Beem Weeks is the 46-year-old indie author of several short stories, poems, essays, and the historical fiction/coming-of-age novel Jazz Baby. A divorced father of two grown children, Beem has lived in Florida and Georgia, and is currently calling Michigan home. Among his literary influences he counts Daniel Woodrell, Barbara Kingsolver, and Stephen Geez. He’s been writing since childhood, having co-authored a play he saw performed by and for classmates and staff during his time in fifth grade. As a teenager and young adult, Beem wrote concert and record reviews for a small publication. Journalism had been his intended field from an early age, but all that changed with the publication of a short story that eventually led to his first novel, Jazz Baby. Beem enjoys indie films, loud music, and a well-told story. He is currently hard at work on his second novel—though that’s a slow-go at times.
What inspires you to write?
Real life inspires me. History, mostly. I find it such an amazing concept that I can write a fictional character into history and tell a story that never really happened as though it did. I start with that whole notion of What if? and I build on it, crafting a tale that hopefully will intrigue readers as much as it intrigues me.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m an outliner–to an extent. I lay out the bare bones of the story; beginning, middle, and ending; what needs to happen during these interludes to move the story along, to set up future events, and to sprinkle hints, lies, and allegations throughout. But then I flesh out the story by the seat of my pants. I believe in creating strong characters, so much effort goes into character development. Would she/he do this or that? I need to know this character inside out before basing a story around him/her. My outlines are laid out on plain white paper in black ink from a Bic ballpoint. Nothing special. It’s all quite loose and left open for changes–which come heavy and hot, those changes. That’s why an outline is so important: changes. I’ll even work up a few character sketches–though not for every character. I’ll work up personality, accents, quirks, and beliefs of this particular character.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t talk to my characters. That sounds odd–though it’s probably productive to some writers. I certainly do listen to my characters, though. They tell me a lot. I can pick out their accents, their fears, their hopes. Then it’s up to me to translate those into a believable storyline. I know exactly what Emily Ann in Jazz Baby sounds like. This is something every writer needs to learn to do: Listen to the character as if they are telling you what’s happening to them. Those characters will then help you write your story.
What advice would you give other writers?
Just write. That’s the biggest thing. Even if you only manage a paragraph a day, write it. Then, when you’ve finished your story, be it a short story or a novel, re-write it. Re-writes are vital; they make for solid storytelling. My novel Jazz Baby went through several re-writes. The published version bears little resemblance to the original manuscript. Re-writes give a sense of pride in putting your best work out there. Re-writes mean re-reads.This is the best way to learn story flow, continuity, rhythm. You’ll come up with better ways to say a line, discover a betrayal, introduce a dark character. Time and effort really build stronger stories. I’ve seen some of the first-draft short stories sent to the Fresh Ink Group contests. A first draft shows lack of seriousness in the storytelling process. Write it, re-write it, then maybe re-write it again–and don’t be afraid to make changes if said changes make the story better.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I chose the self-published route because I was so eager to get the book out to readers. Sure, I’d rather go with a large publisher that would put money–lots of money–toward publicity, advertising, and major newspaper reviews. But that takes time, and it might never even happen. My work is out there for the world to discover. I’m the one who has to find ways of letting the readers know it exists. So, it’s the immediacy of self-publishing that nudged me into that arena. I’d advise new authors to consider the options before deciding. Don’t let ego dictate. We all believe we’ve written the next great novel, an instant classic. But that’s not always the case. And when we’re competing with T.C. Boyle, Stephen King, or some other big name author, the publisher is more likely to go with the proven name. So self-publishing is there as an option. And it’s not selling out the dream, either. Sell enough self-pubbed copies, and you’ll draw attention from the big publishers.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I believe book publishing is going the way of the music industry. Digital downloads have made big record companies almost obsolete. Many bands, singers, and rappers record their own material and sell downloads through websites. The middleman record company isn’t really needed. Self-publishers continue to take small bites out of the market. Give it time and you’ll see this is the future. Sure, there will always be the big publishers, but their market dominance will die–or at the very least, it’ll shrink.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print