THAT WHICH FIRST TROUBLED US
(A brooding thought or two from a self published author)
I find myself at times afraid of success, though this is what I seem to be striving for. Success is not bad, of course. We all (probably) want it. You (probably) want it. I want it. But I wonder whether efforts made on its behalf are truly fruitful. I have made compromises; I've had to market my book, for example, more than I had envisioned, being self-published. This has eaten into my writing time. In fact, of late, writing time has been next to nil. Sometimes I wonder if there's an easier way to success, whether or not a more preplanned, formulaic approach to writing would yield greater results.
I aspire to literary fiction - but I think I may be more of a crusader-novelist than I would like to admit. I haven't written in other genres (or on second thought maybe I have and just don't know it yet) so I really don't know what it would be like to do so. I imagine that genre writers do a good deal more of preplanning, you know, of the sort that requires outlines and careful, even meticulous, attention to things like plot points and how to best position them along the line of the story the better to form 'mind blowing' (hyperbole mine) transitions from beginning to middle to end - all well and exceedingly good no doubt. On the other hand, writing literary fiction - if that is what I am trying to do - seems messier and I think must involve a fair amount of brooding, imagining hairline fractures (where none exist) or just fumbling about aimlessly in the dark.
Here's a quote from Eudora Welty that I think speaks to this. From The Eye of the Story / On Plot and The Crusader Novelist: "With a blueprint to work with instead of a vision, there is a good deal that we as the crusader-novelist must be at pains to leave out. Unavoidably, I think, we shall leave out one of the greatest things. This is the mystery of life. Our blueprint for sanity and of solution for trouble leaves out the dark. This is odd, because surely it was the dark that first troubled us." Imagine that.
Eudora envisions something beyond merely producing a book that sells well and I think – as self-published authors – we might do well to consider it. For Eudora writing is an act of courage, of dealing with that which troubles us, using the pen's eye, so to speak, to probe the darkness. Whether or not the story produced is a best seller is beside the point. Whether or not it receives accolades from the so-called literary establishment is also beside the point. Is it true, seems to be the point. It could be fantastic, paranormal thriller material – but is it true? To the extent it is based on plan and formula, to that extent, it may not be; it may sell well, it may even garner readers and help build a 'brand', but again, is it true? Does truth matter?
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Then Like the Blind Man:
Author: Freddie Owens
Publisher: Blind Sight Publications
Genre: Historical Fiction/Coming of Age
Format: Paperback & eBook
Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the sudden death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Since the marriage, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking, fitful new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; this fact lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky, when Victor decides to move the family to Florida without including him. In his new surroundings, Orbie finds little to distract him from Granpaw’s ornery ways and constant teasing jokes about snakes.
As Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers, he finds his world views changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and the true cause of his father’s death. He befriends a boy named Willis, who shares his love of art, but not his skin color. And, when Orbie crosses paths with the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of a power that could expose and defeat his enemies, but can’t be used for revenge. When a storm of unusual magnitude descends, he happens upon the solution to a paradox that is both magical and ordinary. The question is, will it be enough?
Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s both rich in meaning, timely in its social relevance, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.
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