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Monday, April 11, 2011

In Pursuit of the Dream

This is a copy of the blog I guest wrote for the Sirens of Suspense.

I have always been a writer in some form or another. By the time I was ten years old I knew that I would write a book. I went into college preparing for a degree in journalism. Although life got in the way of pursuing my dream job I flirted on the side-lines for years. I wrote and performed jokes on stage, free-lanced every opportunity I could, wrote articles and letters published in various newspapers and magazines and even had a prize-winning poem published.

When I wrote my first novel in 2009, Blood on His Hands, I self-published; this meant that I was responsible for all and every portion of promotion. One of the steps I took was to arrange for a copy of my novel to be sent out to as many reviewers as I could find. One such reviewer was Suspense Magazine. The publishers in turn asked would I be willing to write reviews for them, and so a second career in writing started to form, novelist and reviewer.

As a huge reader I had no objection to being mailed boxes of books for free. As a natural speed reader I generally go through a couple of books weekly, and I could follow this up with writing my opinion and helping influence others. This was win-win for me. Op-ed pieces are great as there is really no right or wrong answer and to have a platform to promote my work to a new audience was brilliant.

One of the things that an agent asks of writers is to compare themselves with other writers, whose work is similar to yours? Initially I always thought this was an arrogant question. Of course as a writer of suspense or thrillers you want to be compared to King or Patterson et al. but at the same time you want to feel unique. Unique doesn’t sell books until others compare themselves to you however. I realized eventually that this was just an advertising ploy and is an easy way for publishers to market your book. If your character is the next ‘Jack Reacher on steroids’ then readers have a comparison to help them make a decision. By having the opportunity to read dozens of books over the course of a year, all of which were written in a genre similar to my writing gave me the chance to make some of these comparisons. I pay a lot more attention to style and point of view, how characters written in the first-person are handled and I attempt to ascertain how much research is done in order to give the stories a feeling of reality wrapped in the cover of fiction, something I feel very strongly about.

There have been less than a handful of books sent to me for review that I either didn’t review or felt so poorly about the story that I didn’t finish. I will not name them as I don’t wish to embarrass the writers, but suffice it to say they were all self-published books. They were people with a good story to share but perhaps had a poor editor or lacked the skill to write ideas in a cohesive form. On the other hand there where a few that jumped out at me as outstanding and I made personal contact with a few of the authors to discuss ideas.

I do want people to know that although I have read my fair share of thrillers, mysteries and suspense novels, and indeed write in that genre, those are not predominantly the books I read. I find that genre writing sometimes takes away from literature. I am influenced more by the true artist of the written word, in books with complex relationships, in writing that is intelligent and heavy with prose. I love to find words that I have to stop occasionally and look up not sure of the exact meaning of it and relishing in the expansion of my vocabulary and in the context in how a word is used. I hope that my writings will show the fruit of my reading.

I would like to leave you with a brief list of books that I love - my bookcase is full of books that I read over and over from year to year and far too many to make a complete list of here however if you are interested in books to read visit my page at Shelfari - and see for yourself my influences beyond these listed below that I would suggest that all writers avail themselves of for the rich language, complex relationships or multi-layered plots and learn how to use them in their writing. Enjoy.

Becoming Abigail - Chris Abani; All That Follows – Jim Crace; Sons and Lovers – D. H. Lawrence;
Captain’s Courageous – Rudyard Kipling; Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier; The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame; Lord of the Flies - William Golding; A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

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