Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

jbrady's blog

Against the grain: networking Yogi Berra, Vaclav Havel, a liking for trouble.

Murphy’s Laws have no statute of limitations. If there is no Murphy’s Law to fit the situation that crashes over you, it’s an easy matter to write a new Murphy’s Law. This I do regularly. I have more than enough inspiration from Yogi Berra to enliven the creation of new Murphy’s Laws too. Yogi Berra-isms are the modern iteration of what used to be called Irish Bulls.

Irish Bulls are contradictory, logically incoherent or non-sequitur statements:

"If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive." (Samuel Goldwyn)

Cursed: swearing off swearing?

Unwisely, I tried an experiment – ‘experiment’ indeed: I already had a good idea of what I would find. I performed a search of this 'Haywire' manuscript for …curse-words. What most people seem to call swearing, I still call cursing. So I went for the old reliable, the f word.

The results were unsurprising. It is of little consolation that all except two of them occur in dialogue. This first book of a new series sets a tone that will be hand to change, so decisions need to be clear here. The central character, Malone, is doing – as he says himself – a fierce amount of cursing at certain times. And why not? He’s a Dub, born bred and starved. Cursing in Dublin approaches Glaswegian volumes. It’s not even cursing half the time.

Housecleaning: bringing historical fiction up to date?

Sometimes you need to take stock, and January is the time for doing it. Income tax prep can wait – it’s time to open the vault. I have been thinking of rejigging a long story, a 4 part screen play called ‘A Rebel Hand.’ Like the saying goes, The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. (Faulkner??)

It’s a common saying about Ireland is that there is too much history and not enough geography there. As though this were a problem for people who want to read and to write stories..? But as keen as I am on Irish history and historical figures, I usually stay away from writing about it. The exception is a long, four-part screenplay I wrote on Michael Dwyer.

Undertow/Underworld : The Backstory

Some of the beaches that I know and love look almost too inviting. But what a newcomer to Fanore Beach on Ireland's West coast needs to be told is that it has an undertow. There is only so deep you should go at the southern end of this long strand, and only at certain times of the day too. I knew all this, and was free with my advice to newcomers. That did not prevent me one day from being drawn down the coast and out to sea, from that self-same beach.

The Quiet One aka The Other Guy

Sometimes it’s time to … step off the bus.

And sometimes you have to throw X under the bus.

The ‘bus’ I am referring to is not a bus bus. It’s the story that is underway and proceeding, and close to finished. Doing this longish detective story imposes its own assumptions and habits as I write and edit each day. These notions and expectations and reflexes carry on just below the level of conscious awareness.

As always, the danger lies in letting things carry on, as though the story itself has its own logic and destination. Part of the destination has to be the revelation of the villain who is behind the violence stalking my protagonist and main character from the get-go.

Research? I drive a Ford

“I hate for things to get finally pinned down, for possibilities to be narrowed by the shabby impingement of facts…. when the facts are made clear, I can’t bear it, and run away as fast as I can … (etc)”
The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

Research: how here’s word that covers pretty-well anything, so much so that it is a byword for mischief in our house. I don’t do ‘research,’ I do ‘stuff.’ As I mentioned, I have no interest in details about techie aspects of a story. It may sound like a Hail Mary because it is a Hail Mary: preoccupation with tech detail is the opposite of story. Detail for me means how a person says something, or sits, or gazes at something – long slow panning cinema is my weakness, not hyperkinetic action flicks. Harrumph.

Chasing the Muse: It takes a city?

Here’s a question that is rarely asked today: ‘Where do you get your inspiration?”

It is a great question. The problem is that it has been mocked into obscurity. Maybe it gives too much room to a person to blather on about The Muse, or go on an endless riff about boring, useless details and quirks. Or maybe the answers were too stock, too predictable. Me, I used to get the question wrong.

The Devil’s Dictionary and The Blank Page

To my embarrassment now, I once thought that part of building a set of writing tools should include me making a thesaurus of ways to write ‘said’ and 'thought.' This even after Hemingway years of adolescent reading, by the way. The problem (I thought) was that there were too many ‘He saids’ and ‘She saids.’ The ‘said’ wasn’t expressive enough. Wasn't the english language greater than 'said?' It is to cringe now, remembering the enthusiasm with which I went after that. It would have been a Devil’s Dictionary.

I thought so: or so I thought? / What 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' means for writing...

A neighbour last week was staring at the sky, and nodding his head slowly in a way that said to me that he was confirming something that he had known about for some time. He was on his way to work. I was headed down my ususal road, through the streets and lanes to Wychwood to downtown. Habits, etc. The need to be around trees.

“Those things...?” He was aiming his commentary to no-one in particular, eyes still scanning the sky. “They look like contrails, but uh uh.”

Mornings are not my best time for chit chat, but your neighbour is your neighbour. He’ll be there where you come home too.

“See how they spread out like that, in that weird way?”

The dangerous attractions of mystery novels: forensics, redemption and the F word

Some views of mysteries, or ‘whodunnit’s stay in my mind. Somewhere between smoking and doing the crossword. Edmund Wilson’s take is often quoted: “ the reading of detective novels is simply a kind of vice that, for silliness and minor harmfulness, ranks somewhere between smoking and crossword puzzles.”

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