Notes on Writing and Reading

Notes on Writing and Reading


I am pleased to announce (ecstatic, really!) that my novel about the AIDS epidemic, 
As If Death Summoned, will be published next summer by Amble Press, an imprint of Bywater Books.

The story is set in Portland and Australia during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and '90s. Much of it covers the early years, before there was a diagnosis, or a test or treatment, before it was even called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The story ends in 1995, when protease inhibitors turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition. By that time, 300,000 people had already died in the US. With expected pathos and unexpected humor, the novel testifies to the power of grief to erode a life, and—for those who can find a way through their grief—the power to rebuild and renew it.


I sent the manuscript to Bold Strokes Books, who had published my dark psychological mystery, The Unforgiven, in 2012.


Sandy Lowe responded, saying she liked it but didn't think that BSB, who primarily publishes mysteries, thrillers and romance, had the right market for it. She encouraged me to send it to Salem West at Bywater Books and then told Salem about the book.

On April 1st (Yes, April Fool's Day) Salem wrote to me:

 
Hello, Alan.

It might be April Fool's Day, but this is no joke.
 
I had a meeting with the other two owners of Bywater Books this morning, and we were all in agreement that we want to offer you a contract for As If Death Summoned.
 
Personally, I loved your book and read it cover to cover in one afternoon—it perfectly fits our publishing focus: Smart. Richly textured. Beautifully written. Full of heart.
 
 
The long-awaited novel (well, long-awaited by me, anyway) will be coming out next year, just in time for the 40th anniversary when what would come to be known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome first appeared on the nation's radar screen in 1981.
 
My sincere thanks to Sandy for taking enough interest in the manuscript to recommend it to Salem, and to Salem for believing in and championing it.
 
Stay tuned...
 
 
 
[First posted: June 5, 2019]

October 25, 2015

Lazy afternoon,

sprawled on my bed with book and window open,

listening to the syncopated rhythms of the rain,

reading,

                 dozing,

                               dreaming,

                                                     waking,

wandering through mind-drifts of memories...

              of the farm at Barwon Downs,

              of hiking up Mt. Takao in autumn,

              of planting the chestnut with Dad,


while listening to the rain, reading.

 

 

 

 

In a recent Writer's Digest article, David Corbett, author of The Art of Character, writes:

"People don't turn to stories to experience what you, the writer, have experienced--or even what your characters have. They read to have their own experience."

Good to remember: Write in such a way as to give the reader an experience--of joy or sadness or fear or excitement--instead of merely reading about someone else's experience.

 

 

 

 

 

I usually recommend reading a book before seeing the movie version. However, I am re-thinking my position after watching Ron Howard’s film, In the Heart of the Sea. I’d just finished the book by Nathaniel Philbrick and loved it—about the ramming and sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged sperm whale in 1820, the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick. I was eager to see what Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13) would do with it.

The film was certainly spectacular, with gee-whiz special effects and a taut tension running throughout, but I realized that I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the book first. I was continually distracted by the film's departure from historical accuracy. “That’s not right,” I would find myself thinking. “It didn’t happen like that.” “They made that part up.”

To make matters worse, there were all these rude people sitting around me in the theater, going, “Sh!-Sh!-Sh!”

 

 

December 12, 2015

"It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes."


Gustave Flaubert