“If it’s possible to create a genre called ‘pulp philosophy,’ Montag (The Dichotomy, 2015, etc.) has done it. The plot of the author’s latest novel hews to the conventions of pulp fiction, with tough-guy dialogue; bruising, exquisitely detailed fights; world-weary men beaten down by fate; and world-weary women worn down by loving them.”
Tag Archives: writing
I recently had occasion to re-read parts of John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, and it reminded me that though the world moves ever onward, some things don’t change. That’s especially so for the artist. And that’s something to keep in mind as time continues its inexorable march forward.
“To write with taste, in the highest sense, is to write with the assumption that one out of a hundred people who read one’s work may be dying, or have some loved one dying; to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs…so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on…every writer should be aware that he might be read by the desperate, by the people who might be persuaded toward life or death…
“It does not mean…that writers should lie. It means only that they should think, always, of what harm they might inadvertently do and not do it. If there is good to be said, the writer should remember to say it. If there is bad to be said, he should say it in a way that reflects the truth that, though we see the evil, we choose to continue among the living…The true artist chooses never to be a bad physician. He gets his sense of worth and honor from his conviction that art is powerful–even bad art.”
Though we lost Gardner before my time, his words ring through my mind with every word I write. (I’ve had occasion to write about Gardner’s fiction before–I’m hoping, this year, to write more on his philosophy of art, possibly as a sequel to a prior article I wrote a while back.)
And on that note, it’s time to reveal some details about my book McDougal; here’s the blurb:
My son. Forgive me.
I wanted those to be the first words exchanged between us. I have so much to be sorry for …I wanted to protect everything I held dear. I tried lying. I tried killing. But I should have tried trusting. I should have trusted you. I should have trusted your mother.
There’s magic in this world, Alec. And I’m not talking about some metaphorical garbage. Leave the metaphors to the poets, Alec. You and me, we’re not poets. We’re fighters…
I’m trusting you now. It’s the only way I can save you. I’m saving you now by trusting you, by giving you the tools you need to save yourself. To save this world. To avenge the lives the old man has stolen or ruined otherwise…
I’m defeated. But you shall be my redemption.
Trust me. And forgive me.
Forever your father, whose love for you is everlasting,
Stay tuned for more details about McDougal. And Happy New Year.
So, first of all, you’ve got a new story out. What’s it about? The blurb–which seems pretty unconventional–obviously implies there’s some kind of story being told, about an investigation, maybe.
Let me put it this way: Imagine you’ve got something you really want to know–or someone you’re looking to find…You’re about to hire a private investigator you’ve never heard of before. And before you seal the deal, you obviously want to know a little bit about the person you’re giving your money to. How’d he get into the business? Why is he doing what he does? And most importantly, can you trust him to relentlessly hunt for the truth until he finds it?
In other words, you want to know why Manny Kant should get the gig. Well he’s got an answer for you. That’s The Will to Truth.
That sounds pretty hard-boiled.
I intentionally wrote it to be hard-boiled. If you know my writing at all, you know I like to blur the lines between genres. For The Will to Truth, I constricted myself a little bit because I wanted to do something new and fun. But no matter what I’m writing, if it’s got my name on it, then it’s going to be recognizably mine. I hope you’ll trust that, if I’ve delivered for you in the past, I’m going to continue to deliver, even if it’s something you might not have expected.
So you’re obviously continuing to release short stories, why not concentrate your creative energies into just novels?
I think short stories fill an important niche, maybe one that’s becoming increasingly important. There’s so much available for us to read, probably more now than there ever has been, and the longer a work is, the more time it takes to read. But maybe you don’t want to make a huge time commitment to try an untested author; or you want something you can complete on a bus ride; or maybe you just want to explore a bunch of different stories with different characters in a more disjointed way than you’d be able to with (most) novels.
Those are all reader-centric reasons; from my end, it gives me the opportunity to work on new characters and styles and to really flex my muscles in a different way. It’s kind of like the difference between sprinting and running a marathon or doing strength training versus toning. Plus, I’d have the writings hanging around anyway; might as well do something with them.
This was a busy week for you–not only did you post some fairly lengthy thoughts on the book of Job, but you’ve also announced The Will to Truth. What about The Lives and Death of Alexander McDougal?
As I mentioned (more than) a few months ago, McDougal’s done–look for an announcement about that within days of the new year. It won’t be out until the end of next year, but beginning with the new year, there’s going to be a lot more info about it leading up to the release.
I made a few announcements in July, about McDougal, the Job essay, and I also said I was going to have a new short story up before the end of the year. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is a lot to produce, taking into account not just the writing and the editing involved in producing the book and story, but also reading and thinking about some really dense material and then making that material and those thoughts into something coherent for somebody else to read.
Sometimes there’s radio silence (and a lot of it), but there’s always something on the horizon. Stay tuned–the silence, and that static on the radio, is over. Happy holidays.
My name is Manny Kant. I understand you have a job for me. But before we get to that, there are a few things we’re going to need to be in agreement about.
You probably want my job. You imagine it’s exciting. And a little dangerous. And you think you can handle it…I’ll tell you right now, you’ve got it wrong. And that’s something we need to get out of the way up front. Because if this is going to work, I’ve got to have not just your trust, and not just your money—though I will be needing both of those—but, most importantly, I’m going to need your respect…
If you’re going to do what I do, you’re going to need something that you can’t learn…You might not even know you have it until you’re put to the test…And in the end, you’re either battered but still standing and coming back for more, or you’re crawling away crying. There’s no alternative. And there’s no middle ground. That’s the will to truth.
Let me tell you about the time I found out I had it.
So…where are you? Or, rather, where were you?
I never left. I’ve been quiet, but I’ve been busy…
Busy working on that second novel?
Absolutely…and now it’s done! I’ve been working hard on it for the last few months and I’ve finished a draft. The working title is “The Lives and Death of Alexander McDougal.”
And what exactly is it about?
It’s about magic. It’s about order and chaos and the lasting power of legacy and the struggle to break free of the past…
It’s pensive stuff, but it’s fun. It’s got robots and magicians and superheroes and villains. I really took the opportunity to push the envelope here; I wanted to write something challenging but also something exciting and interesting and expansive. So there’s world-building and crime-fighting, and mystery and suspense—and flat out magical melees. It’s adventurous in that way. And I’ve pushed some boundaries, structurally; there are shifting points of view which respond to one another in a non-linear narrative. It’s a little labyrinthine in that way…It was a blast to put together.
When can we expect it?
Fall/Winter 2014. Continue reading