evseymour

Word on the Wire

Month: March, 2016

TELLING FIBS.

I reckon that, however confident or self-assured, any author that claims to be relaxed when his or her book is published is telling fibs.

Imagine spending a year on a story, maybe more, crafting, cutting, researching, revising, and reworking. Oh yeah, and listening:

To your agent.

To your reading buddy if you have one.

To your other half if he or she dares.

Picture investing time and energy in characters that are as real to you as friends and family, only to bid them farewell, let them go and make their own way in the world. As with children, it’s only natural that a parent worries. We want out kids to be accepted. So too with books. This is especially important if, as I’ve done, a writer diversifies by writing in a different genre in which reader reaction is an unknown quantity.

Sarah Vincent, writer and good friend, wrote a brilliant blog recently, entitled, ‘Does Writing Make You Miserable?’ See her website: http://www.sarahkvincent.co.uk. In my case, honestly, no, writing doesn’t make me miserable, yet I’d be a liar if I didn’t ‘fess up to morphing into an unhinged obsessive the moment a novel is released. Tell me an author who doesn’t read reviews or check ratings, sometimes at hourly intervals, as if by simply looking one can actually influence a reader’s choice.

As if.

With so many books published daily, it’s no wonder that a novel can take a death-defying nose-dive one moment, only to ping right back up the ‘hit parade’ the next. All of this can take its toll on a writer’s nerves.

And I haven’t even started on reviews.

The fact is, no matter how many five star reviews a book acquires (and I’m talking independent reviews) it’s the one and two stars that a writer remembers, sometimes in gory detail. Critics, particularly of the armchair variety, can be cruel. I’d love to issue a lofty smile and say that criticism from any direction glances off me. It doesn’t. If you have a beating pulse and, trust me, in common with the rest of the population, writers bleed, a nasty remark, especially if it isn’t particularly constructive, can hurt like hell. What is one to do? Sometimes, once the sting abates, something will resonate and you can learn from it. Sometimes, it’s best just to ‘delete’. There is some truth in the adage, ‘No such thing as bad publicity.’

And the lovely remarks, the five star reviews, the general warm pat on the back from enthusiastic readers? I won’t tell fibs about that either. I absolutely love basking in the warm fuzzy glow.

My latest novel, ‘Beautiful Losers’ is released in the UK on April 1st by Midnight Ink. If you’d like to hear me talk about the novel, tune into Nicky Price’s programme on BBC Radio Gloucestershire after 3.00 pm the same day.

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LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GALS!

Two events took place last week on Tuesday March 8th. Both resonated with me. First, it was Independent Women’s Day and, secondly, my novel ‘Beautiful Losers’ was published in the U.S. The connection probably seems blindingly obvious, but actually the truth is subtler.

‘Beautiful Losers’ is the first time I’ve written with a female main protagonist in eight years. Prior to this, I wrote action adventure style/spy fiction with male main protagonists. Now every writer knows that it’s important to creep under the skin of both sexes, but choice of main player requires a special degree of skill and confidence. I explained why I preferred ‘writing as a guy’ a couple of years ago in articles I wrote for Book Oxygen and Books by Women. In the latter I was particularly revealing: ‘Returning to why I find it easier to write from a male perspective, the simple truth lies in my childhood.’ I went on to explain how my mother’s death when I was eight years old had a profound effect on my life. ‘From that moment my family consisted of my two big brothers and my father. In spite of me being sent away to school, they were the biggest influences on my life by far, while my mother’s death was and remains the most defining. It was a catastrophe and it changed us all, but for me something elemental shifted. ‘ I go on to describe the domestic mayhem that ensued, including a fast procession of females in and out of our house, and how the mood music at home focused on cars and women, booze and business deals, and that it was a ‘no-brainer’ to slip into a man’s skin when writing.

So why, you’re entitled to ask, the big departure now? Many factors, I guess. Three of my children are daughters and I’ve watched them grow up and have children of their own. Without going all ‘shrinky’ on you, I’ve not always found it easy to be around women, let alone be part of the ‘sisterhood’. It’s probably a hang-up associated with aforementioned ‘domestic mayhem.’ Over time, my attitude has changed simply because I’m older and I, too, have evolved. And there has been a surprising element of joy in discovering that my own sex is neither to be feared nor distrusted (mostly) and that there is, indeed, a special, unique camaraderie that exists between women.

And something extra that is hard to define.

‘Spiritedness’ comes close, and a determination to succeed whatever the odds, for it’s very often females that pick up the pieces when things cut up rough. It just so happens that same gutsiness is an essential attribute found in the best and most convincing main protagonists (male and female) and I hope that Kim Slade, my main player in ‘Beautiful Losers’, despite the pressures she is put under in my story, emerges a stronger, more grounded, individual than when she started – if only for a short time!

Like I said, writers need to drill down beneath the skins of their characters in order to make them as credible as possible – easier when there is much to celebrate about the fairer sex.

 

‘Beautiful Losers’ will be published by Midnight Ink on April 1st in the UK

 

 

SING SOPRANO

I have absolutely no idea how or why I missed ‘The Sopranos’ first time around, although a second marriage and five kids (my stock excuse) might have had a bearing.   As the saying goes, ‘better late than never’ and all the more poignant because James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano so convincingly, is very sadly no longer with us.

So it was with a sense of fevered anticipation that we prepared to devour 4,567 minutes or seventy-seven hours worth of viewing. And, my goodness, was it worth it. I can now see how ‘The Shield’ and ‘The Wire’ were spawned, both fabulously addictive series.

But back to David Chase’s ‘The Sopranos.’ It’s not easy to encapsulate six seasons, except to say that, as complex and credible characterisation goes, it doesn’t get much better. At various times, I hated Tony Soprano, top-dog crime lord. I hated his nephew Christopher, played fabulously by Michael Imperioli, I wanted to scream at the screen when ‘Sill’ dispatched Christopher’s girlfriend, Adriana. I loathed Pauli, one of Tony’s henchmen for his racism and mindless ruthlessness, and yet, at other times, I warmed to them, pitied them, found them endlessly amusing. If you could chart my emotions running through the entire series, the graph would dip deep, climb a bit, drop a bit, and soar, only to return to the bottom when character after character, to my mind, got their own kind of karma in spades. In many ways, my emotional journey with Tony Soprano mimicked that of his shrink, played with great style and class by Lorraine Bracco. Even she, in the end, realised that she was dealing with a self-serving sociopath as adept at manipulating her as his enemies and cronies.

Through it all, family was the glue that held it together, and I’m not just talking about ‘our thing’.   This is where the wives, girlfriends and widows played their greatest role. They saw the kids through school and advised on career choices, cooked huge dinners, ensured the refrigerator, (which had a minor part all its own in the Soprano household) was full, took care of their husbands’ every need while, on a personal level knowing said husband was banging some broad.  They did it all, while also knowing on an unpalatable, secondary level that the only reason they were able to live in style, eat out, holiday as and when, receive expensive gifts of jewellery and clothing, was because it came from ill-gotten gains and murder.   In spite of it, I found it hard not to feel respect for Carmella Soprano, played superbly by Edie Falco, for treading a fine path through the mayhem.

And the final climactic scene in the diner about which there has been much debate? Yes, I was reminded of The Godfather when Michael Corleone heads for ‘the john’ to pick up a gun. The man who casually glances across at the Soprano family definitely pricked my foe-detector. From a visual perspective, Hopper’s famous painting ‘Nighthawks’ sprang to mind. The final moment was not so much fade out as pitch black, indicating, for me, that Tony Soprano died as he lived. But what do I know?

A strong test of a series is the length of time it stays with you afterwards. I reckon this will take a long while to fade. In a lighter aside, I’m now in danger of asking any visitor to the house: ‘Do you want corfee?’ in that wonderful Noo Joirsey accent.