Today I'm thrilled to have author Theodore Weesner on Guiltless Reading to chat a little about his writing. For those who are aspiring writers, this one is for you!
I read and really enjoyed his novel The Car Thief a memorable father-song story some time back. One lucky winner will also go home with a paperback copy of Mr Weesner's The Car Thief (US/Can).
Q: What is your writing ritual? What gets you into a creative state of mind?
When a draft is finished and unexpected actions, themes and characters have been discovered, turn to re-writing and get everything working more smoothly in a second draft. Do it all again. Do it again. Put the story aside long enough to be forgotten, then read it through and edit yet again. Write another story and put this story aside, too. Return to the first story and re-write yet again.
At last, give your best story to someone to read. Listen to their criticism. Acquire the skill of being a smart taker or criticism.
Q: What makes a story great?
Authenticity. Genuineness. Clearly written understated prose. A real conflict, and real insights. Interesting characters (characters made interesting by way of genuineness) involved in significant conflicts and compelling actions. Honesty. Prose that is alive and moves.
Truth, at last, is what lies at the heart of a great story. Not cinematic truth, but literary truth. Truth, that is, that may be dark but may also be powerful enough to change the way a reader thinks.
Q: How does one become a published author?
Read professional work. Imitate and practice. Sign up for a class. Re-study the fundamentals. Keep working. Pick up tips on where and how to submit your work for publication. Roll with the punch and keep trying.
Keep trying even when things look impossible. Be objective and smart in critiquing your own work, and keep trying. Read still more successful fiction, and keep trying. Try again. Create half-a-dozen stories to carry within your consciousness and from which to harvest revealing details and telling moments. Try again. And again.
About Theodore WeesnerTheodore Weesner, born in Flint, Michigan, is aptly described as a “Writers’ Writer” by the larger literary community. His short works have been published in the New Yorker, Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic Monthly and Best American Short Stories. His novels, including The True Detective, Winning the City and Harbor Light, have been published to great critical acclaim in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The Boston Globe, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to name a few.
Weesner is currently writing his memoir, two new novels, and an adaptation of his widely praised novel—retitled Winning the City Redux—also to be published by Astor + Blue Editions. He lives and works in Portsmouth, NH.
About The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner: It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, looking forward to the flask in his glove compartment, and the open bottles of booze in his Flint, Michigan home.
Abandoned and alone, father and son struggle to express a deep love for each other, even as Alex fills his day juggling cheap thrills and a crushing depression. He cruises and steals, running from—and then forcing run-ins with—the police, compelled by reasons he frustratingly can’t put into words. And then there’s Irene Shaeffer, the pretty girl in school whose admiration Alex needs like a drug in order to get by.
Broke and fighting to survive, Alex and his father face the realities of estrangement, incarceration, and even violence as their lives unfold toward the climactic episode that a New York Times reviewer called “one of the most profoundly powerful in American fiction.”
In this rich, beautifully crafted story, Weesner accomplishes a rare feat: He’s written a transcendent piece of literature in deceptively plain language, painting a powerful portrait of a father and a son, otherwise invisible among the mundane, everyday details of life in blue collar America.