Being published is an odd experience. First you spend a year all alone, hunched over a keyboard, talking to yourself and trying to coax a story and some people into being. Then your agent finds a publisher, and suddenly the emphasis is on the second book: What’s it going to be? How soon can you finish it? So the writer spends another year all alone, hunched over a keyboard, and eventually turns in roughly 100,000 words that take the main characters somewhere else completely, that raise a whole new set of questions and issues, and that put on the page a bunch of new secondary characters.

To me, writing is like managing a very long daydream. I live there, in that story with those characters, day in and day out, for at least twelve months. When I’m not actually writing, I’m thinking about writing. I treat everything anyone says to me, anything I read, as possible material – can I use this?. At night, I dream about the story. So I spend months doing this, and finally go back to America and send Book Number Two to my editor -- and then, bang, the people at William Morrow overnight me the first copy of Book Number One, A Nail Through the Heart. There it is on my coffee table, an actual physical object that represents a year's work.

And it feels kind of wierd.

It’s an attractive book. The cover designer, Ervin Serrano, actually read the text and picked an image from a line of dialog, something about a missing man whom Poke Rafferty, the book’s protagonist, has been asked to find: He hasn’t left a footprint anywhere. He’s a cut-out. The blank space is the only reason you know it was ever there. Serrano took that line as a cue and superimposed a man-shaped blank over a photo montage of nighttime Bangkok. Very nice, and great colors, too.

The book itself was designed by Laura Kaeppel, and it’s everything I could want: clean, elegant, easy to read, with nice graphic motifs to set off the chapters and the sections, and a restrained use of a second font to draw the eye to chapter titles. I have never met Mr. Serrano or Ms. Kaeppel, but when I do, I need to say thanks.

So all that's great, but the strange thing is that it's all for a book that, to be honest, I barely remember writing. My imaginary landscape for the past year has been the Bangkok of The Million Dollar Minute. As far as A Nail Through the Heart is concerned, I feel a little bit like I gave birth and immediately went away, and in the meantime, all these people showed up and did their work – editors, copy editors, designers, printers, binders, all of them. And then I come back and I’m introduced to this little adult wearing a suit. Hi, everybody says, meet your kid.

So I’m glad the kid is so nice-looking, but I don’t feel like I can take any credit for it.

The publication process also explains (to me, at least) why actors -- even actors who aren't obviously heavily sedated -- are sometimes so vague when they’re interviewed about their new film. There are the interviewers, fresh from having just seen the film, and there’s the poor actor, who’s probably made three or four movies since wrapping work on this one. His or her most vivid memory is likely to be the quality of food that was served on the set, but the TV lights are on and the cameras are running, and he or she has to talk about the new film as though it was a life-changing experience.

But none of this is meant to suggest I’m not thrilled to see A Nail Through the Heart in print, or that I don’t think you should run right out and buy it. I do think you should buy it. It’s a terrific book. It’ll keep you on the edge of your chair.

As far as I can remember.

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