...with today's special guest, "Mort Rainey" who makes an appearance here today courtesy of Mr Johnny Depp.
The last two days have been interesting. I've recovered my missing glasses, who were lurking on the floor beside my bed at the farm, I've given my blog address to two friends from church (Hello!!!!) and realized with a jolt that all those notes I scribbled in my manuscript with red ink did not get done inside the computer!! I've been sending a first chapter to agents that still needed editing!!! Gack! Nooooo!
All weekend I've been reminded over and over that writing fiction can be uncomfortable and sometimes frightening.
I'm basically a liar and a thief!
I make stuff up and I want you to believe it, even though it never really happened. I steal things from real life to tell my lies. I might take a conversation I had with you and use it. I'll twist it and mangle it beyond recognition, but I am aware at all times that any of this could end up in a novel. The closer I get to my goal of being an actual author as opposed to a person who writes for nothing, the more frightened I get that somebody will think they see themselves in my words...and feel hurt by it.
It is so difficult to separate the Writer and the Written.
I do it too, y'know. I had such a hard time with A COMPLICATED KINDNESS. Just this past summer I read two Young Adult novels that made me wonder just how much fiction was involved and how much was thinly veiled autobiography. And I'm afraid to read anything by James Frey.
So how do I face this thing I've created, this monster of words that sits here on my desk with poke marks all over it?
Already from my test readers I've gotten The Question. Which one is you?????
None of them are me. I made them up. However...if I am totally truthful...all of them are me.
Just creating them in my head makes them me. I put little bits of myself into each imaginary person- that's how it's done.
This is what makes me cringe. Even though it's fiction, not my life story, it is so deeply personal and so thoughful that I can hardly separate myself from the work. I tell people it's fake, it's not real, none of it really happened, but I must have had glimpses of it in order to write it. Yes I have a very vivid imagination but I must have observed something like this in order to write it. Right?
Let's see...Mennonite teenagers. Late 80s. No internet, no cell phones, no trained grief counselors working for the public school board. Boyfriends with long hair and motorcycle jackets. Long drives down dark country roads. Photos of a tragically deceased friend. Drug abuse. Sex and everybody's attitude about it. Parties gone wrong. Sitting in church wondering what it's all about. Praying to a God who hopefully hears it, praying desperately that everything's gonna be okay. Watching the world change and feeling completely helpless about the whole thing.
I can see why people would make the mistake of thinking it's my life story.
Finally late last night I put it all together and it's not a new revelation. I've known this for awhile but I can articulate it now.
This is not my life story. But it's the story only I can tell.
I fully expect that this story will offend people and I'm already sorry about that. Not sorry enough to abandon it though. Definitely sorry enough that I'll be prohibiting my parents, sister, many close relatives and church family from reading it! WARNING: this book will offend you and cause you to think cruel thoughts about the author! Do not read! Ignore the book and love her anyways!!!
And on that note, Mort and I have work to do. Mort needs to just write something. He needs to put down the slinky, stop stalking his imaginary people, and hit a few keys on his computer. Get busy, Mort. I will be checking up on him later to make sure he's staying at it! As for me...I have to go fight the bear and bring home the bacon...or something...and I have about 355 pages of red pen marks to enter into my computer.
This'll keep me busy for a few days. I need to get this done so I can keep on with my Quest For A Literary Agent. Plus, y'know, I have to be there for poor Mort while he frets over his cheating wife and shakes that writer's block!
I want to hear from you though-- how much do you think of the writer when you're reading something? Do you wonder how much of the story might be based on real life? Do you believe in the power of a writer's imagination? And most important of all, when I finally do get that place in the country, where none of the neighbours are close enough to see me, should I lurk around in a nasty old bathrobe while I write???? Or should I stay in my barn clothes all day?