On Friday, I get on a plane and fly across the continent to the city of San Francisco. I join there Will Viharo, for our book release party. It’s this Saturday, July 27th 2013, 7PM at The 50s Mason Social House. It’s an incredible venue, and I am thrilled to be reading my first novel there.
Pretty cool, huh?
I’ll be reading from my book, The Street Martyr, and Will Viharo will be reading from his book, Love Stories are too Violent for Me, A Pulp Novel. I couldn’t have asked for better companions in this journey. Matthew Louis has been a wise and patient editor at Gutter Books, and he’s given me so much. You must understand, I never expected any of this. This was my first novel, a learning experience, and I wrote it to practice and perhaps earn the admiration of such hard-boiled greats as Joe Clifford, Paul D. Brazil, Tom Pitts, and the rest of those bums whom I admire so. Then, if it got accepted by Gutter Books, I figured it would be a nice POD, something I could point at, sell a few copies, then move on. Little did I realize that Matthew Louis was lurking in the water, ready to take the bait. I thought I was fishing for him. He was fishing for me.
For all you authors out there hoping to emulate my experience, I say this. And I can’t stress this enough. Work hard. Learn your craft. Practice. Finish your work, even if you hate it. Overcome obstacles and move beyond defeat and disappointment. This is vital to your work and success. But most of all:
RIGHT PLACE AT THE . . .:
So much of this is luck. Being at the right place at the right time. It just so happened that Matthew Louis was ready to take Gutter Books to the next level. I had published a flash fiction piece with them, Kid Louie, which they called one of their best in eight years, so I decided to base a novel off of it. So, I work for two months, figuring out long fiction. I do some reading edits. Max Booth III gives me a good read. I edit. I submit. I plan patience. I figure they’ll get back to me in 4-6 months. 4 days later, Matthew accepted. He waited. He watched. He searched for the right book, the right voice, something different, literary, a new scope in a stale genre. Like two free flying protons in a great universe, randomly we collided. Now, Gutter Books is flying me out to San Francisco, and we’re engaged in promotion. It’s happening. And it’ll be in book stores, not just POD. It’s beyond any of my expectations.
YOU MUST HAVE THIS KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR EDITOR FOR YOUR BOOK TO SUCCEED:
I didn’t know Matthew. I thought I’d end up in the hands of Joe Clifford. I was unsure. I was handing him one of the most important works of my life—and it’s not going to be a long life. He began edit strategies, and I had no clue at that point that he would be asking miracles of me in the next few months. He wanted to make some changes, and I appreciated that. What the hell do I know? It’s my first book. I’m considered a horror author, and I’d only had a few stories published in crime lit. Still, I didn’t know him. And then I read some early dialogue and description he wrote for Louie, based on my character synopsis. Gods. He nailed it. He knew the character. He loved him a little. He had it down, and I realized then how much he loved and was committed to this legend. That’s when I knew we were going to create something beautiful and repugnant, and that if I jumped off a cliff, he’d be going down with me. This kind of relationship between an editor an author is vital to creating a masterpiece. We had it. I knew that when I was reading his notes while riding to Peace Valley Park to fish that night.
Treat and love your editor like a family member. Trust them to the bitter repugnant end. If you don’t, then something isn’t working.
You have to trust your editor to see what you can’t see, to give you the distance you can never have with your book. Matthew began to slaughter my book, and I gave him my blessing. He knew the market, the genre, the theme. I was an upstart, a stranger, an imposter. Yet, it was vital to him that we preserve the literary element to the novel. He said that’s what made it so special, so unique and brilliant. I had taken a stale genre and given it literary life. He said my descriptions alone captured a dark and decaying spirit of Philly. Horror and crime merged in atmosphere and character. Yet, it was too literary for the audience. I had internalized too much. This is my weakness. I’m chronically ill. I overcompensate. It’s my greatest writing weakness. I’m sure many authors understand this: the fear we’ve not been clear or we’ve not emphasized a point. Matthew trusted me to be a professional and cut the material. And we did. We worked out each issue. Matthew always explained that he was OCD, far more than other editors. I worshiped him for it. I was so grateful to have an editor that would got hung up over a single detail or nuance. I was blessed.
If an editor has not hacked your book to shreds and argued with you over the salient points . . . if the editor has not inflicted agony on your writing soul . . . if you’ve not been compelled to debate most lines and writing choices . . . and if you’re not missing at least a fifth of your narrative after the first editor read . . . then . . . there’s something wrong with your editor-author relationship. I get worried when an editor hands me back a story and says, “Oh. It’s fine Fox. Going right in.” That’s just not part of the process.
We require editors to look outside the vision, to bridge our creative vision and the reader’s world.
So then Matthew decides we need to extend the plot. He wants to exploit more drama with one of the characters, and I see the potential. As a literary novel, The Street Martyr’s ending worked well, but we were writing for Hardboiled crime audience as well. He had some brilliant thoughts on extending the ending, and to do so, we had to cut the last few chapters and write new ones. After we worked out the new plot, I framed the new material at about 13,000 words. That’s a fifth of novel at least. Oh. I had two days to write it, since I was going to New Orleans for the WHC in June. You see, we had to fill in a slot for the release party and with the distributor. What Matthew was asking me to do was unheard of, impossible, fecking nutz! It couldn’t be done! That’s all he had to say to me. Remember, I’m the fox that beat an unbeatable cancer for the first time, defied death and built a career from nothing. Matthew knew just what to say to me.A good editor can play you like a master musician on a violin. He or she knows how to motivate you, how to walk you to the edge of the cliff then walk you back. They are part reader, worker, editor, promoter, wet nurse, and psychologist. If you don’t have this relationship, re-evaluate.It was insane. And I had to calm myself down a bit. I walked back and forth in front of Taboras Café in Lansdale where I was writing that Saturday. That Monday, I started at Barnes and Nobles in North Wales, PA. I had to lock myself down. I had a flowchart for the plot, and I went to work. I knew I could do it. And I did. 13,000 words down in two days. The book was complete. I’d be doing reading edits on the plane and in New Orleans, but the hard part was done.Matthew has been diligent and brilliant taking care of all the production work. He has foreseen every problem and managed the development. We have been partners. I’m told this book was his baby. He’s taught me a great deal. My priest. My father. My brother. My Editor.
So here is the press for the Release Party:
Pretty spiffy huh? Again, I thank Matthew Louis. Editing-God.
Here’s a quick synopsis of the book and the cover:
Vincent Grant lives on the edge. He gets by pushing stolen prescription drugs to high school kids, his mother is dying of cancer, and his business partner, the diminutive “King Louie,” may up and kill him, or anyone else, at any moment.
When Vincent is enlisted to throw a scare into a deviant priest, he does it dutifully, leaving the man bleeding on the floor of a seedy apartment. But when the priest is found brutally murdered, life as Vincent knew it ends and he has to flee as killers on both sides of the law make him the target of a city-wide manhunt.
In an increasingly desperate struggle against increasingly long odds, Vincent begins to think his only hope lies not in fighting to live, but in resigning himself to dying—and killing—for a cause.
And Links to an interview with Will Viharo, my partner in this. Will’s been amazing, and he’s worked so hard through his life, keeping the faith. He’s just the right man I want standing with me.