If art was what I so diligently pursued all those years, was that pursuit subverted by the strangely selective way I went about it? For the truth is, in the act of becoming the writer I wished to be, I insisted on setting my own terms for publication rather than acceding to the realities of the market. Strange, is it not, that an aspiring author should pick and choose his own notion of what to write and where to seek publication, rather than try to conform to the dictates of reality? I knew what I wished to write, and knew furthermore that what I wished to write was not the sort of material most publishers sought. Yet I not only flew in the face of economic reality, I did it knowingly and even defiantly. Why? Ordinarily the fledgling writer trims his/her work to fit what he/she knows the reading public, and hence the publishing world, desires. Not I. Perhaps this approach was a variant of the motive I have previously mentioned, that I only wished to have fun--the fun of indulging my own tastes, my own preferences, above those of the industry I hoped to penetrate.
I must have told myself I refused to compromise my own vision of my destiny as a writer--a laudable thought perhaps, and one no doubt commensurate with my immature dreams of becoming known for the daring and dedication of my artistic goals, much as were Faulkner and Joyce and certain other literary giants of the 20th century. I suppose I didn't wish to serve a long and dreary, if salutary and instructional, apprenticeship of submission and rejection. It didn't matter to me that the historical fiction I longed to write no longer held the high place it had maintained in the 1940's and 1950's when my literary ambitions were formed. I wished to imitate the successes of the historical novelists of my youth--Thomas B. Costain, Mika Waltari and the like--writers, incidentally, known not for the high literary quality of their books but for their popularity with middlebrow readers, and hardly comparable to my idols Joyce and Faulkner. Furthermore, by the time I began to submit my work, the historical fiction genre had fallen quite out of favor. Speak of a confusion of motives!
Yet I did, to a small degree, succeed. I was published, against all the odds. Was published five times in fiction and once in nonfiction. This is a fact which still astonishes me and for which I remain deeply grateful. When I think how many persons have nourished the burning ambition to write and be published, only to have those hopes dashed, I know how fortunate I have been. But then, perhaps inevitably now that I am in the twilight of my writing career, I also begin to wonder how much my stubborn insistence on writing only what I wished to write rather than what the market desired may have limited my prospects. Had I paid more heed to reality than to my own preoccupations, would I have been more successful? And what, after all, is success? How should it be measured? By my own satisfaction at having maintained my selfish preferences? For in having done so, have I not in a sense limited my own success and prospects for recognition? And how important, in the last analysis, are success and recognition? Large questions. Questions without answers. One thing I do know. There are readers in the world who have told me my books have mattered to them. And is that not reward enough?