The folks at Vinspire Press have developed an awesome announcement page for my first young adult novel, titled ‘Becky’s Kiss’ that I plan to show soon. The release date for the book is at the end of this November and I am excited about the publication.
I did write this under the pen name – Nicholas Fisher. While I don’t necessarily know that high school kids would like my denser, harder hitting horror stuff, I can’t necessarily assume that they wouldn’t! With the pseudonym I am not attempting to fool anyone, but I did want to separate the two “entities” simply for the sake of politeness. The two authors (if I might be so bold as to use third person here for the purpose of illustration), do many things similarly. The YA material still contains a paranormal element, a strong impending peril, and broad character portraits. It still (hopefully of course) rings true and contains a high level of suspense. The core difference between stories by Michael Aronovitz and those of Nicholas Fisher, is the nature of the truths and where they bring the characters in the end. Fisher is more the optimist, framing the truth in in flickers and dawning realizations that make it so characters fit into the world better. Aronovitz uses human truths as his dark corridors and desecrated churches. Personal epiphany is more the terror than the old archetypes, like vampires, werewolves, zombies, and water beasts. He uses ghosts and such, but they often lead readers back to the horror in the recesses of the human heart.
There is also the idea of structure, and writing YA was hard for me considering it from this more technical perspective. I am a big fan of glorious descriptions and deep psychological narrative summaries, so much so that every agent in the free world turned down my first novel ‘Alice Walks’ in its original form. Finally, I took the advice and removed fifty pages altogether (major surgery…not all from one place certainly) and got an adult novel that didn’t show all, but implied more, leading to a reading experience that offered the illusion of the “moving picture.” ‘Becky’s Kiss’ was a challenge in that most YA fiction is quicker than quick adult fiction, which even after the edits, ‘Alice Walks’ was most certainly not.
Still, ‘Becky’s Kiss’ came rather easily, at least in rough draft and in terms of the pacing. The story was strong in my head because it involved baseball, one of my passions, and being that I coached for so many years (and I was a high school teacher for that many more) the first draft at least, was fast and furious. The problem with structural mechanics was more about placement than mere length or “thickness.” Though I prefer short fiction, and with novels – short novels (at least when I write them), there seemed a lot to “accomplish” in too short a space at first. I was playing with timelines and mapping out simultaneous existences on different platforms, and it was coming out a bit confusing, especially at the point of climax. There were also initial issues like having the love interest only appear twice in the first fifty pages, and my keeping the initial wrinkle vague until page 4, so it was a question of positioning and timing more than merely writing 50,000 words as opposed to 80,000.
This raises the idea that I had to solve problems I had little experience with, and here I must say that I got writing advice that was ultimately useful. Conversely, I think that as we grow as writers, we often have first exposure in these wonderful (and often painful) writing groups, where new authors don’t only offer their initial attempts at story construction, but also begin practicing the use of their critical voices. And while some of this is necessary to hear, even crucial, new writers as critics tend to come at these things with agendas that might be different than the idea that they will take what is there and make it better. Too often, instead of accepting dialogue or inner monologue or straight narration that reflects a certain truth, or the way the character would interpret the truths around her, developing critics voice a preference that the character reflect a moral ideal. Of course, the very act of the character thinking like the trend many would want to refine might very well be a subtle message making us think about the ideal, but as one can see, the developing critic is quick to blame the author for not overtly sharing a view or becoming some sort of moral compass through straight exposition. I would argue that the main idea should be whether the story works for what it is trying to accomplish, not whether or not the tale necessarily “makes high school girls start feeling better about themselves,” or “promotes a more wholesome and healthy view of beauty.” There is also the “critic” who simply takes a hatchet to everything, and this is just plain damaging. First off, if a newer critic reads a horror story and says “I hate horror,” we know the commentary is going to be rather generic and lame. Next, when the same artsy snob says, “It failed because it didn’t scare me,” we have another argument altogether, concerning the purpose of weird fiction in the first place, but that tangent I will save for another post. Better would be an analysis of the story mechanics based on the foundation the author was attempting for his or her implied audience and whether or not the base of this house was consistent. There are logic errors and there are logic errors. Playing deconstructor is a simplistic fool’s game, and any idiot could take even ‘Hamlet’ and prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was always a piece of shit. When critiquing the work of another, more experienced critics leave politics behind. They use empathy. The more professional question points to the idea concerning whether or not the writer would be able to sell this to his or her audience. Period. If one craves vanilla political correctness, he or she can go on Facebook and look at the psuedo-intellectual ranting there, all the posers and frustrated activists bitching about flags and rights and the environment and what we eat, all of them backing popular trends, but SHOUTING them as if flying shockingly insightful banners, inventing some groundbreaking dystopian lens. Well…that’s as easy as tooling through something and pulling out the hatchet. It’s weak. And destructive…not “important” destructive or even necessarily “impactful” destructive. Just white noise. Clowns dressed as philosophers, covered in nothing but absolute, self indulgent, self-serving, horseshit. And blowing a baby-horn. Squirting a lapel flower.
I did in fact get outstanding assistance with the many drafts of ‘Becky’s Kiss.’ I want to personally thank Tamara Thorne, Alistair Cross, Q.L. Pearce, Claire Evans of Dial, and Cherry Weiner (literary agent) for giving good advice, sometimes harsh, always productive, concerning story issues that made what was there better, then, professional, then interesting, then fun as all hell.
Here is the front cover: