Friday, September 2, 2011

Time for a Little Writing Q&A...

Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

My favorite character is Cheslov who is an antagonist… but not necessarily THE antagonist. I struggled at times with dialogue and scene creation for other characters. But for some reason, it just flowed with Cheslov.

My book takes place in 2020. Cheslov is Russian, born around the turn of the century. Around 1900, that is. Somehow he ends up in Tampa in 2020 as hired muscle for the Mayor. How did he survive to 2020 if he was born in 1900?

Something happened in the woods of Rostov.

It’s like that with Cheslov, he’s just naturally creepy. I think Kirkus reviews put it pretty well when they wrote the following in their review of inSyte:

Woven throughout a story with many finely crafted twists, turns and revelations is the charismatic, mysterious, murderous Cheslov Kirill. As a classic merciless political operator, Kirill is unforgettable and chillingly, complexly rendered, especially for a man who uses a school of sharks off the Florida coast for corpse disposal.”

But he’s also charming, likeable on some level. He is the character everyone who reads my novel seems to talk about. Some are darkly drawn to him. Most found him fascinating in his evilness. But he’s the one people remember. Me too.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?

I’m totally a morning guy. I wrote the entire novel between 4:00am and 7:00am. All of it. It was a release from my day job. A way to use my creative side to balance out the technical work I had to do during the day.

I was actually working very hard on a business proposal – a $300m business proposal. I was stressed like you wouldn’t believe. Waking up very early in the am, not able to get back to sleep. Finally I started writing. It was a release, an ability to use my creative side to balance out all of the technical work I was doing for my job. And it just flowed. I developed a pattern of waking up every morning around 4:00am and writing until 7:00. Then starting my day job.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?

Figuring out what to write about. Once you figure it out then the next hardest part is putting together the first draft. After that it’s a piece of cake. Enjoyable to watch your baby grow.

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

I can only tell you what worked for me. Think of a high concept. For me, that’s the ability to tap into the internet with your mind. So you can surf the internet the way you peruse your own memory today.

Try to remember the lyrics to a song. Might take a few seconds, then you remember. You find that information in your brain, obviously. Sort of a local hard drive, to use computer terms.

Now imagine you’re transparently tapped into the Global internet 24x7. Now try to remember the lyrics to a song. They’re there instantly. Feels like you found them in your brain, just like before. But you didn’t. You found the words on a server in Germany. Doesn’t matter, all transparent to you.

OK – so you have the high concept. Now what? Well, you have to have conflict. For me, I created a moral dilemma between the protagonist, the ‘monster’ Cheslov, and a local politician who thinks he has a direct connect with God.

Next – ratchet up the tension at every opportunity. I made my protagonist an ex-Navy seal so he could pretty much deal with anything. Made Cheslov part wolf, paranormal. Then went into detail explaining how screwed up the politician is, he’s hooked on drugs due to his wife’s death, etc. Keep ratcheting up.

Then create an outline – and write, write, write to fill in the outline. Don’t worry about adjectives or effect or the best dialogue or even grammar/punctuation.

This is all a hell of a lot of work.

But once you have the first draft – read it. And read and read and read. Every time I picked it up and read a chapter, I thought of better ways to describe things. I watched TV at night or listened to the radio during the day or read the paper in the morning and always, constantly, I gained ideas on how to improve my character’s dialogue, how to enhance a scene, how to polish, enrich, entertain, grow, connect.

The initial draft took 3 months to write. Then finishing the novel took another 3 years.

Oh – and don’t let ANYBODY read that initial draft. It will suck, indeed.

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