What I have done here is answered writing questions that were sent through Facebook. Keep in mind, I'm only talking about what works for me, but may work for you. So any business about how I don't know it all goes without saying. Let me say it for you: I don't know it all. I only know what I know and it may be helpful. And no, I didn't grow up with money and therefore had the time to learn without having to worry about money. Oddly, I get that from time to time, and that's an odd one. I grew up with a wooden spoon in my mouth, and it was cracked. And again, though it should go without saying, these are answers, suggestions more accurately, that are based on my experience and are not meant to be definitive.
How do you weight the backstory against the main story?
My answer to that is they are the same. Meaning the "front" story means nothing without the backstory. The backstory is the actual engine to the story, the rest is just chassis. Of course, it could depend on how one defines backstory. To me the backstory gets into who the characters are, what events have led them to this point, and how what's going on in their lives, and in the background, effects how your story turns out. I find that you shouldn't fight backstory against front. If you are wanting to maintain genre integrity, then you might keep in mind that the front story needs to pull a little more freight, but I personally don't want to keep it in mind. Let the backstory go. It may be your front story as well. Don't fight yourself. Here are keys: Relax. Write for fun even if you hope to become a professional. There is a difference in a hobby writer and a professional writer. I'll get into that later, but I don't want to piss anyone off on the first question. But relax and write. It's not a root canal. It's writing and you should write something you care about. It can be light, or insightful, or whatever, but it always works best when you come at it with enthusiasm. That way, if it's hard, you still have fun. Otherwise, it's just hard.
Vonnegut said you should start your story as close to the end as possible — if you start too close to the end, how do you manage time for backstory?
Well, the ending might be they all get hit by a truck, but you need enough backstory to arrive at that moment with us knowing something about who got hit by the truck, and do we care that they did. We can care about the story at that point because we do or don't want to see them get hit by the truck, or we just might want to know why a dog is driving the truck.
The one driving the truck.
You might even start at the end and go backwards, or jump about. Like Billy Pilgrim, who came unstuck in time. The point is, are you holding your attention? If so, you just might hold the reader's attention. Backstory is nothing more than interesting information that gives us knowledge of who is who and why we care about them. Care is not the same as like, by the way. I don't think the characters have to be likeable, but I want to care about them.
But you know what, sometimes you care about the characters due to an immediate situation and what happens next. In Double Indemnity we know very little about the characters' backstory, but their front stories are pretty darn compelling.
Bottom line: Just write the story you feel, and do it as clearly as possible.
Vonnegut, who is terrific, wrote fairly randomly, as I am doing now. And he did it in a good way. His stories are frequently a series of vignettes tied together by an accidental story. He was experimental in the best way, but though he had great reminisces, I never invested in his characters. I think Vonnegut's books were the characters. That is a different thing. Sometimes the prose style, attitude, and the uniqueness of approach, which is the nature of the book itself, makes the book — not the people in it, the character. I can remember the names of some of Vonnegut's characters, and there are exceptions here and there, but mostly he wrote morality lessons with jokes and cartoon characters, caricatures to be more precise. When I think of Vonnegut I think of style. Vonnegut's personality is the story.
Keep in mind, this doesn't mean everything he wrote, but what in my view is what he mostly wrote. I mention all this because in the question asked, Vonnegut was mentioned. For me it's important because in the question it was mentioned that Vonnegut started close as possible to the end, and entering a scene late and leaving early is a good rule of thumb. But to me, many of Vonnegut's novels could have started anywhere, gone backwards, forwards, or sideways as plot wasn't particularly important for him. But, I'm not trying to turn this into a discussion of Vonnegut, but the advice about beginning near the end depends on the story or series of stories or vignettes you want to tell.
Let the backstory have its way and see what it's about. If it's too much, and when rereading it you find yourself wondering what's for lunch or what it might be like to be a stamp collector, then you have written either too much backstory, or a backstory that isn't very interesting.
For me the backstory works best by letting the reader find out about the characters a little at a time, so that when you get to the end what happens to them matters because you know them.
Long way around, but I really like Vonnegut and couldn't help myself. But I don't think his own rule applies that much to his own work. Have enough backstory so that when you get to the end and the characters all get hit by a truck, it matters. We may not like them, but we are curious as to how they arrived where they did, and it helps if we like them. But ... why was that dog driving the truck? Where was he going? Did he run a stop sign?
Wait. What dog? Why, the one driving the truck, of course.
I was asked about "beta" readers. Never heard this term before, but apparently it means whoever reads your books before you let them go, who is there to inspire or give advice.
When I first started out I didn't really ask anyone to read my work. My wife a few times, but that didn't work well. She got caught up into why would a character be named Harold. This is one of my two middle names, by the way.
We joke about it. She isn't my first reader, but she is a hell of a proofreader, but I don't even bother her with that anymore. They have professionals who do that job, and then I can agree or disagree with their suggestions.
Thing is, I don't need, and frankly, don't want a beta reader. There was a time when I swapped stories with other would-be writers for fun, and attended writers meetings that Ardath Mayhar and I founded here in Nacogdoches. Stories were read, criticisms were given.
I didn't find it all that helpful, though I loved hanging with everybody and cookies were served.
I realized early on that, for me, everyone was trying to write your story how they would write it, and that isn't what I was interested in. Some folks give good criticism, but most don't. And I didn't want to be persuaded to not do something I really wanted to do because it offended someone else's sensibilities. You may need that crutch, and we all need a crutch of some sort now and again, but I came to the conclusion early on that it was best if I wrote like everyone I knew was dead. That way I wasn't writing for anyone but myself. I found that when I started doing that I wrote more freely and more honestly and I liked what I wrote better. I quit worrying too much about any one factor. Plot, character, the way I expressed myself. I went for it. Fuck the reader.
Then when you're done you can care about the reader and hope they buy a lot of books. For me, caring about a reader who I can't know, a series of readers who all have different views and bring their own experiences to the reading was too much. I don't know what anyone wants but me, so I wrote for me. While I was doing that, I repeat, I wrote for no one but myself. Oh, I might know the story was for a horror anthology and some horror needed to be there, but it had to be a story I wanted to write with horror in it. I have so many stories I want to tell and am writing all the time, so that factor was easy. But the story was mine, my approach was mine, be it conventional, experimental, etc.
Might the editor turn it down?
And I got turned down a lot. Literally a thousand rejects.
I wasn't me yet, and frankly, sometimes me wasn't enough.
What I discovered, however, is that by writing for me I started selling regularly, and pretty soon I had a career.
Once again, if you need a beta reader, need someone to hold our hand or give you a crutch (and I'm not being cute here), then go for it.
I, however, think a lot of writers would be better off to say fuck the reader and write like everyone they know is dead.
Then later worry about if someone likes it. In the beginning it has to matter most to you.
So is this a hate-the-reader statement? No. I love the reader. This is simply an attitude to take while creating. You can kiss and make up with them later.
And if they don't want to kiss and make up? Fuck that reader. There are plenty who will want to get under the covers with you, if it's only to read by flashlight.
Do you submit everything you write?
When I finish it, if I like it, I do submit it. I never know what someone thinks until I put it out there. If I don't know who to submit a specific story to, I save it as an original for a collection. But it's best to sell it first, then have it for the collection. Why? You get paid twice. Some stories I've written have been republished time and time again. No idea how many times counting US and foreign publications. And sometimes the stories that readers respond to might surprise you. Write for yourself, submit anything you think you did well, and see what happens. Always submit stories you feel a little uncertain about as far as content of story, not quality. You have to feel you've written well, and frequently a story you like but feel uncomfortable about, as far as readers, is one you definitely should submit. Forget the readers. It's the story, and then, hopefully, the readers. You may write a story no one accepts, or if accepted, not many like, but it certainly can be the other way around. A professional writes and submits.
How much do your characters have to do with real life?
Most of my characters come out of real life. Hap Collins is me if I had been more self-examining than I am, and had I made different choices in my life, though many of the choices Hap made, I made. I borrow from my own life a lot with Hap. But I also borrow for other stories. If you have some base of reality to work from, it helps. It gives you a touchstone, then you can make up whatever and it feels closer to real. Acceptable, anyway. I borrow from others I know, stories I've heard, everything. Newspaper articles, magazine articles, online articles, old family stories, legends. Absorb and let it all come out through the tips of your fingers.
When did you say, I've made it.
The success thing is funny. I still feel hungry. At first I just wanted to write and sell, and then I wanted to make a living at it. I made a far better one than I ever expected, but I'm still hungry and reaching and trying. I do have a greater sense of security than I did when I first started, or even 25 years ago. I been selling non-fiction and fiction, as well as scripts, etc., for 47 years, about eight of that full-time. I have confidence in myself, but not blind ego. I'm always working to do better, and to be honest, there's a part of me that always wonders, Will this be taken from me tomorrow? When I have no more tomorrows, then they can take it. In the meantime I'm a happy and, I suppose, successful survivor. But one never knows...
At any point in your career, did you think that since you couldn't write better than your idols, you should give up?
I learned after a bit that my idols were themselves, and I didn't need to write like them. I wanted to write as well as I could, and be as good as they were, or better, but I frequently thought that wouldn't happen. I still feel that way. So I wrote my stories. I wrote different. By being my own writerly container I wasn't consciously bumping shoulders with them all the time. I was doing my thing, and therefore I didn't feel the need to compare. How do I stack up? Who the hell knows? You just hope that you can enjoy what you do, do it as well as you can, and time and readers will sort it out.
How do you move characters about, get them out the door?
Use movie tricks.
I think there might be some answers out at the old barn.
When we arrived at the old barn it was late and a crow set on the edge of the roof with its back to us, letting loose his lunch in white droplets.
They all went away.
In some ways it might be said you use cuts and fades just as in a film.
Characters don't need to take hold of the doorknob and turn it unless the doorknob is of importance.
I reached for the doorknob to leave the room, but it was damp. I looked at my hand. There was blood on it.
It was long ago.
Back then the snow was deep and the air was clear and cold and we lived in a cottage on a hill surrounded by trees.
Now, the above, you've moved from someone telling a story in the present in the first sentence, to another time and place in the other sentences.
It's not that hard.
When you write do you worry about cultural shifts, in regard to language or content?
Well, we are all part of cultural shifts, but I don't worry about it if the story requires the use of certain language. It is not the word, it is the intent. For those people who wring their hands and cry and are disturbed when they see a certain word or subject in print, I don't feel their pain. If I'm trying to write a story about the racism I saw as a kid, I want the reader to feel it, because knowing it was there, and knowing how awful it is, is part of the intent. I can use it to make a social statement. And we do need to be reminded so as not to repeat. We need to remember what the Nazis did. We need to remember the concentration camps.
Each reader can decide what they want to read, but I don't believe in political correctness or special readers who tell you if you've hurt someone's feelings. Some people always have their feelings stuck out, and if you do, they'll get stepped on. I don't want to read a racist's view on things, but I don't want the language required to tell an anti-racist story restricted due to Political Correctness. Nor do I want to see someone who wants to be anti-politically correct just so they can be assholes. Still, they have the right as well.
I like to believe I'm on the side of the angels. But if you get your feelings hurt by language there's always Doctor Seuss.
The writer is supposed to try and tell the truth. We vary in what we think to be true. You can't hobble expression, or shouldn't. If it offends you, don't read it. That's what I do. I'm not going to read the Turner Diaries, which is about promoting racism, but I will read Mark Twain as he does just the opposite and was an epiphany to me growing up in a racist society. You have to be careful or you end up throwing the baby out with the bath water.
As for language, meaning, I guess, curse words, etc., well, some people curse, so therefore some characters curse. If you feel they should curse, then let them. If you don't feel they would, then don't.
I once had a lady tell me she didn't know any people that used the kind of language she saw in my books.
My answer was that didn't mean they weren't there.
Sometimes characters can be mean, as sometimes people are in real life. Sometimes they can be wonderful and kind, as sometimes people are in real life. Writing safe all the time produces tapioca pudding.
How far ahead do you plan a story?
I get the urge to tell a tale, and it feels like I'm full and I need to drop a story load. I just start writing. The story shows up. I might have an image, an idea, or some such before or while I'm writing, but on novels ... rarely a plot line.
Short stories occasionally jump into my head full blown.
But I write by surprise. Have I ever got hung up? Yep, but that usually allows me to be more creative. Have I ever abandoned something? Yep. It happens, but mostly not.
I write as if someone else is telling me the story and I'm writing it down for them. That someone else is my subconscious. It is very kind to me and has given me many stories and novels and so on.
I rely on it. I try not to bully or push it or force it to write out outlines and synopsis and such. Few times I've had to do that, I wasn't very good at it and found I couldn't follow it for shit. Most often if I write out an outline, I no longer want to write the story.
Collaborations are a little different, but then, except for working with my kids, and my wife a few times, I don't like them. I kind of lose me in those, and the product can be good, but it's never me as I would like for it to be. I assume my collaborators feel the same way.
What do you define as an evolution in your writing?
Everything. Now and again I relearn something I've forgotten, and frequently I learn to do something I couldn't do before or didn't feel was necessary.
I think I've pared my prose a lot, but sometimes that depends on story and character.
Biggest evolution: I started out confident and I'm more confident now, but that confidence comes with greater awareness that I don't really know that much and am constantly learning. And I damn well mean that.
How do you decide which genre is best to use to pursue a story?
The story knows. I don't really think about it that much, but if an editor says, Hey, I've got an anthology about witches, do you have a story?, if I want to write for that anthology, think the idea is appealing and the money is right, or even if I want to write it and the money is wrong, I can do it. But I just try and write the story I want to write inspired by the idea of witches. I find most any story can be told in your own voice with your own approach, and sometimes it's nice to visit the old, familiar haunts of traditional genre. But it's just not a big concern of mine.
I have a story, "Fish Night," that has been included in ghost, time-travel, and horror collections, and a version of it was filmed for "Love, Death, and Robots," meaning it has been interpreted many ways. Lot of literary folks like it because it's about consumerism, loss of idealism, or purpose. or however they read it. The idea of writing a story for Spectre,, an anthology Bill Pronzini edited, set the story off, and it was the first time I realized I could write my story and it would fit a lot of things. Some are more specific because that's the story I want to write. Some less so. I wrote a story for Christopher Golden once about the loss of innocence and the realization that death can arrive quickly at your feet. It was in a zombie anthology. In a way, the zombie idea became about the loss of innocence. A lot of readers were baffled, but hey, Chris said, "I don't just want stories about zombies in the usual sense."
I think I was the only one that followed that direction, but as everyone else wrote zombie stories in the more common sense, I looked like the guy who didn't follow directions. But the story, "Shooting Pool,"" is a favorite of mine.
Do you research?
You can get lost in research, but it's good to know what you're writing about.
I usually read what I want to read. And that's a wide range of things. Something then might excite me and that's where the story comes from. I may not know I'm researching. Usually, if I get inspired that way, that story or novel will surface at some point, then it's about checking the facts.
Do you ever get some things wrong because of your views on research?
Yep. I have. I don't do it intentionally. I'm much more interested in the character than how many rounds a certain weapon fires. I want to get that right, but the story is the story. I want to get the period correct if writing historical novels or stories, and I try, and that sometimes requires additional research. But I learned a long time ago that you can research until it becomes more the obsession than the story. I read for pleasure and personal interest and it often results in a story. I may not know what the story is, but I now know what the backbone is. The flesh and blood present itself to me each morning. Plotting I don't do. I might scratch a note here and there. Remember his eyes are blue, and that he took off his hat in the previous scene, and he needs to leave with it, or forget it and come back for it later. Or maybe he doesn't need a hat?
If you don't have a strong idea, what do you do to have one?
Well, you don't have a strong idea, you might take an idea that isn't that strong and write about the people around the idea, and let their lives be the story. Perhaps you need to read more widely so as to look at old ideas with fresh eyes. Ideas are easy to me, it's the story that takes the work.
Read outside your usual reading. Read fiction, but read non-fiction as well. Read plays and scripts, read comic books, essays ... newspapers and magazines, or take some time off and not read at all.
Best way to do it, to find ideas, is showing up daily and writing, even if you have no idea what you are going to write about, what you are writing. Quit worrying about getting from point A to Z, and just worry about each alphabet letter as you come to it. You'll find your mind starts generating ideas that way.
I read non-fiction, talk to friends, watch movies, practice martial arts (during the current virus business, not so much), and I constantly stay interested in all kinds of things, and try to discover something interesting daily. Don't always manage it, but frequently do. I find that way when I sit down to write, and I'm not thinking too hard about it, all those interests come into play and the story flows out, along with ideas.
Right now my idea is to get a cup of coffee.
Do you keep to a particular routine or schedule with your writing?
I've spoken about this many times, and if you want to pass on reading about my writing schedule again, please do. I won't mind if you leave the room.
I do have a schedule. I get up in the morning, have coffee, check email, and write. Today I'm doing these questions as part of my writing, but I'm also working on a story shortly. I average about three hours in the morning, and then I'm done.
Do I ever work any other time? Yes, but only if something happens and I can't work, or I'm going through a weird period where I feel driven to work longer in the mornings, in the afternoons, or night time. This rarely happens, but it happens now and again.
But a regular way of working is best for me. I wake up when I wake up, have that coffee and check the stuff I say I check, and then I write. I try to get three to five pages a day, which is usually reasonably easy. Easy can be defined in different ways, so I'm not saying always effortlessly. If I have a run of more pages, I go for it. But here's the curious thing. It nearly always happens in three hours or less.
When traveling I work when I can. On the plane, in hotel rooms, on trains, etc. It depends. I sometimes miss a day when traveling. I do take days off sometimes, for some folly or another. But generally I find time to work. I work so regularly that when I take time off I know I can afford to. I also know I'm taking time off, not goofing off, or finding some excuse. Even when I take time off on purpose, I always feel just a teeny bit diminished. But I know you do need time off.
Sometimes when I'm working on a project, I'll take a day off to work on a different one, or answer questions like these. Since I consider this part of my writing, but not all of it, I might just go over three hours. But if I do, it won't be much.
I have a system, but it's flexible. I never make it feel like a job, but my years of growing up blue collar and working blue collar jobs gave me a work ethic. Thank goodness. It has served me well. Thanks, Mom and Dad. You are long gone, but your influence lives on.
This way, I'm a hero everyday and feel good all day. I don't try to write a ton in one day, correct as I go, and end up happier with the results. I don't wait for inspiration, since it's me doing the inspiring. The more I do it, the more natural it feels and the more ideas flow and inspiration strikes. Inspiration daily beats waiting for it to show up. Waiting is really, for most folks, just goofing off, even if they don't want to admit it.
How do you keep to your writing routine?
You have to really want one.
You may find my method is not your method, but you need a method. If it isn't working for you it may be the method you're using isn't the one for you. Or, you may just prefer screwing off.
You have to want it.
I found it hard at first, but over time it became as natural to me as eating and sleeping and so on.
I repeat. You have to want it. You also should change up if something isn't working. Try someone else's method. Combine methods.
Bottom line, and not to be a broken record (remember those, they're were disc shaped ... never mind), you have to want it and you have to stay with something long enough for it to feel natural, and you have to be willing to change over time.
Early on, I changed several times and found this method that works for me now, and has worked for me most of my career, through trial and error. The method of when to work, I mean. If it ceases to work for me, I'll change it. But not lightly. I know it's more easy to change around sometimes than it is to just do the work.
Experimentation and dedication — you'll find your groove.
Working less is sometimes better than working more.
Be a hero every day.
Knowing you don't have to work all day also relieves stress and dissipates dread. You say: Hey, I only have to do this a short time as well as I can do it, then I can quit. I only have to get one page, or three pages, or whatever you find comfortable, and then you are free until tomorrow.
I find that knowledge gives me tremendous freedom and happiness and has created about fifty novels and over four hundred, maybe closer to five hundred, stories, articles, essays, etc.
Does a writer need a college education?
No. I don't have one. I'm not against it, but I do find that a lot of universities develop a system, and everyone ends up writing alike. It's neither bad nor good, but it certainly isn't necessary.
Do you write a vomit-draft first, then revise?
No. I revise as I go. If I have a day where it's flying off the page, well, I might go with it, but the next day I start revising. I used to do the vomit-draft, then when I reread it, I wanted to vomit. All I could see was how much work I had to do. I feel better having it closer to the way I want it as I go. Then I do a polish, but if I think it needs more than that, I do it. I'm just saying generally what works for me is the revise-as-you-go method.
What if you needed to make money to take care of your family, would you write something you really didn't want to write, like ghost work, etc.?
I would. I have done it when I was starting out. But each I tried hard to bring something of myself to it, to find my bliss, so to speak. Before my family goes hungry I would scratch shit with the chickens. Integrity is best served to life. I always felt if I tried to live that way (key word tried) I would more likely have integrity in my art.
What do you think about the adaptations of your stories to film?
I have been lucky in this regard. Not all books translate well to film, some not at all, but a large number can be translated quite well. Problem can be this, however ... there's always this that they lay on you: A book is not a film.
Like you're a fucking idiot and don't know that. That it can't always be translated literally. You get it.
Or another of my favorites. We're going to work in the spirit of you book.
That can mean anything. I may not like how you define my spirit. And film makers can get all huffy about it, too. I see something like the Spencer movie recently made with Mark Walberg, and that's a prime example of Hollywood think. We'll just make this bestselling series better, by changing everything about it that made it unique and good and continually popular, because we crowd-think, but we're working in the spirit of it. The bad spirit.
Again, I've been lucky. So far. But "spirit of,"" and "Books and movies are not the same," is an invitation much of the time for the book or story writer to grease up and bend over, because when they get through fucking you with their spirt of your book, your asshole is going to be big as a plate, deep as the Grand Canyon, and bloody as a slaughter house.
Lot of reasons changes can happen. Not all the director's fault -- could be a producer, a powerful actor, but I always wonder how a director who has made a film they are proud of would feel if someone in power said, You know, that movie you did is good, but we think it needs updating, and we have the tools to do it now, so we're going to add a love interest and a dog to your story about a man lost at sea on a raft. And maybe he's not lost, see, but he's just out for a boat ride, and we can have sex. With the man and the woman, not the dog. But wait. Maybe the dog too. What if the dog actually has the spirit of her ex-husband inside of him, and it becomes, you know, a thing? They can do a threesome, and in the end, the dog kills the man and stays with the woman, but then she kills him and eats him and washes up at Club Med. And let's make the dog one of those comic CGI dogs, like in the new Call of the Wild, so he can smile and stuff.
And wait, you have a story about a dwarf, and it was filmed well, and we just think its fantastic, but we want a taller dwarf, or lets make the character regular size, you know, redo it with CGI. That way, we can use Matt Damon in the role, transfer his image to your dwarf character in the film. Isn't that great? And we can make Matt look younger.
I think the director would feel like shit at these suggestions.
But said director might not care that they are changing everything about your book. Character's motivations. How they speak, what hat they wear, which is there for a purpose. The writer is a necessity, but he or she is always on the bottom of the totem pole. Yep, some changes are necessary, but if the director or screenwriter is so goddamn smart, just do an original and don't screw up my work.
On the other hand, how much did you say you're paying?
I think sometimes a short story merely provides an idea or a character, and changes are more acceptable. Nothing is so sacred changes can't be made. Novel. Otherwise. That's not my point. It's when they have no interest in the book or story at all, they merely have a property, and they want to jack it up and run the thing they really want to make under it. Just do your own if that's the case. Damnation Alley comes to mind. Filmed badly twice. The story is there. I once suggested to someone who asked me about possibly adapting it, that we try and stick to the original, with obvious changes to make it work as a film, but to keep the character and the bike and so on, the story line. I was out pretty fast. A number of us were asked to look at a Stephen King story once, with them hoping one of us might have an idea they could use. I read the story and could see there wasn't enough there for a film, but I thought the basic story was the key. I don't think they did. It was filmed, and you know what? Wasn't bad. I may have been wrong. But it wasn't the story I read. It didn't have the same flavor, and I liked the story better. Remember, I wasn't hired to do anything, was just one of many who were asked to offer a way to adapt. It's also one of those things where they grab a property with no idea what it is or what can be done with it, but damn, they own the rights now. I don't expect perfection, or that all my stories that are filmed will all turn out grand. I can't even be sure of that writing them, and there are some I actually think would make better films than the original stories or books. Not many, but some, but on the whole nothing hurts more than to see a film of a good book become a shit bar dipped in rancid peanuts. It hurts that there's really no interest in making it feel like it felt to read it.
Again, how much did you say you're paying? I might can be persuaded. I'm not a purist if it gives me enough to pay bills and keep writing. As James Cain pointed out when someone said it was a shame what movies had done to his books (and by the way, I think he was treated well). But Cain pointed at the books on a shelf, said, Oh, they haven't done anything. There they are.
What do you consider the best adaptations of your work?
Depends on the day you ask me. I think BUBBA HOTEP, though sometimes I think COLD IN JULY. But Don Coscarelli really got the story and stuck close to it. It has changes, but they make sense, or had to do with budget restrictions. That's a good example of what I mean. Some changes, but pretty much the story.
COLD IN JULY has the feel, man, and it follows the story pretty close. A few plot holes, but hey, they were covering a lot of ground, and I understood their changes.
HAP AND LEONARD, these are my babies, so I was grumpy sometimes, but man, they did a great job. Liked all three seasons. Which is my favorite? Well, I liked the first season best. I was on the set most of the time, and it seemed pretty damn close to the book, and Bill Sage was there, and James and Michael, and Neil Sandilands, and Jeff Pope, and Polly McIntosh, Christina Hendrix, and they were wonderful to be around. The whole bunch. And my brother Nick Damici was there, and my "nephew" Jim Mickle. At least I got my say, even if they did otherwise from time to time, and that's their right. I cashed the check. But it was nice to be listened to. I find if I can say my feelings about something, and then they decide to do otherwise, then I feel better about it than if they don't give a shit about what I think. At least I was on the set.
I always think of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, my favorite book, and the film is my favorite film, and the film is only one third of the book, but the screenplay writer, Horton Foote, did the book proud. He captured the main story line and unless you've just read the book the day before, you don't notice what's missing. That's truly writing in the spirit of. He found the base line and played it well, so well, you forget about some of the finger picking that's been left out.
Interesting question. Would I ever consider stopping writing?
I don't think about stopping, but yeah, I could get up one day and feel I've sort of done it. I could get up and find that physically and mentally I can't do it. I'd try awful hard before I gave up for those reasons. Markets and tastes could change, and maybe I might think, you know, I've written enough words in my lifetime. It could happen. But I don't plan for it to. I don't think so. I think the amount I write and what I write is more likely to change.
What about reviews?
I use them like tools. I am fortunate that I get a lot of good ones, but truth is, if you believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones. Personal attacks are different, but most reviews folks are just saying how they feel. I sometimes agree with the negative reviews, and I don't always agree with the good ones. I post the good ones to show what people think about my work positively. Hey, I'm selling books, and the review I post is honest, but I post the ones that sell books, and I'm not mincing about that. You can't be universally admired. I think sometimes a reviewer misses the mark on a book of mine. Or if they read my crime, or horror fiction, or what have you, then they complain about the crime elements not being there. That's like asking an elephant why it doesn't fly. People more often than not start out with genre prejudices. You either have too many, or not enough, so on and so on. Be true to yourself. When you're writing it, write like everyone you know is dead, and fuck the reader. When it's done, and you've satisfied the only reader you know, meaning you, then you can hope the rest of the readers love you. Of course at that point you hope they love you. They may. They may not. The world and opinions are not ours to control.
Why don't you just write Hap and Leonard, or crime books, or horror stories?
I'm glad you like the books of mine you like, but I really don't get up in the morning with you in mind, or have a driving urge to meet your rules of interest. I write for me because I don't want to turn it into a job that I don't enjoy doing. It's work, but it is work of my choosing, and I hope to keep it that way. I'll do what I have to do should it come to that, but so far it hasn't, so I continue onward, and this may be why the whole thing is still fresh and fun for me. And you know what? It's working for me. I have the career I dreamed of.