Saturday, February 11, 2012
Thriller Guy has turned the blog over to me this week. I asked him to put in a plug for my latest endeavor and he muttered something to the effect of “Do it your effing self,” so here it is.
I have put Time After Time up as a Kindle book, the first in my series of time travel books known as the Pastmaster series, featuring Alex Balfour, a mild mannered history professor who lives in New York City. Even though the books have been out of print for many years, I still receive weekly, if not monthly, kind letters from readers who read the books long ago or have stumbled upon them recently in libraries and used bookstores. There are four published books in the series, and one unpublished; I intend to eventually get all of them up as Kindles. Because many of Thriller Guy's readers are writers or are trying to be writers, I thought I would outline how the book, and the series, came to be. I have written some of this in earlier blogs.
In the mid '80s I was working as a free lance illustrator for the Washington Post, specifically the Post Magazine. I was pals with many of the writers there and eventually met my present wife who worked in the Style section. An agent from New York had come to Washington and signed up a lot of these folks to write books and for several months it seemed like everyone had scored a book deal. I remember sitting in the magazine offices one day and looking around and thinking, none of these people are any smarter than I am, all they know how to do that I don't is how to structure a book. I'm a good storyteller, why can't I do this? And so, armored with my own naiveté and fueled with clueless energy, I pitched right in and began to write.
I had an idea. I have always read lots of science books and had been reading about the early days of genetics. I knew that the genetic similarity between human and chimpanzee was very close. And so was born (pardon the pun) Cross, the story of a human/chimpanzee creature born in the African jungle. Truth be told, I can't remember much of this book, but there's a copy of it around here somewhere.
I quickly found that I had a facility with dialogue, so I wrote the entire first draft in dialogue with only a few sketchy passages about setting. I wrote in a white heat and finished the first draft in a couple of months. After resting up for a few days, I looked at what I'd done and realized I was far from anything approaching a novel. I started reading, almost at random, other successful novels to see how it was done. I quickly figured out the way you established a scene then worked within that scene. The physical aspects of moving characters around. I ripped through another draft in another couple of months. This draft was closer to a real book, but still not there. I read more, paying attention to how the authors created real characters. Another several months went by as I gave my characters backstories, hopes, dreams and lives. This time when I finished and read it over I realized I was getting closer to something that resembled a real novel. But even though I had the basic elements in place it needed to be smoothed over, it needed to flow from one page to the next and it needed a subtext, it needed ideas, it needed heart. So I rewrote it again.
A year had gone by, and after seven complete drafts I had a novel, and it was pretty good. Not knowing any better, I sent it off to one of the biggest agents in New York. And it was accepted. And she began to send it out.
And thus began my life as a novelist. Born in the simple notion that I was just as smart as everyone else, fueled by the energy of youth and buoyed by hope, which as we all know, springs eternal.
"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." James Michener
Nest week: The rejections.