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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Do Novelists Prevent Or Cause Violence?


I was invited to attend the opening reception of Thrillerfest at New York City’s Grand Hyatt this past Thursday evening. The annual convention, honoring fiction and thriller novelists, features hundreds of attending writers, publishing, editors, literary agents, and others in the book industry. The room had a lot of energy and many people seemed engaged in their cocktail conversations. But I couldn’t help wonder if most of the people in the room would rather be writing instead of chatting away.

Writers live many lives in their heads. Their writing helps not only the reader experience a side of life they otherwise wouldn’t get to live out, but the writer as well. He or she wants to live a thousand lives and only in fiction can they begin to imagine the worlds of others – as well as other worlds.

But it occurred to me, while I spoke to an author I had just met, that fiction is not just entertaining. It’s a necessity. Without it, life would be boring and limited. Or rather, life has many limitations and it is only through fiction that we can live out a scenario of another life. In some cases, without getting to experience the dark side in novels – murder, cheating, prostitution – we may just find ourselves living out some deep-rooted urge to hurt others and to savagely beat another. I think fiction saves lives.

Some studies show that the more we’re exposed to violence, especially on TV or in films, the more aggressive our behavior becomes. I think the exact opposite happens. Novels and movies act out our fantasies to be drug-dealers, thieves, anti-heroes, and those who live recklessly. To me, our books cannot have enough violence, sex, and rime. Bring them on!

I saw the movie, Savages, last week. It is about two friends who run a huge drug-dealing operation in California but get mixed up with a violent Mexican cartel that leads to the kidnapping of the woman who sleeps with both friends. Lots of bloody murders and risky situations leave the friends confronting the potential loss of the one they love. We see these types of movies because we are not the characters depicted, yet we are curious. What would we do if in their situation?

You want the race of adrenaline that comes with jeopardizing your life or taking the life of another – provided there are no consequences. We don’t want blood on our hands. But we will rubberneck it all day long as a filmgoer or fiction reader.

But maybe all of this time spent in fictional worlds erodes our ability to live the real life that we have. Maybe all of this entertainment is just a distraction that contributes to our enslavement to a life unfulfilled and incomplete.

Perhaps. But since I cannot beat the shit out of the many who annoy me, I will settle for surrogate violence in my fiction. I should have thanked each and every one of the authors in the room for helping to complete me, but I suspect most of them would just drift off mentally to other landscapes, where a good beat-down, building explosion, or torrid affair awaits them.

By the way, Thrillerfest looks to be an amazing event. Big-time writers were there, including Lee Child, RL Stine, Jack Higgins, John Sandford, Catherine Coulter, Ann Rule, and Richard Patterson. Awards are given out. Networking is taking place. And plenty of workshops take place, each examining things of interest to the writer of today. A sample of the topics covered included:

·        How to create a spellbinding series character
·        Balancing life’s demands with writing
·        Does sex really sell?
·        How do you research your novels?
·        What to do with the rights you own?
·        Is indie publishing for you?
·        How do you survive a creative collaboration?
·        How is crime evolving?

Check out www.thrillerfest.org for more information. Remember, read some violent thrillers. They may just save a life.

Interview With Debut Author Heidi Paulston

1.      What type of books do you write? I am a first-time author with a single title published at this time. My book, Dependence Day, is a memoir.

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? My husband was a motorcycle police officer who was badly injured while performing a car stop 10 years ago. It is a miracle that he survived, but did have to take early retirement from the PD due to disabilities. He was just getting back on his feet when he was involved in yet another major accident. Dependence Day is the story of how God carried our family through these events and how He worked through people and events to help us through each day. In the book I’ve been really transparent and real because we felt that somehow God was wanting to use our story to help others facing crisis.  What inspired you to write it? As we were going through these events, I wrote emails to keep friends and family updated and let them know how to pray for us… this was before websites like Facebook and Caringbridge, etc. Many told me that I should put everything together into a book one day. A couple of years ago God laid it on my heart to get started writing. I think He held back until our kids were old enough for us to explain some of the things that He wanted us to share. Regardless of the reasons, His timing does seem to be perfect as the book is touching hearts and encouraging people of all walks of life. I am truly astonished at some of the feedback I’ve gotten and how different parts of our story touch different people.

3.      What did you do before you became an author? Aside from being a wife, mother and grandmother, I am a partner in a small software company… we develop software for HVAC contractors throughout North America. Before software, I was involved in textiles and the garment industry. I volunteer in my kids’ schools, at our church in various capacities, am the chairman of the board for LaVie Early Pregnancy Clinics, and serve on the Montana Auxiliary of Wives Behind the Badge.

4.      How does it feel to be a published author? Quite frankly it is a bit surreal. I’ve always been a huge fan of books and never dreamed there would be one out there with my name on it. It truly is a God thing, and I know He’s not done with me yet. I’ve had a lot of requests for another book from readers. While my first reaction is that I hope I don’t have enough new material for a sequel, I would like to continue writing. God is already laying a few ideas on my heart, and I feel that He’s lining up the people to help me put the next one together.

5.      Any advice for struggling writers? Follow where God leads you. When I first started, and I had doubts as to whether I could do this task, I got some good advice. A dear lady told me “You have a great story and you are a very good writer. If it is too overwhelming to write for a big audience, just write your story for your family… for your kids.” I wanted our kids to know how much of a hero their dad really is and to be able to pass along all that he went through to their kids. God had bigger plans, but I just tried to be obedient to His calling. I also prayed A LOT about what to include, and what not to include. I believe this was a pivotal decision to be intentional about the part of our journey that God wanted us to share. Figure out who your potential readers are. Join online groups and by all means social network. Be real and network, network, network.

6.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Technology is here to stay, so e-books are going to be more and more the norm… I still like to read hard copy books. Maybe it’s because I look at a computer screen all day and it’s nice to disconnect from electronics and find a quiet corner with real paper. I like to write in the margins and underline meaningful passages. It helps me immerse myself in the content. I don’t see my kids following that same connect though. I see publishers putting the risk on the writer, especially with first time authors. I don’t think that this trend will reverse, but I do think that there may be a decrease in the cost for self-publishing as that arena becomes more competitive.

Interview With Children’s Book Author Garasamo Maccagnone

1.      What type of books do you write?  I've written a children's book titled, “The Suburban Dragon.” That's been on the market for 20 years. I've also written a Christmas book, two collections of short stories, and two novels. It's an eclectic portfolio.

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? A young man named Doopers Lanza, who suffers from a debilitating disease, seeks the hand of his virtuous girlfriend, Maricela. She lives on the Texas/Mexican border and he met her three years earlier when he worked for a short time in a crating operation his uncle owned. Doopers wants to marry Maricela and she is beckoning him to come down to ask for her hand.

On his trip, he is reconnected to his estranged father, who suffers the same disease. The father teaches the boy how to deal with the disease and how to cope with it. Meanwhile, Maricela is involved in shepherding transients who have been trafficked and been taken advantage of.  Maricela leads an operation that moves the disadvantaged to safe havens in the USA. As Doopers, his father, and his sidekick Joel get closer to the border, it becomes clear that the storms that are chasing them have become much too perilous. They all cannot survive.

3.      What inspired you to write it?  My oldest son suffers from colitis. His strength and courage during a grueling three year battle inspired me to write this book. Though it's not about him, he was truly the inspiration in how the book incubated in me.

4.      What did you do before you became an author? I was a CEO of a logistics firm for around 20 years. I also was involved in the sports entertainment industry. Although my schooling was in Literature and English, somehow I went into business.

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? It's enjoyable, and sometimes flattering, especially when someone asks for an interview or an autograph. It's also nice when someone tells you your book is memorable. As writers, we're just trying to tell an interesting story.

6.      Any advice for struggling writers? Focus on your craft. Make sure your work is good and well edited. If you're rushing something on to the market, you'll pay a price for doing that.

7.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Either an author will be published by a big house publisher, (which there will only be a few), or they'll be on-line, selling e-books on amazon.com. The majority of writers will have to go it alone.

           
Interview With Australian Fiction Author Jacqueline Harvey

1.      What type of books do you write? I write Middle Grade and Junior Fiction.  I have also written a picture book that was an Honor Book in the Children’s Book of the Year Awards in Australia in 2006.

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? I write about an unstoppable little character called Alice-Miranda.  Her latest adventure, released in the US in April is the second in a ten book series (In Australia we have 5 books out already so you guys are catching up!). Alice-Miranda On Vacation sees her heading home having survived her first term at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale. Surprisingly, Jacinta Headlington-Bear, the school’s second best tantrum thrower, is joining Alice-Miranda and the two girls are looking forward to a relaxing holiday at Highton Hall. But a cranky boy is causing mischief on the estate, a movie star has come to visit, and a stranger is snooping about. Add a naughty pony, a hint of romance and a dastardly scheme, and Jacinta and Alice-Miranda might have a more exciting holiday than they were expecting.

In a nutshell the Alice-Miranda stories are adventures with lots of mystery, children in charge and loads of yummy food!  You can read more about them at www.jacquelineharvey.com.au

3.      What inspired you to write it?  I’ve always loved to tell stories and have wanted to be an author since I was a child.  I’m a teacher and I adore working with kids so it was a natural progression to write books for children.

4.      What did you do before you became an author?  I was a teacher, a Deputy Headmistress and at the moment I work as the Director of Development at a school for girls in Sydney, Australia. 

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? I am always excited when I go into a bookstore and see my stories on the shelves.  I was recently on tour in the US and couldn’t resist taking a photograph next to my new book, Alice-Miranda On Vacation in Barnes and Noble on the Upper East Side in Manhattan – it still seems quite surreal.  I love the opportunities that writing is giving me to travel and meet children around the world and it is an absolute privilege to do so.  The mail I receive from kids is completely humbling and I always write back – it’s important to acknowledge them and encourage them.  I love when they tell me they want to write and if I can help in any way, it’s a joy.

6.      Any advice for struggling writers?  You need to stick at it.  It’s taken me ten years of hard work to get to this point and there have been many knock backs and disappointments along the way.  Rejection hurts but if you use it to learn, and seek advice from others who are successful then it can be a powerful tool.  Don’t give up your day job if you need a reliable income.  I’ve always worked full time to this point and when people ask me how I have the time to write and do my job, well, if you want it badly enough, you will find the time.  That said, I am looking forward to being able to focus more on the writing and publicity in the near future.

7.      Where do you see book publishing heading?  I am completely optimistic about the future of books.  Storytelling is at the heart of who we are as human beings.  While e-books are changing the face of how people read, particularly adults, they are still reading.  I think children will still read books for a long time to come, at least until e-readers are so cheap that it doesn’t matter that they are left out in the rain in the school bag, or on the bus.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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