I thought I'd blog a bit today about who I am and what I like to write. Since I'm still trying to sort out who I am, I'll start with the latter.
I like looking at issues from multiple angles so I'm drawn to multiple points-of-view as a writer. As a reader, though, I know it's sometimes off-putting when you're just getting immersed in the story from one perspective and the author suddenly changes point-of-view on you.
I like mystery but not who-dun-its, more the mystery in life itself or the "why" behind human behavior, which can be at times so inexplicable. This includes the "why" of mysteries; that is, what motivates the criminal mind? I have one work in progress in which a child jealous of a sibling and feeling slighted by his mother goes on to become a killer who -- like all killers -- finds ways to justify his actions. (No, it's not the one about my grandmother. This is a different one, and this one is fiction.)
More often, though I like to write about the "lesser" sins that plague most of us. I like to write about characters who are flawed but not beyond redemption. I like to write about, in the words of William Faulkner, the human heart in conflict with itself. I like to write about the ways in which we both are, and are not, the product of our upbringing, our past , and even the past of our parents and grandparents.
As for who I am, isn't that what we're all trying to figure out? I think this is the greatest mystery of all, and perhaps the foremost reason I love to write. Maybe, through my characters -- who always contain a piece of me, whether it's the hero of the villain -- I hope to gain insight into myself, the foolish things I so often do, and the occasional glimpses of something noble.
In novels and movies, you often see people who risk everything -- their freedom, their families, their lives -- in the pursuit of wealth. People are willing to steal, kill, etc. for it. When I read or watch these works, I typically think, "How foolish! I'm so thankful that's not me", or even "I would never do that."
Yet I also think how much of my own life -- (how many minutes of the day or days of the year) is consumed thinking in some fashion about money. But would wealth really bring an alleviation of problems, or create new ones? I wrote The Ticket to explore how the sudden acquisition of wealth might affect a family struggling to get by.
I initially investigated this windfall from multiple points of view: the father, the grandmother, the mother, and the fourteen-year old daughter Tray, as well as that of the man who actually bought the lottery ticket and gifted it to Tray's dad. However, a number of readers of the early draft indicated that they found Tray's story and perspective to be the most compelling. At first I was reluctant to yield to this suggestion and instead re-crafted the story from the points of view of the three generations of women. Ultimately however, it emerged as a single perspective novel, as Tray's story.
The cover of The Ticket depicts fourteen-year old, gangly Tray staring into the distance at a rusty water tower. My original title for The Ticket was A Ticket Bought at a Hazard, and "Hazard" originally appeared on the water tower. Of course, "Hazard" severed a double meaning here: the name of the town where the lottery ticket was purchased and the hazard facing Tray and her family.
The original title came from a quotation from the Frank Norris novel, McTeague.
“ . . . Invariably it was the needy who won, the destitute and starving woke to wealth and plenty, the virtuous toiler suddenly found his reward in a ticket bought at a hazard; the lottery was a great charity, the friend of the people, a vast beneficent machine that recognized neither rank nor wealth nor station.”
However, initial readers and editors feared the title to be confusing, and it was shortened to The Ticket. Still I believe Tray's wistful state of mind persists in the new title.
Here is the link to the Amazon page where the book is available.
To learn more, please view the book trailer at: https://vimeo.com/50187275.
I'm currently working on a new novel based on the life of my grandmother. The preliminary title for this one is Tales from the Bell City Bottoms. All the characters in The Ticket are fictional, but some pieces of my experience emerge through them. The grandmother in The Ticket, Ginny, is wiser and more pious than my own grandmother, who was funny, loving, prone to exaggeration, and told risque jokes and stories; yet they share a number of traits. The mother in The Ticket, Evelyn, suffers bipolar disease, as does mine, but Evelyn's conditions much more extreme. And so on.
As human beings, we are so complex that I stand in awe of those writers who somehow manage to capture the complexity without losing the thread of the story in the process. This is my goal, but I haven't gotten thee yet. I hope to get a little closer with each successive novel.