This week we would like you to meet one of our Individual Creator Members, Marilyn Jaye Lewis.
1. Can you take us through your writing process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?
If I have a deadline, my writing process can be mercifully speedy! I have never missed a deadline, no matter how tight or maddening. However, once, through a contractual misunderstanding between a former publisher and the now-defunct Waldenbooks, I had to write an entire novel in 6 weeks; a novel that had only a title and a vague concept but which suddenly had a fixed date of arrival to be in stores nationwide! For 6 weeks, every waking moment was spent typing whatever came into my head. That novel (In the Secret Hours) wound up receiving the worst reviews of my career. I would not want to have to do that again. Conversely, though, I find that contest deadlines are inspiring for me. I have written several award-winning short stories and screenplays because of contests I wanted to enter, requiring me to meet those deadlines.
If I do not have a deadline, it can take me years to complete a novel or a script. This is primarily because I usually have several projects that I’m writing at the same time and I work on whichever project speaks loudest to me on any given day.
Everything I write gets sold, eventually. I never lose sight of stories or scripts I’ve written and I’m always looking for a good home for each of them. My career goes through highs & lows, though, where the money can be really good or really negligible.
2. What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
The biggest misconception about fiction writing – any kind of storytelling, whether it’s songwriting, novels, or screenplays – is that it belongs to the people that it entertains. It doesn’t. It might become part of people’s lives, their minds or their memories; but it came from one writer’s mind and I believe that writer owns it, indefinitely. Albeit, signed contracts create various legal situations that can alter things.
3. When did you first become aware of copyright and why?
I first became aware of copyrights when I was in my early teens and was writing songs with the serious intent to become a professional songwriter. I believe it was an English teacher in school who urged me to get all my songs copyrighted and so I did. Back then, it took a lot of babysitting money for me to afford that, but I took copyright registration very seriously.
4. Have you experienced copyright infringement and if so how has it affected you personally and financially?
Yes, I have experienced copyright infringement – it came with the popularity of the Internet. It can be really difficult to stay on top of the various ways in which total strangers are uploading and selling your work. I know that eBooks make it really easy for people to make money off of something I’ve written without my being aware of it. A few weeks ago, in fact, I was playing around with the Russian search engine, Yanix, and I discovered a web site offering unauthorized free downloads of a few of my books. I have no idea how it affected me financially – how many sales were made to the owner of the site. I wrote to the unidentified site owner and simply asked them to remove my books and within a week they actually did.
5. What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?
The biggest copyright-related challenge for any creative fiction writer today is this new culture that expects everything to be available online and for all of it to be free. An offshoot of that cultural belief is “fan fiction,” where it’s believed that it’s okay to take stories and characters that others have created and re-write them, re-envision them, embellish them, and then behave as if they have “ownership” in them. It can become increasingly expensive for the original creator to stay informed and to maintain copyright control because of the far-reaching pervasiveness of the Internet.
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
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