Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guest Author: Chris Mendius

In spite of my education and career in engineering and business, I’ve always been creatively drivenwith an intense passion for music and film. Once I was done with school and had a decent job with some free time, I decided to take a class in screenwriting. My final assignment was a script for a thirty minute short. It wasn’t the greatest piece, but I did get some positive feedback from my teacher and peers regarding the story and my imagination. Ultimately, I found the formulaic nature of creating a screenplay too stifling, and I put my writing on hold.

When I met and married my wife Jayne, a voracious reader and creative writing instructor, she encouraged me to begin reading more. Knowing me well,she thought Kafka would be a good match. She was right, and after going through all his work, I discovered Dostoevsky for myself. These authors drew me in and I found myself completely immersed in the dark worlds they were able to create.

Aroundthe same time, Jayne began to have small “writing” parties, just us and a few close friends, themed around holidays. On Halloween, everyone would read an original story or poem they had written. We did the samefor Christmas and, one year, Valentine’s Day.  That’s what led me to writing fiction.

Then 2004 brought the re-election of George W. Bush and the specter of a permanent right-wing majority. Guys like Rush Limbaugh and the talking heads at Fox News were winding everyone up. Working alongside people with very different viewpoints from myself and reading a ton about politics, I felt consumed with political rage. As a release for the disgust that seemed to be with me constantly, I decided to take a stab at writing a novel. Light My Way was about a guy very much like myself who becomes obsessed with planning the assassination of a character very much like Bill O’Reilly. I cranked out the entire novelin less than a year. I found myself taking nightly walks with my black Lab Humboldt, thinking where the story should go next. Then I would come home and lay down the words.

When the book was finished, Jayne worked closely with me to edit it and, in doing so, I dramaticallyimproved my skills as a writer. But once it was completed, the subject and characters in the book no longer appealed to me, and I decided to put it in a drawer and move on. Working onthat story taught me a lot. I learned that I could actually finish a novel and that writing was a great release for my emotions.

A few years later, I was listening to one of my favorite albums, I Am The Blues by Willie Dixon. The song “Spoonful”brought me back to a wild time in my life, long before I sorted myself out and got married. I combined that inspiration with vivid memories of another period, when I lived in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhoodduring the gentrification boom of the late nineties. It all came together to form the universe of my novel Spoonful. In the process of writing, I discovered I could create a world where I really enjoyed spending time, a fun but dangerous place very different from my regular life.

The manuscript took a year to write. Then Jayne and I again went to work, honing the story and streamlining my writing style. The editing process wasrocky at times, but ultimately I learned to let go of myego and accept constructive criticism. The result was a book we felt was really exceptional, full of humor and a great plot with an unusually likable junkie protagonist, unlike anything else out there.

Spurned by traditional publishers and agents, we decided to go our own way, establishing our company Anything Goes Publishingin order to make the book available to as many readers as we could.I got a big boost when I was awarded the Kirkus Star via their Indie program. 

The hope is to build a base of readers who appreciateSpoonful and will be excited to read the next chapter of Michael’s story, a novel titledIn The Pines that already exists asafirst draft. While we are of course hoping for commercial success, it’s been gratifyingso far just getting feedback from so many different readers who have enjoyed Spoonful.

Whatever the future holds, I know I’llkeep writing as long as the characters and worlds that exist in my mindare still there and I can keep laying down the words.

About the author:

Chris Mendius grew up in Naperville, Illinois. He earned a BSME from University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and an MBA from University of Chicago. After college, he moved to Chicago and started writing. He currently lives with his family in Oak Park, Illinois, less than a mile from where he used to score. Spoonful is his first published novel. 

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