Fresh off the press
This month I have a new book coming out, and it's not only exciting - it's hectic! I have spent the last few months organizing the marketing and preparing the release information. And it struck me, as I wrote another line about my characters, that the process for writing a book is just one of the first steps that an author takes along with creating characters and worlds. There is a parade of things that need to be done once 'The End' has been scribbled down. And whilst I love to engage with my readers, and I always wait anxiously to read those first few reviews, there is an element of exhaustion when the book finally comes off the press. To reach that epic moment when all that hard work is bound and ready for release into the world is a pinnacle of authors writing life. I was keen to see what my authors for this month considered a highlight in their writing careers.
This month's authors:
Brett has a vivid imagination and loves to create stories and worlds apart from our own. So I was keen to see what gave him the inspiration.
What (or who!) was your inspiration for your latest book, 'The Parasite from Proto Space and Other Stories"?
The nine stories in this collection were inspired by various things. Here is a basic overview of the inspirations for each of them:
: The mundane aspects of “The Parasite From Proto Space” were inspired by crappy open mic nights as well as my tendency to take the bus to the mall, browse stores and wander around the city and suburbs on my days off from writing. The concepts of Proto Space and Post Space, two different places humans could potentially go when they die, the latter an upgrade from the former, were something I came up with completely out of nowhere. “Summoning the Memory Eaters” was inspired by my job as a substitute teacher’s aide at the high school where my father worked. The worms, the tooth-beings, the Ellipse, and the Inverted Wolf Fang were just some extradimensional mindfucks I threw in there because I love shit like that. “Billy-Sally” the billygoat was a character I invented while telling improvised stories around the campfire when I was younger. His trip through the silver sphere into the other dimension was just more psychedelic shenanigans I came up with on the spot. If I’m good at anything, it’s generating spontaneous content from out of thin air. “The Labyrinth and the Jingling Keys” was the last piece I wrote for a college writing class and the first story I ever got published. It was inspired by my experiences in mental hospitals, an article I read about the Judge Rotenberg Center (a place where they apply electric shocks to autistic children in order to modify their behavior: very nasty stuff,) and a vision I had while in a psych hospital of being encased in a bubble, sucked into a vacuum, traveling through the cord, into the outlet and through the other side of the wall into a black sea filled with bubbles. The black sea is meant to represent the conscious mind, and the bubbles are thoughts that you can choose to either acknowledge or ignore as per the teachings of my old therapist. “The Funeral Machine” is based on life in a subsidized housing unit for the elderly and disabled. I’ve lived in one of these units for nearly seven years, and I can tell you that it certainly does make you feel like your body is being digested and shat out by a giant brick machine whose two-hundred-and-forty eyes/windows watch the streets for potential prey. I wrote “Ca-Caw” back in 2008: many years before I had the idea of putting my stories together into a book. In fact, it was one of the first stories I wrote outside of a college assignment. It draws inspiration from my fear of getting mugged in the city and my belief that danger was around every corner (which has proven to be totally untrue the longer I’ve lived here.) This is yet another story that contains elements of psychiatric hospitalization (which is definitely something that inspires my writing overall. One of these days I will write a mental institution novel in the vein of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.) “CAVO” was based on a dream I had of a planet-sized speaker cone floating in space next to the Earth, ready to blow it away. I realized after I woke up that sound waves couldn’t travel through space, but I made it work in the story anyway. The bizarre structures that litter the CAVO speaker’s surface are just another example of my imagination’s penchant for generating random images. The investigation team trope was mainly derived from Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. The notion of autistic people’s minds being the antidote to the CAVO virus was my way of creating a narrative in which an autistic person uses their unique autistic abilities to save the universe: something I haven’t seen before in literature. “A Free Ride to Pleroma” uses a lot of Philip K. Dickian and Gnostic concepts of the false god/reality and the true god/reality. Pleroma is the Gnostic idea of the highest and greatest possible reality where the true God dwells. Bobbie-Sue was the name of a girl I knew in a high school for people with mental illnesses. The worlds she journeys through were inspired by places and people I encountered throughout my high school years moving from one special needs school to another. “Frogbaby” is a term used to describe babies born with anencephaly: a condition where the brain and spinal cord never form and the baby (almost always stillborn) comes out looking like a frog with protruding eyes and no top of the head. But then I thought to myself, what if the frog babies survived, and their birth was part of a conspiracy to create children with minds that will never know pain and suffering because they’re born with only a brainstem and can’t accrue memories? Thus, the story “Frogbaby” was born.
Your stories focus on fantastical ideas and worlds, how do you create these are they planned out or freestyle?
My ideas and the worlds I create in my stories are almost always freestyle. But when it comes to writing novels (like what I’m working on now,) things have to be a little more planned out. In terms of my process, my brain absorbs everything it sees (mostly without my knowledge) and I’m able to tap into my subconscious repository and come up with characters, settings, plots, images, and metaphors based on all that data. If an idea ever seems like it is cliché or derivative of something else, I can always change around the variables to make it original. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I usually never run into the problem of lack of originality.
How has your autism impacted your writing life or style and how?
I believe my autism makes me a better writer. When I become obsessed with a book, video game, movie, or show, I focus on all the little details that make it great. I also have a very solid understanding of why I like what I like and what makes it so good: thus I am able to write the very stories that I would ideally like to read.
On the downside, autism makes it quite difficult for me to engage with the business side of the writing world: marketing, promoting, and increasing sales. I’m going to continue writing books even if they don’t sell, but I’d at least like to be well known in the literary world.
Of all the reviews you have received, what has been your favorite, and why?
My favorite review was definitely the one by Paul Levinson simply because he’s a pretty well-known author, and I was both surprised and honored that he actually agreed to do it.
Brett loves to catch up with his readers via :
Or his official website: http://www.jellyfishentity.wordpress.com
I hope you can take a moment to offer support for him by checking it out, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
Jerry creates his own worlds, but his focus instead of other worlds is on creating worlds that children can comprehend. His ability to bring story-telling and support for the younger generation was fascinating. So I was keen to hear how he did it.
What is the hardest part of writing stories for children?
I think the hardest part is being true to their dialogue and conversation. Children are smarter and have more insight than we often want to attribute to them. On the other side, they often have off-the-wall ideas. The two together can make a great book, but you have to be careful to keep dialogue something they would actually say.
Do you like to plot out your stories, or do you prefer to free-write?
I use James Scott Bell’s system. He terms it plotting by setting out signposts. So instead of a detailed plot outline, I outline the key intersections (he uses the analogy of signs on a highway for entrance and exit ramps). That way I always have a very set goal at the end and several small goals throughout the book to give it a three-act feel and proper pacing. However, I often free-write sign-post to sign-post. Sometimes that means editing the free-write, but it can also mean changing the signposts.
Your book 'Jam Sessions' discusses some very adult themes of mental health, how do you tackle them to make it easier for kids to understand?
Thank you for answering this question. My hope is that Jam Sessions is first and foremost a good story. I really tried to make it a fun read more than just sermon in fiction form. I never enjoy reading books that are just agenda and propaganda message thinly veiled in fiction. If I achieved my goal, Jam Session will read like a book about a middle school kid for middle school kids. I am very light on the family scenario that led the lead character to move schools. It is there, but not explicit. The bullying is there, but never so heavy that it darkens the tone of the story. Of course, Phillip discovers he has panic attacks, but he also has a friend who sings the youtube sensation duck and lemonade stand song. I spent time in the counseling world and wanted to be realistic about anxiety. The statistics say that anxiety is a significant problem among today’s tweens and teens. But my hope is that the book gives those struggling with it someone to identify with more than just a counseling lecture in book form.
What has been the highlight of being an author to date for you?
This may be silly, but for me, it was listening to my book on audible. That was so much cooler for me than it being in print. Donald Davidson did a fantastic job.
Jerry loves to connect online. You can find him at: Website : http://www.jerryharwood.com
Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0863YPCD7
I hope you can take a moment to offer support for him by checking out his book, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
I wish to thank you for taking the time to read and engage with me! Happy reading everyone! VK Tritschler