I was recently interviewed by the wonderfully delightful, super engaging Stone Payton, at BusinessRadioX. It was for his “Dust Jacket Interview” show. I thought the interview was going alright, if I could stop giggling like my IQ just dropped ten points, before I answered every question. Then, out of left field he asked me something that I almost--almost answered honestly, but I stopped myself just in time. I couldn’t do it, plain and simple. (Look, it’s hard enough to put such things on paper--or screen.) In so many words, Mr. Payton asked me if writing a novel is personal…and if so, how personal? Oh, I answered with something like, “your manuscript is something you gave life to, so in many ways it’s as personal to you as your children,” and blah, blah, blah. But, is that really as personal as it gets? First, allow me to answer my question with a question: Do you want to get published? Then the short answer is, God, no.
I don’t know about you, but when someone is toys-in-the-attic enough to inquire if I have children, I’m out with the photo sleeve fast enough to make an illusionist proud. It’s a pretty long sleeve of my one-and-only work of art, my stunningly beautiful and bright daughter (she’s a model; she just did a nine-page spread in a national magazine). Well, of course I’m bragging! Wouldn’t you? Okay, I won’t spend any more time here--but Lord knows I could!
Do you see what I mean?
Sure, my child is personal. But if I’m writing a sad scene, I want to make my readers tearful, not envious. I know I have to dig deeper than brags about my kid. I’m going to give you an example of how my work gets personal, because I believe published authors should share with our future competition (I mean that in the nicest way), real and valuable writing tips on how we do it. We are a writing community. So in that spirit, I am sharing a personal sadness which I channeled after forty years, in order to write a chapter in my current WIP (work-in-progress). My hero is a young man who suffers from depression; he is certain his father blames him for his mother’s death and can’t even stand the sight of him, which is true. That’s sad, right? If I want my readers to believe it, and I most certainly do, then I need to infuse this fictional character with genuine sadness--my own. Here goes: I took a lot of naps as a kid--in beds, sure, but also whenever and wherever the fancy struck me; in a gulley on my way home walking from school, or in the middle of a sidewalk hopscotch game…places like that. I would just lay myself down and go to sleep. Now let’s skip ahead to my twelfth birthday…
A dysfunctional childhood
is God’s greatest gift to the writer.
It was a gorgeous summer day in California, and my mother called me in from playing outdoors--we did that back then. She was (I’ll treat this mildly) three-sheets-to-the-wind. She’d asked me to sit, and I thought for certain I was going to hear some excuse for why they’d forgotten my birthday again (translation: I wasn’t going to be getting those roller skates I’d been shamelessly hinting about for weeks). But instead, to my surprise, she was celebrating because I was going to live, she’d told me. I can’t tell you what a relief that news was to me--I can’t tell you because I never knew I was dying, in the first place. Then mom explained that a heart condition was the reason she’d never allowed herself to love me; a child who was ear-marked for an early death. Fear not, though, because a doctor had just given me a clean Bill of Health for the insurance company. Now she could love me! (She slurred.) I was just so tickled pink with the news. I use sarcasm as a defense. And what about my bucket-list? Here I’d been slated for death, and I hadn’t done one thing on my list! I hadn’t even eaten a coconut! (Long story; my best friend was Tahitian). Anyhoo, the point I’m trying to make is that, some forty years later, when I needed to write something incredibly sad, I conjured up that summer afternoon when my mother, albeit unintentionally, told me to my face that she’d never loved me. Tears immediately filled my eyes, rocks filled my throat, and I started writing.
You betch’yer fanny the writing in my novels is personal--and genuine! When “Grog Wars,” is released, you can let me know if I made you cry…a Rafflecopter giveaway