The official website of Scottish Author David F Porteous
Things happen with bloggers. They're not the kind of people you'd trust to show up at exactly the right time to save the day. Not showered and shaved at any rate.
It's two days after the first stop on the Singular Virtual Book Tour should have happened but nothing's been done and my emails aren't being answered. So I'm posting the guest blog that should have gone up on that website here. Enjoy.
There’s a quote – there’s always a quote. “Every author portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will”.
When I gave a draft of Singular to my beta readers, the most common feedback I received was that the main character was obviously me. It was feedback I’d been expecting. The initial events in Singular are based substantially on my own experience surrounding misdiagnosis and treatment for cancer in late 2009. I started writing the book while I was in the examination room waiting to speak to the consultant for the first time.
If Patrick Clark is anyone, he is me.
What surprised me was nobody said that any of the other characters reminded them of me. After all, they are. Greg Calame, the embittered and hard-bitten journalist. Katherine Valentine, the vain and ambitious systems engineer. The unnamed ‘it’: the creature within the machine struggling to connect with the real world. If these characters – all of whom are fairly unpleasant – are anyone, they are me.
I’ve never heard a writer say otherwise.
To make a character credible, you have to understand them. Every good and noble act, every wicked and perverse deed comes from the writer’s mind.
There was, in Bram Stoker, a few drops of vampire blood. There was, in Victor Hugo, the seed frustration of the martinet. There is, in Thomas Harris, a little bit of a cannibal – no more than a mouthful, I expect.
The great villains of fiction have a capacity to make us love them because they reflect the dark thoughts we never voice; not because they are different to us, because they are, in aspect, the same as we are. I believe the most desirably quality of the monster is freedom – and this is a theme I’m exploring in the novel I’m writing at the moment.
It’s not necessary to like all of our characters, as we recognise that there are many aspects to our nature, some of which we value and others we wish we could change. If a writer is to produce the being we call a character, that facsimile of life will always be traced in some faint way from the writer.
When I reflect now, some eight months after my first feedback on Singular, I think the reason why Patrick was seen as being me and the other characters weren’t is an issue of relatability. Within pages of meeting them we learn that Greg wants revenge, Katherine wants power, ‘it’ wants the most ephemeral concept of all: freedom. What Patrick wants is to live.
Those other struggles, which we may find difficult to articulate in our own lives, are less visceral than the first, primal want. And rather than saying “Patrick Clark is you”, I think the identification was deeper; that what people felt was closer to “Patrick Clark is me”.
You can follow the tour’s progress on my website www.dfpiii.com or follow me on Twitter @dfpiii or using the hashtag #SVBT. Also, at the end of the book tour, one lucky person who “likes” Singular on Facebook will receive the signed proof copy of the US print edition of Singular – a one-of-a-kind, never-be-another prize.
To a writer, an idea is almost worthless. For every story you tell, there are somewhere between ten and a hundred that you’ll never find the time for. You hope that you pick the right ones in which to invest what’s really valuable – your time; but as the story twists and turns in unexpected ways as you write it, you can’t be sure what the seeds you plant will grow into.
A few weeks back I committed to one story over a number of others I’d been considering (which I may still write at some point in the future).
This story is something different. I decided very early in my process that I would write it in such a way that I would never have to use the words “he said” or their equivalent and that the story would be dialogue driven, with as little narrative intervention as was practical. I have no idea how this story will turn out, or how my intentions will survive into the final draft, but I wanted to share what is currently the novel’s opening paragraph.
“This is a picture of him from 1919, just after the war, looking like he slept in that uniform all the way from France. He still had that face, but he wasn’t the same. I know there’s men who came back changed. The Paterson boy up in Brownville: he hung himself that summer. Nobody talked about it much, and I suppose that was for the best. But Jack wasn’t like that. It hadn’t been a terrible thing for him, I don’t think. Or if it had been, then it was one of those terrible things you get through – if you get through it – and it sets you free. In only two years he’d become a man of the world. Though I think I knew before he did; he’d come back from the war, but he couldn’t come back here. Auburn was too small for him and sure enough he left before the winter set in”.
Still looking at titles, probably won’t decide until it’s closer to finished. Does that paragraph make you want to read more?
In other news about forthcoming news, I’ll be doing a blog tour for Singular in the nearish future. These things tend to involve writing about writing, interviews, reviews, giveaways – all that stuff. I’ll keep you advised in the usual ways.
Finally, thanks to Jenny and Mairhi, who were the first to review Singular on Amazon US and UK respectively (they both liked it). If you’ve finished the book, I’d love to hear what you think.
Where Am I?
dfpiii.com is the official website of David F Porteous. Use the tabs to learn more about David, his books: Singular and The Death of Jack Nylund, or read his blog.
(<<< The blog is over there).