Monday, February 01, 2010

Today my guest on Make-Believe Mondays is Clinton Foster.

Clinton, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Clinton: Well, I have just this last year published a novella, Willing to Believe, detailing the profundity of true love and what it takes to keep that love alive, especially in the absence of the other. Also, As part of the NaNoWriMo contest, I completed a semi-biographical piece, By the Wayside, about a little girl, abused at the age of six, and the hardships of her life as the years pass, when no one wants to believe her because to listen to what she has to say would be too inconvenient, too troublesome. I had intended to write this for some time, but as the contest requires the writer to write 50,000 words in 30 days, I used the challenge to take a break from my current manuscript. I concluded the book at just under 90,000 words.

Just now, I am readying to finish Namesake, a historical drama set just at the outset of World War One. The story concerns a poor family in an impoverished coal mining and farming community. As war looms and a drought strikes, the town roils in strife as the two major employers are both Germanic and the wages they offer to their workers seem to be aiding the enemy. The plot intricacies are as complex as John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, but the story line is as personal as James Herriott’s non-fiction. I hope to have it released by mid-spring of this year.

Debra: Quite a few writers enter the NaNo WriMo every year and I always wonder what the end result of that is for them. I started to do it this year but then decided I'd better concentrate on the novel I was revising and since NaNo is supposed to be for new writing it didn't fit my time frame or needs. But, maybe next year. It's interesting to know you did indeed get a whole novel out of the experience.

Ray Bradbury said, "We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Clinton: I day-dream a LOT! I love to stare at the stars and the moon, especially. As a child, I would spend hours on the front porch in the evening, summer and winter alike, just staring at the moon, wondering of the other people throughout the world looking at the moon at the very instant. I wondered whom they are, and what they were doing. I was curious to the details of their lives. Why were they looking at the moon, was it a quick glance or a prolonged scrutiny? Were they wondering about me? I would make up names and places and reasons and what they had done that day and what their plans were for the morrow. I still do that to this day at times. I also like to watch and listen to people, their word choices, their mannerisms and the like. The only problem with that, however, is if you find an interesting subject, your notes have to be made quickly in your mind - women think you are ogling them, and men get accusatory, if you watch one subject too long. A quick glance, a sharp eye, helps to increase your imagination as you try to fill in the blanks.....

Debra: Oh, that pull of the moon, I know it well. :-) Yes, it wouldn't do to let a woman think you were ogling her or to rile a man that way. The opposite is true for a woman writer. To let a man know you are watching him could bring unwanted attention your way.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Clinton: A funny thing, a writer friend of mine e-mailed me one morning saying she was so mad at her characters she was ready to break up with them and have them suffer a purposeful but horrible death. The evening before her character had done something entirely out-of-character. I know how that feels. When I begin a story, I generally know where it is going, but not always. I plan to take the story from point A to point Z, but occasionally anywhere between point B and Y you find yourself veering way off course to a thousand unnamed letters of a non-existent alphabet, just to work your way back to Y to finish with Z. I like that, it makes the writing interesting. There have been many times I have found myself dumbstruck as to how I can continue the intended story with what my characters have just done. It is at these moments I just walk away from a project and let it simmer. It is during these breaks that I suddenly "brainstorm" with these ideas out of nowhere as to how to continue the story on its course, or conjure a new plot course which is in keeping with the story intent, if not the original story line itself. Generally speaking, when I write, I consider myself to be the first to read my work, as I am open to every possibility of the story, just as a reader picking up the book for the first time would be.

Debra: Ah, but when you become frustrated with your characters, then you also know they have become more real and not simply some puppet figure. Your friends characters were probably full of life, though frustratingly so. I too, am a seat of the pants writer, not a plotter, but I have also heard those who simply must plot first say that their stories also tend to take new routes as they write.

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Clinton: Once in a while I do, when I know the word I need is the right word but its context would appear misapplied to linguists, I use it anyway. A writer’s first job is to write for his or herself and the readers, linguists be damned! Also, I create onomatopoeias when needed, if the word I write makes the precise sound that no other word might suggest, I’ll do it. But, all these devices, meant to accentuate a work, I try to use seldom and very sparingly, as too much of it would distract a reader from any piece.

Debra: Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky that the average reader is not a linguist and simply wants to read a good story. I feel that way and happy I am that I'm then able to play with my stories and with the words within should I choose to.

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

Clinton: I do not recall any given example, but I have had ideas I have toyed with for a while and abandoned, only to find ten years later in someone else’s book or in a movie.....

Debra: If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

Clinton: One project I have considered off and on for the longest but have no intention to write would be a personal history of the world. Beginning from the earliest prophets - or maybe even earlier, I don’t know – I would lead one character to the point where he or she meets the next character, being the most profound impact on his life, and as the next character’s story is told, it would conclude the story of the previous character. I would highlight one character through each generation, and thereby in snippets elaborate on the whole of world history through the ages until the present day to conclude with a "forecast" for the future. I haven’t thought it through in too much detail because the one thing I’m certain of, is that it would have to be an elaborate and time-consuming work. Too it would require an ungodly amount of research. So, there’s an idea for any ambitious writer looking for a subject.

Debra: With so many cultures in the world and such rich histories within each culture, I'm not sure any one person could live long enough to do it. Though it would be fascinating if they could.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Clinton: Write, write, write! Read everything, from kindergarten books, to romance, to medical journals, to magazine ads! Read! Write! Keep going, and my very best to all in their endeavors.

Also, please visit my website Leave me a message and sign the guest book. I’d love to have you. Thanks.

Debra: Clinton, thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

Clinton: Thank you Debra for this opportunity to promote my work.

Debra: It's been my pleasure.

Debra's News/Debra is watching:

This Saturday I will be at Davis-Kidd in Nashville, TN signing books at 2:00 p.m. with Imagicopter I would love to see you there!

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