So, the title of this blog begs an answer. And of course "You'll get yours Mister (and Missus)" soon enough. But I can give you this as a starter course. I first met Chris White this past Fall when I attended the first ever Boise Book Expo. Like me Chris is a StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink dude, and a lover of words. He's also a really great guy and a family man, not to mention a scruffy, stocky, bad ass who possess an uncanny knack for writing in the voice of, well, a teenage girl.
I too have written from the POV of a young women in both THE REMAINS and my first novella PERMANENCE. So did Jim Harrison in DALVA. It's not an easy transition to make putting oneself in the mind of a woman, being in possession of a testosterone producing human machine that only a few short ticks ago on the human evolution clock lived in a cave while hunting saber-tooth tigers for a living. However, in AIREL, Chris, along with co-author Aaron Patterson managed to pull off the impossible. Getting into the mind of a teenage girl and wrapping a YA Romance around her.
Well, not only is the novel receiving rave reviews it's already on a rapid climb up the charts and it was only released a few days ago. What this of course signifies is that White and Patterson haven't simply written another book, they've created a literary tour-de-force.
So who the hell is Chris White???
Well, let's ask him. Chris, who are you?
Let me be totally honest right now: I’m having trouble believing that I’m writing this. Vincent Zandri, who has been at this game far longer and with much more success than I, invited me to guest post on the Vox. Crazy. Along those lines, I am the guy who co-wrote Airel (book I in the Airel saga) with Aaron Patterson, certainly no slouch in the industry in his own right. So who am I? Exactly. All of it conspires to cause me to look at my reflection differently every morning, when I decide yet again that shaving can wait another day but toothbrushing can’t—because there’s really nothing sexy about a dude in pajamas. That scenario only needs one thing: Audrey Hepburn. And maybe fresh coffee. Coffee is sexy.
It’s surreal; we’ve established that. So let’s move on to the two topics I want to talk about today.
First up is Airel, the first novel I’ve ever had a part in publishing. And is it just me, or is it really difficult to sum up your work in a few sentences? Aaron and I spent more than 12 months on this book, so writing concisely about it feels like I’m ripping everybody off. Let’s try this for a synopsis: Airel is a book about a teenage girl written by two dudes. See what I mean?
The reviews are coming in positive. I have honestly been moved to tears by some of them, which only reinforces Aaron’s assertion that the reason why we nailed the teenage girl POV so well is because I am one. I’ll admit I did channel my high school experiences more than once as I wrote my part of it. What was my part? Well basically, Aaron had me do a rewrite of his rough draft. I took some liberties. And I took a while. In the end, it was Aaron who was dabbing his eyes with a tissue. Because I was ruthless; and he’s just as much of a girl as anybody else around here. The honest truth: I write the kind of story I would like to read. I’m pretty sure that’s where Aaron stands, too.
So what’s it about? You’ll have to cruise on over to the Amazon page and check it out. Everything about it, though, from the cover design to the marketing strategy to the story within are things I can stand behind 100%. How many times does an author get to say that? Not often, unless he or she is important enough to call some shots—which means, nine times out of ten, I’m betting he or she is not traditionally signed.
And speaking of calling some shots, let’s move on to the second topic. Vince and I have briefly touched on this privately, but what about writing in the present tense? A few years ago I read a little book by Aldous Huxley and
I think Vince would agree with me in saying no, and not just because he has written something along those lines (Moonlight Rises, coming soon). I’ve been experimenting with my own MS, see. My debut solo novel, K: phantasmagoria (first in a series and releasing later this year) will probably feature at least some present tense voice. Right now it’s like Swiss cheese because I have been committing the cardinal sin of rewriting it before the rough draft is finished. I’m on probably the third rewrite. (Why do I feel like I just farted in church?) Come on, is it really so bad to want to do something well? Especially my debut novel.
I have no problem wanting to do things right. In fact, I strive for perfection in my work; something from which I think quite a few “professional” copy editors could benefit. But anyway. Back to the point here: I like stuff that’s unique, different. That’s why in my book, I’m toying with the present tense. Let me give you an example.
Toward midday he comes into the store: Allan Haight. He’s wearing a short-sleeve button-down shirt and Dockers, his hairless head tanned, mature, his jaw determined and stubbly, his eyes bright. He’s “looking for a man named K,” he says, dispatching one of the blue-shirted minions to go and fetch him.
“One of the biggest things that ever happened in little Boise,” he says, as K walks up to him awkwardly. They know each other, but barely. They made each other’s odd acquaintance in very odd ways indeed, and not long ago. Allan looks serene, a little reverential, sad. “Saw you at the wreck.”
K looks poignantly at him. “I was almost in it.”
“I know. I saw you.”
“You did? How?” K is having that disquieted buzzing feeling because Allan is in the room again. Something about him.
As for me, and I know maybe it’s not for everyone, but I think writing like this allows for far more flexibility and clarity in the work. Not only is there an immediacy to the story, but it’s far easier to place things in the spectrum of time. What’s happening now is present, what happened then is past. There’s no need to deal with past perfect (“he had been,” for instance), which can, at times, feel clunky.
Another thing I really like about writing in the present tense is what it does for the dialogue. Past tense stories have always had present tense dialogue, which is fine until you start to think about how weird it is, and how confusing it should be, how confusing it would be if it wasn’t traditional. Placing the story in present tense just makes everything clearer, but maybe it’s just me. I have my reasons, too, to write in the present tense. I won’t reveal all of that here, because you’ll see when the book’s out. You liked that, didn’t you.
What I will say is that writing in the present tense, while maybe not always the only way to do things, shouldn’t be simply discarded out of hand because, “that’s just not how we do things ‘round here, boah.” In an increasingly instant society, maybe we writers should consider injecting a little more immediacy into our stories. I know it can be an acquired taste, so now it’s your turn—what do you think?
Chris is the creator of the Great Jammy Adventure series of OK-to-color-in picture books. He blogs about that here, so be sure to follow. The next book in the series will be out later this year.
He has another blog about good, evil, Story with a capital S, and bits of LOST. It’s where you can find out more about K: phantasmagoria.
Chris is soon to release his first digital short, The Marsburg Diary, based on a little vignette in Airel.
K: phantasmagoria is the first in a series of novels about good, evil and the power of assumptions. Look for that to release late this year.WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM