Friday, October 28, 2016

Never Say Never

If you woke up one day not wanting to write another crime novel, what would you write instead?

by Paul D. Marks

A long time ago an agent asked me if I had a “big book” in me? I told him yes, because what else are you supposed to say? They want to hear yes and you don’t want to turn them off, so you tell them what they want to hear. But the fact of the matter is it was true anyway. I did have an idea for a big book in me. And not only an idea but I had even made notes and a timeline and character chart on a huge piece of paper, something I don’t normally do as a “pantster”.

It’s not a crime book, though there may be some crimes in it. And it is a “big” book in the sense that it spans several decades of the 20th century. It’s also still something I would love to do because I love history and I love the concept.

I don’t want to talk about the specific plot here, but imagine Bleak House meets Ragtime. Okay that’s not really it. But something sort of like that.

The big book is about intertwined families, relationships and the march of history in a fictional context—that sounds pretty ‘big,’ doesn’t it?—going on down through the decades and yes, there might be some crime in it, but it wouldn’t be a crime novel per se. I suppose you could say it was mainstream, maybe even literary. I read all kinds of things, well a lot of different things, and I enjoy the mainstream and literary genres, which sometimes overlap, so I guess that’s what you could call the “big book”. And that’s one of the things I might write if not a crime novel.

Things I probably wouldn’t write would be sci-fi, romance, YA or fantasy. But I also thought I’d never write horror and around Halloween I’ll have my second horror story—The Long Night—coming out in the Simple Things anthology, edited by Franklin E. Wales. My first horror tale—Finders Keepers—appeared in Journals of Horror–Found Fiction, edited by Terry M. West, last Halloween. As I say, I never thought I’d write horror stories but was asked by Terry to do something for Journals of Horror, with no guarantee that it would get in. I saw it as a challenge. And luckily it got in! It was fun to do but really stretched my writing chops. I’ve also written some humor/satire fiction and mainstream/literary, as well as crime. For example, a story called Terminal Island was published in the literary journal Weber: The Contemporary West. Another mainstream/literary story, Endless Vacation, received recognition from Glimmer Train and The Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition. But writing horror was really a stretch. So when Frank came to me and asked me to do another one I thought, “I can do this…maybe.” Would lightning strike twice? It did. But it truly is a challenge writing outside of your comfortable genre. And I guess I’m just comfortable with gunshots, stabbings, exsanguination, petechiae eyes and death by a sickly sweet green liquid disguised as Gatorade, a.k.a. anti-freeze. But I am getting more comfortable with the horror genre.

Here's the Simple Things book trailer:

So, who knows, maybe one day I will write a sci-fi or romance or YA book. Never say never. What about you?


If you’re in SoCal, I hope you’ll join Laurie Stevens, Connie Archer, Elizabeth Harris and me for Halloween Highjinks...or Lojinks tomorrow (10/29/16), 1:30pm at the Platt Library in Woodland Hills: 23600 Victory Boulevard, Woodland Hills, CA  91367. We’ll be reading from our spooky works, talking writing and having a swell time. And there might even be some Halloween candy. And it’s free and open to the public.

For more info click this link:

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Art Taylor said...

Congrats on the new story--never say never indeed! And sign me up for Bleak House meets Ragtime. Sounds like a tremendous story.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Art. The first copy is reserved for you ;) .

Art Taylor said...

I'll take it! And inscribed too, I hope! :-)

Paul D. Marks said...


Unknown said...

Congratulations on horror story #2 (and onward?) I think writing scary is similarly difficult to writing funny. Writing a BIG book, I couldn't even begin to begin. I hope you keep us posted. :) Wish I could join you in SoCal...

Susan C Shea said...

Anyone with ambitions that even hint at Bleak House has my total admiration and awe. Dickens moves in and out of fashion but the stories, even if the language seems out of date, are forever. A friend of mine has given up reading anything (other than my books, of course) written after World War I. She goes back to the classic library again and again, marveling at the ability to tell whole stories that satisfy. She's older than I am and I wonder if I will end up following her back to Austen, Galsworthy, Elliot, Dickens, et al some day? Except for your epic, of course!!

Meredith Cole said...

"Never say never!" I like it. And congratulations on the latest short story!

GBPool said...

I thought all I would ever write were spy novels since my father did stuff that lent itself to spy stories while serving in the Air Force. Then my husband mentioned that since I used to be a private detective, I should try writing a mystery. So I did that. And I once worked in a miniature store selling doll houses and Christmas decorations and the next thing I knew I was writing Christmas stories. I guess we write what comes through our experiences as well as our imagination. And you, Paul, have a terrific imagination whether it be Noir or its darker cousin, Horror. Good luck with this new street you are traveling down.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, RM. But re the Big Book, it’s still just a bunch of notes. Maybe some day. And it would be great if you could be here, but maybe another time. Or maybe I’ll make it up your way some day too.

Well, Susan, right now it’s just an ambition. Whether I could pull it off is another story. And re: some of thos early classics, the language is definitely out of style and somestimes hard to get through as is all the backstory. But also, as you say, they are “whole” stories that do satisfy and I do go back to them on occasion. And, of course, your friend must read your books as well as the classics. They are modern classics :)

Thanks, Meredith. I truly would never have considered writing a horror story if I hadn’t been asked. But it was/is fun to go outside my comfort zone.

Thanks, Gayle. Though it might not be a street I visit regularly. And I think it’s great that you also have spread your wings to write spy and mystery, which though not the same are similar in tone if nothing else. But then to write Christmas story, which I enjoyed, is really flying.