Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love and Loathing

Last weekend I traveled up to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale to see one of my fellow Poisoned Pen Press authors, Dennis Palumbo, whose latest novel, Night Terrors, just came out. Dennis not only writes smashing thrillers, he’s also a psychologist working in Hollywood, CA. Many of his clients are in the entertainment industry, naturally, which is job security if I ever heard of it. Dennis said something about writers at that author event that was so spot on that I nearly leapt to my feet and hollered, “That’s it!”

He observed that most of the writers he knows are raging egomaniacs with low self-esteem.

I can relate.

I've often wondered what a psychologist would say about my reasons for writing. When I am writing, especially a first draft, I write for an audience of one--me.  I write a story that I would like to read.  I did not always do this.  I used to try very hard to write for The General Reading Public.  But I began to have some publishing success when I forgot that notion.  I write about what interests me.

Then, when the editing and rewriting process begins, I listen to suggestions from my pre-publication readers (sometimes) and from my editor (always), and tweak the story as per instructions in order to broaden its appeal.

My audience, therefore, is probably people like me.  Sadly for the scope of my appeal, I am not a teenage boy or a romance-starved young woman.  I’m not judging hero tales or romance novels, here.  I think they are great, but my interests run in other directions these days. I tried to write a romance novel once.  I had a wonderful idea, and I really think it would have been a good story, but I couldn’t sustain my own interest, and the book petered out before it was finished.  I’m sorry to say this, because a popular romance novel will sell ten times as many copies as a popular mystery.

Having made the statement that I strictly write what I like and to hell with the audience, I now have to admit that I’m lying.  I do construct my current series to please myself, but there are many things I’d love to write about, yet am not brave enough to attempt.

Even that is not true.  I do write them, but am not brave enough to try to have them published.  I fear that if I did, someone would send men in white coats to chase me around with butterfly nets.

For there are things in the dark, in the past, in your head, and you don’t know where they came from, or if they’re real, or why they’re trying to get you. When dark things happen to me, rather than deal with my fears, I develop a neurosis. This is the nice thing about being a writer. I can have my characters plunge into the dark and confront my fear.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Donis--I can't wait to meet Dennis. His column is great. As to the psychology of writers--boy, is that ever loaded.

Donis Casey said...

I love his humor, too, Charlotte