Harry talks with author Eric Shonkwiler about his award-winning debut novel, Above All Men, as well as Cormac McCarthy, MFA programs, and the current state of literature.
And keep your ears peeled for a very special giveaway courtesy of our good friends at Baron Fig!
ᔥ Terrible Minds:
Over the last many moons, my wife busted her ass to make the shed happen. She weathered the (several) problems that popped up. She helped me settle on a design that did not look like a four-year-old painted it with poopy hands. Delays and problems besieged — and oh yeah, right around the holidays, too, whee — but then, it happened.
They delivered the shed. And put it together.
I WANT ONE. Hell, if it weren’t for the flood-happy nature of my backyard (we’re right against a river), I’d put one in.
As a writer, I understand now in ways I couldn’t back then. You wouldn’t take no for an answer with all your rejection letters. I once posted a sticky on my computer monitor about your rejections and how you’d kept them. I kept mine, too. Times are different, and although I never got The Call, I made my own way. The stories just had to get out and I wasn’t getting any younger.
A lovely letter to a great writer.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been pretty light with the posts around here. This isn’t an apology or a re-declaration of dedication. My attention has simply been elsewhere.
2014 has been a big year. A crazy year. I became a father. I finished my third and most ambitious novel in as many years. I started a new podcast (which comes back in January). It was a year of creation in every sense of the word.
Four and a half months ago, a small annex of my brain was unlocked. Behind the door lived empathy and patience, and for years I kept them hidden away. I fed them scraps of attention when I remembered, and for a long time, I thought they’d starved to death. They were my flowers in the attic. Then Cyrus was born.
He’s the only person in my life, other than my wife, who makes me want to pull myself out of my lonely little corner of the world and be of it, not simply near it. I love seeing the lights in his wide eyes when I hold him up in front of the Christmas tree, the tiny embers flickering like headlights on a dark highway. His limbs flail with excitement that has nowhere else to go. There’s so much I want to share with him. Everything is new and strange and exciting. Textures are for touching and tasting. His senses are just waking. He doesn’t know what chocolate tastes like yet.
And that laugh. He has a rich laugh. It’s a laugh I wish I remembered having. It doesn’t happen at the expense of another person’s suffering. It isn’t ironic. There’s no ulterior motive. He laughs because his mommy is tickling him. Because we’re making faces. Because daddy’s home. Because he’s happy. I may write a dozen books, and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to win an award. None of it will matter. Nothing equals the indescribable joy I feel when I get my son to giggle.
And speaking of writing, I’ve done quite a bit of it over this past year. Over 70,000 words worth, the majority of which culminated in my third novel, LUMINOUS. I’ve begun querying it to literary agents and my hope is that this is the book that will land me my agent. This will make 2015 my publication year (or at least put me on a path to publication by early 2016). I couldn’t be more proud of the book and, more importantly, of how far I’ve come in three years of writing fiction.
Don’t get me wrong. I still feel woefully inadequate and delusional whenever I read my own writing. Publication? Psh, that’s for real writers. I recently went back and read a little of my first book and thought, This would make a better fire than fireside read, but that’s the thing about first novels—you can’t write your second (or third) if you don’t write the first.
Part of my writing growth came from the simple act of actually writing. Writing more, to be precise, but reading also played a large part. I read far more this year than in previous years, making sure I always had a new book to take the place of the old as soon as the back cover met the last page. Thirteen books. Hardly a dimple in a golf ball compared to others, but my time is limited and when I’m not reading, I’m spending time with my family, or writing, or working, or binge watching a show on Netflix. I’m hoping to increase this amount in 2015 by limiting how much I watch on television.
So, what’s in store for yours truly for next year? My goals reside among the clouds. First (and most important), I’m determined to find an agent for LUMINOUS and, ultimately, my writing career. I’ve only just started the query process, but I honestly believe this will be the book that, in one form or another, will end up on shelves either this year or next. I’m also in the beginning stages of a new novel, one far more complicated than the last, that centers on four main characters and four points of view. I anticipate a lengthy outlining process, complete with character sketches and other preliminary miscellany before any of the actual prose is written. Oh, and I’m almost certain the first draft will be handwritten.
I’m also hoping to take COVERED to the next level, with more guests and more great books and maybe even a sponsorship or two. I’ve been thinking of pitching the show to an up-and-coming company called Mailkimp—heard of it?
As for this little hole in the web, I don’t know. I don’t blog much these days. My writing tends to veer more into the fictional side of things than blabbing over here, but I can’t bear to part with the old place just yet. My height is marked in notches on the door jamb. My handprints are in the concrete on the back porch. It’s not a tech blog. It’s not even a writing blog. It’s just…a slice of me I enjoy sharing. Thank you to those who still visit. I hope I’m not too much of a disappointment.
2014 has been huge. Great, even. A year I’m both sad and glad to see go. As much joy as it has brought into my life, I know even greater things are in-store for 2015 and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Thanks for reading, and have a Happy New Year.