Friday, 17 September 2010

Advantages of being a midlist author

The best thing about being a midlister is you get to write about a wide variety of subjects. These different jobs often support one another. For example, I was in Rome last week research a military history book for Osprey Publishing and at the same time wrote a travel series for Gadling. I didn't have a huge amount of time for sightseeing so I decided to focus on a single subject. The result is Vacation with the Dead: Exploring Rome's Sinister Side. I'm covering things like the Purgatory Museum, Renaissance tombs of Rome, and military museums in Rome. Upcoming posts will be on saints' relics, Christian catacombs, mummified monks, and more! My editor made a cool pinbox that I've added to the sidebar here.

Another advantage of writing about many different things is that you get into interesting conversations with all sorts of people. Staying at my hotel in Rome were two young Italian guys who looked like soldiers. I asked them if they were in the army and they said yes.

"What part of the army?" I asked.

"Army, yes," they answered in halting English, not understanding the question.

"No, I mean, Alpini, Bersaglieri, Caribinari?"

Their eyes lit up. Not only did this foreigner know something about the Italian army, but he actually gave a damn! Almost instantly a bottle of fine Sardinian lager was pressed into my hands and much drinking and conversation ensued. It turned out they're members of the Alpini, Italy's elite mountain infantry. We talked about their duties and Italian military history, like the grueling battles of Isonzo fought high in the Alps during World War One. They also talked about their frustration at not being able to serve in Afghanistan. You have to be in the army three years before you can apply to go. Imagine, these guys actually want to go to Afghanistan! I hope they get a chance to kick some Taliban butt.

That's what being a writer can do. Would these two guys, half my age and barely speaking my language, have gone on a bender with me if my research hadn't given us some common ground? It just goes to show you never know who you're going to meet in the business of writing.
[Top photo courtesy Eurocopter, bottom courtesy Italian Army, both via Wikimedia Commons]


irishoma said...

Hi Sean,
I always learn something new and feel smarter after visiting your blog.
Donna v.
P.S. Regarding soldiers: Last summer we visited with our nephew who was observing patient treatment at a local hospital in St. Louis before leaving for Afghanistan. He was looking forward to going back and serving--even though he got wounded and received a Purple Heart while stationed in Iraq a couple years ago. God bless them all!

Sean McLachlan said...

I hope he makes a quick recovery. By the way, I'll be in St. Louis for a few days in late October. We should meet up! I know two more writers in the St. Louis area as well. Perhaps we could have a writers pub crawl.

Sioux Roslawski said...

It IS interesting how writing can serve as a magnet. I once was at workshop at a college campus, walking out of the parking garage with a "Will Write for Food" T-shirt on, and the elderly security guard actually ran over and asked if I was a writer. We spoke for quite a while. He was working on stories about the war, his son was helping him, and his eyes just danced, knowing that standing in front of him was another person who loved to write as much as he did.

I think if we all wore, "I am a writer" buttons, people would swarm around us, yearning to tell their stories to us, and we'd never have to hunt for writing material again.

irishoma said...

Hi Sean,
Hope St. Louis isnn't a big let down after Rome. Another St. Louis-area writer who frequents your blog, Dianna G., lives nearby. Shoot an e-mail to me and let me know when you will be here. My grandkids keep me running, but if the timing is right maybe a few of us can get together.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.