INtroducing... Bruce Holland Rogers and Natalie Muller
By Diego X. Jesus and Mark London
Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition.
The following two authors are this month's choices. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Bruce Holland Rogers, Fiction writer
Background INfo: When I was an undergraduate at Colorado State University I kept changing my major. I had five declared majors at various times, and there would have been more except that sometimes I had changed my mind again before I turned in the change-of-major forms with the registrar. I havenít changed. As a writer, I still want to major in everything. Iíve been nominated for or won awards in literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror. Iím mostly a short story writer. With short stories, it doesnít matter so much if you donít settle down and do only one thing. No oneís paying attention to short stories, anyway. I have the freedom that comes with working at a length that readers and publishers alike donít see as very important.
INfluences: I think my prose was heavily influenced by the poetry of James Wright. When I was a student and was writing as much ďpoetryĒ as fiction, Christopher Howell was my teacher. I put poetry in quotation marks because what I was writing might have been verse, might have had line breaks, but it certainly wasnít poetry yet. Howell is the teacher who, over the course of two semesters, finally taught me to see the difference between the ďpoetryĒ I was writing and the genuine literary art. James Wright and Galway Kinnell were among the writers that Howell used to illustrate the compression, efficiency, and concreteness of real poetry. Of course, any discussion of influences is incomplete. Everything Iíve ever read and learned something from was an influence, and that includes bad writing that taught me about what not to do.
Advice: Writers can make the mistake of thinking that all they need is technique, good work habits, and some understanding of the submissions process. Admittedly, youíd better have those! But a lot of the difference between success and failure has to do with emotional self-management and dealing with all the various frustrations and temptations that come to a working writer. I did my best to address some of these in my book, Word Work, which is about meeting the psychological and practical challenges of the writing life. One key thing to keep in mind is that your needs as a writer are liable to change, and you should let your goals change with them. Sometimes a writer needs the affirmation that comes with receiving a cheque, and sometimes itís not money that matters, but finding publication for the work of your heart. Know what you need right now, pursue that goal with your whole being, and recognize that your goals may change completely once youíve achieved your next objective. The writerís heart can be a bit mysterious. We change.
Internet Presence: I run an e-mail subscription service to my short-short stories, www.shortshortshort.com. For $10 U.S. a year, over 700 subscribers all over the world receive three of my short-short stories a month. The web site makes this service possible, and the service makes me far more visible than I might otherwise be. Having a web site is essential.
The Future: Iím continuing to write short-short stories. Iím also writing a novel at the rate of three chapters a month. Like the stories, the chapters are e-mailed to paying subscribers. Thatís plenty to keep me busy! Recently a French-language edition of shortshortshort.com started up, operated by my translator in France, Lionel Davoust. Other languages may be added. Portuguese seems likely to be next.
Bibliography Story Collections The Keyhole Opera, introduction by Michael Bishop, Wheatland Press, 2005. Thirteen Ways To Water, Wheatland Press and Panisphere Books, 2004. Lifeboat On a Burning Sea and other stories, (e-book) Alexandria Digital Literature, 2001. Flaming Arrows, introduction by Kate Wilhelm, IFD Publishing, 2001. Wind Over Heaven And Other Dark Tales, introduction by Alan Rodgers, Wildside Press, 2000.
Non-fiction Word Work: Surviving And Thriving As A Writer, Invisible Cities Press, Montpelier, Vermont, 2002.
Articles For Writers Short & Sweet in The Writer, January 2006. Cloistered Writing in The Writer, November 2005. Creating Your Own Audience in Publishing New Writers, the newsletter of AuthorBoard.com, March 2004. Tales Told ĎRound The Electronic Campfire in The Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Summer 2003. The Power Of Negative Thinking"(adapted from a chapter of Word Work) in Emmy, the magazine of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, October 2001.
BackgroundINfo: I grew up in Katoomba (home of the Three Sisters) a town two hours west of Sydney, Australia. I have always loved books and have been a keen reader ever since I learnt to read. As a child I would try writing stories, but become frustrated when my skill did not match my ambitions. I didn't start writing seriously until the last year of my bachelorsí degree.
INfluences: I would have to say the biggest influences on my writing would have to be my teachers at The University of Western Sydney, Nepean; as they gave me such a good grounding in English and History, that I couldn't imagine being able to write in the way that I do now without them. Other influences include the Greek myths. I have read these stories since I was a child. I also find that I am influenced by music especially operas.
Advice: Make a ritual out of your writing. Have a certain time and place to write, don't let anyone disturb you. The world will not become unbalanced if you disappear for a few hours. I treat writing like a meditation; I light candles and listen to music, French or Italian opera. You need to find out what suits you.
Create realistic characters with a life of their own. This means you have to know them as well as you know yourself, if you don't you will never convince the reader that they exist. I collect astrology books and find that they help when I'm trying to start a character. Twelve star signs plus moon signs, and ascendants gives you hundreds of different personalities to start from, throw in Chinese signs and you have thousands of combinations to get you started.
Use your own experiences, but don't assume that you have to write about yourself. Personally I find that most people starting out, when they write 'I' they invariably write about themselves. Writing in the third person allows the reader to meet all the characters on their own terms and not filtered through one subjective narrator. This is especially good if, like me, you prefer to keep out of the story and let the characters do all the work. My job as narrator is, like a stage manager, to set the stage, make sure the characters are in costume, don't miss their cues, say their lines and don't trip over the furniture.
Research is imperative if you want your story to ring true. I write historical novels so I end up doing a lot of research, not just on the time and places, but also on attitudes and beliefs. Don't just transplant 21st century notions into people of the past. Too many good books get spoilt in this way. For instance a 19th century woman can be a strong person, but she is not going to be a liberal feminist. Research the philosophers of the period and find out what they really thought. Anachronism will unbalance your story and rob it of any believability. Characters are not you, so don't assume their prejudices or beliefs will reflect badly on you. Imagine writing about Germans in World War II and removing any suggestion of Nazis. It is how you handle the material that matters not censoring it for a 21st century audience. Remember the past is another country.
Internet presence: I have my own web group at: http://groups.msn.com/afeejeemermaidinrustyarmour It is a place where people can go to learn more about my novel or just chat about things. I log on almost every day so if you leave me a message or join in a conversation I will get back to you. I love meeting people who have read my book. I'm known as Feejeemermaid in the group, so why don't you come a join us? I promise we don't bite. The Internet is a wonderful tool for emerging writers like myself, it gives you the ability to access people who can help with promotion, and sales or just give support all over the world.
The Future: I'm currently working on my second novel. Afraid I can't say more, I'm a little superstitious about these things.
Bibliography If It Be Not Now, Athena Press 2005 Killing Time (short forum on literary deaths published in The Weekend Australian) 2006
Diego X. Jesus is a Dominican-born American freelance journalist and associate editor of IN who makes Toronto his home approximately half the time. Otherwise, we don't know where he might be. EmailDiego X
Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. Email Mark London