Saturday, April 26, 2014

Write What You Know. Or Not.

A lecture on memoirs that I attended with some friends was cancelled about half way through because of a health emergency in the audience. While we were waiting for a decision on whether the event would continue, we chatted about what we’re writing. One friend is penning memoirs about his family members. The other is working on fiction based on her recently deceased dog. I continue to write essays in my signature style: self-deprecating social satire.

I said I didn’t think I could do fiction, that I wouldn’t be good at it. The memoir friend said he thought I should give it a try. At about that point, the organizers postponed the lecture, to be rescheduled at some date to be determined, and our little group disbanded.

Since then, I’ve given some thought to writing fiction. We’ve all heard the advice: “Write what you know.” As a marketer, I would add to that: “Write what people want to read.” Note that I did not say: “Write what people will buy.” I’m in the camp that believes that if you’re writing to sell your work or to get on the morning talk shows, you’re writing for the wrong reasons.

With that in mind, I wondered what readers are interested in this year. To that end, I looked at the latest issue of Publishers Weekly. Because my husband carries some books in his store, he receives PW, and he brings it home for me to read. The April 21 issue has a section on self-publishing (my method of getting into print), and “the thriving romance and erotica categories” in particular. Oh, my.

If writing what I know that is now a hot button (pardon the pun) means romance and erotica, I’m in big trouble. To be sure, I have plenty to draw upon in that genre from my (misspent) youth. But I wouldn’t want anyone who came into my life from my mid-thirties onward to read “fiction” based on my salad days.

To further that analogy, we’re not talking iceberg lettuce and those uniform hothouse tomatoes that come end-to-end in a plastic tray. My bowl would have the most colorful and diverse maché imaginable. And a mixture of beefsteaks, Italian plums and those little grape tomatoes that scoot off the plate when you try to put your fork into them. Oh, and at least one Mr. Stripey.

It would also have English cucumbers (not your standard garden ones), several types and colors of radishes and a wide variety of olives. You’d probably find at least one carrot (peeled, with the ends trimmed, but not sliced…) Are you beginning to get the picture?

This puts me in mind of an exchange I had years ago with a close female friend back when I worked in Manhattan. We had both (separately) seen the porn movie The Devil in Miss Jones. Excuse me. I meant to say, the art film. “I bet you’ll never eat a banana again,” I joked. “Bananas, yes,” she replied. “Grapes, no.”

Those of you hoping this post continues to go downhill will be disappointed. I’m not ready to share the salient details of those years. That will require a skilled therapist to draw out the deeply-suppressed memories from my subconscious. I’ll also need to come up with an appropriate pseudonym under which to publish that genre of fiction.

I’ll pass on the first names Johanna, Marilyn and Georgina. And I certainly won’t take the last name Green or Grey. I suppose my pen name should be something arcane or provocative. Maybe Balsam Gardner. That would be a head nod to my salad days and to the vinegar I prefer. Or perhaps Saucy Salsa. That provides some colorful double entendres to chew on.

If you find a novel in the erotica section by an author who sounds like she’s been tossed around in a well-oiled wooden bowl, it might be my first attempt at undercover fiction (again, pardon the pun). Note the operative word “fiction.” One thing’s for certain. It won’t be titled: The Story of E.

No comments: