It all started as a personal blog.
For more than a year, Martin Perlman published his musings two or three times a week online; social commentary, cultural references, and the like.
Then it became something more.
The result is the Queen Anne resident’s debut novel, “Thinks Out Loud,” a story that follows a burned-out blogger who washes up in the South Pacific, and a group of characters at odds with a high-tech CEO with murky intentions.
How does a blog become a book?
For the answer, you have to go back to August of 2011, when Perlman began working on a post on his then-personal page.
Sometimes, he would have a topic in advance to quip on, and others were written in the moment. That night, nothing had been planned.
“In the moment, me, the normal blogger, stepped aside, and a persona, a fictional me … rose to the fore,” he said.
In the days that followed, other new “voices” made postings of their own on the site.
“Plot started developing, characters started developing, settings started developing,” Perlman said. “It had all the fixings of what would be a traditional novel, but it was done in blog form, so every time a posting went up, it was like a chapter in a book, but it was from the point of view of whoever was doing that particular posting.”
Before he knew it, he said, he had a “full-fledged book” going. With that realization, Perlman stopped posting publicly, telling readers of his goal to publish. However, he kept the same blogging schedule, writing “posts” two or three times a week.
In about a years’ time, he had the first draft of a book, written entirely in the format of a blog, right down to the comments at the end of each post.
That structure made for a “very liberating,” creative process compared to writing past short stories and humor pieces he had done, Perlman said, as he realized, “I don’t have to write three-to-four-to-five-hours a day to write a novel.” Instead, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour several days a week would suffice.
“This book is a rather fast-moving, forward-moving creation,” he said, “and I think that lends itself very well to the kinds of adventures and what not that are happening to the characters.”
Perlman calls his book an “ensemble piece,” as different characters filter in and out to provide their own lens on the events of that moment.
“Every time one of the characters is able to blog, that person becomes the main character during that posting,” he said. “Not only that, even some of the characters who don’t post in the blog have major, major roles in the book.”
Though telling a story through blog posts may seem unprecedented, Perlman sees parallels with the epistolary novels of the 1700s, books written in the form of a series of documents, typically letters. To him, this is a modern update of that approach.
“This is people writing a modern form of letters, the difference is that because they’re blogging, the letters are read not just by one or two people, but by anyone who’s accessing the blog,” he said.
Still, with a unique format also came a unique path to publishing, one that the author said “didn’t exist 15 years ago.”
Instead of seeking out traditional publishers, a conference three years ago helped convince Perlman that either self-publishing, or linking up with a smaller, independent publisher would be a better approach. He felt the established entities might be leery, noting that “it takes a little leap of faith to jump into this book,” and that they seek writers that likely have several books in the pipeline. With a background in communications — everything from his time as an editor and writer at a weekly newspaper in Santa Barbara, Calif., to his current role at the University of Washington — and marketing, going it alone didn’t seem so daunting.
By coincidence, Perlman connected with an editor with Marrow Books, and both agreed the fit was right for what Perlman called a “hybrid publishing” approach.
“The result is a book that I think stands up against any other softbound book over in a bookstore,” Perlman said.
Perlman asks readers to “be a little confused at first,” and to give the narrative time to settle in. Once they do, he has high hopes they’ll like the result.
“You realize you’re reading a traditional book,” he said, “but it happens to be in blog form. Then, my hope is that people will enjoy that read.”
Perlman will read selections and sign copies of his book at the Queen Anne Book Company (1811 Queen Anne Ave. N.) on July 6 at 7 p.m., and at the University Book Store (4326 University Way N.E.) on July 21 at 7 p.m.
To learn more about “Thinks Out Loud,” visit www.thinksoutloud.com.
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