How a Book is Both an Event and a Process
Day -4 (Oakland, CA)/Miles Driven: 0/Average Speed: 0 MPH/Price of Gas: 614 cents
The lifespan of a book is quite long. It begins with the germ of an idea, usually springing at an unexpected time in an unexpected place, and if you’re lucky and persistent, years later you will have the opportunity to actually write and publish that book. Once it’s out, your book becomes like one of your children— “how’s The Wax Pack doing?” friends will ask at the holidays; “what’s new with the book?”
If a book has an average human’s lifespan, let’s say 80 years, then right now The Six Pack is staying out late, drinking too much, and making bad decisions (and The Wax Pack is collecting Social Security). In four days I hit the road in the FF (Ford Fusion), and will share the research process with you as I meet ex-wrestlers and visit the places that shaped them. I want to provide the ultimate appetizer, letting you behind the curtain to see what field work is like for this type of narrative non-fiction project. I’m often jealous of my novel-writing friends, who, when faced with a character dilemma, can just change the character. Writing creative non-fiction sometimes feels like writing two books in one — I have to produce something that is true and accurate and has all its facts checked, but then oh-by-the-way I must also make sure it’s just as gripping as any work of fiction.
In the WWF’s heyday in the mid-1980s, wrestlers were often on the road for 60–90 days at a time, literally without a day off. In order to understand what that must have been like, I am subjecting myself to something similar on this upcoming nine-week road trip. Unlike my mat protagonists who rode together from town to town (their lead feet filling local police departments’ coffers in the process), I will be doing this mission solo, with nothing but my editor Brant Rumble’s playlists to keep me awake. I am also vowing to uphold my self-imposed rule of no food in the car (coffee doesn’t count).
Like Rowdy Roddy Piper and the Ultimate Warrior, I will live out of a suitcase, except mine will have markedly less face paint and fewer kilts. I will visit small towns and big cities alike, seeking to understand the American psyche that has made pro wrestling such an enduring pastime. Staying on brand, I will champion the underdog by staying in roadside motels, places with names like The Green Parrot Inn and Good Nite Motel that hearken back to a less corporate time in our country’s history. I want to meet the other people who stay there, show them my Iron Sheik doll, and see where the wind takes us.
Only about 10% of the time working on a book is actually spent writing the book. The rest you’re about to witness for yourself.