The Krakow Diaries

75 days in Krakow. On a literary grant from the German Kulturstiftung der Länder. In the Guesthouse of the 16th century Villa Decius, with 10 other writers from Poland, Germany, Belarussia, Ukraine and Georgia. Beautiful city. Nice Krakovians. Fun nightlife. Beautiful women. And in the guesthouse: Meetings of the minds. Too much vodka. Good friends. One of the great pleasures of my life.

Day #54: Thursday, Nov. 9: Fiction or Non-Fiction, Part 2

Fiction or Non-Fiction, that has been the question for the last few weeks.

We took a chance. My Beautiful German Frolein and I wrote up three book proposals – two non-fiction and one novel. I won’t say what they are about, but one non-fiction was in the style of my first book Driving Through the Dark Ages / Nibelungenreise, another non-fiction was in the style of Planet Germany, and the fiction is a comic novel set in Germany. There is another novel here in my room in Krakow but it's not ready to propose yet.)

Since we have no credentials for fiction, we were very aware that we didn’t have much of a chance with the novel. Even my Sly and Cunning Agent told us she didn’t think it would work.

But when I flew to Frankfurt to talk to my publisher and editors, something strange happened.

We sat around at first in the office then in a restaurant and chatted. I noticed that the publisher, Scherz Verlag, happens to publish Robert Little, whose son recently made a big splash with his first novel at the Frankfurt Book Fair. I asked: "Does anyone know how much the German rights for that book eventually went for?"

Someone said, "Probably about 650,000 euros."

My heart nearly stopped. That's a lot of money.

Later, at dinner, the real discussion got underway. The publisher asked this question: "Why do you want to write novels?"

I wasn't ready for that question, so I blurted out: "Because I'll never get 650,000 euros for a non-fiction book."

They said, "Exactly. We want the novel."

My heart nearly stopped again. So now I am, alongside My Beautiful German Frolein, a novelist. They took two books: the neo-Planet Germany non-fiction title and the comic novel about Germany. Not for 650,000 euros, and not for any price even vaguely near that, but it's a beginning.

About four in the morning I found myself in my hotel room with my Sly and Cunning Agent. She called My Beautiful German Frolein (an now co-author) to tell her the good news. And I stood there thinking:

1. I have to get to the bus in one and a half hours.

2. I can’t believe this is really happening. I've worked for this and wanted this and waited for this and doubted that this will ever happen since I was fifteen. And now it's really happening.

3. How the hell do you write a comic novel?

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