By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
I’m a big boy, I could handle what was coming: They didn’t want to publish another word of mine. I was cool with that, I’d expected nothing but cold-blooded business. Still, I was under contract to produce another book. I explained to my editor what I wanted to write in advance — a novel about a personal chef for a weirdo super celebrity, in lieu of the novel I’d proposed long ago in a single paragraph. She agreed. I wrote that book. But when I sent the manuscript, Serving Monster, to my editor, she informed me that, unbeknownst to me, I had violated my contract — that it was late and it wasn’t the book they’d wanted anyway. I knew then that I was going to get gotted. That this big-ass publishing house was going to come down on me.
Sure enough, Atria, subsidiary of that monster conglomerate Viacom, asked me to pay back the $41,000 they advanced me. I had to sit back, catch my breath and get my mind around the demand. The book was late, but not unreasonably late, especially given that Atria took longer than expected to get my first book out and, in changing editors, put me though a period when I had no editor to work with. I’d gotten approval to write the book I wanted. I even tried to write the novel they wanted — 60 hasty pages to a sequel of one of my earlier books. But in the age of low-rent porn for churchgoing ladies, I couldn’t keep up with sex-wild Zane (also published by Atria) or any of her dick-riding sorority sisters. Both novels were rejected.
Then some woman who sounded about as threatening as a Vassar coed called me on my cell and tried to put the fear of God into me. I was being threatened and dunned as though I had run up a huge credit card debt that I’d refused to make good on.
I informed this woman that I was receiving unemployment and wasn’t in a position to repay the advance. I argued that her demand was ridiculous and that I had permission from my editor to write "what I felt." It didn’t matter. If I didn’t pay, she said, they’d sue me. Finally, I was offered a compromise: Pay Atria a thousand dollars every six months for the next 10 years, and they’d go away.
I don’t want to be sued by a conglomerate, and I can’t say I’m not tempted to pay my biannual tribute to stay out of court. But then again, it’s hard not to look at myself as some bedraggled peasant who was given some seeds and bad land to hoe in perpetuity. Yes, one day when I’m deep into senior citizenness, I’ll be through with my book deal, and if good ol’ master is kind to me, I’ll be emancipated and free to work for myself. I’ll no longer be literary sharecropping, singing spirituals in the cotton-picking fields.
Tervalon is the author of several novels, including Lita, Understand This and All the Trouble You Need. His novel Serving Monster has yet to find a publisher.