Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Natasha Oliver on Blogging and Soul's Road

I might as well be honest. I'm not very good with blogs. Actually, I suck at them. They remind me of diaries, only digital, and purposely impersonal. (I suck at diaries too.) I find that most blogs have nothing to say, or at least nothing to say that interests me. Out of hundreds of posts, I usually find one that's relevant or at minimum, mildly entertaining.

Oh, I've tried blogging. I've had about two or three blogs in the last five years. There was the current events response blog, but that got old really quickly. (I didn't realize just how repetitive the news was until I started to blog about it. It's ridiculous how many Ethic Committee senators sleep with prostitutes or have long-standing affairs and hidden families. And every time I turn around, someone is blowing someone else up, another someone is using children on the front lines to further his agenda, and my favorite: "American Idol is the number one TV show across America! Join us at 9, live, to find out why.")

Then there was the blog about my novel's characters. That was fun, but... pointless if I'm honest. I mean, no one read it--why would they, my novel was a work-in-progress, and let's face it, I'm still a nobody in the writing world.

And finally there was the blog about my pregnancy. I get the chills just thinking about it.

I've followed countless blogs. Mostly literary agents who have a knack for making you think that if you just follow their blog, you'll somehow one-up the competition. The truth of the matter is, they're marketing themselves, and we writers fall for it every time. I mean, if I spend my days reading these blogs, when will I have the time to actually write anything? My experience with agents' blogs is that the only thing you'll find useful in them (that you can't find on the net at-large) is how many aspiring authors they've rejected in a given week. Because they admit their work is temperamental and, in addition to good writing, luck has a huge part to play. (Being previously published and/or having a contact doesn't hurt either.)

So, when I found out that we (Soul's Road) were doing a blog, I cringed--just a little. Luckily, Icess (writingtoinsanity) gave us a prompt to follow to help "non-bloggers" like me find something to write about.

Tax Collector

My short story, "Tax Collector" is about two people who are simply going through the motions of life, trying to make it as least painful as possible. It was inspired by reading a lot of Raymond Carver. His stories felt as if they would go absolutely nowhere (almost a circular feeling to them), but you enjoyed them nonetheless because the characters were real. That's where I decided to start: characters.

Alba came to me pretty quickly. I couldn't pin down her personality at first, so I decided to give them all to her. She doesn't have multiple personality disorder, she is just following her instincts and "trying on" new personalities when she grows tired of the old ones.

Mort and I had a different kind of relationship. We didn't "hit it off" right away. I knew he was older, but it took a while for me to "settle" into him. He was from a different generation, the generation where his parents went through segregated schooling, and so he grew up not trusting "the man", but "the man" was the only employer that Blacks could readily find. I wanted to show that bit of history that was at odds with itself, but not dwell on it.

I knew early on that I was going to poke at the "lack of" separation of church and state, and given that Alba and Mort are atheist and agnostic, respectively, I knew I needed a balance. Catherine (with a "C") was the character I wanted to use to make fun of religion, and so I needed her to go "jihad" on the secular world, and the more I wrote her, the more she took form.

All my characters have a screw loose, and I like them that way. My comfort zone is fantasy or sci fi, and so I pushed myself to stay within the realm of reality (*cough*) and focused on the characters and less on the world around them.

I think what the authors of Soul's Road have done is amazing. I've had the privilege of reading all the stories, and I'm honored to have mine be among them.

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