Geetanjali Mukherjee

To Live or To Create

I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes an ideal day, and by extension, an ideal life. If you have noticed, I haven’t updated my blog or posted anything personal in a while, although I have been posting the author interviews on schedule. The reason is that a lot has been going on in my personal life, and the blog took a bit of a backseat. Besides, I was trying to be productive and complete many projects that I had promised myself I would. 

I also recently moved to a new place, and had all the attendant hassles that go with that. But the move has done something else - it forced me to confront how I was scheduling my days, simply by changing my surroundings so drastically. I work from home, so as my home office changed, the patterns of work changed, and I have been asking myself what is the best way to plan the day. Maybe it is also to do with the ending of a year, beginning of another one. I have been trying to complete as quickly as I can projects that I had hoped to be done with in 2016. And in other ways I am recalibrating, and assessing how much I did do, what I can realistically plan for the next few months, and all of that wonderful end of year planning that one tends to do but can be depressing, or at the very least, sobering. 

And in all this, I have been asking myself - if I could craft my day any way that I chose, what would I do? Sometimes I feel that I obsess about productivity for its own sake, without looking at the bigger picture. That is actually a theme I have been thinking a lot about, and some conclusions I came to will impact the kind of work I take on, and even the blog, from next year. But in the meantime, it is a question that I want to have an immediate answer to at present - if I could work on a project, what would it be? Should I keep working, or take advantage of the lovely weather and go for a walk? Should I meet my friend or hole myself up in a cafe and get a couple thousand words written? 

Maybe these aren’t such big important questions? But taken another way, they are a lens with which to view life, and even to decide your philosophy on what makes for a good life. Is it better to spend hours at a desk hammering away, missing out on friends and family and even fresh air, but then finally completing that novel or that symphony or writing an important scientific paper? Or would it be better to look back on the past few months and recall the many times you went out with a friend, cooked a meal for a loved one, took long walks and read a few good books? I know it may not be the case for everyone that life choices are so stark as these, but this isn’t as far-fetched as you may think. I listen to a lot of podcasts where successful authors come on and discuss their strategies, and one thing I took away from many of these sessions is how hard the authors worked in the initial years - when the money wasn’t coming, when the work was hard, when they were toiling away for hours at their manuscripts. And then I go on Instagram and Facebook and see my friends eating at lovely restaurants, and going on holidays and posting fab pictures. Paradoxically, so do some of these writers, actors, celebs who are successful and have the time and money to go on holiday to exotic places and post pictures. 

But the question I ask myself is this - would it better for me to enjoy my youth and the sun and the good times now? Or work hard, toil away so that I could do that in the future - although there are no guarantees and not everyone achieves success? Maybe these are even the wrong questions to ask. Maybe the real question is what do you most love to do with your time? If you love to create, then you should, regardless of the reward. 

Then again, is it that simple? I love to write, when the writing is going well. But then as I start a new project, maybe something harder, more ambitious than my last one, the writing doesn’t go well. I don’t think I will be able to do it. I feel frustrated. I definitely don’t love it at that point. I would much prefer to go watch a movie or read a good book. And sometimes I do. But then the challenge of the book beckons, at least it beckons enough to ruin the experience of the movie or the book. Eventually I know that I couldn’t be in peace till I tried at least to write it. 

And maybe that really is the answer. That balance doesn’t come from writing for 3 hours in the morning, going for a walk in the afternoon and then going to bed early. That kind of schedule might work for some (many famous writers in fact follow this routine), and for others it might be something they have built up to after years of struggling. But balance in life doesn’t always have to be the same as symmetry, or doing the same thing every day at the same time. Laura Vanderkam wrote in her book 168 Hours that balance could happen over a week, and I would go so far as to give an even bigger timeframe. It is okay if while you’re writing the last four chapters of your PhD thesis you eat Chinese food and only occasionally hit the gym, as long as you get the chapters done, and get back to a healthier lifestyle once those chapters have been handed in. It is okay to be a hermit while you write a draft of your novel for 3 months, working after work and on weekends, as long as you emerge, catch up with friends, and don’t place all your hopes and dreams on one manuscript. 


Perhaps balance looks different for different people, and what matters more than crafting the perfect day is crafting a mindful one, where you make choose how you spend your time. 

Author Interview: Mat Blackwell

Today's interview is with an award-winning author of black comedy, Mat Blackwell




1.              When did you first start writing?
All I’ve ever wanted to do is write!  I’ve been writing since at least five years old, although I like to think the quality of my writing has improved slightly since then.  In school I used to harass my teachers with my short stories all the time, and, when I was in my twenties, used to write novels for fun, but they never got any further than my friends and family.  In fact, the only time in my life when I haven’t been writing was when I was studying it at university: it’s like studying it actually killed it for me.  So I shifted my degree from Creative Writing to Philosophy, and maybe a year or two later, I started writing again.  It’s one of my very favourite things in the world!

2.              What are your books about?
I really love exploring the grey areas of life, the places where we draw a moral line, the stuff that is kinda uncomfortable to think about (it’s what I also loved about studying Philosophy – all the pondering and interrogation and logical consequences stuff).  I like to extrapolate: if this is the line we’ve drawn, then what about that?  As a result, my writing either tends to be awkwardly funny, or dark and disturbing.  Or both!

3.              Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
I’ve had my jokes broadcast traditionally for a long time: for the last ten years I’ve been writing for TV programs, like “Good News Week”, “Room 101”, “Wednesday Night Fever”, and many others, as well as writing for Comedy Debates as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (through which I’ve written for artists as diverse as Waleed Aly, Corinne Grant, and Barry Humphries).  But, as awesome as all that has been, after a decade of other people using my words, no-one knows who “Mat Blackwell” is, because I’ve always been hidden behind the scenes.  And, because the world of publishing is in such flux at the moment, no publisher wants to take a risk on someone who doesn’t already have an established audience, so, after back and forthing with a number of publishers, I decided to self-publish my novel “Beef”.  It’s been great to have the novel “out there” – I have a history of writing for pleasure, and then never getting it “out there” because I immediately move to writing the next thing!  And so far the reviews have been great: one reader actually said I had "one of the most enjoyable writing styles I've probably ever experienced in a novel".  Very exciting!

4.              What led to your love for literature? Any favorite books / teachers / writing mentors?
As mentioned earlier, I’ve always loved writing.   I was one of those weird freakish children who was reading at 18 months, but couldn’t tie my shoes until I was a teenager.  I remember doing this vocabulary test in grade two, and the results said I had the vocab of a 16-year-old – and yet I could never swing from the monkey bars on the school play equipment.  Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve always loved words, and not been much good at anything else – so that pretty naturally led to a love of literature!  While everyone else was off playing sports and roller-skating and so on, I was reading, and writing.   I read anything and everything.  Later in life, I had great support from my high school Literature teacher Ms Nicholas, who wouldn’t complain when I’d give her a new short story to read every week.  As far as my favourite books goes, the book that made me need to write again after Creative Writing at university had killed it for me was “Catch 22”.  My favourite authors in general are probably Iain Banks, David Foster Wallace, and Kurt Vonnegut, but I’ve definitely learnt things from every book I’ve ever read – either in terms of what to do, or what not to do.

5.              What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
My very favourite writing process is to have one or two ideas, and just start writing, and discover the details through the process of writing.  Sometimes a character will do something I’d never have come up with!  Sometimes I have vague outlines, sometimes just a start and an end, or sometimes I’m just exploring an area or a concept, and have no idea where it’ll go.  As for the precise mechanics by which I generate wordular arrangement, I type.  When I was younger, I’d write with a pen on paper, but I find that I redraft every sentence four or five times as I write, and so for me a Personal Computer (armed with a Word Processor) is the ideal media for cranking out the word-biz.

6.              What's your editing process?
Well, first of all I have an idea or a character or something I’d like to explore.  I power through it, trying to write as much as I can in as short an amount of time as possible – my attitude is, bad writing can always be refined, so I don’t mind how terrible it is on this first draft, because everything can be changed later.  What’s more important is to have something actually written, something that can be tweaked or caressed or even scrapped entirely, because this draft is just about exploring and creating and brainstorming and seeing what works and what doesn’t.  Once I’m happy with the first draft, then I let it settle for a while, then give it to my army of beta-readers (my partner, several friends and co-writers, etc).  They tell me how good/terrible it is, and then I redraft, either taking their advice on board wholeheartedly, or realising that they had that particular piece of advice because I hadn’t explained something well enough, and so I try to make myself clearer.  Or I just totally disregard their opinions altogether, philistines the lot of them, what would they know about high art, damned fools, let’s see them make something this awesome, etc.  Then I let it settle for some time longer, before diving in for another redraft, really being as honest and rigorous as I can be.  Repeat until it’s finished.

7.              Who or what inspires you? Where / how do you get your book ideas?
I’m inspired by all of the strange and baffling things around me.  I’ve never quite understood the world, and have always been amused by the people who seem to “get it” straight away – people who seem to know when low-cut jeans are “out” and high-pants are suddenly “in”, and suddenly start wearing high-pants, as though they weren’t just laughing at people with high-pants only a few weeks earlier.  I’ve never understood how people are deeply fascinated by gymnastics and synchronised swimming, but only for a few weeks every four years – how do they switch that stuff on and off?  Or that thing in Australia where in summer, people are interested in cricket, in winter they rave about football – how?  Why?  If someone said “I only like Cubism in winter, and Surrealism in summer”, people would act like they’re crazy.  I’m endlessly fascinated by foibles and taboos, and the imaginary lines people draw and then act as though they are real: eating a dog is bad, but eating a pig is somehow okay?  Farting in public is bad, but filling a handkerchief with snot and then putting it back into your pocket, that’s fine?  Women can wear skirts, but men can’t?  It’s all clearly madness and make believe, but people act like it’s real.  It’s never hard to get ideas: I just look around.

8.              Where do you feel most inspired to write?
Unfortunately, a lot of my inspiration comes to me when I lay down to drift off to sleep – perhaps it’s a mental state or something, but I constantly find myself coming up with genius ideas for stories and essays, or find things falling together in amazing ways, just as I’m about to fall asleep. So I either have to get up and write it down, which kills my sleepiness, or I have to just hope that I remember the idea in the morning.  And I can tell you that I never ever ever remember the idea in the morning.  Another great place for inspiration is walking dogs or washing dishes – again, I think it’s a mental state, where things just seem clear and awesome and accessible.  Alpha waves?  Theta waves?  No idea.  

9.              Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.
I have a studio space downstairs, it’s dark and dismal and strewn with miscellaneous detritus; the walls are green/grey and splashed with drips and mottled danknesses.  My paintings are up, crammed against each other; my drum kit (augmented with pot lids and bells and misc percussive objects) fills up an entire corner.  Rows and rows of CDs line rickety shelves.  A set of old drawers is filled with more instruments and effects pedals and years’ and years’ worth of collages (I make art and music as well as write, I should’ve mentioned).  Junk is everywhere.  On an old desk sit second-hand out-of-date loud-fanned computers – they were out-of-date when I bought them second hand, nearly twenty years ago.  They don’t do internet (they did once, but something happened (inexplicable to me, I have no tech skills) and now they don’t).  This is where I write. It’s like being in an isolated wasteland of concentrated creativity, something between a dungeon cell and a cramped cave, and I love it.  

I actually spent an entire podcast talking about my writing space:
http://therightspaceshow.com/#/mat-blackwell/

10.           Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
I used to, but now I find I get too distracted.  The only kind of music I can write to now is either extreme grinding powernoise, or ambient minimalism.  Extreme grinding powernoise is probably best, because it simultaneously blocks out any other distractions – but my studio space is sound-proofed anyway, so it doesn’t really matter for me.  Silence is fine!

11.           Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?
For me, the best way through writers’ block is to just write something bad.  Not like morally bad: just inept, unskilled, pedestrian – basically just space-filler for where the awesomeness will one day go.  My attitude is that it’s so much easier to fix bad writing than it is to fix no writing: bad writing can always be refined, or, if it really is terrible, just deleted.  But more often than not, I find that the writers’ block only lasts for the length of a sentence or so – once I start writing, no matter how crappy it is, it really doesn’t take very long for the flow to come back.  I really do love writing quite a lot.

12.           Do you now, or did you ever have any day jobs? Did they add to or detract from your writing?
For the last decade and a bit, I’ve been employed as a gag-cruncher/funnysmith for various TV shows – the head writer will say “okay, today I want jokes about penguins”, and I’ll write a page of jokes about penguins.  Repeat, but instead of “penguins” substitute “Kardashians” or “ISIL” or “Donald Trump” or “the dwarf planet Pluto”, ad infinitum.  Although it’s great to make a living doing what you’re good at, those kinda jobs do make doing any other kind of writing (i.e. novels and short stories) really really hard, because all the words in my brain have already gone by the end of the day, I’m like a juiced lemon, just a vocab-free husk of a man with only grunts left.  For the last couple of years, the TV work has reduced, and so I’ve had time for my own stuff once more, which has been great.  

Previous to the TV gagsmithery I did a whole bunch of different and unrelated day jobs (childcare, tutor, phone surveys – I even had one job remixing dance music for some aerobics-style fitness craze), and I did do a lot of writing, but I don’t think the jobs helped that – if anything, they got in the way.  In my ideal world, I’d be paid a whole lot of money for writing exactly whatever it is that I feel like writing, when I feel like writing it, perhaps perched in a tower at the very top of a Dracula-style castle, with highly efficient but silent minions at my constant beck and call, bringing me coffee and macadamia nuts and sandwiches at ungodly hours of the day, while I pace and cackle and hunch over my keyboard, and I wouldn’t have to worry about jobs ever again.  JobsBah!

13.           How do you make the time to write?
By not going out to see music or movies or friends or family or ever socialising or even leaving the house ever.  By not watching TV or listening to the radio or writing tweets.  By writing instead of doing other things that good decent normal sensible people do.

14.           How much research do you do? What kind?
It depends on what I’m writing.  A lot of things don’t require research, they just require observational skills and a lack of qualms about stealing others peoples’ real lives and slapping them into your stories without permission.  But, for instance, with my novel “Beef”, I wanted all the stuff about artificially-grown meat to be as factual as it could be, so I did heaps of reading about that – different attempts at making it, who was behind what attempt, when it occurred, what it tasted like, etc – so that when I talked about it in the book, it wasn’t all just made-up nonsense.  One of my short stories deals with an old couple dealing with dementia and mercy-killing, so that took a fair bit of reading to deal with in a sensitive and accurate way.  I like to be as “true” as possible in my writing, so when I feel that I need to research something, I read as much about that thing as I can.  (But sometimes Wikipedia will do.)

15.           How much marketing do you do? Which platforms are you most active on?
This is the worst part of writing, for me – the marketing.  All I want to do when I’ve finished a story is write another one, but, especially as a self-published author, so much time has to go into publicising it, trying to make a tiny splash in a world of seven billion other people.  Marketing is so totally not my thing.  There’s nothing I hate doing more than hassling people to read my stuff, trying to convince people to look at me, look at me.  It’s horrible.  But we have to, don’t we, otherwise no-one’s going to notice us amongst the seven billion other people crammed onto this silly planet, so we just have to grit our teeth and try desperately to get noticed somehow.  These interviews are all a part of it, of course – as much as we might pretend that they’re not just a despairing cry for attention, as much as we might avoid mentioning within the interview that it’s really just a thinly-disguised advertisement for our product, it really is, and we’re not fooling anyone, and we all hate doing it (except I guess the rampant egoists, who probably love it more than the writing part).  As far as “platforms” go, I have a Facebook page for Beef, and I have a Goodreads profile as an author, but honestly my heart’s really not in it.  They’re just part of the marketing push, the futile straw-clutching required to attempt to turn labour into capital, and even just writing about them now, I feel so terribly terribly sad.  I think I need an agent or something.

16.           What's the most fun aspect of marketing? The most challenging?
There is nothing fun about it.  Literally nothing.  I really don’t like it at all.

No, actually, I do enjoy talking about creativity and writing, but I wish there wasn’t this desperate commercial engine driving the whole enterprise.  It’s like, on one hand there is a practical need to get known, otherwise no-one’s going to buy your books, but on the other hand you’ve got to pretend that you’re not really actually trying to get known, because no-one likes blatant commercial self-aggrandisement.  Like this interview: I’ve got to pretend that I’m just doing it for fun, as a bit of a lark or something, just a perfectly normal activity that I do to pass the day, just a little neutrally-driven chat, when of course I’m really doing it in a desperate attempt to help me sell some books. 

So all this constant marketing, while continually hoping to come across as not really marketing at all, creates this perpetual state of inauthenticity that underlies every interaction, and undermines all the good things I’m actually trying to do with my writing.  It’s like I spend all this effort and time and deep exhausting soul-searching to try and make my writing as true and honest and real as possible, only to have to create fake connections and forced networks and nongenuine community just to try and get my Product in a position where it can be Leveraged into making me some money, as though that’s actually the real reason I wrote it.  It’s all very depressing and distressing and feels like I’m a liar and a fake, like I’m as bad as any downsize-crazy bottom-line corporate executive psychopath, but with none of the cash to show for it.  So that’s the most challenging aspect of it: motivating myself to pimp myself out in a continual stream of exhausting and insincere networking media stunts, and then living with myself afterwards.

17.           What project are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a batch of short stories, because there’s something very special about pithy little snapshots of a variety of people and situations, compared to the more in-depth concentration of longer-form novels.  Short stories are also more suitable to the bite-sized dollops of attention readers have in this constantly-on multiple-tabs-open triple-screened twitterfied vine-looped cultural omniverse we now find ourselves in: a short story is something you can read between status updates, or while waiting for your pumpkin-spiced decaf soy mocha chai latte.  So far, the stories are either terribly depressing, very black comedies, strange little character examinations, or existentially-bleak ruminations on the meaninglessness of being alive in an uncaring universe just because our parents had sex some time.  Seems such a poor reason to exist, doesn’t it?

After the book of short stories, I’ll be working on another novel, a sequel of sorts to ‘Beef’: it’ll be set in the same world as the other novel, but following a different group of characters (minor characters only briefly met in the first one).  It’ll be all about feminism and gender and motherhood and what living in a post-gender-divided world might look like, and how motherhood might be rebooted in such a world.  At this stage, it’s called “The Post-cultural Pregnancy of Sydenham Jones”.  Stay tuned! :) 

Bio:

Mat Blackwell is a multi-award-winning comedy writer for TV who is now spending his late-summer-to-mid-autumn years writing gritty sordid blackly comical tales of awkwardness, failure, obsession, anxiety, and poor personal hygiene. He is a hermit, a recluse, a chaos-magician, a father, a partner, a noise-maker, a collage-artist, and a terrible disappointment. 

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      Beef

Can an affair be non-physical? Is infidelity really just about meat slapping together? Or is what goes on behind the meat actually more important? 
      
      Beef is a contemporary satire about love, meat, and infidelity, set in an Australia of the incredibly-near future. It is a multi-generational tale of unseen consequences, and the pressures of leaving a legacy. But most of all, it’s the rollicking story of an awkward middle-aged sociophobe’s attempts to be a good partner and a good father and a good son, in the context of desperately trying not to have an affair with a wildly attractive psychic… a psychic who insists they are going to end up together, like it or not, because “it’s destiny”. 
    
     From one of Australia's most-awarded comedy writers, Beef explores desire and faithfulness in a dystopian future Australia where bizarre cults thrive, where music is advertising, where psychics are out of the closet, and where meat is no longer murder.
                                                            
      Paperback | Kindle




Author Interview: Jesse Teller

Today's interview is with fantasy author, Jesse Teller.




1.     When did you start writing?
When I was in fifth grade, I wrote my first story. I had been waiting a long time for that assignment, I think. The idea of writing was never presented to me before that. I was for playing guns and watching cartoons—and chores, lots of chores. But other pursuits were not shown to me. When the idea of writing was given to me, I kind of sat there shocked. My teacher told us to write a short story and my jaw fell open. I was an apprentice storyteller at that time. Looking back now, I can see that it’s what I was making my life about. Nothing entertained me as much as a well-told story, and I’ll tell you, my family was great at it. When I heard I could write those stories down, my mind was never the same. I suddenly had the authority to create work that could be read for years to come. The difficult part was that no one in my family wanted to read it. I didn’t find an audience for a long time.

2.     What are your books about?
The first 2 are about a boy. The reader will not meet him for a while. Now, he is not the main character of all the books. He is the undercurrent, the jet stream, the constant that is pushing it all forward. His name is Peter Redfist, and he is being formed into a leader. His people are in dire need of a form of leadership that only he can give. When he was born, a shaman came out of the mountain and told his father to set aside his own crown and train Peter for the throne. That story is the main thread, but things spin off of it. My work discusses a theme, a simple idea I came up with when my oldest boy was about four.

What if we raised our children on purpose? Not just as a thing we did while we traveled the world, but if we sat down and made a list of the things they needed to know. If we decided who came into their lives based on what that person would teach them. If we curbed every word, if we asked ourselves the constant question: What will this action, what will this conversation, teach my child? What if we raised them to be leaders of men and women? To be capable and ready to look at the world without flinching. What if we raised Peter Redfist?

3.     What led to your love of literature? Any favorite books?
Let’s start with The Jungle Books. Kipling is a god. His characterization of the animal, his law of the jungle, was really the beginning of it all. Never was I a fan of the Disney movie, and I enjoyed watching the live action because I can’t get enough Ka, but really the book is where it’s at. If you haven’t read it, walk away from the “Bare Necessities” and go looking for “Night-Song in the Jungle”.

I took my first literature class in high school with a teacher named Judith Learmann. She took me by the hand and pulled me, sometimes kicking and complaining, through English literature. First time I really looked at a poem not written by Poe. First time through Canterbury Tales. First time hearing A Modest Proposal by Swift. Man, I didn’t know the written word could do things like that. Once you have read Frankenstein, I'm telling you, there is no going back. You can’t Macbeth and walk away. You’re in it now. Writing and books are just part of the way of your world.

The literature started with Mrs. Learmann. She was also the newspaper teacher. I wrote for her paper. We created a serial writer column for the paper. My pen name was Charlie Poet, taken from two earlier serial paper writers, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe. I bequeathed that pen name to a junior when I graduated.

4.     What's your writing process like?
Starts with coffee. For me, everything starts with coffee. Today I didn’t get my coffee. I had to drink tea. I didn’t really get started working until 2:45. So, yeah, coffee. Then I spend time talking to my wife. She gets me going. Revs me up, gets me spry and limber. She is a genius, and spending time with her is both invigorating and relaxing. By the time she is done with me, I am sharp, at the top of my game. Then, into the office.

Email first, then Facebook. Gotta clear the mind, and looking at the benign will do that. Seeing a picture of a croissant that a person across the country ate for breakfast has a way of pulling you out of the real world and shoving you into fantasy. Suddenly, it is important what people are eating. Suddenly, a post about a spill someone made on the carpet is worth your time. The minutia of it all gets me in a place where I am looking at details, paying attention to the subtle things about life. Then YouTube.

When I go to YouTube, I’m in it for the music. I can watch any music video ever made by anyone. I listen to good music, powerful music—White Buffalo, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash. It gets me ready, gets me to clench my fist. Then I write.

Coming down is just as important, like stretching after a workout, more Facebook, more videos. This time Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift. They pull me out of the horror and the darkness. They reach in with delicate hands and gently guide me out of whatever bloody battle, or intense scene, I have been caught in. They brush me off and shove me out into the world again.

Until tomorrow.

5.     What's your Editing Process?
My books in rough draft are a mess. They are all gristle and bone, handfuls of fat and traces of skin. They need to be done again. They need another chance on the block. I have an editor, a master named Lorin Oberweger, who shows me all the cuts I made wrong and the weaknesses in my technique. I reread the work. I know what I'm doing now. I have a blueprint. I know how to slaughter this pig now, so I start over. I pull up a blank document and write the scene, chapter, book, all over again. This time, I have gotten away from it a bit. Before this, I haven’t looked at the rough draft for over a year. Now I see better what I was trying to do, what I was doing well, and what I messed up bad. When I get the work done, I have mostly meat. I have taste testers. Traci Curran and my wife read the work and tell me their thoughts. Beta readers are more important than you think. After that, the finer parts are done, trimming fat and gristle. Then I send it to a man, who knows grammar much better than me, for his editing. Then I'm done.

6.     Any favorite apps/software/ technology for writing?
OK, this is vital. My favorite weapon is my keyboard. I used to buy these cheap ones. They were slightly curved, soft touch keys, very quiet. I had to replace them a lot. When I wrote Eastgate, it was 810 pages long, and I went through three of these boards. The letters rubbed off. The letters started doubling or not registering at all. I did research to find that the keyboards I was buying were designed for 50,000 to 100,000 words. Eastgate was over 250,000. It was the first in a seven-book series. This keyboard was not going to get it done. Looked at the board industry hard and found Deck Boards. They are designed for gamers who hit the same keys thousands of times a night. It lasted me a few years before it started doubling keys on me. T, S, E, M, O would double every time I typed them. That keyboard had given me 1.4 million words. I took it as a win and moved on. Now, I have been with this old girl for a while and I can’t get enough of her. Rosewill Helios has typed over 1.9 million words for me. No sign of wear. She is backlit. Her keys can shine red, or what they will me is green but looks yellow to me. She is my girl until she starts giving me fits. When that happens, I’ll probably have a funeral for her. She is part of the family.

As far as software, look into Scrivener no matter what you write—play, screenplay, poem, research paper, everything. It is awesome for every kind of writing known to man. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

7.     What did you find most useful in learning to write?
You’re gonna laugh at this, but there is one skill that is by far the most important, that helped me more than any other, and that I am still terrible at, and that is typing.

When I started my first book, I didn’t know how to type, had no idea. I had a set number of words I had to reach every day. That number was 2,000. It was my quota. So, I woke up in the morning, and got a legal pad and started writing. Wrote out ten pages and went to type it up. While I was typing, I would add to it, and in the end get 2,000 words every day.

But, that day was a long one. It took me hours of typing to get it done, hunting for one letter after the next, peck and hunt and sigh. The book was called Chaste. It comes out October 5, 2016. The rough draft was terrible and 776 pages long. 776 pages of hunt and peck. I got better and better, and by the time I was done, I felt like I was flying. But it wasn’t until I was about 60 pages into Eastgate that I found my stride. By then, I was able to do 2,000 words in one hour. Upped my quota to 3,000. Now I do that everyday. Takes about an hour and twenty minutes.

8.     Where do you get your book ideas?
I started in fantasy with Dungeons and Dragons. Told a lot of good stories. Got a lot of ideas. Never ran a prefabricated game. I couldn’t afford them at first, then it was a pride thing. I didn’t need games plotted out for me. I could make them up as I went. The games are not books, but it created the world. There are a few characters I use that other people ran, but the stories are never the same. Most of it is just the character’s name, as tribute to the people I played with. The incarnation of the characters are completely different, but the cities are the ones I used in the game. My wife is a graphic designer and she originally created the map for the games. The world was of my own creating, and it feeds off of itself. Once I had written the first two books, the world just sort of took off.

9.     Where do you feel most inspired to write?

Jesse's office

The office was set up to produce. When we moved to this house, I was in the middle of a novel. I had to take two weeks to pack up the old house. I had to take two weeks to set up this one. The office was finished first. We still had boxes for every single room when this room was complete. We had to buy furniture, had to paint my walls and my magnetic wall. We had to unpack dozens of boxes and hang pictures and unpack shelves. I was in the middle of a book, and I needed to get back to it. I picked up and kept going from the word I finished on. Took me another two months to write the end of that book, and I was on to the next.

That room is made for work. Everything revolves around work. That room is designed to be a shrine to fantasy. You should see these walls, should see the shelves that hang next to the closet. The bookshelves are littered with fantasy. The very walls breathe dragon’s breath. It stinks of blood and sword oil in that place. I can’t walk into that room without wanting to write. It kinda takes over. The old desk, the loud keyboard, that room was built for the world of magic. Can’t not want to work there.

10.   Describe your desk.
This old relic was picked out of a furniture store that didn’t want it. The salesman gave it to me free just to get it out of the store. He had been trying to sell it for over 19 years when I walked in, and it was exactly what I was looking for. I had been to every used furniture store in the city, every one of them.

It is the last of the old army desks. Solid steel, it weighs more than a truck. I can kick it when I’m frustrated, and it shrugs it off. Six drawers. Two pull-out shelves. A linoleum top that looks like a shop floor. It is gray, they say a little green, but I can’t be sure. It has a big top to it, maybe five-foot by three-foot. It is modest but immense.

It has seen a business fail, as the salesmen that gave it to me said it used to be an office desk for a factory that went out of business. It has seen failure before and warns me of it. It is dented in places from some abuse it has yet to tell me about. There is not a spot of rust on it. To be honest, I think rust is afraid of it. I have never asked this thing to do anything it was not ready to do, never found a weakness or a chink. It is perfect for my world, perfect for my writing. It is a worker, not bent on looks but function, not created for anything but to last and serve. It understands me, and me it. It will be my headstone when I die. Until then, it is my partner.

11.  Do you ever get Writer's Block? How do you get around it?

In my world, Writer's Block is a myth. Sometimes I take a day off to let an idea sit and rest, like a piece of meat off the grill, but I never stop. The truth about Writer’s Block is, it exists within the mind and not without. The idea is that the ideas won’t come, that the writer stares at a blank page, a blank document with fear gripping them and the inability to create. It’s bullshit. Your own fears have worked their way into your head. For those of you out there who are suffering from this malady, I want you to listen very carefully. Pull in close and believe. This is a petty thing to get caught up by. Just start typing. Swallow your pride and pound out crap. It’s like a faucet that has not been used for a decade. When you turn it on, it sputters. It spills out water, dingy and rancid. It hisses and whines. But when you let it run for a while, the pure water comes after the toxic has had its day.

If you are suffering from Writer’s Block, you will write crap for a while. You will hate every word that comes out of your fingers. But you gotta keep pounding. Let the dingy water out. The faucet was designed for purity. It will find its way back to crystal clean, but not unless you let it run. So, write nonsense for a while. Don’t use your lack of brilliance as an excuse to let “Writer’s Block” tie you up.

No other art has this. Painters are afraid of a blank canvas, but they have not constructed a ready-made excuse for not working. They don’t label their inadequacies with a mythical name that inspires fear in them. They just admit they are afraid of failure. Dancers don’t get Dancer’s Block. A bassist doesn’t label a bad gig as a block. He calls it an off night and gets back to his work the next day. No excuses. No labeling your crap or your fear. Just work. That is all there is. Some of it is good, some of it is bad, but it is there. Just work.

12.   What project are you working on now?

At this moment, I am on break. I promised my wife I would not write a word this month because I wrote two books last month, and I didn’t get to see her that month. I'm making up for lost time, but I am always working.

The next book is called Bladesport. It is about a city that has been conquered by three horrors. It is isolated by the ocean, and never really had a government, but when the overreaching lord is overthrown, darkness seeps in. Three monsters take over the town. One is a half demon named Darkfess. He runs a gladiator arena and all the atrocities that come with it. He is damn near a god in his power and scope, and nothing has brought him down in his 370 years of life. The second horror is the slave trader. He has no name, no signs of emotion or empathy. He sells anyone he can get his hands on, and rules a mass of warriors and wizards too scared of being sold into slavery to question his motives or methods. The third is known as the Void. It devours people and changes them to monsters. The three powers keep the city in fear and create a darkness none can fight.

Peter Redfist has found out that three of his people are trapped in that gladiator arena, and he wants them back. He sells himself into slavery with his men so he can break his people out and end the terror of the three.

It’s gonna be fun. This is my first real attempt at a gladiator arena. Can’t wait for the 1st.

Bio:

Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.




When her devout parents died, Cheryl turned her back on her god. Years of denial and self-loathing have defeated her. Her life consists of taking orders and succumbing to abuse. A group of strangers stops in Chaste for the night, but an unnamed threat is preying on the town. Tragic deaths have become more and more frequent. Cheryl wants to protect these travelers, expose the evil force, and save her fellow citizens, but she must find a way to believe in hope.

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