Since my current interest is primarily the novel, I’ll start by talking about long fiction. I believe that if you’re going to write fiction, you have to respect it on its own merits. For some writers, storytelling is an art or an obsession or a blood-challenge with which to take up and become enthralled. For others it may be a working endeavor in pursuit of a livelihood, advancement, recognition, and so on, and getting words on a page is a vehicle for those purposes. Some are good at the second and a few are good, even great, at both—the working endeavor and their respect for it. IMO, the best fiction, the best product, comes from these few who worship the process, in its joys and disciplines, and for what it brings them in (can I say this?) metaphysical gratification.
Writers can achieve the euphoria that da Vinci or Monet or Picasso might have felt in creating a masterpiece. Months, perhaps years, in the making, through inclement weather of the brain, through battles of words and phrases, through the occasional conviction that one’s imagination has rotted away in situ, a completed work can bring its maker an elevation in spirit as profound as any great creative achievement. This is all the more true if you got there from nowhere, and if you can hold onto your accomplishment without being swayed by the critics.
Kurt Vonnegut was said to have complained bitterly about the life of a writer, that he couldn’t imagine an occupation more evil to the human soul than that of authoring books. Vonnegut, though, had high human ideals—and high ideals for humans—and pursued them through a life of writing. If he saw evil and mendacity and even grief in return for his work, perhaps it was because he had not achieved as much in healing mankind’s ills as he hoped he would. If so, his work, if anyone’s, deserved more. Perhaps his feelings for writing had gone from respect to adoration, so that, like St. Augustine, his devotion was his punishment.
As for my own novels, a plot (and later a story) followed me around for years as unformed handfuls of curious information until I finally stopped what I was doing and wrote The Brass Ring. I had a drive, an unrequited impetus to tell a story about teenage boys in and from California in the early Sixties, and that resulted in Beachtown Blues (a.k.a. The Killing of Chuy Muro). The China Contract was a vehicle to use some of my travel, my relationship to New Zealand, and my attachment to criminal mysteries to tell a story about how unchecked ambition can poison one’s life, and how character and integrity can be the antidote. The Eunuch of Shanghai felt like something I owed Hawkins and Benelli, and China was too broad a landscape to ignore. I hope you find something here you like.