Interview with novelist Craig Hart, author of BECOMING MOON

Today’s interview is with writer Craig A. Hart who has released his debut novel, BECOMING MOON, a coming-of-age story about a boy struggling to become a writer.  Craig also edits THE RUSTY NAIL.    

First, here’s some background:


Craig A. Hart is the stay-at-home father of twin boys, a writer, editor, Amazon bestselling author, lover of the arts, and only human. He has served as editor-in-chief of THE RUSTY NAIL literary magazine, manager of Sweatshoppe Media, and director of Northern Illinois Radio Information Service. He lives and writes in northern Illinois with his wife, sons, and two cats.

SARETT:  BECOMING MOON  is about a boy struggling against a repressive childhood to become a writer.  In any coming-of-age novel like yours, the reader suspects (often accurately) that the story is part autobiography.  How true was this in your case?
HART: There is certainly an element of that. It isn’t a memoir, but I did draw from my own experience of being raised in a highly conservative, largely withdrawn environment. While it was acceptable to write in my church, you were only supposed to write certain things. BECOMING MOON, while it does touch on religion, is certainly not a religious book. It is my hope to get the book banned by at least one or two conservative groups. As far as the rest goes, the book took up so much of my life over the past three years and went through so many different manifestations that even I sometimes have trouble separating fact from fiction. But I suppose that’s par for a fiction writer. There is one area I’d like to distance myself from, but to do so would be something of a spoiler, so I guess I’ll take my chances.


SARETT:  You’ve edited and now, you’re written a novel.  I imagine there’s a side of your that’s an “editor” still.   Were there aspects of editing that you had to throw away?
HART: Absolutely. I have a tendency to edit while I write. That slows down the creative process and can sometimes halt it altogether. Additionally, I often over analyze what I’m writing, which is okay in editing but deadly when trying to get words on paper.

SARETT: Novelist Jonathan Franzen (confession: haven't read him) said that fiction is a messy business -- and that it's dangerous for a writer to be too perfectionist.  I'm wondering how you respond.
HART: I suppose he could mean a couple of different things, but if I know what he intends then I agree (mostly). Art can only achieve perfection according to standards it devises for itself. To apply extraneous standards on any art form is dangerous. Look at various artists who are now viewed as masters of their form, but in their day faced resistance. Picasso, Kerouac, Ginsberg...the list would go on for a long time. Trying to achieve perfection in a work of art is dangerous because it is impossible to see it clearly as perfection prior to it being finished, which means it will never be finished if perfection is the goal. (And now I have a headache.)

SARETT:  When you’re developing material, which comes first -- story or character?
HART: I get scenes in my head and the ones that stick around are usually the ones I end up writing down. During those scenes, I discover the character and make his/her acquaintance. And then they begin telling me their story.

SARETT:  Did you have any literary muses that influenced the way you approached this novel?
HART: Hemingway’s THE SUN ALSO RISES and Capote’s SUMMER CROSSING were huge influences on me during the writing of BECOMING MOON. It’s interesting, because the Capote book wasn’t even supposed to be published (a whole different story), but I’m glad it was because it helped me connect with something deep inside myself.

SARETT:  BECOMING MOON won a contract with Kindle Press, through the Kindle Scout Program.  Congratulations!  Tell us how this process worked.   
HART: The idea behind Kindle Scout is to get readers to tell the publisher, in this case Kindle Press, whom they want to read. To this end, each book goes through a nomination process. Books that receive good support are then looked over by the Kindle Press editorial board and a few are chosen for publication. It was a fun, stressful, and educational experience. I’m glad I did it and I’m also glad it’s over. My fingernails are short enough already.

SARETT:  BECOMING MOON is a slender novel -- 155 pages.   Do you think traditional publishers shy away from shorter books?
HART: Without a doubt. Most traditional publishers don’t consider something a novel until it’s over 50,000 words. That is the minimum. BECOMING MOON just barely reaches that threshold. And they don’t often publish novellas because the market is smaller. One of the issues with traditional publishing is that it is first and foremost (most often exclusively) a money game. And longer novels are selling right now. Partly because of a trend and partly because people want to feel like they are getting more for their money. I understand that, but as in most other areas of life, quantity doesn’t mean quality. I would rather read a shorter book that had something real to say rather than 400 pages of high-octane text that I forgot the minute I was finished. Give me something to walk away with.

SARETT:  What’s next for you?  
HART: I am currently working on another novel. While it isn’t a sequel to BECOMING MOON, it is a variation on the same themes of self-discovery, rebellion against the status quo, and personal redemption.

You can follow Craig Hart on:


FIND the novel on on Amazon by clicking here:  http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Moon-Craig-A-Hart-ebook/dp/B00XV5R3OW/

Humor in the Age of Micro-agression....a sad tale

Jerry Seinfeld, hardly a controversial or edgy humorist, has recently complained about performing stand-up comedy routines on college campuses.  In an interview with ESPN, he says that while he continues to play college campuses, many of his fellow comedians won't touch them for fear of backlash over political correctness.  Imagine that.  Colleges, the same places that once were the mainstay of edgy stand-up, no longer friendly to anything that anyone finds mildly offensive.

It is the age of Don't Hurt My Feelings or Else.  The Age of Micro-agression.  You know, those little barbs that people used to brush off, or ignore, or laugh about, that are now considered so painful that sensitive souls must form college task forces to avoid them.  Female student get offended by statues, much less the sex-heavy stand-up routines of an Eddie Murphy.

What a mess. Humor, by its very nature, is bound to bump into someone else's idea of good taste. That is why Mark Twain's The Adventures Huckleberry Finn is banned more than any other non-erotic book by schools.  Twain -- who was an abolitionist, and never a snob-- mocked racism by creating his clueless young Huck, who never gets it right, and the patient slave, Jim, who always does but never tells.   Of course, it uses language that we'd never use today -- and the absence of those words is something that Twain would celebrate.

As a writer, I've learned that irony, as we used to learn it, is tough for today's readers to understand.  They take it literally.  They never read irony in school (since it might offend someone, somewhere,) so they find it hard to break down.  Kids know parodies from TV-- but irony, wit, sarcasm are ignored by teachers.  Kids read a steady diet of earnest novels-- which may explain the popularity of fantasy, a world in which race and class vanish into elves and magic.

Any word, at any time, can bother someone.  Which reminds of that great line from The Pickwick Papers, in which a furious Mrs. Raddle demands to know:  "But who do you call a woman, sir?"

Call me insensitive, but I laughed.

FREE in iBooks or iTunes: Spooky & Kooky Tales

  For the month of June, this little collection of weird fiction (and some comedy with, as one reviewer notes, "unabashedly happy endings" is free in iTunes and iBooks.   The collection contains three feline tales, two in the horror vein and one that I fancy is romantic.    But judge for yourself.

One of my favorite stories appears here....but I won't say which.

I'm rather new to selling on iTunes, so let me know about your experience.  I enjoy reading on my iPad.  This book is not available on Amazon.

Download it HERE.


Cat lover's Story: LOSING MR. FRANKLIN |

LOSING MR. FRANKLIN | (which also appears in Spooky & Kooky Tales) appears in Five59 this month.  If you are a cat lover, this story is sure to appeal.  As an aside, two other cat stories are in Spooky & Kooky Tales.  And the ebook is free this month on ibooks and Barnes and Noble.

Interview with novelist, Suzanne Rosenwasser about Don't Ya Know

Today’s interview is with writer Suzanne Rosenwasser who has released her debut novel, DON’T YA KNOW, a novel about the changes on a fictional island in the 1900’s.   Suzanne has also published two wonderful memoirs, which I highly recommend.  
Suzanne McLain Rosenwasser

First, some background on her:
My father told crazy, mixed up stories when I was a child. That’s what he called the classic stories he cut with real tales of his growing up in Texas. I’d sit in my New York home wondering how magical this place called Texas must be where boys got caught in trees as big as Jack’s beanstalk and firemen came to fetch them on ladders made from Rapunzel’s hair. When my father died suddenly in my youth, I began to tell his stories to myself in a notebook.  I didn’t want to lose that part of him.  I never did.
I was a high school English teacher for 25 years and worked with wonderful stories. During a ten year break from the classroom, I was on the staff of a Long Island newspaper telling the stories of a small community.  All those years, I wrote my own stories and sent them to publishers who politely said: “No, thanks,” until the New York Times said: “Yes.”


SARETT:  Don't Ya Know introduces the fictional world of Corycian Island, NY in the 1900s,  which has seen an elegant hotel, a Christian campground, and a Catholic convent replace older industries. The island's natives are forced to redefine friendship, family, courage, love, and legacy. What was the source or inspiration for it?
ROSENWASSER: Islands have attracted me for a good part of my life. I’ve visited many and lived on three:  One that houses the busiest city in the world; another that is one hundred miles long; and a third, a mere four miles wide and six in length. Each has enchanted me, and the fictional Corycian Island expresses that sense of place with a mystical ether breezing along its coastline from Calliope Point to Sirens’ Beach. Corycian is a place the natives call the Eye’land of the Gods.
There’s plenty of sense memory in Don’t Ya Know. Places have that effect on me and local color is an important part of any story. The Founders’ Cemetery in Don’t Ya know is a real place, but it’s on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia. We visited a friend’s historical, family plot. I built on that image for Corycian Island’s cemetery.
As for the title: I grew up with a friend who inserted it in place of the unutterable. She’d say: “I rode my brother’s bike to the store and when I hit a bump, the crossbar hit my don’t ya know and it hurt like crazy.” Or: “That’s the way to do it, don’t ya know!” I never knew what was expected as a reply.


SARETT: Your new novel takes place in a fictional island off Long Island.  How much real historical research did you incorporate in the novel?
ROSENWASSER: I love research. I started paying attention to my Long Island history when I read The Great Gatsby as a teen. Since the novel's protagonist is from a splintered tribe of Algonquins who mixed with Barbadian slaves and Quaker refugees, I had to learn about those groups. In an early draft, readers felt that there was too much history. I pared it down, but there’s a list of works to which I refer at the end of the book.


SARETT:  You’ve written memoir and now, fiction.   How hard was it to make the transition?  Were there aspects of memoir-writing that you had to throw away?
ROSENWASSER: When I wrote Manhasset Stories,  I knew the outcome ahead of time; with Don’t Ya Know, the story told itself to me as I wrote.  I was the first to be surprised by its ending.  
Tracking change was my biggest issue. I worked on a 100-year timeline for two years.  Then, I spent another two years writing the novel into  28-years. Aligning events, people, and social mores into a smaller time frame was a mess.  
.
SARETT: Novelist Jonathan Franzen (confession: haven't read him) said that fiction is a messy business -- and that it's dangerous for a writer to be too perfectionist.  I'm wondering how you respond.
ROSENWASSER: I heard 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr say he had to reach a point where he let his work go because he couldn’t stop finding things he wanted to change. For that reason he’s never read any of his bound books. I had to heed his advice.  In general, I gave up trying to be perfect when I became a parent. Life has been much easier ever since.


SARETT:  When you’re developing the novel, which comes first -- story or character?
ROSENWASSER: Character.  Every story has arisen from the inspiration of some human. Or something I humanized. When I was a kid, I used to write stories in the voice of bugs who inhabited my older brother’s messy room. As a teen, many of my stories (in the mid-60s) were about my aunts and uncles, first generation Irish-Americans who grew  up on Manhattan’s east side. I submitted unsuccessful variations of the same story to the Seventeen magazine writers’ contest every year until college. I rode the New York subway to work for five years, so I was provided with fine character studies. Then I taught high school. Characters galore!


SARETT:  Did you have any literary muses that influenced the way you approached this novel?
ROSENWASSER:  I was a high school theater director for most of  my teaching career. I loved the quirkiness of the characters in George Kaufman’s “You Can’t Take It With You,” the innocence of  Thornton Wilder’s people in “Our Town,” and the failings of the saints and sinners in Neil Simon’s “God’s Favorite.”  The rhythm of all that dialogue was a great learning space.
As a teacher, I had the rich experience of studying seminal works of western civilization with budding readers year after year, from Homer to Shakespeare, Twain to Salinger, Rowling and beyond. It was an honor to use those words to inspire young minds, and I couldn’t help but be inspired. I want to go all the way back to the effect Betty Smith’s  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn had on me as a kid, but I’ll restrain myself.


SARETT:  What’s next?  
ROSENWASSER: Remember those 72 years I cut out of the original 100 year timeline of Don’t Ya Know? Well, I have begun to rewrite them into the next 30 years on Corycian Island (through the 1950s). The sequel is called:  Healing Properties.


You can follow HER on:
Goodreads : www.goodreads.com/suzanne_rosenwasser
Twitter: @zanne1
Facebook: www.facebook.com/suzanne.rosenwasser


Pre-order ebook from Amazon now by clicking here
                                
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