Friday 20 July 2018

'You don't want to know what other authors are paid'

My money

Author Katharine Weber
Author Katharine Weber Business

Katharine Weber is an award-winning American novelist who was born in New York City. Some of her best-known books include Still Life with Monkey, The Music Lesson and Triangle.

Although she lives in the US, Weber regularly holidays in Glandore, Cork. Weber will read from her novel Still Life with Monkey on July 14 at 5pm in Bantry Library as part of the West Cork Literary Festival. For more details on the festival, visit

What's the most important lesson about money which your career in writing has taught you?

First: You don't want to know what other authors have been paid for their books - that information will usually make you feel bad. Second: Many authors lie to other authors about the size of their advances.

What's your favourite song about money?

I've Got Five Dollars by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, from their 1931 Broadway musical America's Sweetheart. It's a cheerful if nonsensical song which my late grandmother, Kay Swift, used to sing with me. It goes: "Take my five dollars, Take my heart that hollers, Everything I've got belongs to you!"

What's the most expensive country you ever visited?

Norway, followed by Iceland - both exquisitely beautiful countries. A cappuccino in Norway at an outdoor café costs at least €5, while a pint of beer in Iceland could be €10.

What's your favourite coin or note?

Tucked in my wallet is a shredded Irish punt note that dates from my West Cork honeymoon in 1976. It's in several bits now. When I left that note in my wallet, at first it was a souvenir of that happy and romantic interlude, and it also signified an intention to return to Ireland. As years passed, and we had bought our cottage in Glandore, it was an artefact.

And so I've always carried it, in one wallet after another, for nearly 43 years!

Apart from property, what's the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

Two absolutely amazing fairytale weddings for our daughters.

What was your worst job?

My first job in publishing- when I was 19 and taking college courses at night -was working for a brilliant and accomplished but highly eccentric editor. I now realise that in retrospect she would probably have hired anybody - because no one could survive the job for very long, and so perhaps she thought an inexperienced assistant would be better than someone who had a clearer sense of what was reasonable and what was outrageous.

She had books in the pipeline with several different publishers, so in that pre-internet era, each day I was traipsing all over Manhattan with heavy tote bags filled with review copies, manuscripts, contracts to file, and all kinds of correspondence to photocopy and put into an envelope to run through a postage meter.

I had to bring back to her apartment, where she spent her days conducting business on the telephone in a bathrobe, everything that was ready to mail, with all the envelopes unsealed, because Tulip, her Cocker Spaniel, liked to lick the envelopes. I lasted six months at this job.

What was your best financial killing?

Buying our cottage in Glandore in 1985 for very small money - when things were so slow that the estate agent hadn't bothered to put up a 'For Sale' sign. When I ducked into an estate agent's office in Skibbereen to get out of the rain, and then asked if there was by chance anything in Reenogreena in Glandore, a single information sheet was pulled from a drawer. My husband, looking for me on the street, spotted me inside the estate agent's office and came inside to see what I was looking at. There it was, the very same old council cottage overlooking Glandore Harbour that my husband and younger daughter (then a toddler) had seen earlier that day when they had gone for a walk on the headland. Nick had boldly knocked on the door to ask the crazy and possibly rude question, would this place ever possibly be for sale? But nobody had been home.

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