Tuesday, December 15, 2015

JUST WRITE

Anthony Schneider’s first novel, Repercussions, starts off our 2016 list in late January and was greeted with a sterling pre-publication review in Kirkus. It’s interesting to me that another South African novel, Love in the Time of Apartheid, closes off our list. So all the other 14 novels this year have these fascinating bookends that enclose them.

Anthony, born in South Africa, spends much of his time between London, England, and New York City, and maintains citizenship in both countries. He is currently at work on his second novel, Lowdown

This is the fourth and last posting from this first novelist series and I hope you like reading his blog as much as I did. 


*         *         *

The Steps

“Just write, I told myself. If it interested me, I kept going. I filled a lot of pages, and new characters popped up (and sometimes vanished as quickly as they’d appeared). The individual pieces didn’t cohere, nor were they all related to the same places, events or ideas. But I kept going. I wondered whose story it was, and what it was all about, and then I stopped worrying and wrote a bit more. And that’s the funny thing about writing. You delve, you scratch, you explore. You have an idea where you are going but you are also a passenger. You rush to find meaning, discover what it is you’re writing about, or what it is that’s stopping you from writing, but you also have to be patient. You have to play, and be comfortable in the half-light of your nascent creation. And maybe it goes somewhere and maybe it doesn’t. Rinse, lather, repeat. It’s half fun and half frustration, half search and half serendipity.

“The first big step I took toward a cohesive novel, a single book knitted together from all of those fictional shreds and patches, was a cast of characters. The book would be about him and her and her and the younger version of him… and that’s it. After that it got easier. If it wasn’t one of their stories, it wasn’t something I was going to write, not today anyway.

“The main character in Repercussions, Henry, was there all along somehow, and writing the book was about uncovering and discovering. A very long game of hide and seek, and sometimes I was looking for Henry and I suppose sometimes I was looking for things about myself.
  
“The second big step was about committing myself to writing—and to writing that novel. I don’t have much more to say about this because it starts to sound a bit like a self-help book or your vaguely spiritual friend’s Facebook post: be committed, be authentic, hashtag grateful. Don’t get me wrong: they’re important ideals. I just don’t have much light to shed. 

“The third big step was probably peculiar to my novel, one that spans eighty years and three continents and features a relatively high number of characters for a relatively short novel. This is undoubtedly of no use to any writer, but I’ll tell you about it anyway.

“Here’s what happened. I was on holiday on a beautiful Mexican island with a woman. Romantic? Not really. We’d just broken up and while I’d offered to buy her out, pay for her part of the trip and get a week by myself to write and walk and swim, she said no, and I was stubborn and she was stubborn, and so there we were: two stubborn unhappy people side by side in bed, with matching Netflix envelopes, watching different movies. Actually we had an okay time. But she didn’t want to go to the little town for breakfast, and because she could order room service and breakfast was one more meal to get through without bickering, I did walk to town each morning. And there I ate excellent granola and yogurt or scrambled eggs and drank strong coffee and went through the book and played with structure. I ripped it apart and put it back together, moved sections and figured out a structure that could hold my jigsaw puzzle of a novel together. It was the closest I came to a eureka moment with this book. Thank you Sahila (not her real name). Thank you Isla Mujeres. 

Five Rules:

“I’m often asked about rules for writers. I don’t know many rules. I know about five, maybe five and a half. If you hate lists, or rules, or detest pens and pencils, stop reading now. 

Rule #1:

“Don’t show your work to people at every step. Be mercenary, be secretive. Hoard, write, wrap your head around it. 

Rule #2:
“Carry a notebook and pen or pencil. 

Rule #3:

“Don’t give up when you think it’s shit. Don’t believe it when you think it’s going great. 

Rule #4:

“Don’t write something because you think it will sell, or because it will help heal some psychic wound. 

Rule #5:

“When you think you are finished but not yet at the point of fine-tuning the commas (yes, it’s a very fine line), do show it to people, people you trust, more than one person. And listen.”


*         *         *

I invite you to comment on Anthony’s blog here, and if you want to contact Anthony personally try him at Anthony.schneider@masstransmit.com

Anyone else in the business of books who might wish to post a blog, should email me (shepard@thepermanentpress.com).

COMING NEXT WEEK, December 23, there will be a blog posting from Connie Dial, former head of the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department who has written six enthralling mysteries that we’ve published, unless Santa Claus sends us something we can’t resist...though, given all the gifts he carries about for children, that is not likely to happen.

Marty

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  1. "writing the book was about uncovering and discovering..." and so is reading. Perhaps that's what ties the reader the writer - you've drawn us in so we want to share the journey and uncover, discover, meet and learn...

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  2. That's a great point, Sheila, a profoundly important bond between writer and reader.

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  3. What a great description of the writer's life, half fun and play and the other half frustration, rewriting, editing.

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