General

“Everyone has one novel in them?”

Another weekend happily approaches. My previous post was pretty heavy; but if writing is meant to entertain (as I hope to), a writer should not be afraid to laugh a bit about it all either. One of the risks in writing is sometimes we can take it perhaps somewhat too seriously:

Yes, it is difficult at times. But no one is forcing anyone to do it. We do this because we want to and believe we have something that is worth readers’ valuable time… and money.

In my first year on here, naturally I did not have the number of readers and blog followers I do now. On a blog it is also easy for older posts to get buried, but sometimes they are worth revisiting. Last night, thanks to seeing The Big Bang Theory episode in which “Leonard” reveals to his wife and pals that he’s writing a novel, I remembered this one.

Within the guise of a lighthearted, self-interview, I explained what initially caused me in 2012 to decide to write my first novel. At the time of the post, I had not yet completed the second. Here is that part of that September 2014 post once again:

Q: Okay, to Passports. What got you started? Where did the basic idea for that novel come from?

Nello: James Blunt.

Q: Excuse me?

Nello: I’d always wanted to write non-fiction. I’ve got bl-ody degrees coming out of my…. well, but who gives a damn about what I have to say about anything. Or you for that matter. Everyone’s got an opinion. Like should Scotland be independent? How the hell should I know?

Q: We all have new things to learn?

Nello: Okay, you really wanna know? One morning, I was listening to that “1973” song of Blunt’s on my iPhone for about the 247th time and I thought, ‘He’s too young to remember that year. Hell, even I don’t!’ Ah, but how about circa “1993?” Bingo! My brain shifted forward into a fictionalized historical memoir type thing….

Q: That’s fantastic!

Nello: Wait, I’m not done. Then I made my wife a cup of tea. I stopped thinking at that point. She’s English. Damn it, I can’t be distracted making tea for her. She tells me off if it’s not good.

Q: Obviously evidence of sheer genius in knowing exactly when and how to focus the mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t match it. May I have your autograph?

Nello: Look, take it easy with that suck up stuff. It won’t work. Well, buy a copy of my book at least. A little encouragement always helps. We novelists are a fragile lot.

Q: About the content. It sounds fascinating. You’ve written fact as fiction?

Nello: No, I haven’t! You think I wanna get sued? I base my fiction on general events and on people I knew in another century. Sorta my life – very broadly – at one time way back when. But very SORTA. As many a fiction writer has done. It’s not fact. No one in Passports is a real person. Got that? No one. Not a soul.

Q: Understood. So you don’t want to end up in court. Understandable that. Okay, but I’m sure your wife wants to know, “Who’s Isabelle?”

Nello: I’m certainly not telling you. But she knows this much: I dated a French girl in college long before I knew her, today’s lovely, gorgeous, perfect Mrs. Nello. My mother’s reaction at the time was about what you’d expect after she had met mademoiselle: “Are you nuts? They hate us.”…

***

Memories. My (now late) mother – very New York City, very Queens, very Long Island – could be, at times, as subtle as a punch to the mouth. Eventually, though, she did relax… a bit:

[Excerpt from Passports. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

The gist of that conversation got back to me many months later. If you gave my (now late) uncle a drink and a chance to talk, the raconteur in him came tumbling out. He used to share all sorts of “intel” with me about often “private” chats he’d had with my mom – if anything had to do with me.😂

Back as a teenager, though, I hadn’t liked him very much; I’d thought he was obnoxious and no fun to be around. But in my early twenties my view of him changed: I started visiting with him without my Italian-German aunt around (from whom he was by then separated and later divorced). What made a major impression on me was how he treated me as an adult equal in a way I felt my parents (and other adult relations) did not:

[Excerpt from Passports. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

I came to realize he had been so moody and difficult at family gatherings when I was a teenager because he had been stressed and felt trapped in an unhappy marriage. Without my aunt around, he was suddenly like a different man. However, my mother was never entirely comfortable with the fact I’d struck up an “independent” relationship with her older brother (who was also my godfather), the writer, “Hemingway,” and that we became close friends.

[Original photo, used for “Passports.” Photo by me, France, 1991.]

It can be both amusing and intriguing if we really consider what may have most spurred us on in the first place to write a particular story. Until now, it had been some time since I had consciously thought about that background and family tension. After that first novel, more of course have followed.

The challenge as a new writer is jumping the initial hurdle of FINISHING the first book. The world is FULL of unfinished and unwritten novels as we know. But once you’ve completed your first, you have truly achieved something few actually do.

“Everyone has one novel in them” is another cliché, and yet one that doesn’t actually go far enough. For that first effort may be just the start. You must be honest with yourself about what you wish to write about, about what your own strengths and weaknesses are as a writer so you write in a style to highlight the former and not the latter, and vitally about what you may offer that is “unique” – and believe me, there is something.

And then crush it.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are in the world.😊🇬🇧