Read and Write with Natasha

Crafting female narratives when you are a male writer

February 02, 2024 Natasha Tynes Episode 45
Crafting female narratives when you are a male writer
Read and Write with Natasha
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Read and Write with Natasha
Crafting female narratives when you are a male writer
Feb 02, 2024 Episode 45
Natasha Tynes

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode, I chat with writer and scholar Ciahnan Darrell. We discuss the complexities of creating a feminine experience when you are a male author.

In his novel, a Lifetime of Men, Ciahnan draws from his own upbringing amidst powerful women , as he intertwines personal stories with societal struggles on feminism and reproductive rights, inviting us to reflect on the intricate dance between personal agency and cultural forces.

As our discussion unfolds, we navigate the contentious terrain of minority representation in literature, considering the "own voices" movement and the heated debates it inspires.

Ciahnan imparts wisdom on the trials and tribulations of the publishing industry, from the pursuit of an agent to the intricacies of marketing, with a nod to the realities facing independent authors.

Support the Show.

****************************************************************************

➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode, I chat with writer and scholar Ciahnan Darrell. We discuss the complexities of creating a feminine experience when you are a male author.

In his novel, a Lifetime of Men, Ciahnan draws from his own upbringing amidst powerful women , as he intertwines personal stories with societal struggles on feminism and reproductive rights, inviting us to reflect on the intricate dance between personal agency and cultural forces.

As our discussion unfolds, we navigate the contentious terrain of minority representation in literature, considering the "own voices" movement and the heated debates it inspires.

Ciahnan imparts wisdom on the trials and tribulations of the publishing industry, from the pursuit of an agent to the intricacies of marketing, with a nod to the realities facing independent authors.

Support the Show.

****************************************************************************

➡️ P.S: If you find my content useful, you might want to check out my Substack newsletter, in which I talk and vent about the writing life:


Speaker 1:

And it's just his idea was that the world is violence, the world is militated by violence. Then the most real thing in that world is the violence that people do, apart from motivation, which is unimportant, apart from objective, which is unimportant. It's just that this violence is what drives creation. That is kind of a crude way to sum up a great man's nerve, but I think that that criticism it's been made, it's not my own, hi friends.

Speaker 2:

This is Read and Write with Natasha Podcast. My name is Natasha Tynes and I'm an author and a journalist. In this channel I talk about the writing life, review books and interview authors. Hope you enjoy the journey. Hi, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Read and Write with Natasha. All right, so today we have Kenan Darrell, who's a writer and a scholar. Kenan has a master's degree from the University of Chicago and he also has a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Buffalo, so he is committed to using his craft to help engage the world and those whom he shared it with. So, kenan, so happy to have you here with me and thank you for sending me a copy of your book, a Lifetime of man, which is very curious. So, kenan, the floor is all yours. I just want to start with you telling us about your work, your books and your life's journey.

Speaker 1:

Wow. Okay, my books. Generally they start with characters, so even though they often have overt political themes, those happen later. In the case of A Lifetime of man, I started with Bo, and three years into the writing process, tolan stepped up. She was supposed to be on one page and never appear in the book again, and she ended up taking it over.

Speaker 1:

I guess where my interest in the lives of women, especially in this country, stems from is the fact that I was raised by very strong women and I had never heard the term feminism until I went away to college. And then I was there and I asked people well, what does feminism mean and why do we need it? And they told me why. And I was just shocked that there was this sort of tradition, dating back as far as this country goes, of limiting women's options, limiting their freedom, limiting their ability to control their own lives. One of the things that I think is so important today that people realize is reproductive rights. It wasn't until we started to develop some reliable birth control that I think you see a lot of women in the workforce, that I think you see a lot of women able to agitate for their rights. A lot of people don't know. We were in the 70s, before it was legal for a woman to have a bank account of her own. Yeah, it's pretty astonishing, and anyway.

Speaker 1:

So I kind of slowly started to understand that there was much more to women's lives than it was necessarily obvious. And as I started to look at the people that loved me and that had shaped me, I realized how much more they were dealing with than I had ever been aware of. Especially, my mom is a single mother. You know there's struggles. My grandmother, an incredibly bright, passionate woman, kept her husband alive after he had a quadruple bypass at age 37. So the women that I saw doing amazing things as I go older, I started to realize that they were doing it against sometimes great forces.

Speaker 1:

There was a study done on domestic abuse in this country. It was commissioned by the government and findings were never publicized because the findings were that domestic abuse is widespread. Fast forward to today, in one in four American women will be either raped or sexually assaulted in the course of their life. So to bring this back to my writing, you know, as I get to know Bo, as I get to know Tolin, it's tapping into all these concerns and these passions that I have about the conditions in which women live, and so it just kind of goes from there. I don't start with a political point that I won't want to make. I don't start with an axe to grind. It's just as my characters reveal themselves to me. That's off in the directions in which the story goes.

Speaker 2:

Fascinating. So I love the fact that you're writing about women from the perspective of women, and you know, and I think it takes a lot of courage and creativity to do that. So how do you think, do you think you managed to portray the perspective of women although you know you're a man or you identify as a man? So was it, was it hard for you to write from that perspective?

Speaker 1:

It certainly took a lot of thought.

Speaker 1:

I asked you to answer your question.

Speaker 1:

Rather, if I think I pulled it off, I don't know completely, but I know I was referenced by one website as an accomplished lesbian writer who brought full voice to you know women's experience, so I think I did a couple things right. As far as writing a minority voice, though, or writing a voice that has historically been shouted over, I think you do have to take a lot of pains to make sure that you're not using the character as a ventriloquist puppet, but at the same time, I might not be as concerned of doing it wrong as others, because I know that reading is a discourse, so if I serve up some absolutely one-dimensional junk female characters, my readers are going to make that very clear, and so I think I have, I feel, the liberty, I guess, to attempt such characters, because I know I'm not the final arbiter, because I know there is a standard of accountability which, even if it hasn't been upheld as much as it should through the years, you're seeing more attention to it now, more attention to the the travails or possible pitfalls of writing minority voices.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, for me personally, I love the creativity, I love, you know, people going through different personas and genders and all characters. But these days I noticed there's this movement called on voices and the movement. They're pretty vocal, they're online and they can. They can be very loud in their criticism of people, with you know who's not the character that they're portraying. I personally, as I said, I think this goes against all the idea of fiction, because in fiction you can travel and you can create whatever you want to. But again, so there is this movement and you know we hear them out, and have you encountered any criticism from especially followers of that, of that ideology, and how did you handle it?

Speaker 1:

Well, only in private conversations at this point. My book, being published by a smaller press, wasn't really publicized, so I haven't encountered much in the way of a public response. To be honest with you In conversations, I try and listen and I try and ask questions. I find a lot of those sort of conflicts are really just opportunities to hear from people that have historically been silenced. I will say that I think the absolute worst thing you could do to literature and fiction is to ghettoize it. So black people can only write to black experience, white people can only write white characters and white experience. You know, and on and on. You know.

Speaker 1:

I think literature is a place of contact, and this is why the discourse aspect is so important, because when I'm imagining something that is not myself, you know I'm going to make mistakes, no matter how well I research it, no matter how well I or how much of me I've invested in trying to understand. And so I would say to those people finally, that you know, just to, I would ask that they try and take each character on a case by case basis and if they find it objectionable, let loose, by all means. If there is a lesbian character who feels like I've overstepped. She has the right, and quite possibly the obligation, to say something. I don't know. The only thing that's going to carry the conversation forward is these criticisms and exchanging, not barbs or insults, but actually, you know, listening to one another and presenting arguments and counter arguments.

Speaker 1:

And I also think that if you have the majority of portrayals of minority characters being by white characters, we do have to realize that, even though that's sort of almost a mathematical certainty that that's going to happen, given the demographics of this country only 14.5% of the population is African-American, and so forth. But I think we need to be aware, be very aware, of the overload that can happen and that right now, there are only certain minority members who have a voice, who have a platform to be heard and, with all the noise that is generated, sometimes they can be shouted down. So, even as I think it's essential that we allow people of all races to write characters that are of all races, I think it's absolutely essential to keep an eye on the overall discourse and to make sure that there are platforms so that these people with the experience, with the cultural knowledge, have their say.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I remember a few years back there was a big like online campaign against an author who wrote the novel American Dirt I'm not sure if you followed the story and she was essentially bombarded online with negative feedback and calls for cancellation. Her book tour was also cancelled because many criticized her for writing a Latino or Hispanic character and she is not of Hispanic origin. So as a Euro scholar and I'm assuming you also teach, correct me if I'm wrong so if this debate came up in a discussion and among your students, how would you handle it?

Speaker 1:

Well, I think the first thing that I would try and do is make sure I wasn't simplifying the discussion into an us versus them or a one perspective versus the other. I would want to point to the you know the diversity of opinions that are out there. Then I would want to, I would want to talk to my students about goals and what our goals are, and you know, if your goal is to perpetuate understanding, then you have to be able to speak in a way that your target audience can respond to.

Speaker 1:

Okay, and that can feel, I think, especially when you've been historically maligned, denigrated, kept under, you know, the government's thumb.

Speaker 1:

I think that can feel like being forced to provide a surface for white people, and it certainly isn't the obligation of any person of color to make their career about explaining things to white people.

Speaker 1:

But be that as it may, if there isn't the intention in the attempt to reach across boundaries, well then. I think you have a situation very similar to what you have in the academy where feminist studies you know they talk to other feminists and people who do disability studies. The majority of their conversations are with other people who do disability studies, and it's not wrong to build up a discipline or to build up a community that's focused on certain phenomena. But the problem is, once you cut yourself off from other people, it becomes sort of an exercise in futility, just sort of reaffirming a present injustice without stepping into conversations in situations that might be able to provide some modicum of perspective to larger discourse yeah, I mean some people might argue that in our you know calls for inclusion you know is just justified calls for inclusion we might fall into the trap of exclusion because we're put so that's a kind of double-edged sword.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so let's move on from that topic and I'm curious about your students and your teachings. Are you currently teaching now literature or you're just focusing on writing?

Speaker 1:

I'm primarily focusing writing, but I'm doing some online tutoring, writing tutoring okay which is you know. I think it's a form of teaching, especially when you're trying to teach people how logic works, how the mechanics of writing can serve the themes that you know you're trying to develop therein as far as how I interact with my students, I try and ask.

Speaker 1:

Again, I try and ask questions rather than give answers, and it can frustrate the daylights out of them sometimes because they want to get to the answer, but the reality is, is that life and discourse is you will if you will?

Speaker 1:

It's a moving target. It continues to evolve and degenerate and then regenerate and then improve and and lapse, and I think you always have to be aware of the fact that today's answers could become a problem tomorrow. And so I asked them a lot of questions and then, when they give answers, I try and play devil advocate, so it's devil's advocate. It's a lot like a sort of I try and pull off something like the socratic method. But there you know, as far as ground rules, you know, the only real rules I have when I'm, when I'm meeting conversations like that is a there'll be no ad hominem attacks of people, no attacks of people, period. You can attack arguments, you can attack Historical movements to a certain extent, as long as you do so substantively, but you cannot begin from the perspective that you are. Your way of seeing your outlook is superior to someone else's.

Speaker 2:

So is the future bright when it comes to the new writers, the emerging writer? You know, the, let's say, the current students are. What are the generations now, let's say about younger? And they're being criticized. You know, as you know, that usually the older generation goes as they are criticized for you know, like, depending on technology, you know, they don't know how to read cursive, they don't know how to read maps, all of that, but what, when it comes? And you know, like they're always on devices, they're not reading much. So when, when it comes to the future of writing and the emerging writers and like twenty years from now, it's a twenty thirty years from now what kind of virus are we gonna have?

Speaker 1:

and are we, you know, is the word we pass on well, I mean, I think there are definitely reasons to hope you see an impressive, increasing, rather sort of progressive move towards inclusivity, and so that's that's a reason to To think feel bright. Honestly, I think one of the biggest things holding literature back right now is we've gotten to a place where we confuse the lurid, the violent and the course with reality. That's what reality is. If you want to be truthful, you've got a guy, have a couple of rapes and maybe a murder In your book, especially if you're taught, if you're writing about urban realities yeah and I think that's you know.

Speaker 1:

I think that holds us back. I think part of the miracle of human existence is that we are resilient and that we are. After a lifetime of mistakes you know, a misguided lifetime we can still come back, we can still contribute to some amount of good, we can still learn and grow, and you know that there is no whole lot of growth in unending bleakness and violence. I'm not saying, don't write those things because they're part of the human experience, but I'm saying that there's more to human experience than violence and animism. Another issue, I think and this is a little dated, but I think irony has sort of. We've gone as far as we can with irony for now and we need we need to find another way to read books, to talk about people and to frame the world.

Speaker 1:

David Foster Wallace, whom very aware, has some intensely problematic issues come up in his biography as far as how we treat women. I here's one of the points where I think you have to separate the art from the artist. He talked about something called the nuisance charity, and I think this was back in the 90s, early odds, when it was really being discussed and the idea was that we need some sort of earnestness, some sort of generosity to our, to our reading and our writing, that will help us to see past the you know the snide, the slide, the click quick. You know quip, and so, yeah, I think there are reasons to be hopeful about writing in the future, including diversity. I think there are a lot of readers, even if Gen Z might be lagging behind, but the biggest problems I think are are internal to the way in which we think about writing these days, if that makes sense.

Speaker 2:

How? What do you mean? How do we think about writing?

Speaker 1:

Well, boris, in his lectures I believe they were a Yale, although they might have been at Harvard he said that today, if a character sets out on a quest, we know that it's going to end in failure and dissolution. You know the goal will not be achieved, victory will not be one and the guys basically the hero rather is going to degenerate into his foibles. And he said that he thought maybe that might have been the greatest tragedy of his time. Now, obviously, that was what 60 years ago now. But I think that the message stands in the sense that we cannot continue to picture ourselves as ultimately doomed as you know, you know somewhat in a lot to be clueless operators who can't be part of a wider attempt to achieve, to succeed, to grow, to be rich. I would say that, yes, life is probably more messed up than it is. That is kinder, right or just. But the second we let go of that vision of kindness, justice and generosity, the second we condemn ourselves to the life that we imagine.

Speaker 2:

So you're saying that we need more happy endings and literature?

Speaker 1:

I don't know if we need more happy endings, but we need to believe in the possibility Of happy things you know, no one's getting out alive, to pull out the cliche.

Speaker 1:

So I definitely understand that aspect of human life, but I think we are also each of us profits.

Speaker 1:

And when we say, you know, life is crap, marriage is going to end in two people who either divorce or sleep in separate rooms, you know, every attempt at beauty is going to eventually disintegrate into nothing on a geological scale and it just like well, you're not leaving a whole lot of room for the parts of human life that make brutality, that make murder, that make abuse sad.

Speaker 1:

You know, without the happiness, without the potential to grow, the potential to achieve, without the potential to reach out and touch someone in a positive way, then violence is just violence. And I think you see this critique and some of critiques that have been leveled against, say, cormac McCarthy, who I think is a phenomenal, phenomenal writer, perhaps the most important English, english language writer in the latter half of the 20th century. But he used to write what he would call, I want to say I think it was archetypal violence or arky violence. That's what it is is arky violence, and it's just his idea was that the world is violence, the world is militated violence, then the most real thing in that world is the violence that people do, apart from motivation, which is unimportant, apart from objective, which is unimportant, it's just this violence is what drives creation, and you know that is kind of a crude way to to sum up a great man's, but I think that that criticism, you know it's been made, it's not not my own.

Speaker 2:

Interesting, but part of me thinks it also depends on the genre. For example, let's talk about romance. You know you probably I'm not sure if you, if you read romance, if you read romance, no judgment, but it's. It's huge nowadays. It's. If you look at, you know the best sellers, or the book talkers, it's Colleen Hoover and Emily Henry and and with the romance genre, some publishers like insist on happily ever after. I mean, you know that the norm in in romance is it ends on a happy note. I mean, there of course are exceptions, but that's so I think you know you talk about, you know, cynicism and violence. Maybe that's probably to a different genre, and you know the readers, you know, want a happy and maybe, and that's why you know, romance is big and plus, also, the biggest readers are women. That's the reality and so what do you think about that?

Speaker 1:

Well, my question would be the to ask do you think the people writing that think that it's real? Do you think they're writing about life or do you think they're coming up with something that is meant to entertain, to divert, to facilitate a certain fantasy? I think there are many ways, ways to read, many reasons to read, and I'm not extolling one over another, but I do think that what you have to ask yourself, what is someone writing in a particular genre, doing? What are the base assumptions? And obviously they don't apply Blanketly, without exception, without nuance. But my, my argument would be that Daniel Steele is not sitting down to say OK, I'm going to write this work that looks at human life and make some comment about the nature of our, our existence together. You know the political aspects of being human.

Speaker 2:

So you mentioned Daniel Steele, right, and Daniel Steele is still widely read, but it's probably more of the older generation, they are young romance readers. I'm not sure if you read any of Kuline Hoover or Emily Henry, but I think they're less of like a kind of fantasy life rather than a Happy, lovely Existence with someone they like or they you know, and they fall for. So, and you know some of it, you know, has, you know, some tragedies and sadness, like you know, at least the work of Kuline Hoover. But you know it's, you know it's, it's still tries to convey, it's not that cynical at the end and and it still leaves, uh, readers smiling at the end. I mean, at least from the, from the few books that I read, and maybe there's a shift towards again, maybe that's among women readers is they don't want the violence, they don't want the cynicism, they want a book that makes them feel good, that makes them that feel that you know love exists. They're kind people, you know that and that's why they get these books. What do you think?

Speaker 1:

I think that's entirely possible and certainly, uh, kuline Hoover is a talent and you know. This just probably points backwards towards my limitation. You know understanding the genre of of romance entirely, um, but your account sounds perfectly feasible.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So I want to talk a bit about the publish, the publishing word. Right? So you, your book, this one, a lifetime of man. I see here the publisher is girls dot ink. Can you tell me, uh, no, uh, it's prop proprize this press, but you're giving the proceeds to girls dot ink. So what is the? Is this a small press, a hybrid press? Is it one of the big five? Well, definitely not one of the big five. But how did you find? How did you find this publisher? What is the? You know what is? You know what is kind of the publishing um formats in terms of, you know, hybrid versus Self-publishing, all of that. So if you can walk us through your publishing journey, yeah, it's.

Speaker 1:

It was sort of uh uh, like a a journey to hell on Dante.

Speaker 2:

I hear you.

Speaker 1:

You start there, yeah yeah, you start with the, the agents. And that's the heady time. You've just finished your manuscript, like you're sure you've written the next bestseller, the great american novel, and then a year goes by and you don't get any agents. So then it's like, oh, fsg was the dream. They don't work with agents. But like I can just send these people my manuscript and that's where it'll go. And then the big one.

Speaker 2:

Sorry, what's fsg?

Speaker 1:

for our strousen giro. It's one of the big.

Speaker 2:

Okay, oh, yeah. Yeah, I didn't know the acronym. Okay uh.

Speaker 1:

And you know there's other small presses, like seven stories press, that are pretty prestigious and that's another year and no bites Uh. Now along the way you have some of these uh vanity presses that are nibbling Uh, trying to induce you to go with them. You have some hybrid presses which I think get a raw deal because in a day and age where four companies Control almost all of publishing and you know the, the small presses just can't compete so they need a little bit of a cash infusion out front To help them do their work. Now that I think that's a change from you in five, ten years ago, where that was considered a marker of what's that it was, it was a bad marker. You weren't legit.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah so I did perpersious, which is a traditional publisher but an indie one, and I would say that One has to be very, very careful when choosing an independent publisher, not because of anything they might do or any necessarily incompetence, but because they will not, they cannot afford to do any publicizing.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so If you're looking to have a career with one of these, you know small or boutique presses you need, you know. If you really want to go for you need 10, 20 000 to market that you know we're, we're living in a country, or I'm living in a country, where, if you count all the self published titles a year, we're looking about seven, eight million titles a year, and so that's, that's a lot of static to work through. And so if you don't have a public, you know a publicizing machine behind you then Well, yeah, you published a book, but it's probably just Out there languishing. Honestly, my next, my next book, was published with what they call a cost sharing model atmosphere press. That experience was was good again, light on the publicizing, but they were very professional, their art department was exceptional and their editors were Very keen.

Speaker 2:

Can you explain to us, the anyone who's listening or watching, what's the cost sharing model?

Speaker 1:

Sure. So, generally speaking, in the past it was it's been said that a press should not ask for any money from an author. As a matter of fact, that's been seen, as you know, a red flag in the past. You know, if these people are are asking for your money, then they're cons and they're not legit. Well, in today's day and age, where you have, you know, at the big four and almost full control and economies of scale and whatnot, uh, your smaller presses are cash starved, and so what a cost sharing arrangement is is you pay a certain amount of money up front and what that does is it gets you certain services editing, cover design and publication.

Speaker 1:

Now, some cost sharing presses have an editorial process. Uh, for interest, atmosphere does, for example, they won't publish just anybody. You have to submit a manuscript and it has to go through a process of review. Um, I think three stages, if I remember correctly. But yeah, so you're forking out, depending on how much, uh, how long your book is. Three to five thousand dollars, uh, to get this book to market now. Now what happens is, on the back end, you, you get to keep all the profits from your book now, which which sounds good, but again, if you don't have any publicizing, then all your profits will be like a buck fifty.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean it's. It's a lot of money for, like starving artists to, you know to, to pay that In advance and and probably they might not even get that, but most likely not even get that in return for the sales of their book.

Speaker 2:

No, they won't so for them, it might be just like to add to their resume that they published the book in, in, in a sense. And that's where we are, which which begs the question why is finding an agent so hard? And you know someone like you. You're a scholar, you'll publish 20 books, you know like you're. You know If, if I an agent, I would immediately, you know, want to represent you, you know you have?

Speaker 2:

you know all the checks and I have good ideas your discipline, and do you think it's more of an internal network that people represent people they know within the writing community, the prestigious writing schools, the New York literary community? What is going on?

Speaker 1:

Well, I mean, I think that's part of it. If you look at the resumes of a lot of the authors who make it, they have gone to, for instance, the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And you know, quite frankly, the Iowa Writers Workshop is fantastic. Everything that I've ever read that came from them has been exceptional. So you know, those people getting an opportunity doesn't necessarily bother me, but it does seem like it's a very closed conversation. It seems like, you know, knowing someone is half the battle. So there are aspects of that. I think. If you look at the Big Four now, they're focusing on their back catalog as opposed to publishing new authors, and so that limits opportunities even more, so you have the fewer opportunities going to the elites. You know people who've worked their butt off, who have great skill, who deserve a platform, but I do think they're represented at a far higher rate, maybe, than it might otherwise be if the process was more egalitarian.

Speaker 2:

Why do you think they're going to the back catalog? Because it's guaranteed to make them money and they don't want to take the risk because they're suffering or what is going on with them?

Speaker 1:

I think that's a big part of it. You know, if you have books that have been selling for centuries, then you know it's a good bet. You also don't have to pay as much in the way of royalties I don't think and so it's a way of saving costs up front. You know, publishing is very much like most everything else in this day and age of business. You know, in the 80s you look at publishing houses being willing to eat a couple books so an artist could develop, a writer could develop. But that doesn't happen anymore.

Speaker 1:

I don't think there's this sense that we're cultivating art for the edification of humanity. I don't think that's as widespread as maybe it used to be. I think right now it's a price tag, it's a bottom line, and if you look at a lot of what's being published, it's the mysteries, it's the romance, it's the YA and the MG, and there's nothing wrong with any of those. I think those are all as valid as a form of literature, a genre of literature, as any other. But when that's all you have, I think there are aspects of reading and experience and thought that maybe aren't approached in the same way.

Speaker 2:

Well, because that's what people read on the beach. You know, like, if you're on the beach, people are not going to read crime and punishment, right, they want the. I remember, actually, I read 1984 on the beach. I was reading that on the beach, but I did, but usually they even. I have a book club. I had a book club for a couple of years and we would say, oh, okay, let's pick something fun for the summer, right? So now we're reading a romance book, usually a romance, but that's our first romance book because it's the summer, right, and if you're on a plane, you want mystery, you don't want nonfiction on the plane, and that's actually the majority of the time when people read, they are either on a plane or on the beach. I think people like reading before bed. This is being replaced by binging on that and I think that's so when people read on the plane or on the beach or the summer, that's what they want to read. That's my own biased analysis.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, okay, where are we going with self-publishing? Do you think? You know now, like, let's say, for me, right, I published one with a small press, with actually too small press, and then eventually I took my rights back and I self-published and I have another novel coming up and I don't think I even want to bother with agents anymore. I want to just go there out of self-publishing. And do you think that's a good approach? Or you know, like what would you advise me if I was one of your students? Is self-publishing here to stay? I mean it's you know life is too short to keep pitching for agents. But what would your approach be?

Speaker 1:

Well, I think the best advice that you can give a young writer is that he or she has to be their own source of affirmation. If you write for other people, if you write for awards, if you write to get the name Book Deal, I think you're going to spend a lot of time heartbroken Because, just statistically, those things are very unlikely to come by. When you have self-publishing, I think the problem is getting exposure. You know, you seem like a very articulate, very thoughtful person and so therefore, if you've written a book, it deserves to be seen. If I write for myself, publish, I worry that your sacrificing your books ability to be seen.

Speaker 1:

Now, certainly there ways around there and, as I said, if you can come up with ten, you, ten or twenty thousand dollars to market your book, that is possible to make money. I know people who done it. But, by and large, if you want to be part of the conversation, if you want to be part of the discussion of arts and letters in this country and talking about what we're doing and where we're going from here, then I think Self-publishing is probably a bad idea because you won't be taken seriously in the same way. The word gatekeeper is something that you hear time and again the reference to publishing and I think you know it's not just in publishing, it's everywhere that there is money or power or prestige to be had. But I think, I think you have to play the game if you want to be able to speak within the literary circles.

Speaker 2:

Do you think I still need to go to all of that?

Speaker 1:

if that's what you want, oh yeah, no, it's so.

Speaker 2:

Thinking about it gives me a good idea. I think also, the Is the day should make it a bit more tech friendly. I mean the whole idea like we need an app or something, like we have a, we need an Uber for pitching, or you know something like a pitch, except except you know what. That's a good idea, let's, let's find an investor, but but you know, I think it's also the process has not developed much from the earlier days. Like the only difference is before you used to send it in the mail, now you send it via email, but the process itself is very tedious, I think. I think maybe if they make it, if they automate it, make it a bit more friendly to both the agent and the writer, maybe you will get more hits. Just thinking out loud.

Speaker 1:

Hey, that that kind of business is what how I subsist or persists.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so how do you market your books? Like you know, you have the podcast here. You have two different publishers not from what I heard and how do you market your books? What is what has been the market thing for you and did it actually work for you?

Speaker 1:

You know, I haven't been able to make anything work for me really yet. I, if you can find book fairs and wrangling invite, that's a good opportunity to sell. You know, I don't know, but depending on the size, like a hundred to five hundred dollars worth your books. You know, if you do things strategically on facebook or tick tock or Twitter, I've had some luck with that, but by and large I've not found the secret to getting my books out there. I thought having one, some awards, would help, but it didn't. You know, I thought, having each of my books, I've dedicated a portion of the proceeds to a different charity yeah and I thought that would help get some exposure, but it didn't really.

Speaker 1:

I think part of the issue issue is that I write literary fiction and literary fiction isn't as marketable as, say, other other genres. I think if you could, if you're marketing romance or a mystery or you know a thriller, that you might be able to to people's interest a little bit more. My books are not plot driven, they just.

Speaker 2:

They just aren't okay, and what are you working on now? Like you have two books under your belt, so what's what's next?

Speaker 1:

I just finished my third novel. I send it out to beta readers.

Speaker 1:

Yesterday I'm not you know, after my second novel, blood at the root, which was brutal, it was the process of writing. It was not fun, it was took a huge emotional toll, trying to be Respectful and responsible in my research and not falsifying or prettying up the emotions and actions involved. So my third novels sort of return to a more traditional Love story. Nice, it wouldn't make the romance genre, but it is based around a love story between a young woman who is exiled from her home after she tells her father that the deacon of the church to the elder of the church, sorry, raped her. And so this african-american young woman ends up in northern Maine and the cheapest place to stay is with the town recluse who's? He's a little odd, very awkward, and the stories about them slowly making a life together and then eventually falling in love.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, that sounds fascinating. Again, you would like to expect a backlash from the voices, people to back up. But okay, so for you know, before we conclude, what are you like top advises for Aspiring writers, especially like you know I? You know our conversation now. You know we discussed a lot of things, but you know we didn't both you and me we didn't really sound very optimistic. We can end on a like an optimistic note and just give them some you know Top advices and tell them you know I keep going that the future is still bright okay.

Speaker 1:

Well, the first time I'm gonna borrow from Flochner and say read promiscuously. Read good books, read bad books, read fiction, read nonfiction. Being a writer is about constantly learning to see the world around you in new ways, in different ways. So that would be my first. My second would be take a, take a notebook everywhere, observe sitting coffee shops, you know, observe people, make up stories in your head. Just really use writing as a your way into the world.

Speaker 1:

And that, I think, dovetails to my, my, probably my biggest bit of advice would be that writing should be for you, should be for your development, should be for your Efforts to locate yourself more fully in the world. You know you're not gonna make money from it. Statistically, you're just not. Fame stardom is, is, is there. Equally, you know pipe dreams, and so if you're gonna invest in this writing life, you need to know what you're gonna get. You need to know what the most important thing is. If the most important thing is developing as a person, as a writer, learning to see A little more clearly, to put your ego a little bit further behind you, to allow people to tell you who they are rather than projecting an identity upon them, you know, then writing is worthwhile.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's, yeah, that's, that's good to hear.

Speaker 1:

Iris. Iris Murdoch's sovereignty of good. The sovereignty of good is an excellent book for every writer to read.

Speaker 2:

Okay, it's just a small little book.

Speaker 1:

You can skip the first thirty four pages because they're pretty dry. But after that it gets into one of the most eloquent cases I've ever heard, made for the importance of art to live the life, and so that's kind of my writer's Bible.

Speaker 2:

Well, this has been fascinating and you know I open and it's a very intellectual debate. I enjoyed it and so I wish you the best of luck and let's stay in touch. And for anyone who's who's reading or watching, this is a lifetime of men. And also you have another. You have another book called the thick the.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, it is blooded through blood of the root and then you also have another one coming, so you can people can check out your work on your website can in Darrellcom correct, and on social media, so for anyone who is Listening or watching. Thank you for staying with us and until we meet again.

Speaker 1:

Pleasure. Thank you so much for your opportunity.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for tuning in to read and write with Natasha. I'm your host, natasha times. If today's episode inspired you in any way, please take the time to review the podcast. Remember to subscribe and share this podcast with fellow book lovers. Until next time. Happy reading, happy writing.

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