Kingsley Amis once said that if a writer isn't annoying, what's the point of writing.
When I set out on this journey of writing my novel, A Mound Over Hell, two years ago, that was far from my intention. I pretty much was just annoying myself. I simply wanted to tell a good story with good characters, because in literature, it's all about the characters who linger in your memory long after you've finished the book. Plus I hadn't written a novel since Jesse's Girl in 2009. I'd been writing plays, but novels were my first love; I was 27 when my first was published. Novels are a marathon with yourself. No collaborator to rely on. No director or actor to blame. It's all you, exhilarating and terrifying. So I was eating a Sunday breakfast of everything bagels with a shmeer with my wife Marcina Zaccaria and listening to The Beatles and this idea popped into my head: Baseball's final season ever in an American dystopian society led by Grandma. Baseball AND science fiction, a very rare combo. If there are many other novels in this genre, maybe one of you can let me know. Okay I have this idea and now what? Why was America dystopian? Who the hell was Grandma? This was early in the 2016 election cycle and, if you remember, Hillary Clinton's people were positioning her as a kindly grandmother, which worked real well. Maybe that stuck in my head. By the way, the Grandma of the novel ain't anything like Hillary. Now I've got two whole sentences, I've finished my bagel and I have to write the bloody thing. If America were dystopian, it should be from losing a world war. To whom? Russia would be like the Cold War, so 1980s and boring. Just trot out The Breakfast Club. Plus in a real war, we'd probably nuke each other. Same if the enemy were China. But to lose to Islam, now that was provocative. A true clash of cultures, politicized religion, bubbling hatred. The Crusades anyone? Speculative fiction writers create the future to portray worlds which can be frightening. When Arthur C. Clarke wrote Childhood's End, he wasn't rooting for alien Overlords to end all life on Earth. Philip K. Dick didn't write The Man in the High Castle because he regretted Germany and Japan not winning World War Two. And Ray Bradbury didn't really hope firemen would someday burn books in Fahrenheit 451. I say all this to get to my original point. You'll get used to my occasional rambling. Why does a writer write what they write? You're telling a story. It shouldn't be simply to annoy, or shock, or anger the reader. That's gratuitous manipulation. Emotions are the by-product of the story and characters, not the primary purpose. You feel for the characters and so you feel right along with them. But you don't feel anything if the writer is afraid to speak what he considers the truth racing in his mind. To create a world you cannot be PC. You can't fear what you write. You must speak from your heart. We must explain. We can't simply scream partisan nonsense. We must create real multi-dimensional characters with understandable points of view which the reader may or may not agree with, but we must give our audience a true fictious reality. I don't always agree with everything my characters say, but I respect their right to say it. A concept increasingly lost in our society. Okay, now this is my very first blog and I haven't even warmed up. My beloved pug Spectre is snoring beside me on the arm chair. Oh did I mention that in A Mound Over Hell, set in 2098, social media is banned under the Anti-Parasite Law? I better get in all my posts now.
By the way, I’m holding a book launch at the prestigious Down Town Association on 60 Pine Street in Wall Street Tuesday, April 24 beginning at 6PM. If interested, contact 212-422-1982. Booze and nosherie and I promise to be entertaining.