I’m delighted to welcome U.S. born, Canadian novelist Chuck Waldron to Thoughts in Progress as he makes a stop on his Pump Up Your Book! virtual blog tour with his release of REMINGTON AND THE MYSTERIOUS FEDORA.
Chuck joins us to answer some questions about his writing and writing in general.
Where Did That Idea Come From?
Someone asked me how I came up with the idea for REMINGTON & THE MYSTERIOUS FEDORA, a quirky story that turned out to be one of my favorites. The seed for the idea was planted during a conversation. Someone said they had never seen a typewriter. It occurred to me that in the blink of history’s eye the ubiquitous typewriter was consigned to antique stores and old junk shops. How did that happen without my noticing? The only trace typewriters left behind is the QWERTY keyboard on computers.
The Remington in the title is an antique, manual typewriter. In the story Remington the typewriter meets an old fedora, a magical hat that whispers a story to Josh Cody while he types. That may, or may not, be a good thing.
Where do ideas like that come from?
Fresh from attending the conference of the Florida Writers Association, I thought back on the discussions and workshops. One stood out. During an informal discussion over a meal, several of us talked about questions writers are frequently asked.
How did you imagine that story?
How do dream up your characters?
Will I be in your next story or book?
How do dream up your characters?
Will I be in your next story or book?
But the question that seemed to stump us was why we write.
Non-fiction writers write to share information. Historians write to share a view of history. Medical writers share information about new treatments and give readers insight into new developments. Professionals in the social sciences write to share research and theories about the social world we live in. Sometimes they might deal with topics in a way that entertain but the primary goal is to share and influence, providing new ways of thinking about problems and how to solve them.
Fiction writers share information but we wrap information inside stories and let storybook characters speak for us. Fiction writers often use their craft to influence. That’s what novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin & To Kill a Mockingbird have done. The story of the characters in those novels caused readers to think anew. But the primary goal is to divert, amuse, and entertain the reader.
Fiction writers love to entertain. We use stories with characters that can be funny, serious, good and bad, but they must always entertain. Stories sometime make the reader uncomfortable but we know readers love to escape into a story. They tell us so.
Anton Chekhov said it is the duty of an artist to ask questions, not answer them.
Whew, that lets us off the hook, or maybe not. We can imagine questions and dream up stories without the untidiness of providing answers. But if it doesn’t entertain why would readers turn the pages?
I can only answer the above questions for myself. Each writer may have a slightly different take. So here are my answers to those questions writers are asked.
How did you imagine that story, Chuck?
I ask myself the same question. There is some hidden part in my mind that every so often reveals elements of characters and stories. It’s a secret location in my mind so carefully tucked away I have yet to find where that place is. It remains well hidden to me.
How do dream up your characters Chuck?
The answer to that is in the question, I make them up. They escape from their hiding place and I dream up embellishments. My characters are often a blending of many people I know, or think I know. I live with the idea of characters for a long time before I breathe the words into them. I am often amazed at how real they become to me.
Chuck, will I be in your next story or book?
Without a doubt! Well, maybe not the next story or book. But a part of you will be likely make an appearance somewhere.
Why do writers write?
I’ve been telling stories all my life. Sometimes they have been stories told only to myself. Some I have spoken in the oral tradition. But it all comes down to one thing. There are stories I just have to tell. I write them because I have to. That someone may read them is a byproduct, as important as that might be. It’s that ‘having to’ that makes me write. The answer to why I write is as simple as that…and it’s as hard as that.
When they are turned over to a reader I like to believe my stories entertain and I want readers to keep turning the pages.
Writers sometimes share the confession of hoping for fame and fortune, hopeful to pay for a new luxury car with royalties. I would be less than honest if I said I wouldn’t like some recognition and a royalty check to go with it. However, given the number of books in print and electronic books being produced each day, week, month and year, I feel like Sisyphus pushing a book up the hill only to fall back without going over the top.
If my sole reason for writing was to dream about a sprinkling of ‘magic fame dust’ to grace this author’s shoulder, logic would tell me to quit.
The real reason I write is the stories hiding inside. Sometimes they nudge around the edges of awareness like a cat tip-toes around the house. Sometimes a story will roar and rattle the cage, raging to be set free.
I write because I love to write.
It took years to declare my love affair with writing and confess to the love and passion I have for stories. Pursuing that passion until a story is set free is a marvelous feeling and when readers tell me they liked a story I know we have shared something special and priceless.
All that said, don’t be bashful. Feel free to buy my books. I wouldn’t object to some fame and fortune.
Chuck, thanks so much for guest blogging. I enjoyed your take on why writers, you in particular, have to write. I miss my Remington typewriter.
Now a bit of background on Chuck. He is currently working on his fourth novel, a thriller about an investigative blogger who uncovers more than he ever imagines…and has no idea what to do with his discovery.
His first novel, TEARS IN THE DUST, is a mystery set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War in 1937. When Alestair Ferguson volunteers to fight in the International Brigade he doesn’t realize the true price he will have to pay.
Chuck’s second novel, REMINGTON AND THE MYSTERIOUS FEDORA, is a quirky fantasy, a story about what happens when a young man sits at the keyboard of a manual typewriter and puts on an old fedora. When the fedora and its mysterious power begins to whisper a story to him, the young man has a strange adventure indeed.
His third novel, SERVED COLD, spans decades and stretches from the countryside of rural Ontario to a quiet artists’ studio in Tucson, Arizona. With lots of murder and mayhem in between, the story is what happens when a long-standing feud erupts into hot-blooded vengeance.
Chuck wrote over 30 short stories before setting out to write novels that are affordable and entertaining. He has attended writing workshops in Iowa, Florida, Georgia and Ontario, Canada.
“I grew up,” Chuck said, “listening to my grandfather, an Ozark Mountain story teller, spinning tales of the caves on his farm, describing them as hiding places once used by the Jesse & Frank James’ gang. It didn’t matter if the stories were true or not. Those legends set fire to my imagination, creating images that emerged slowly over the years, finally igniting as my short stories and novels.”
Now, thirty-plus short stories and three novels later, ideas keep coming, with more novels under development. Do they share anything in common? Each has its own unique voice and tale to tell, yet, at their heart, his stories tell about the human condition – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Chuck adds, “stored images that echo in my writing include train whistles in the night, Norman Rockwell childhood scenes, U.S. Army memories, blue collar jobs, university, a professional career, and finally retirement. Many of my images are drawn from this pool of memories: places visited, sights seen, and people met. The rest I filled in with my imagination: dreams of places yet to be visited, sights yet to be seen, and people yet to be met.”
His literary roots were planted in the American Midwest and thrived when transplanted – over 39 years ago – to the rich, cultural soil of Ontario. He and his wife, Suzanne, spend their summers in Kitchener, Ontario and are warmed by a winter sun in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
For more information on Chuck and his writing, visit Chuck at http://www.writebyme.ca and at www.chuckwaldron.com, find him on Twitter and on Facebook.
If you’re a writer, are these the standard questions you’re asked constantly? As a reader, do you find yourself asking these questions of authors when given the chance? Thanks so much for stopping by today.