Today’s offering is a guest post from Louise Marley, an award-winning author of historical fiction as well as science fiction and fantasy. Her musings on the writing life and the reach for stardom are generous and profound. Enjoy!
“There’s never a level playing field,” says Sting, in the brilliant documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom. You can skip this little essay and go straight to your television to watch that film if you like. It speaks for itself. As a metaphor for the show-biz aspects of writing, or indeed of any artistic endeavor, it has no equal. And it comes accompanied by spectacular music.
The documentary traces the lives and careers of back-up singers, those gifted and hardworking artists who stand twenty feet from the “star” and whose names hardly anyone outside the industry knows. Some of them made substantial, long-lasting careers. Some even had glimpses of stardom. Others, through no lack of talent or discipline or effort, remained—and remain—obscure. The great Merry Clayton made a life in music, and won the respect of everyone who worked with her, but she’s hardly a household name. Darlene Love tried a solo career, was betrayed and marginalized, and only succeeded after she had been in the business for more than twenty years. The incomparable, mesmerizing Lisa Fischer is the most perplexing. Hers is a voice of enormous range and beauty, and she possesses an enviable musicality, but again, hers is not a name the man on the street could call to mind.
Stephen King is a very, very famous writer, and he has legitimately earned his stripes. Even his nonfiction memoir is a compelling read. He also seems to be a thoroughly nice man, and a generous one. To my knowledge, no one resents his success, but is he that much better than all the other writers in his genre? Or does he possess that elusive and indefinable something that makes him a “star”? Read More…