1. What am I working on at the moment?
I have been working on further revisions to my novel The Opera. I had completed revisions last Summer and have sporadically been submitting to agents. However, it’s been an enormous challenge to find agents whose interests seem relevant to the storyline. No one seems to be looking for the sort of novel I wrote. It’s also been difficult for me to identify the genre of the novel. I struggle with query writing as it is, and this novel feels impossible for me to describe and properly represent within the brief context of a query. As a result of these obstacles, I’ve decided to further revise. Now that I’m more familiar with publishing industry, I hope to strengthen my themes and be able to effectively define the storyline. It may seem strange that I can’t categorize my own book, but it just doesn’t quite fit into the scope of what is being sought by agents, nor is it classifiable enough to label. I don’t think it falls under any specific genre.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I have been submitting the novel as literary/commercial fiction, however when I have researched the definitions of these categories, there are elements that my novel either has or lacks which defies these types of fiction. I write realistic fiction, realism, which tends to be dramatic, often brutal. Dennis Lehane is the only author whose works I can think of to compare my genre to, not that my talent is comparable to his. In terms of my own writing, the best example is my novel Amon-Re which I’ve been posting here on this blog. If anyone can think of a genre for that, enlighten me. I think literary and commercial fiction are both too broad and too restricting. The Opera has similar elements to Amon-Re. My stories tend to be character driven and include themes of substance abuse, street life, homelessness, and childhood sexual abuse. I like plots and scenarios to be realistic and I sometimes present lifestyles and experiences that are not necessarily reflective of societal norms. Often the realities focus on worlds within a darker side of life that many people are never touched by in their own lives. Despite this fact, I try to make the protagonists identifiable in order for readers to comprehend and empathize with their motivations. I have a strong leaning towards psychology, so I try to ensure my characters remain true to their individual natures and that their choices make sense. I also enjoy establishing a philosophical and introspective narrative.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always had a leaning toward dark themes, even as a child. I used to want a puppy when I was a kid, which isn’t unusual, yet I used to imagine that I would come across an abused puppy that I would adopt. Of course, I didn’t want any puppy to suffer, rather I was aware that there were animals out there that were abused, and in my own child mind, my imagination enabled me to end the abuse and rescue the puppy. I think I’ve always been fascinated and disturbed by the potential cruelty in people. I couldn’t comprehend it at a young age, but I wanted to. I never did come to understand why some people can be so cruel, however this need for explanation led me towards looking at things from a psychological perspective. I hadn’t yet learned anything about Freud before I figured out that some behavior is the result of opposing circumstance. In other words, I recognized that people exposed to cruelty could themselves become cruel. I write from this standpoint, that victims can become victimizers, but they can often become survivors. My characters are the survivors, whether or not they survive in the end, and they are never intentionally cruel. They often think and feel very much the way I do. I also incorporate a lot of my own experiences in my stories, whether they are based on observation or immersion.
4. How does my writing process work?
I tend to begin with the character. My protagonists are always male. The personality comes first, then the physical features develop in order to solidify an image. Along with the personality comes the nature of this person. Then I determine a history. Once the character is established, I begin to imagine various scenarios the person experiences, or people he can encounter. These imaginations recur and alter and shape in my head, incorporating the history, and then the story is ready to be documented. One thing I’ve learned through revising The Opera and especially now that I am posting Amon-Re, is that my best work comes from getting out everything, including it all, and being superfluous, then whittling it down. I used to think it was all important and all good, but I’ve only just recently learned that it’s not. I think it’s extremely useful, however, to put the extra stuff in at first. It’s amazing how a few pages can be transformed into a sentence or a paragraph. It may seem frivolous, but for me I find that it makes a story whole. There are subtleties and curiosities and unspoken things in real life. Not everything is explained. Some things are only hinted at or alluded to. I think it helps to make a story rich. The key is to not become so attached to the extra stuff that you can’t let it go because that can sacrifice the integrity of the story.
I was invited to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour by James Courtney and Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills at http://citystatewritings.wordpress.com/ Their blog tour post: http://citystatewritings.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/2014-blog-tour/
The tour will continue with http://fieldofthorns.wordpress.com/ and http://thisoldtoad.com/ who will post on May 5th.