Sunday, July 31, 2011

Channeling David Byrne

And you may ask yourself...why hasn't Elwin updated in weeks? And you may ask yourself...where is the talk about old fantasy books? And you may ask could he neglect his blog? And then you may ask did I get here?

The truth of the matter is that I've been writing. A lot. I took a break from writing to do some reading (A Dance With Dragons) and then I started writing again. As I've stated previously, I am working on a short novel entitled The Motley & Plume Players. It is an obsessive love story in the vein of Neil LaBute or Mary Gaitskill, but done my way. Right now I'm at 324 pages of material, adding and deleting things as I go. I'm very proud of what I've written, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be my thesis at Mills.

Writing a novel-length work has been a delight and a burden. Everybody knows how George R.R. Martin spent 11 years trying to figure out the "Meereenese Knot." As in, his chosen one character Daenerys Targaryen decided to park herself in the city of Meereen, and George spent a decade and two books trying to maneuver certain characters in her direction, jettisoning a whole book's worth of material, so everyone would be in place for the series' endgame. Anybody who keeps up with A Song of Ice and Fire knows what a struggle this was for Martin. A lot of fans complain about the wait, but he's the guy who had to wrap his brainpower around this conundrum.

Where Martin spent most of 11 years working on the Meereenese Knot, I spent most of the summer on the "AU Knot." My protagonist is a professor at American University. Judging by how I portray the college, I don't expect on getting an adjunct position there anytime soon. I have spent a lot of time navigating my hero through the portion of the narrative that takes place at his job, trying to get in the story beats I want while making sure the section stays economical in its pacing. It's not easy. Whole chapters have been written and thrown away. Small ideas have been expanded. New characters have found their way into this old story of mine. And I feel I have conquered my own knot, more or less.

I began writing The Motley & Plume Players in 2006. Back then it was a 90-page novella that I shopped regularly in the "Mike Madden Writing Group" in Washington DC. Being 22 years old at the time, I had no idea that I had a real novel on my hands. Seeing how much I could expand on my concept, I came to the conclusion that it was really 150 pages. Since then, I studied in two graduate programs, published a short story collection and, most important, read authors far outside of my comfort zone. I also got older and moved to a point in my life where i can, if not relate, then understand more of the 50-year-old protagonist's perspective. This is all to the better, as the writer I was at 22 could not have done this story justice.

The climax for the story was written long ago. As far as a 22-year-old writer's work goes, I don't think it's too shabby. Much that I wrote in that climax set the stage for my revisions. Now here I am, one-third of the way through the book, starting a second part that is almost all new material, on a crash course with the climax. A crash course with the writer I was in 2006, his work largely untouched. How much will stay and how much will fall to new plot developments? I don't know. Neil Gaiman once described the idea of revising old work as a collaboration with whoever you were at the time, and that's the vibe I'm getting.

Which brings me to...


This book is going to be a dos-a-dos style project like Ace Books used to publish in the day. Those old ace paperbacks are the coolest thing in the world and I'm happy to homage them. Six Gallery Press has expressed interest in publishing the book. The key here is promotional money. Six Gallery has very limited resources as far as promoting their books. So Kickstarter provides an avenue for us to get cash for PR. We are looking to raise a modest $1000 to do so.

I've long been interested in Kickstarter. Some friends of mine have funded really amazing projects through it, and it is a great way for people interested in the arts to give their support directly. Our Kickstarter page has some nice incentives. The one I'm most excited about is reading stories to donors via Skype. If you don't feel like paying so much, there are the personalized thank-you cards and stories. Yes, I will write the donor a story. Christine and I got pretty creative with the incentives, so I can't wait to follow up on them.

The Motley & Plume Players is the story of Chuck McGuirk, an actor who begins a relationship with Kate Fitzpatrick, a longtime friend of his. This is the start of the novel. From there it goes deeper, darker, more lyrical and more magical than anything I have written. It is a story about regret and loss. It is about theater. It is a story about desire and the lengths people will go to achieve their desires. It is about the domestic and the fantastic and the truths we can't bear to reveal, even to ourselves. It has pushed me as a writer and I cannot wait to share these characters with the world.

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