The Novel Approach welcomes Rick R. Reed on the Blink blog tour. Enjoy Rick’s article, then be sure to enter for a chance to win an e-copy of the book Dinner at Home via the Rafflecopter widget below.
On Writing What You Know
“Write about what you know and care deeply about. When one puts one’s self on paper — that is what is called good writing.” — Joel Chandler Harris
People argue all the time about the old adage: “write what you know.” I think many of the detractors of this advice take it too literally, surmising that one cannot write anything outside the limits of one’s own personal experience.
I don’t think that’s what the advice means. I think it can mean write what you know in your heart, what you know deep down, what living life has shown you—those experiences can breathe life into your characters and make your fictional world ring true. They are also your unique perspective on the human experience. You can write about other planets, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, early Romans, Hobbits or whatever and still write what you know.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this adage as one of my most autobiographical—and, I like to think, romantic—books comes out this month from Dreamspinner Press. Blink was inspired by a young man I used to know who today seems a stranger to me. That young man was myself, back in the early 1980s, when I had just graduated from college and moved to Chicago and was working as a catalog copywriter in my first job. I was also so far back in the closet I would have needed a passport just to see the hangers. I was engaged to be married to my college sweetheart, a lovely young woman from the north shore suburbs of the city—and trying to see myself living out the American dream: wife, eventually kids, the white picket fence….
Except there was that damn L train ride to work every day! On that ride, despite my desperate desire to be the straight, soon-to-be-married fellow I thought I was, I would have what I called sixty-second love affairs with good-looking guys on the train. You know, your eyes meet and hold that delicious contact for just a little longer than what’s proper—the eyes can communicate, really, so much more than the mouth. One of those fellows, a gorgeous Cuban man my own age, stuck in my head and stayed there through many, many years—through my marriage and divorce, through bringing up my son, through tried-and-fail relationships.
His name was Carlos. And despite the comfortable place I am now, I have always wondered what happened to him.
And there, in that wondering, is how a book gets born. In my story, many of the events that happened in the first part, in the early 1980s, really happened to me. I like to think I conveyed my conflict, my pains and joys adequately. I wrote what I knew.
The second half takes place in the world of what might have been—what might have happened if I had never met my husband and, alone, decided to go off in search of my Carlos from the L, from way back when. These days, with the help of social media and the likes, it’s not that hard to track down someone from your past. That’s what my character does. Even though the second half of the book is totally imagined, I like to think I was still writing what I know, because of its emotional truth, because of my belief in the lasting and sustaining power of love.
I hope you’ll give Blink a chance. It conveys—through characters, time, place, emotions, and love—what I’m trying to say above in the form of a journey I hope you’ll take with me.
Blurb: Life can change in the blink of an eye. That’s a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago ‘L’ to work every morning. Andy’s life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.
Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the ‘L’ train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance. If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever….
Categories: M/M Romance, Gay Fiction
About the Author: Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”