This post features comments from the member authors explaining why we chose to write contemporary fiction when everyone knows that vampire novels are the road to riches.
I chose to write contemporary fiction because I’m fascinated by the intersection between the emotional and the intellectual aspects of social conflict. To explore this fascination, I wanted to write a super-hero story within the confines of a real-world setting, and for that character to be a social dissident. I wanted the challenge of portraying a character who has super-hero appeal while at the same time being very realistic and relevant.
The challenge of trying to write a credible hero for the 21st century was so attractive to me that I never tried to resist it, despite the hazards it presented. I knew that I didn’t want the type of super-hero who comes to the rescue of hapless victims of evil. I wanted a character who encourages others to save themselves.
Along with the hero, I was also interested in creating a 21st century sidekick, one who would have to grapple with the conflicts created by the hero’s disruptive behavior. Within a real-world setting super-heroes are not always so easy to get along with. The reality is that it’s often the super-villains who come across as the guys who are fun to hang with, while the super-heroes sometimes seem moody and cantankerous. That’s what I wanted to write about – a difficult character who challenges our perception of the world in which we live.
I have never been able to explain why I write. It is something that I have always done. I’m not sure if I write because I love it, because often the process is torture, not just for me but for those around me. I don’t remember choosing to write. I just wrote, not very well I might add. It was also not an easy thing for me to do, but I always approached it with a sense of discipline – actually I’m lying, I have no discipline. When I sit down to work I tend to spend a lot of time not doing anything. I call it hanging around waiting for the Big Bang. I do a lot of hanging around. The worst time is when I’ve gone to bed on a real high thinking about the next days work and where the story is going. I have amazing conversations with my characters and we drink a lot of wine. We discuss the narrative from all angles, the symbolism, the existential agenda, the resonance of meaning within the action – you name it, we talk about it. But the next morning nothing happens. All those great ideas vanished into the magic hat of my vanity. And then the doubt kicks in. Sometimes the doubt is so bad I leave stories alone for weeks on end. If I look at them – I hate them. I am inconsolable about my wretched lack of talent, overcome with self loathing. And then somehow I start again. And something amazing happens. I might trash what I wrote before – but this is liberating – OK, liberating when one has the benefit of hindsight. It took me five or six years to write Heaven Sent, nearly all the work I wrote in the first four years ended on a pyre. That wasn’t fun, all those false starts and blind alleys, though sometimes it was satisfying to edit great swathes of work in the same way that pulling a scab can feel great.
Although I said that I never chose to be a writer, I always wanted to be a writer. I only ever imagined myself writing. Perhaps I have a limited imagination, lets face it life would certainly have been easier if I had imagined myself as a lawyer, or a builder, or, heaven forbid, a banker. But I was incapable of imagining myself doing these things. I did imagine myself as a theatre director and a filmmaker and I have been lucky enough to have written and directed both theatre and film – but always deep down I wanted to be at my desk, writing. I never sit at my desk and wish I was standing behind a camera or trying explain my ideas to an actor. I collaborated for so long and the collaboration made my writing lazy and collaboration wore me down.
For me writing is about discovering life. It is about examining what makes us tick. I know for others writing is about exciting plots, twists and turns, bubble gum hits of entertainment. I’ve never read work like that, it doesn’t interest me. I want to be taken through a story by a writer and shown things, be offered questions about morality, sociology and the human condition. That’s not to say I don’t want to be entertained, and I would consider myself an entertainer, there is nothing more boring than a mire of formless theories and opaque imagery – but ideas must be present in what I read and necessarily present in what I write. I don’t write for a bigger house, or a flash car, or a wide screen telly. I write to understand and to try to express this understanding in as interesting, thought provoking and emotionally engaging way that I can. I consider my time on the earth as precious and limited, I don’t want to waste it on trinkets.
My wife however, does remind me that the children need feeding and clothing and that our hideous Tory government has just robbed them of their free university education and they also have their sights on the National Health Service-
Oh and this hideous inner voice within me has just shouted, “fuck the arty farty ‘poet in the attic shite’, write a thriller, the mortgage needs paying!”
TERRI GIULIANO LONG
Why I Don’t Write About Vampires (although maybe I should)
Families fascinate me. While my stories differ, they always tie back to the family, the ways we love, yet often hurt one another, the grief, the sorrow, the revelation, the joy. I think people connect with those stories. Many readers – family, friends, reviewers and readers I’ve never met – have said In Leah’s Wake feels real and complex. They’ve been there, as a parent or a teen. They feel they know these characters, and they care about them. For me, connecting with readers is by far the most important reason for writing.
Writing realistic cotemporary stories does have challenges, aside from a smaller reader base. Because readers relate to the families, they often assume they’re my family members. In the novel, Dorothy, the designer of the bracelets Zoe buys, and Bob Sullivan, the owner of Sullivan Farms Ice Cream, are real people–and I’ve done my best to capture their spirit. No other character is based on any one real person. For authenticity, like most writers, I borrow habits and physical characteristics from real people – for the runaway arm, I owe my youngest daughter, KK; and my husband is a physical stand-in for Will. Friends and family notice similarities, which can result in unfortunate assumptions. I’m lucky: I have a good-natured family who puts up with my thievery. They claim not to mind.
Personalities, motivations, and behaviors – this, I’m 100 % responsible for.
My novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run, is a contemporary psychological thriller with a historical twist. Like In Leah’s Wake, Nowhere is a family story at heart
Most beginning writers are told they should write what they love to read. I suppose that’s true. However, I believe once you find your distinct voice, the stories you innately have in you will find their way out to the page. I read all genres of fiction, and am an admirer of many different writers from the classics to acclaimed contemporary literary fiction to page turning commercial fiction. When I began to study the craft of fiction as a writer, I wasn’t sure where I would end up on the spectrum.
But now, after years of writing, with my first novel published and the second due out in November 2011, I know my voice is sensuous, romantic, full of the lush qualities of contemporary life, whether it’s the touch of skin upon skin, the taste of a peach or the smell of lilacs in a spring breeze. My novels are love stories; a combination of fast moving plots and distinct characters, with a little dose of humor and always with my optimistic outlook on the world. My characters will always have happy endings. They will always find redemption. And, my sincerest hope is that my readers will feel encouraged and inspired about their own situations as they turn that last page.
Gregory G. Allen
People have asked why I chose to tell the stories that I write. What draws me to that kind of fiction? It goes back to my desire to be a storyteller and to make people think and question their own lives. I love to create characters that readers can relate to; not necessarily those that can only be found in a fairy tale. I want flawed characters that have strong wants, desires and obstacles keeping them from achieving something. But the amazing thing about the human spirit is our desire to forge on and reach for those goals.
I write so that people may be challenged on an area in their own world. That by reading my diverse characters in sometimes foreign surroundings to the reader, they may think twice about what they always thought to be ‘the norm’. It’s a great challenge for me as an author to be able to tell stories from opposing views of my own through the mind of my fictional world, but in doing so I learn something and just hopefully – so does my reader.
So I will continue in my realm of contemporary fiction mixing genres when appropriate, changing the style from book to book, and hopefully telling unique stories that just perhaps have a much more universal appeal. To touch a reader: that is gold.
I choose to write contemporary fiction because I enjoy the challenge of developing character and plot equally. I think there’s a little of me in every character I write, including the antagonist. And all of them are flawed in some way, because there’s truth in that.
A real life event usually sparks my imagination and I develop the plot around a happening that I find remarkable, particularly if my view of that incident is opposite public opinion. Or if I feel it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. I’m driven to shine a light on injustice, hoping to make a difference in some small way; even if it’s just changing one person’s observation. I think one of the highest compliments I’ve received was a comment to my blog that simply stated “WOW! Why didn’t I think of that?”
Justice seems to be the common thread though all my writing, including my weekly blog entitled, Where’s The Justice. But unlike my novels, the blog can get snarky in a funny ha ha way. At least, that’s the objective!