Here’s a very telling insight into the realities of writing income. Agence France Presse has released a newswire profile of Enrique Ferrari, a.k.a. Kike, a prize-winning Argentinian crime writer, published in several countries, who keeps up his day job to make ends meet – as a subway station cleaner. “Live off writing? The money isn’t good enough,” he said to AFP.
Ferrari scores four stars out of five on Goodreads (in Spanish) for his “black and brutal” writing. He has five novels in print, as well as two collections of short stories and a volume of essays – most of them composed during breaks from his work, according to AFP. He complains in the profile of the snobbery of a literary elite who associate writing only with the middle classes. “I understand that people find it surprising, but I am not a strange creature. There are lots of we laborers who write, paint or play music,” he says. “It is a peculiarity of capitalists and the bourgeoisie to think that we workers have no culture.”
Ferrari holds down his cleaning job at the Pasteur-AMIA station on Line B of the Buenos Aires Underground. I’m not clear from his Spanish Wikipedia profile whether Ferrari is truly dependent on his cleaning job. This lists him as a member of the editorial board of the Argentinian review La Granada, though that also appears to be a left-wing cultural publication which may not be able to offer much of an income. He’s also listed as a contributor to various Argentinian, Mexican, Cuban, and Spanish magazines, including the magazine of the union of Buenos Aires subway workers. The profile does list him as frequently placed and a finalist in quite a number of crime fiction prizes, both Spanish and French.
Maybe Ferrari does hold down his day job for personal reasons, not financial ones. But I still reckon it’s very likely that his situation reflects the realities of a writing income – or the caprices of publishing – even in a popular genre like crime, and with the popularity of cross-border crime fiction in translation post the success of Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium trilogy. Hopefully, that whole trend – and his eye-catching life story – will lift Ferrari into the big time.