Friday, December 14, 2012

Writing Is War

There is cause for great rejoicing in Type M. Our own Donis Casey will be rejoining the group in February. We're thrilled. Here's why:

Donis Casey is the author of six Alafair Tucker Mysteries, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled, The Drop Edge of Yonder, The Sky Took Him, Crying Blood, and the recently released The Wrong Hill to Die On (Nov. 2012).  Donis has twice won the Arizona Book Award and has been a finalist for the Willa Award and the Oklahoma Book Award. Her first novel, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, was named an Oklahoma Centennial Book. Readers can enjoy the first chapter of each book on her web site at

Here's Donis:

When I put pen to paper, I want to see in a new way. Not think. Thinking is a trap. I want to get off my well-beaten neural pathways and tread the previously unexplored wilds of the brain, places where no one has been before.

When the work of a great writer, or any great artist, moves me, my first reaction is to be so consumed with jealousy that I want to eat my own liver. How did she do that? I must know. I’d like to say that I then go about scientifically deconstructing her technique, but I am not so disciplined or organized. Besides, I don’t want to “figure it out”. I want to absorb it. I want to incorporate that genius into my very cells. I read the work over and over again. I read it aloud and silently. I have been known to type out the sections that particularly impress me. I’ll reproduce it word for word at first, then I’ll mess with the passage. Change this word to that, rearrange sentences, change outcomes and actions, switch characters. I learn something. I don’t know how, but I do, because afterwards, my own writing is still nothing like the great author’s, but it is changed for the better.

I don’t know why I write. I have an author friend who says that if she didn’t write, she would explode. Not me, baby. Most of the time, I don’t enjoy it. Writing is hard work, and I am basically a lazy person. I love to sleep, to eat a nice meal, read a good book. I adore the craic, as my Irish ancestors said – good company, good conversation. I like to walk in the park on a nice day and listen to the birdies. As far as writing, I have to force myself to sit down and get to it. I do enjoy the end product. I don’t like writing, I like having written. (At one time I thought I made up that sentiment myself, but I have since discovered that Dorothy Parker beat me to it.)

When I am going through the process, wrenching words out of myself before they are ready to be born just so I can meet a deadline; when I am filling out the dreaded “author questionnaire” for the publisher; when I am spending hours of my precious life promoting, trying to convince groups and libraries and bookstores and blogs that it would be worth their while to host me (and feeling quite disgruntled when they don’t already know what a genius I am); when I’m spending money on travel and conferences which I have no idea are giving me any sort of return, I often think of a quote from the movie Victor/Victoria: “I am unhappy in the extreme and I don’t have to be.” And the more I try to please people – critics, my editor, my audience – the unhappier I become.

So why do it?

Not for the money, that’s for sure, though I wish could make a lot of it off my creative efforts, and I do enjoy what little monetary reward I get. Not long ago, I was at dinner with a couple of A-list authors whose names you would certainly recognize, listening them complain that their advances had been cut to around twenty thousand dollars per book. I nearly swallowed my tongue. If I ever made 20K off a book I’d be ecstatic. (Don’t get me wrong, the Mesdames A-List both are worth every cent they get and more. However, I secretly believe that I am too.)

Do I do it out of sheer ego? Apparently not. I like the accolades, when I can get them. I love it when someone praises my writing. My books have been honored with some nice awards. No Edgars, Pens, Pulitzers, or Bookers, though, which is what I really want. I wouldn’t sneeze at a Nobel, either.

I have a website and a blog, which I keep up begrudgingly. I don’t tweet yet. I should, I suppose, but the idea makes me want to jump off a bridge. I hate wasting time in front of the computer. It’s not that I can’t keep up with technology. I’m perfectly capable of doing anything that any person of reasonable intelligence can do.

In fact, I know what what needs to be done. I just don’t want to do it. Everything but the act of writing itself sucks my soul, and even the writing can be painful in a way that’s hard to describe. Writing is war.

And yet...

Why do some young men love war?

I love it when I’m called to glory. To be lifted out of yourself, to be totally alive in the moment, to suddenly be without ego and in the grip of something unexplainable to anyone who has not experienced it. It is then that creation becomes a transcendent experience. It doesn't happen to me often, but it does happen. And in those moments, there is nothing on earth I’d rather do.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Oh, Donis. I love this post, every true word of it, as I've loved all the Alafair novels including Wrong Hill to Die On which I read on my Nook several busy weeks ago. You are such a wonderful writer I could almost eat my liver out of envy. (I just had to borrow that!)

Donis Casey said...

But what do you have to envy, Irene, you're such a good writer yourself? And as always, thank you so much for your lovely comment.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Well, say, Donis. We're looking forward to having you back.


Donis Casey said...

Thanks, Frankie, looking forward to it.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm among Donis's many fans. It's so great to have her back.