To quote the very eloquent Kathleen Maher, “Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping”. This will probably strike a chord with most writers, it certainly does with me, so I am thrilled to be able introduce Kathleen with this great guest post. Welcome Kathleen, and thank you.
Many thanks to Amelia for giving me this platform to write about my passion, which is writing fiction.
I wanted to write fiction, it seems, as soon as I knew what is was. As a child I could see that fiction presented life as art. It distilled and validated my impressions. In contrast, non-fiction was interesting but rarely affected me to the core.
When I first attempted creative writing in elementary school, I earned praise without knowing why. This encouraged me, but, without guidance, it took years to find my way. I didn’t stop because the challenge of writing fiction filled me with such adrenaline that hours passed like minutes. Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping.
In the late 1990s, I woke up one morning with the character of Malcolm Tully, the diarist of Diary of a Heretic, at large in my mind. His comical sincerity, self-scrutiny, and hypersensitivity would not let me rest.
Malcolm is a reluctant cult leader, so I researched cults, and as the plot grew palpable (albeit vague as usual) I wrote the first draft. As thoroughly as Malcolm had claimed me, putting his story in words took me five years.
Rewriting has always been especially difficult for me, because sheer passion is not enough to carry it off. So in 2006, I created a blog, named after Malcolm’s diary (Diary of a Heretic), and began rewriting his entries as posts.
Serial online fiction is not especially popular, but serves me well. The form forces me to construct every line toward the conclusion. Online episodes cannot carry a superfluous word, let alone a tangent; few atmospheric descriptions or overwrought introspection. Diary of a Heretic, being a diary, depends on both. But the blog forced me to pick up the pace. Malcolm’s voice remains florid, but the final version, imperfect as it is, improved because of the blog’s forced discipline.
I rewrote Diary of a Heretic many times and put it away, I thought, indefinitely. My husband, who’s a wonderful writer and editor, revived it, because after reading it countless times, he still finds it entertaining. He formatted it for Amazon’s Kindle. Now I am reading it with fresh eyes, and although I see much to improve, I am happy to see my character Malcolm alive on the page.
Much of Malcolm’s diary is unsuitable for a family blog, but here is a short passage that conveys a bit of Malcolm’s (and my) passion:
We both stared at our feet until I couldn’t stand it, and blushing horribly, tried this: “Is it just me or what? Remember when people would say that?”
She smiled, answering, “When I was fourteen, I said, ‘Is it just me or what?’ And, ‘Whatever.’ And, ‘As if.’ ”
“‘As if’ came later, I think.”
We hugged. I pressed my cheek into her hair, which wasn’t as blonde as I remembered it, but much softer and straighter, smooth and reassuring. A veil of pure silk dried in balmy air after a fresh rain. I rubbed my cheek there and my hand played with the feminine waves. A sigh escaped and she pulled away. “I missed you, too, Malkie.”
…I never know what’s going to bring on a crying jag. “Is it just me or what?” was never, before or after its currency, said in earnest. People never said it unless they were referring to something indisputable, guaranteed to draw consensus.
So which do you think? Is it just me or does the irreversibility of time never let up? Is it just me or are there days when you, too, can’t get past every moment lost? I want every moment back: The good because they passed too fast, and the bad because perhaps with another chance, I could make them right.
Kathleen Maher is the author of Diary of a Heretic, a novel available on Amazon Kindle, and Underground Nest, a novella available in most e-book formats. She is a lifelong writer, with a number of short stories published in literary journals, print and online. Her fiction has won finalist and semi-finalist status in numerous literary contests, including the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction, and the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her blog, Diary of a Heretic (www.diaryofaheretic.com), features serialized short stories and novellas.