Jim Thompson’s ‘The Getaway’ shows pulp fiction can be great literature

March 19th, 2012 by Zirk van den Berg § 3 comments § permalink

For much of the 20th Century, being innovative in art was a precondition for recognition, if not sufficient reason in itself. It was certainly the case in visual art. Novels, too, could not escape being judged on their novelty value.

What has come to interest me more than novelty is the possibility of doing something valuable within the canons of well-established art forms.  Can one, for instance, write a book within the constraints of pulp fiction that is also great literature? » Read the rest of this entry «

Writing as a way to collect rejection slips

March 2nd, 2012 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

It has occurred to me that writing is a laborious way of collecting rejection slips. I got my first one in 1979 and publishers turning down my manuscripts still outnumber the times they have agreed to publish my work by a factor of ten or so.

Getting a rejection slip is a disappointment for any author. Here you are, pouring your soul or at least many hours into a project and some stranger says it’s not worth publishing. Feeling hurt, wronged or angry is normal.

But it would be wrong to assume that this has to be the author’s response. » Read the rest of this entry «

How writers can improve their novels by self-checking the ‘density of significance’

February 17th, 2012 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

Writers, especially those early in their writing career, can improve their books with a straightforward self-check. The best books tend to have a high density of significance. By this rather fancy sounding term I mean the numerical ratio of sentences to significant realisations. Let me explain.

On the least dense end of the scale you might find » Read the rest of this entry «

Meet Laura Bontrager – a new romance author

February 11th, 2012 by Anna von Veh § 10 comments § permalink

We asked Laura Bontrager (@lily_bart), author of the forthcoming novel, Fences, to tell us about herself. (To find out how we discovered Laura, read Writing undercover on the web.)

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, but my parents are from Ohio and California. They never expected to stay in Memphis when they came, and they spent a lot of time keeping me and my brother away from the Southern accent. So I’ve grown up with an interesting mixture of Southern, Californian, and Northern heritage.

Laura Bontrager

I graduated with a degree in English, and then worked as a behavioural aide for a boy with autism, and my poetry was published in various magazines and journals. Currently, I work in the library of a boys’ private school in Memphis. And I write.

When did you start writing and why?

I started telling stories first with my Barbie dolls as I created scene after scene of soap-opera-worthy tragedy. And then I wrote down stories because I wanted to illustrate them, not because I particularly loved the words. I felt I could show the pictures in my head better by creating pictures (but I turned out to be only a mediocre artist). Then I really got down to writing somewhere around 12 years old; the stories needed out. It was Holocaust survival tales (I was fascinated with WW2), and ‘magical realism’ (wizards and secret quests). And then those morphed into what is now called fan fiction. I wanted my favorite characters in my favorite TV shows to get together, to realize their love for each other, or to face certain doom and triumph. I rewrote episodes or I gave the characters backstories. I still didn’t think of it as writing though. » Read the rest of this entry «