Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who Started Your Dream?

Before I get into this dream business, Shannon Lawrence over at The Warrior Muse has gone and interviewed me. My completely unbiased opinion (>smirk<) is that it's a great interview, and you should all go read it. Actually, I do think it's a good interview, and it has some good thoughts in it. You'll get to find out a little bit more about my book, and there's some of my thoughts about publishing and the publishing industry that I may not have said on here, yet. So go check it out. Just click the little linky up there.

Seriously. Go. Now. I'll still be here when you get back.

As part of Rachael Harrie's platform building campaign, Cat Gerlach started up this little blog ring about what inspired us to be writers.
The idea is that if you follow the chain of links, you will eventually get back around to the person you originally clicked from. So pick one of these: Rachele Alpine or Ali Cross (although, I think Ali's post won't actually go up until tomorrow (the 16th), if I followed that conversation correctly) and click through. If you continue on through the links that is the other one that you haven't already read, you should get all the way back around to me. Sounds like fun, right? And don't worry: it's only a dozen or so of us, so it's not going to take you weeks to get through them all.
Oh! and there are prizes. However, I'm not going to list all of those out, because, honestly, I'm not sure what the list boiled down to. I will tell you how to win one, though: leave a comment. Each comment you leave on each blog is worth one entry, so there's your incentive to make the full round. I do think there were some good prizes in there, even if one of them is not a copy of my book (sorry, I just don't have any available, yet, but I'll explain about that next week).

Who started my dream?

I think my answer is somewhat atypical, at least from what I have seen from other people talking about these kinds of things. I never got "inspired" to write because of some book or some author I read. The closest I come to that is, probably, The Hardy Boys, but I wouldn't really call it a moment of inspiration. I started reading The Hardy Boys sometime around 4th grade. At some point in there, I decided I was going to write one of my own. Except that I changed the names to protect the innocent. Mainly myself. Because I didn't want to get in trouble for copyright infringement, although I have no idea why I would even have been thinking that at that age. But I was.

I got out a notebook, and I started writing. Probably Big Chief (Big Chief was really pads of paper. Colored red (not  the paper, just the covers). Because it was an "Indian" thing. No, no one thought anything about that back in the 70s), because that's what I always had back then. I don't really remember, though. I was making decent progress. But this was back in the days before I knew I could tell my mom to stay out of my stuff, and she had this annoying habit of getting into my things, so she found my "book" and read it. Her very supportive comment was, "Did you make up all these names yourself?" The book went in the trash. Especially since I hated the names. I felt that they were inadequate, and that was the thing she commented about. I didn't continue my writing pursuits.

But I was good at it. Teachers commented about my writing all the time, sometimes reading things I had written to the class. But I didn't think about writing anymore. I was a math/science student, after all; artistic pursuits were good for nothing more than hobbies.

By the time I was exiting high school, I hated math and science. Well, mostly math. I was so tired of it. I elected to major in English in college. I did this with the idea of writing. No, I can't tell you why. What I can tell you is that I had to argue with every counselor at the school about my choice. Yes, my math/science scores were that high. Not that my English scores were bad; they weren't. In fact, they were great, so that should say something about my math scores. I spent my entire freshman year at college explaining to the administration that, no, really, the English major wasn't mistake. Yes, I knew what my scores said. No, I did not want to major in math or anything related to it.

The English department was ecstatic with my decision, and I was, eventually, appointed a counselor from the English department.

My first real attempt at a novel was during a break from college while I was substitute teaching. It's about a dragon. I still have it stored somewhere in a box, and I still think it's a good story. I might one day go back to it. I can point to no inspirational moment for that novel, either. It was really more about saving the environment. With a dragon.

What I'm saying here, I guess, is that the decision to "be a writer" came more out of not wanting to do math anymore and knowing that I was good at writing. So, yeah, sorry for the big let down there. I didn't even follow through with it at the time. I was young and busy, and staying home at night to write never occurred to me. Then, I was out of college and working and still out at night and staying at home and writing never occurred to me. Then, I was moving to CA and getting married and, later, dealing with kids, and the whole writing thing had, mostly, just left my brain.

So how, then, did I end up writing a book? Well, here's the thing: A few years ago, I kept hearing about these Anita Blake novels and how good they are. Let me preface this by saying that I hate, hate, the whole vampire thing. I hated it in high school when everything was about Anne Rice, and I still hate it, today. Vampires are the bad guys. Period. End of story. I liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer for that very reason (I'll excuse Angel, because he was an exception); the vampires were bad. Evil. So, hey, here are these Anita Blake novels, and she's a vampire slayer, so I thought I would try one out.

Big mistake. And apologies to anyone that likes that trash, but it was trash. I started with the first one, because, you know, that's what you do, and it was torture. I'm not very good at putting down a book once I've started it, but I seriously considered it with that one. One thing stopped me. See, by about page 80, I had figured out the entire plot. Really. The entire plot to a 350 page novel in 80 pages including who the bad guy was. But I kept thinking that I must be wrong, because, really, no published author could be that bad. And I kept hoping that I was wrong and that Ms Hamilton had tricked me all the while knowing she hadn't.

The other thing I kept thinking was that I could do better. So much better. The thought that went along with it was that that thought was stupid if I then didn't actually follow through with doing better. It's like guys across America yelling at football players on TV. In other words, ridiculous. Anyone can say "I could do better," but it doesn't mean a thing unless you actually do that.

From that perspective, I suppose you could say that Laurell K. Hamilton was my inspiration, because it was because of her and Anita Blake that I decided to follow through with the thought of writing. I'd talked with my wife about it on-and-off for years, but that was all I did. Talk about it. I hadn't made a serious attempt since that discarded book about the dragon while I was in college. So I wrote a book. And it's better than Anita Blake.

At least, it's better than the first one. I was told, later, that the Anita Blake books don't really get good until you get to the third one, but, seriously, how does anyone get that far? After having all of my fears about the first one confirmed, there was never even the consideration of going on, so how did anyone ever get to #3 to begin with. Maybe I'm being too harsh? I mean, she is a big, famous author with a big, famous franchise from a big, giant publisher, so what do I know?

Oh, but wait, I do have to mention C. S. Lewis and Narnia. He's probably the writer that had the most influence on The House On the Corner. It was a very deliberate thing on my part to write about houses and the things you find there. It was deliberate because Lewis and Narnia had such an impact on me as a kid. I wanted to find places, doorways, other worlds. And I wasn't the only one. My friends and I used to play games wrapped around those ideas, and I wanted to capture that feeling in my own book. There's even a small nod to Narnia in House. How could I resist?


  1. I read all the Anita Blake books up to Obsidian Butterfly. I own several of the others but they aren't as interesting anymore. I guess I just loved the character and I liked all the minor characters too. It's obvious that Hamilton didn't resonate with you but for some reason she found a home within me. Not really sure why.

  2. I'm kind of with you on the "reading didn't inspire me to write" thing...more that it just made me feel inspired and I guess that inspired feeling got my creativity flowing!

    For the record, I looooooove Angel and Buffy. But I don't get the whole 'attracted to vampires' thing - they're DEAD. Who wants to be with a dead guy? (or girl) That's necrophilia!

  3. I didn't get that excited about Anita Blake either. However, the self-published authors were who inspired me to jump the fence from non-fiction writing to fiction. I knew my writing and editing skills could produce better work than some of what I saw on the market, but I had no idea if my story telling skills were up to the task. That's what I've spent 2011 trying to figure out. Early indications from my beta readers are encouraging. The real jury will be out until early next year when the readers weigh-in on the subject.

  4. It's a great idea for a post. I'm not sure I can pin it down. I remember the first time I tried to write a novel I was particularly inspired by Ring, from Stephen Baxter. I tried writing that because I wanted to, essentially, duplicate the sense of wonder I felt while reading that book. I'd never felt that way reading before and I wanted to try to make someone else feel that way. I still do I guess.

    I tried to read that Patricia Briggs series about a girl that hangs out with a lot of werewolves. Ugh. I just don't get why some things are so popular. Weird.

  5. I totally forgot about Big Chief!! Those huge red pads of paper that had a weird smell. Sigh. I am old.

    CS Lewis is also a HUGE fav of mine - big influencer. Now I must read your book to seek out those influences... :)

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  7. I dread anyone asking me this question. I have no idea what influenced me to become a writer. For as long as I remember it was just something I was going to do 'when the time was right'. One day I realised there was never going to be a 'right time' and I'd better get on with expanding those ideas I'd been scribbling down for years.

  8. I love hearing (reading?) other authors talk about their inspirations. It's funny how so many different experiences can bring people toward the same goal. :)

  9. I always find it interesting how people got their start on writing, but it also makes me uncomfortable because I don't have a concrete reason/person/book/whatever that did it for me. I just enjoyed it and wanted to keep doing it. Ah, well.

  10. Looking forward to your picks for the blogfest on Monday!

  11. Hi Andrew, I like your plug! I read the interview and now here I am again. You have an interesting story. BTW there are some awards for you over at my blog. You may have some (all) already. but no worries if you do.

  12. I don't remember what started me writing -- I just loved to read so much, I guess I wanted to create books too.

  13. Thanks for sharing. It's interesting that the roads of inspiration often aren't easy to trace back in hindsight.

    It's nice to meet you, I'm in your Fantasy Campaigner group. See you soon down the campaign trail!

  14. It was more movies that inspired me to write rather than books. I loved The Last Unicorn, The Dark Chrystal, Willow, Labyrinth--you can't tell that I'm a lover of fantasy now, can you? ;)


    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?

    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

  15. I've never read any of Anita Blake's books, and don't plan to--not where my interests are.

  16. Michael: Yeah, I don't know what to say about that. It may be true that the books get better, but I'll never know. The first one was so bad that I couldn't justify trying to read another. On the other hand, I really like the Dresden books.

    Trisha: Yeah, I don't even want to think about the body temperature thing! Yuck!

    Daniel: Unfortunately, the real jury stays out for a long time. Or doesn't show up at all. It's hard to get people to take notice of debut e-books and such.

    Rusty: Hmm, I haven't read Ring. I'll have to look for it. And I haven't even heard of Briggs, but it doesn't sound like my kind of thing.

    Melodie: Yes! I had to explain about those to my wife. She'd never heard of them, which I just don't understand. I thought they were universal back in the 70s?

    I hope you enjoy my book, then. Let me know when you're reading it!

    Vivien: Responded by email since you pulled the comment.

    Sarah P: No, there never is a "right" time other than "now." It's one of those things you just have to start doing.

    J: That's true. But, really, I think reading has a lot to do with it. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a writer that just doesn't read.

    Shannon: I can understand that. Really, I'm the same way. I only mentioned the whole Anita Blake thing because that was one of the last things that prompted me to actually sit down and start writing without stopping.

    Alex: I suppose it's kind of too late to respond to this one since you've already responded to that post. heh

    Michele: Thanks for reading the interview :) I suppose, at the least, it's not a typical story. I suppose that's good?

    Thanks for the awards! I'll get on them as soon as we're finished with this moving stuff.

    Cathe: Hey, that's a great reason!

    kelworthfiles: Nice to meet you, too! So much for that "hindsight is 20/20" ting, I guess. :)

    Elizabeth: Hey, someone had to write the movies, too! It all counts, I think.
    Just so you know, I consider my book fantasy. Not that that's what "people" would want to catagorize it as.

    Toye: I understand completely. I only tried that first one because people kept saying they were good.