Monday, January 28, 2008

Convention Speak

By Tom Schreck
Author of On the Ropes, A Duffy Dombrowski Mystery

Well, I’m off to the Love Is Murder convention for mystery authors and fans and you know what that means?

It means I’ve got to start making up bullshit answers to questions I’ll be asked to keep up with the other authors.

Let me see…

Question 1.

What is your process as an author?

Answer I’ll give

Ah, yes, my process. (insert contrived patronizing chuckle.) Yes, of course, my process. You see writing is more religion than craft for me. Each morning before I commence writing I meditate and chant naked in a sweatbox given to me by a group of Apachees who were appreciative of a short story I wrote about their relationship with the buffalo.

Then, once cleansed, I sit at the oak desk that belonged to Millard Fillmore’s accountant, and use the Mont Blanc fountain pen (I won it at Sotheby’s) that Hemingway stabbed a rude Cuban bartender with. Then, and only then, I begin my art. I wear a traditional Shaman’s gown and go commando. ( I launder the gown only after I complete the first draft which has sometimes caused some chaffing.)

By the way, I write only on Peruvian parchment scented with vanilla that gets flown in and left at my door every morning.

The Truth

Because the three dogs won’t stop barking and the puppy is eating the couch I write at the McDonalds on Holland Ave in Albany NY. I wear headphones and listen to a white noise CD, which doesn’t stop Juanita, the woman who sweeps, from talking loudly enough for me to hear her say:

“I got me one of them computers just like that, yes I do,” which she says every single day.

Question 2.

What is your background?

After quarterbacking Notre Dame to seven straight national championships I yearned for something more meaningful. I trained with a band of Malaysian mercenaries who were plotting to overthrow the Nestle’s corporation. Then, I went through a dark period where I worked as an assassin and a pilates instructor in Warsaw.

Shortly after that, I was elected to the House of Representatives representing a district 200 miles east of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I played third base for the Yankees for half a season but tired of the attention Jeter always got, did a brief stint as an inventor where I came up with the Bamboo Steamer that you see sold on late night TV and then I taught Kindergarten on Guam.

The Truth

I work in an office and teach junior college.

Question 3

How many hours a day do you write and how much do you write?

Answer I’ll give

I write for exactly 16 hours and thirty one minutes every single day except on the anniversary of the Hindenburg tragedy. I write between two and three words a day.

The Truth

I write for 30 to 45 minutes a day before work depending on how loud Juanita talks and how much I drank the night before. I get between 2 and 3 pages.

Question 4

How much do you read and what do you like to read?

Answer I’ll give

I read for 17 hours a day. I prefer those wacky light hearted Russian authors; Tolstoy, Blok, Gogol and especially Puskin, though I believe Puskin had trouble with the semi-colon.

I’m currently reading a collection of Solzenitzen’s private love letters to Ludmila, the woman (and concubine!) who rented his garage for her small engine repair business.

The Truth

From April to October I read the New York Post articles about the Yankee games that I watched the night before.

Question 5

Do you outline and plot?

But of course! I write at least 11 outlines before I start my first of a dozen drafts. My outlines are usually 3,000 pages. Then I break down each syllable I’m planning on writing and put it on a series of color coded index cards. I have my team (my agent, manager, publicist, editor, strength coach, masseuse and landscaper) act the plot out in mime.

I’m sure other authors do things differently but it’s this is only way I can work

The Truth

I make shit up at McDonalds and type it.

Question 6

What are your goals as a writer.

The answer I’ll give

Hmm… (at this point I’ll lean back and begin to weep. Then, wiping the tears from my eyes I’ll continue.) I just want to touch each and every reader, to change their view of the world-- just a tiny bit so that for that moment, for that single solitary moment, they can be transported away from the mundane to a place where their existential conflicts, though maybe not resolved, will look different to them.

The Truth

I want to sell as many books as Maleeny


Nina Wright said...

Fun post, Tom. Great way to start the week.

Yup, we're all in the business of making **it up, any way, anywhere we can. Juanita works at my McDonald's, too! I keep threatening to put her in my next book.....


Mark Combes said...

It isn't hidden in some magical box we've got stashed deep in the woods, is it? Butt in seat; fingers on keyboard; Juanita screaming in your ear....

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

"I make shit up." I'm going to have that printed on my business cards.

Love the photo, Tom!

Mark Terry said...

Tom, Tom, Tom...

You're my hero. Honest to God, please, please, PLEASE...

Give those answers. Haven't you been to any of these damned conventions before? Haven't you sat in the audience and maybe, if you were honest with yourself, maybe just a teeny, tiny bit, thought, "Writers have got to be the most boring people on the planet."

I mean, what we DO is so cool. Our WORK is cool.

But most of the time? Most of the time we spend huge amounts of time staring at a computer screen, er, making shit up. Or as it was once said, much of our productive time is spent in the company of imaginary people. (And where else is that considered acceptable, mental institutions?)

So, you know, when people ask about writing, and I think, I spend it in my basement with the space heater on because it's cold staring at a computer screen and obsessively reading and posting on other people's blogs so I can pretend I'm actually in contact with the human race, and my DOG is so bored with me he doesn't even come down to the office any more, and YouTube has become my best friend, I really need to say:

I was climbing Mt. Everest for the third time, this time doing it without oxygen and blindfolded, when I fell off a cliff, but my backpack got snagged on a jagged chunk of ice, and was able to climb to safety, but an avalanche had taken out my sherpas, so I climbed to the summit solo, then, on the way back down, discovered my sherpas huddling in a tent, so I carried all six of them on my back to the base camp, where I nursed them back to health, and they made me one of them and gave me a secret map to Shangri-La, which I followed with my wife and 99 virgins, fighting off Chinese mercenaries with my bare hands...

Tom Schreck said...

you too,huh?

Keith Raffel said...

Tom, didn't know you were bs-ing for sure till I read about the Notre Dame championships. Given how they're playing of late, you might have had more credibility saying Slippery Rock

Felicia Donovan said...

Tom, I'm calling Hollywood about a new reality series called, "McNovel - A Writer's Reality Under the Golden Arches." Get to work on Juanita signing the release. We'll all make cameo appearances.

Bill Cameron said...

I suspect we all have our Juanita. And what would we do with her?