Story of a Story - Kate Blackwell's post on Mythical Books

Where do writers get their ideas? What makes a good story? Kate Blackwell writes about writing, published on Mythical Books, June 15th. You can read the original post here. 


                                                              STORY OF A STORY 
                                                                 Kate Blackwell

Vampires, Hobbits, buried giants, girls who kill by dreaming, or the guy with acne scars sitting in a booth in a King’s Family Restaurant, talking to a young girl. What is he saying? Who are they? Why are they here? You open your laptop. You begin to write.

What draws writers to their subjects? 

Grace Paley: “Almost every story is an argument of some kind. You write it because you do not know something, you write what you do not know about, otherwise you would not bother to write.” 

Fantasy, the paranormal, what we call realism—it makes no difference; the strange and the ordinary must contain mysteries in order to be written about. Forget the old aphorism “write what you know.” Go for what you don’t know, for what is beneath the surface, hidden like a throbbing heart. 

You start with what you can see. The girl looks to be about twelve. She has green-painted fingernails. She is playing with the pepper shaker, walking it back and forth across the table. The man says, “Did I ever talk to you about pepper?”

You add a feeling, a desire, a fear, something from the past. He wants her attention, his daughter whom he doesn’t often see. The pepper stirs a memory of when he was a boy, the same age the girl is now, and his father used to take him hunting. He remembers they used bread to attract the animals, bread smeared with pepper. 

“Pepper can be dangerous,” he says. 

You write the story he tells the girl. You begin to understand him, who he was as a boy, who he is now. Then you write your story. 

None of this is easy. The initial spark—something you observe, something someone tells you, something you dream—may sit fallow in your journal or on your computer for years before you re-discover it and begin to write. It takes time to make art out of the raw material of life or fantasy.

It was five years after I saw the man and the girl in the restaurant that I wrote “Pepper Hunt.” It appeared first in a literary journal, where it won first place in a short-short contest, then in two anthologies, and it’s now in my story collection, You Won’t Remember This

photo © duncan1890

Landfall by Joseph Jablonski - Our Next Title

Landfall  by Joseph Jablonski


by Joseph Jablonski

Bacon Press Books is pleased to announce our next title -Landfall, a gripping novel by Joseph Jablonski. It will be out in time for the holidays.

After a long career at sea, Jake Thomas thinks he’s finally put his life in order. He’s got a new wife, a new home, time to tend his roses and to write. But his past and the secrets he’s kept, even from himself, won’t stay buried.
Forty years earlier, a woman was murdered during Jake’s first voyage as a deck cadet on the American freighter, the SS James Wait. Her children want answers only Jake can give. But resurrecting old memories takes him spiraling back to the chaos and upheaval of the late 1960s.

In this riveting story-within-a-story, Jake’s peaceful routine in Portland, Oregon, stands in stark contrast to his days as a merchant seaman in Subic Bay, when he set off on a journey to discover his dark side. A journey that hasn’t yet ended. 
Like Joseph Conrad, Joseph Jablonski has created a novel set at sea that is as much a careful observation of human nature and a powerful condemnation of war as it is a fascinating sea story.

What we love about this book
Landfall is one of those books that won't fit neatly into just one category. It's too large. It's about Jake Thomas's struggle to come to terms with his past. But beneath that is the struggle to come to terms with the war in Vietnam and its casualties. It's about the hypnotic spell of first love, the devastation when it ends, and how both remain for years. And it's about a modern marriage crumbling. Then there's the murder of Alice - the questions left unanswered. The search for truth, no matter the cost. All done in a simple, powerful style that reminded us of Joseph Conrad. 

In other words, there's an awful lot to love about Landfall.