Can We Make Her Younger?

Mama (l.) and Aunt Delores outside the old house in Grand Prairie in 2011
Mama (l.) and Aunt Delores outside the old house in Grand Prairie in 2011

When I set out to write a novel from the point of view of a 50-year-old woman, I expected a little bit of trouble. Not so much with the writing, mind you. I’ve written from the point of view of a woman numerous times. And when I finished writing “Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears,” I was pleased with the results, in particular the main character Katie-Lee Fontenot (when I wasn’t hating myself and the book and writing in general).

But when it comes to getting a book published, the writer’s opinion on his own writing isn’t exactly relevant, especially if said writer hasn’t been anywhere near a best-seller list. I knew this. I knew there’d be some worrying about a guy’s name at the bottom of a book that can be seen as, depending on your definitions of the genres, Southern women’s lit, commercial women’s fiction or even the much-denigrated but extremely lucrative chick lit.

When it comes to selling my books I’m somewhere between a pragmatist and a shameless pimp. If someone had asked me to drop my first name and go with K. Wheaton — or hell, Liz Wheaton (remember that?!) — I would have considered it. If someone suggested I have an arm-wrestling match with Jennifer Weiner, I’d definitely do it.

Continue reading “Can We Make Her Younger?”

I’m Coming to See You, Louisiana!

Thanks, Dana, for the photo!The great Ken Wheaton book tour is coming to a state near you!

As long as you live in Louisiana. Because that’s the extent of the book tour. Sorry, everyone else, but that’s the reality of publishing. I do these things on my dime and on my vacation time from work. And if it comes to a choice between spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to read to 15 people at the local Books a Million or going on a two-week wedding and honeymoon trip to Bora Bora — well, let’s just say you’re going to really hate my Instagram pics come November.

But I AM coming to Louisiana and I’ll be doing two events.

So bring yourself, bring your friends, bring all your coworkers. If you’re a teacher, this sounds like perfect extra-credit work to me! And also bring your fellow teachers.

NEW ORLEANS — OCTAVIA BOOKS
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2, 6 p.m.
513 Octavia St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Octavia_Books_10-09_106I’m super excited to be doing my first ever reading in New Orleans. Yes. My first. (This is the part where New Yorkers are all, “I thought you were from New Orleans. By the way, I love JazzFest.” GOD DAMN IT! FOR THE THOUSANDTH TIME, I’M NOT FROM NEW ORLEANS!)

But yes, I’m looking forward to a day in New Orleans of stuffing my face, getting an old fashioned (or seven), and then hanging out with the gang at Octavia, who have been kind enough to let me into their store — and to humor me on Instagram and Twitter and even may let me defile their blog with a guest post.

So if you’re in New Orleans or Metairie or Kenner or some of them places around there, come on out to Octavia and say hi.

BATON ROUGE — BARNES & NOBLE – CITIPLACE
Saturday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m.
2590 Citiplace Ct, Baton Rouge, La. 70808

I know for folks from the part of the state that I’m actually from, getting to New Orleans is a bit of a pain. So here’s your chance. And all yall from Baton Rouge and Lafayette and out in Cajun Country who know me personally? Yall besta be coming to this one. And everybody else too. No excuses.

Even if they make LSU play Auburn at noon or 2:30, yall can come to Baton Rouge, watch that game from one of the bars at Citiplace, then come over to Barnes & Noble and show your face, then go back to the game. I guarantee you, watching me read is going to be a hell of a lot less stressful than whatever Les Miles has in store for you that day. (Hopefully, it’s a night game and then we all win!)

I have a little list of all your names and I’m going to be taking attendance! I might even get a grade book. (Okay, I will not do this.)

AND ONE MORE THING
If you’re a New Yorker and reading this and feeling left out, I apologize. It’s not my fault Louisiana is the cultural capital of the world. But if you live in New York and have a book club — especially a boozy book club — and you read the book, I can probably come and discuss it with you.

 

“I Don’t Care What They Think” and Other Lies Writers Tell

SweetasCaneThere’s a moment that’s hard to describe, when you receive an email with a subject line that includes your name, the title of your next book and the words “Booklist Review.”

For my third novel, Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears — which is being released next week — the thought process was a three-step one that went something like this.

1. “Hmmmmm. Booklist Review.”

2. “Sweet! Someone reviewed the thing!”

3. “Oh shit. Someone reviewed the thing.”

And then my finger just hung there over the phone. Do I open it? I’m at work. What if it’s bad? What if it shatters my fragile writer’s ego? Equally bad, what if it sends me into a panic the entire three weeks leading up to release?

Continue reading ““I Don’t Care What They Think” and Other Lies Writers Tell”

The Soundtrack to My Novel-Writing? Funny You Should Ask

GuitarDudeRiffraf asked me to write a little something for their Writers and Music series, in which writers discuss the music included in their work or the music that influenced their work.

You’ve got a picture in your mind, I’m sure. The writer enters his special writing place and, before settling in front of the computer or typewriter, he fires up the iPod or turntable. Music fills the room—or his ears. A scratchy jazz record. Sweeping classical. Maybe some down-with-the-system rock or fuck-the-police rap. He sits down, closes his eyes for a minute, takes a couple of deep breaths. Then he starts writing.

Three songs later, he sends his manuscript to a publisher, is offered a six-figure contract, multiple subsidiary rights and a seven-figure movie option. He—or she (Hi, Jennifer Weiner!)—goes back to the writing corner, picks another album, rinse, lather, repeat. Life is good!

For me, this is largely a fantasy. And I’m not only talking about the huge book deals or the quaint little writing office.

Read more.

How to Write a Novel

Mmmmmmm, bacon.With the publication of my second novel, Bacon and Egg Man (Nook), a number of people have reached out to me expressing admiration and mild jealousy. Some of them I knew were writers. Others were a surprise. Still others were completely imaginary and I’m using their imaginary questions as inspiration for a blog post. But the message tended to be the same. HOW do you do it? You must be so disciplined. You have a non-academic, year-around day job and still find time.

TFAGRFcover2While I like a good ego stroking, I always feel a little guilty about this. Because in my head, I’m a lazy, unproductive turd of a writer. I read about these lawyers who had full-time caseloads AND a full-time family AND they wrote from Junior’s bedtime until 3 in the morning, then woke up, went to the gym and then went to work. Or even those full-time writers who lock themselves in a basement all day, coming up only for coffee and cigarettes.

Deep down inside, I feel like I should be on my seventh or eighth novel by now. I’m turning 40 this year and I have two published novels, one unpublished one and one in progress. I beat myself up about this constantly. Which just goes to show! (That I just can’t be satisfied with what I have.)

But how DO you write a novel? Here are some simple steps.
Continue reading “How to Write a Novel”

Bacon and Egg Man: Paper or Plastic?

Mmmmmmm, bacon.How should you read my new novel, Bacon and Egg Man? Obviously, with a work of art this layered and so thematically complicated, one must approach it carefully. After all, what do we mean when we say “bacon”?

Mmmmmmmm, bacon.

Where was I? Oh, how should you read my book?

With your eyes!

(Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.)

But seriously, some folks seem to get a little confused or ashamed or something when it comes to ebook vs. paper books. In general, I don’t care how you read the book as long as you read the damn thing. Specifically, in the case of Bacon and Egg Man, it’s actually in my financial interest if you read the ebook. Put simply, I get a bigger cut of the price off of ebook sales. And the money shows up faster, too. Instead of waiting over a year to get a convoluted royalty statement that requires deciphering by a high priest, ebook sales will be reported on a monthly basis.

That’s right. If you pay for an ebook, I can convert your money into bourbon before Easter!
Continue reading “Bacon and Egg Man: Paper or Plastic?”

Like a Honey Badger on a Beehive

That’s my approach to reading other people’s manuscripts. It’s exhausting for me and terrifying for them, which is why I don’t do it often. I have more thoughts on the subject of giving and receiving constructive criticism over at Jacquelin Cangro’s blog.

This summer I turned in a manuscript to an agent. She sent it off to a reader. A couple of weeks later, I received an email saying, “Here’s the report. Take some time to digest it.”

“Take some time to digest it.” That simple phrase told me everything I needed to know. That simple phrase should also be stamped on the hand of everyone aspiring to be a writer. It’s not easy. But it’s necessary. If you think writing is a realm of inspiration, positive-feelings and pure artistic expression with little regard for the reader, you should stick to posting your free verse to LiveJournal.

Read the whole thing here.