Thank you Book Goodies for inviting me here today. I thought I’d talk today about what initially inspired me to try my hand at writing novels.
Although I completed my first “novel” attempt more than fifteen years ago, I’ve only been socializing with other writers on Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest for three years now. Over the course of that time, I have been fortunate enough to befriend (and learn from) literally hundreds of authors from all over the world. I’m deeply indebted to many of those folks and to others I’ve met on writer’s communities such as Authonomy and YouWriteOn.
In my day to day contacts with those writers I can’t tell you how many times I heard folks say things like, “I’ve been writing stories since I was six years old.” or “I wrote my first novel when I was just seventeen.” or “I wanted to be an author ever since I read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in high school.” While in some ways I wish I’d started scrawling words when I was six or sixteen, I can’t honestly say that I did.
Nevertheless, by the time I was in my mid forties, I had been reading for quite some time. And there were fleeting moments when I entertained thoughts of writing something. But I thought I was too busy—too busy “living” life to sit down and write about it. I thought it would be cool as hell to be like Hemingway—write in the mornings, fish in the afternoons, and party every night with a bunch of famous and infamous friends. I wanted to be a writer but didn’t want to pay the piper. I wasn’t ready to stand for hours and hand write stories on lined, yellow pads like old Hem did. I wasn’t ready to sit on my tail and do it either. But I sure dreamed about getting the respect and notoriety that an accomplished author so often receives. Then one day I woke up.
After ten or so years of never having less than six books lying on the carpet alongside my recliner, I finally thought, Oh, heck . . . I can do this writing thing! I can do it better than most authors I’ve read. Shoot, three quarters of the books I start I never finish. I know I can do better. How hard can it be to describe a green hill in Africa, or a southern plantation gone kaput in Georgia? Ha . . . lemme go get a pad. I’ll whip something up right now. Oh boy . . . was I wrong!
I went and got a spiral notebook and plopped right back into my easy chair to begin my great American novel. What did I accomplish that first sitting—nada—as in not a thing. I had no idea where to begin. My next attempt was just as fruitless, so was the next, and the next, and every other attempt I made for two solid years. If I wasn’t out fishing, working, running around somewhere, or reading, I’d be in that soft mauve chair agonizing over what a flunky I was with a pen.
I was living on Florida’s Gulf Coast at that time but somehow, after moving across the state to the east coast those two years later, I found myself on a quiet beach with that damned notebook again. I thought if I took a folding chair with me, and sat on the beach, I just might finally get something down on paper. And I did. I don’t remember how much I wrote that day, but I did begin my first novel. Why was I finally able to come up with something I thought was halfway decent? Did my muse float in on a wave along with all the brown seaweed on that beach? Had my inspiration surfaced ten miles out in the Gulfstream and blown in on the easterly wind? I doubt it.
I think what happened is that I finally had a story somewhat worked out in my mind. I had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and that’s all I needed. Well, almost all I needed. The rough plot I had in my head sure helped give me confidence, but so did something else. I did exactly what Ernest Hemingway told aspiring writers time and time again. He used to say, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
Starting a new novel still isn’t easy for me. None of the writing process is. But, in my mind, there aren’t many things in this mad, maddening world that are as rewarding as a productive morning at the keyboard. And I’m awfully glad that I learned what writing one true sentence can lead to.
In the last two years, I’ve had three novels published. I’ve had two different publishers but parted ways with both of them. Now all my books are self-pubbed and will continue to be—until the “big six” publishers have a bidding war over them. Ha! Talk about a classic example of a writer’s imagination running wild!
All kidding aside, I must say that my novels have had some small successes. Two were finalists for YouWriteOn’s “Book of the Year.” My first book, Beyond Nostalgia, and my second, The Last American Martyr, both have been Amazon (multi-category) Bestsellers—four times each. My newest release, Four Days with Hemingway’s Ghost, has already been on several Bestseller lists, on two occasions.
But despite all that, the biggest rewards I’ve gotten for my efforts have been the reviews and emails I’ve received from readers. I’ve been absolutely stunned by many of them. And they, more than anything, are what keep my literary hopes alive.
About the Author:
Tom was born and raised in New York City. During his working career he has done everything from working on a railroad gang in the Colorado Rockies to driving a taxicab in Manhattan. He has also been a mailman, a salesman, an entrepreneur and more. He lives in Hobe Sound, Florida, with his wife Blanche and their ill-tempered but loveable Jack Russell terrier, Ginger.
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