. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's sort of the universal aspect of the book is it really is a kind of mother-daughter story. The question that led me to write the book was, you know, what would it look like if you yourself wanted to be an artist, which Pegeen Guggenheim wanted to be, and your own mother was the world's most powerful art collector, you know, you can sort of imagine that there, there are going to be some issues there. 

And there were, you know, they had an incredibly difficult, complicated relationship. Pegeen grew up with really severe emotional problems and depression and substance abuse. So I don't get into all of that. We're meeting our heroine during a very brief moment of her life when she's 15 and things could kind of go either way, you know, I wanted to explore the dynamics of, you know, a teenage girl and her mom.

Carol Cram:

Yes. But she is done extremely well. And another aspect of the novel and your writing actually is just how poetic it is. Do, do you have a background in poetry?

Courtney Maum:

Oh God, I can't help but laugh. I mean, I think I'd do a major disservice to poets if I said that I did. I, there was a time in college where I wrote a lot of poetry I thought was great, but, uh, I do not think now that it was great. I liked to read poetry. I have a lot of respect for poets. 

And then, you know, I mean the, the voice in Costalegre, I tried to write with the voice of someone who sees things as an artist does, you know, she sees things in terms of images and sees the world in color. So that book is a bit more lyrical in tone and poetry than, than some of my other books, I think.

Carol Cram:

It's interesting because I've been interviewing quite a few authors who have written about artists and yeah, they've all had the same sort of challenges, and most met successfully, of how to describe things through the eyes of visual artists when most of us aren't visual artists, we're writers. 

I actually listened to the audio book and I felt myself completely transported to this hot place with foliage. And just the way she looked at the world was, was really wonderful, but it is a challenge, isn't it? How to write about visual art?

Courtney Maum:

It is a challenge. Yeah. I mean, it's something, it's a challenge I like undertaking. I struggled more, I think, in the book with writing about the landscape because I myself am not someone who has any horticultural knowledge.

I've lived in the countryside for almost 15 years. My daughter will ask me the names of trees and birds. And I'm so embarrassed. I don't know them. And, um, when I was writing Costalegre, the, the place where it takes place in Mexico is a region I know very well, that I travel to quite often, but that doesn't mean that I knew the names of the plants and whatnot. 

So it's funny because it, it sort of went hand in hand with my narrator who's someone who, although she's elite and privileged, she has basically no schooling. Her mother just hasn't seen fit to kind of keep her in schools. She keeps yanking her out and bringing her to rented homes. And so Lara is really feeling quite badly about herself that she, she doesn't know the names of anything and she's all alone with her diary and she wants to write sort of intelligent things. So she really struggles, as I did, to, to name things in the landscape. Whereas talking about the art that the other artists in Costalegre are making, it's very easy for her because it's something she's grown up around.

Carol Cram:

It's really well done. So, I want to talk about your other one that I've read and listed on Art In Fiction, as I said, I just finished it. Again I listened to the audio book.

Courtney Maum:

That's a good one, yeah.

Carol Cram:

Oh my goodness. Yeah, they did really, really well. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You. I love that title.

Courtney Maum:

Thank you.

Carol Cram:

And it wasn't until almost - no spoilers - but almost to the end, I've finally kind of figured out why it was called that

Courtney Maum:

Yeah, well, a lot of people never figure it out, which is, you know, that's fine.

Carol Cram:

All the way through, I was like, why did she call it that? And then just towards the end, I'm like, ah, I get it. Well done. 

So speaking of writing in another voice, I mean, you're writing now from the point of view of a man, a 34-year-old painter, an installation artist. I've never actually written a novel from the point of view of the other genders. 

Courtney Maum:

It's easier for me. It's always been easier for me to write from the point of view of a man, actually. The further I get away from my own reality, the better I write. So with this, you know, he's a nationality that I'm not, he is a gender that I'm not, he has a profession that's not mine. 

So it was just an emotionally, you know, it's, it's not me. It was just really easy. Whereas for instance, with my second novel, Touch, and that protagonist is a woman who's quite close to me in age. She's a trend forecaster. I used to be a trend forecaster. It's hard for me to write female characters that don't encroach upon my own sort of head space and personal experience. 

I have a hard time separating church and state when I write from a female point view. So I really like writing from a male point of view. I'm not going to say it was easy, but it was really enjoyable and pleasurable and felt natural.

Carol Cram:

That's really interesting. Yeah, no, I can understand how that would be the case. I know I have same tendency like, oh my goodness, is this just me? Because I don't, I don't want to write for me. I'm not particularly exciting.

Courtney Maum:

Well, it's hard to fictionalize one's gender, I think.

Carol Cram:

Yes. That's very interesting. Oh, now it makes me want to try writing from the point of view of someone completely different.

Courtney Maum:

Right. I mean, I do a lot of short stories from the point of view of inanimate objects. I love writing from the point of view of inanimate objects. Again, I find that just super, super freeing.

Carol Cram:

What a great idea. I love that. Maybe tell our listeners what I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You is about.

Courtney Maum:

So it's a love story in reverse. It takes place in Paris. And basically what we're looking at with this novel, which is, you know, like an intelligent rom-com, is what happens to a couple if one of the spouses, to a married couple specifically, if one of the spouses finds out that the other has been cheating for a long time, you know, and quite seriously and tries to forgive them, you know, this couple, Anne-Laure and Richard, they have a young daughter and you are looking at a couple, where they're trying to work through their problems, but more or less in the same space, in the same house with this young daughter, you know, does it work? 

Can you forgive someone for a betrayal or not? So that, that's, you know, what it's about. And then there's a subplot of this artist who's been doing, Richard, the main character, has been doing really commercial work and he starts, as he's trying to win his wife back, he starts to do more politically activated work and, you know, just sort of become a better person.

Carol Cram:

Yes. Well, I totally enjoyed it because it just, you know, a) he's an artist, which so I'm familiar with that world. Uh, but also, you know, he's British, it takes place in Paris, which, I adore Paris. 

And I also really enjoyed the humor, especially the way you, you kind of satirize elements of the contemporary art world. You know, sometimes installation art and that kind of thing could be just a little too over the top. And I was thinking as I was reading it, I said, I guess, are you satirizing this? Some of it, anyway?

Courtney Maum:

Yes, yes, definitely. I love satire. I love, I mean, all, all of my books, even Costalegre to a certain extent that there's some real satirical elements in it. But all of my books are making fun of sort of consumerist material culture and the fetishization and art-making in, in one way or another. I, uh, satire is a, an element that is deeply important to me.

Carol Cram:

Well, I think that's why I enjoyed the novel so much because yeah, certainly it's way more than a rom-com, not even close, but it was because of that satire. I mean, you know, Dave and Dan, you know, you have to read the novel to know who Dave and Dan are, they're awesome, I just loved them.

Courtney Maum:

Thank you. Yeah, they, like, came to me in a dream. Yeah. And I find now that in, in my more commercial novels, at least, like, I do tend to have jesters like that, that are, you know, court jesters that are there for a little comic relief and, and have some, some strong satirical roles to play.

Carol Cram:

Well, I was laughing out loud at times. 

So I'm interested actually in that whole installation art thing, that he does, the War Wash, because, as I said, I was thinking you're, you're kind of making fun of installation art and contemporary art, because a lot of it really is so over the top. 

On the other hand, as I got into it more, it was an interesting piece. It was almost converting me a little bit to not hating installation art as much as I normally do. I don't know if that's what your intention was.

Courtney Maum:

I mean, I think as a viewer, sometimes you see installation work and you think this is absolutely ridiculous, but, but I do think, for most artists, I mean, there will be exceptions, but I think that most artists take their work very seriously. And even if it's just attaching a shovel to a wall, you know, the heft of the shovel, the look of the shovel, the way, you know, the position in which it's nailed to the wall or not, the shadow of the shovel on the wall, these are the things that are deeply contemplated, right? 

So, you know, what we see with Richard as he's putting together this idea for an installation that more or less will involve taking, kind of, strangers' belongings, things they care about, washing them in oil, in, like, a laundromat, because it's about the Iraq war. You know, at first he's like, oh, this would be kind of fun and, you know, would elevate my platform. But then he starts to really believe himself and believe his work. And I think, believe in the power of art.

Carol Cram:

Yes.

Courtney Maum:

People respond accordingly. So there's some installation art I find incredibly powerful. I think it can, it can be really, really great. And then I do think that there's some people who kind of suffer from their own fame and are doing kind of thoughtless work.

Carol Cram:

Yeah. I shouldn't say I dislike all of it. I don't dislike all of it. It's more when it gets sort of over-intellectualized, but what I really enjoyed is how you did reflect his process. So I got very engaged in this piece that he was doing and how, of course, it's woven in with his personal life and all of that. It's a great novel for people to read if they want to understand a little bit more about the artistic process.

Courtney Maum:

Or escape to Paris, I would like to escape.

Carol Cram:

I think you must've lived in Paris, I presume.

Courtney Maum:

Yeah, I did. I lived there a long time, like, most, basically all of my twenties, and my husband's French. I speak French at home. So French culture is deeply embedded with my, with my own.

Carol Cram:

I really got that impression that you really knew French.

Courtney Maum:

Well, I do.

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Carol Cram:

So I did want to spend a little bit of time talking about your new book Before and After the Book Deal, A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book.

Courtney Maum:

Yeah. So that, this is a book I'm really excited about because people are responding really well to it. It came out right before COVID and it's a book I've, I've wanted to write ever since my debut, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, came out in 2014, but, you know, we, especially in America or in a culture of where, whether it's an MFA program or a writing teacher or coach, you know, most people are helping guide students of writing toward, you know, the dream, the dream of a book deal, getting a book, having a book published, but there's very few resources devoted to what happens if that dream actually comes true. 

What does it look like, feel like, cost—emotionally and financially, physically—to have a book deal. What, what is it, what happens when you have a book out in the world? What are the steps that you go through? What's the timeline? 

So, that book didn't exist. So I finally decided to write it myself and I, of course, I didn't want it to be a memoir because that would be rather silly, so I brought in, there's about 200 publishing professionals, um, editors, I, sorry, I interviewed more people than that, but about 200 made it in. And they're publishing professionals weighing in from all walks of life, you know, like we have voice-over narrators, film scouts, translators, and then of course, you know, the agents and editors and other authors and publicists.

And it's a book where all of the squeamish, dark, embarrassing questions you could possibly have that you don't want to ask anyone in, like, writing are answered for you by people that, you know, you probably already really adore and respect. Because there's a lot of, kind of, hot shots in the book. So, and it's, it's quite funny. I mean, I'm biased, but like, you know, a lot of people think it's funny, but it's, it's educational. So that's uh, yeah. Before and After the Book Deal.

Carol Cram:

I can't wait to read that. There's so many books about how to get an agent or how to get published...

Courtney Maum:

How to write.

Carol Cram:

But yeah, what happens when you actually get the dream? I know it's a whole other world and it's hard to kind of explain to people and you know, to help people through it. Fantastic. I'm glad you did that. Oh boy.

Courtney Maum:

I'm glad I did it too. I'm, in a perfect world maybe it wouldn't have come out right before a pandemic, but you know, people are finding their way to it and seem, something that's been really exciting for me is that I've been contacted by editors, agents, and also writers who have, like, three or four books out already. You know, not necessarily the people who haven't had a book yet out and you know, they say, like, oh my gosh, I still have these questions. I still have this shame, you know? And thank you for kind of, like, taking one for the team and admitting that we're all embarrassed about this.

Carol Cram:

Well, it's interesting to write a book for people who have published several books. Right? There's nothing for us out there really, it's all about the first book, but yeah, but what about the third or the fourth or the eighth? You know...

Courtney Maum:

Right. It's, you know, it can go both ways. Like, if you've had too much success, you can be in a situation where you're not encouraged to experiment with a tone or style or maybe you're just burnt out. And then of course, if you've had no success, you could be feeling a little darkness around your work. So, you know, these things do need to be talked about, I think.

Carol Cram:

Oh, they do, because actually, one of the things with, with this podcast that I'm learning, talking to so many authors, is, for one thing, it doesn't get any easier.

Courtney Maum:

No. I mean, it gets a little harder, kind of, right? I mean, I mean, to reposition that, it gets easier in that you start to have better contacts, networking becomes easier, but you know, especially if your work begins to be reviewed, well, then there's expectations and maybe, or some negative stuff hovering around your, your work. So it kind of does become harder.

Carol Cram:

Well. It does and if you, like, for example, my first book was historical fiction and that's been my, has sold better than all the other ones. And people kind of want that book again, but I don't want to write that book again. So yeah, there are the expectations that you just keep writing the same thing over and over again. And of course, most authors don't want to do that. So you're setting yourself up for some, uh, disappointment sometimes, right? I know for myself, before my first book came out, thinking, okay, as soon as my first book comes out then the whole rest of my life will be so much easier.

Courtney Maum:

Well, exactly. But that's what we're led to believe. And you know, that's another reason why I wrote this book because no one tells you otherwise. And, you know, I remember having a discussion with my agent before this book, Before and After the Book Deal, came out where I had a section, you know, it was something to the effect of don't think that whatever you got for your first advance, especially if it was a good amount, that you will always get more than that, that you'll, that's where you start and you can only go up, because in fact, if your book underperforms, you can go way down, and you know what she said to me, she said, Courtney, this is ridiculous. Of course, everyone knows that. 

And I said, they absolutely don't. Nobody tells us, okay, you got such and such an amount for your first book. Don't even think about, you, you have no idea what your second advance could be. It could be a lot less, you know, it could be tons more, you know, it's, it's so funny. 

I often, when I'm, like, teaching and things, I tell people, can you imagine going into a, a job interview where the boss says, so, you know, what's really fun about this position is that one year you could earn $10,000 and then the next year you could earn $80,000. And the next year you could earn nothing. You know, isn't that great? 

Who would sign up for a job like that? Nobody, but this is where we are, you, from one, well, not even year, like, you know, one half year to the next, you have no idea what's coming your way. So we talk a lot about financial planning in the book, which is a major taboo in the industry.

Carol Cram:

It's totally. Yes. I'm so glad you do because we don't talk about money.

Courtney Maum:

No, no, no.

Carol Cram:

It's, like, somehow it's unseemly.

Courtney Maum:

Right, like it's crass. No, but it's so, I mean, I get, I get very into the weeds about it. I go so far as to say, like, the kind of budget you should set aside for gifts for the editors and things like that, these things that come at you out of, out of nowhere, but no, the financial planning is, like, so, so important. 

And nobody, nobody talks about it. You know, you're the editor, they send you this advance. They don't tell you, you know, like, don't spend it all in one place.

Carol Cram:

Well, you know, you can write two or three books for the same publisher and then they don't take your next one.

Courtney Maum:

Yup. That happened to a friend of mine. And she didn't see that coming.

Carol Cram:

I've talked to a lot of authors that that has happened to. Especially if you decide to do something different.

Courtney Maum:

Right. I mean, that happened to me, you know, with, with Costalegre. My first two books were, with the same, same editor. And then I kind of pivoted with Costalegre, it's, it's much different. It has illustrations. And so my regular editor, I mean, we get along really well. We have a great relationship, but it was just not right for her catalog. And nor was my fourth book. It's not really appropriate for my, like, big-five publisher to put out my tell-all on publishing. You know what I mean?

Carol Cram:

Yeah, right, maybe they don't want that.

Courtney Maum:

Right. So, so it's kind of a funny dance I'm doing right now because I have kind of a lot of editors. I wish I could work with them all.

Carol Cram:

Well, it's wonderful to learn more about the business of publishing. I always say that writing is art, but publishing is business.

Courtney Maum:

Yeah, well, I mean, especially today where in America, certainly, authors are really expected to, to transition very easily from author to kind of brand ambassador, you know, we're expected to, like, okay, we finished the book, change out of our disgusting, kind of, day clothes, put on our Zoom faces and be the promotion machines for our own books, which could mean everything from writing off-the-book pieces, doing our own PR, being our own event planners, our own social media experts, all this stuff really is sort of expected of, of the contemporary author. 

And it's a lot and it, it's too much and it's okay to say no, or, like, I'm not good at this. This is not what I'm interested in.

Carol Cram:

It's, it is very difficult. I'm going through that right now with, you know, bringing a new book out. It's like, I just want to work on my next one.

Courtney Maum:

Yeah, I know.

Carol Cram:

But you know, you did write it for people to read. So it's part of the job, that's right, the marketing. 

Courtney Maum:

I mean, I come from a marketing background. I like figuring out how I'm going to speak about my book. I like the first, kind of, six weeks around the book, you know, like this, like our conversation today. I think that these are organic and natural and lovely. 

What I don't like is having to do the kind of social media and keep the book in the public eye, you know, how are you going to do that? And it's like a juggler, like, that juggling act of trying to stay relevant. That's not so great.

Carol Cram:

It's the social media that gets me as well. That's why I started Art In Fiction because I want to just interact with authors and talk about art and all that kind of stuff which is a type of marketing that is a bit more enjoyable.

Courtney Maum:

A little bit. Authentic and enjoyable.

Carol Cram:

Exactly. I also noticed on your website that you run an artists' retreat.

Courtney Maum:

Oh, right. I do. Yes. The Cabins, it's, it's a collaborative retreat, an interdisciplinary collaborative retreat. So what that means is we usually take about nine or 10 people a session, it's in these cabins by a lake. And instead of everyone coming together to work independently on solo projects, everyone who's admitted teaches a class in a subject of their choice. And so it's like an adults camp.

Carol Cram:

I want to go.

Courtney Maum:

I know, you could have a lesson in art therapy in the morning and then screenplay writing in the afternoon followed by clowning. You know, it depends who's in session. Right now, you know, we're having trouble with COVID because it's, I'm not going to do a Zoom version of this program. So right now we're doing solo residencies for people, which is launching really soon, in, like, two weeks. 

But, uh, yeah, it's the cabins retreat dot com. You can learn more about it. You can get on the newsletter there to find out when our next sessions are. Yeah. It's a great program.

Carol Cram:

I just love that idea. I haven't seen that before where it's a variety of artists. It's not just a writers' retreat.

Courtney Maum:

Right. Yeah. No, it's funny, I have a hard time, like, raising money for it because people don't quite get what it is, like, until they see it, you know, you kind of need to, like, talk to people about it. That's really great. And I think I founded that in 2016. Yeah. It's been really wonderful.

Carol Cram:

It's something I've thought about, you know, because I live on an island that’s the kind of place people love to come for retreats. Yeah. So, so I'm interested. I'll, I'll have a look at it.

So many projects, but you know, we also have to have time to actually write the novels.

Courtney Maum:

Indeed.

Carol Cram:

Speaking of that, do you have a writing routine?

Courtney Maum:

Yeah. I have a really stringent routine, actually. I, um, I reserve, I mean, this is with the caveat that, like, if my, my daughter has to be in a regular school for this to work, but I reserve Mondays and Tuesdays exclusively for my own writing. You know, I don't do, like, emails or manuscript consultations or things like that, or grocery runs or clean, nothing.

I just work on my own projects and get kind of feral. And then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday is for all the other stuff, you know, and there's a lot - blurbing, article writing, social media, yada yada, and then the weekends, I do not work. I, I really try to not work on the weekends to kind of recuperate.

Carol Cram:

Good for you, I haven't managed to do that yet. Well, it's so quiet these days because there's nowhere to go and I live on an island, so it's very easy just to work seven days a week. I try blocking a bit of time off every day and writing X amount of words that I do. But I think the point is, is to have some kind of routine.

Courtney Maum:

It doesn't, it doesn't write itself, unfortunately.

Carol Cram:

Unfortunately, no. You have to have the bum glue, as they say.

Courtney Maum:

Yeah. Oh I have a lot of bum glue. Especially now.

Carol Cram:

Yeah. It's a, it's a challenging time, for sure. But thank you so much for chatting with me, Courtney.

Courtney Maum:

Oh, it was my absolute pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for having me and good luck with your launch.

Carol Cram:

I've been speaking with Courtney  Maum, author of Costalegre and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, both listed in the Visual Arts category on Art in Fiction at www.artinfiction.com. 

Be sure to check the show notes for the link to a 20% discount off a subscription to ProWritingAid, a fantastic editing tool that I use every day. 

Please follow Art In Fiction on Twitter @FictionandArt and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fictionandart/, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and leave it a positive review wherever you get your podcasts. 

Thanks so much for listening.

 





Welcome
Costalegre
Why Courtney wrote about the Surrealists
Writing from a teenage girl's point of view
Writing about the arts
Writing in the voice of another gender
I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
Satire in I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
On installation art
Advertisement - ProWritingAid
Before and After the Book Deal, A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book.
Making money as an author
Marketing a book
Courtney's artists' retreat at The Cabins
Courtney's writing routine
Extro