4. the books roamPosted: April 3, 2017
Poor Traits of an Artist as a Young Man: the books roam
Jimwamba didn’t sell. There are plenty of reasons why, like that indie presses often aren’t equipped for commercial success or that a twenty-year-old doesn’t know a lot about marketing. Let’s not linger.
I wrote a sequel called Liq, which never saw the light of day. Still stored away on a hard drive somewhere.
But I wasn’t even close to being finished as a novelist. Instead, I took to abusing my university’s printing privileges and mass-producing my own printed/folded copies of Jimwamba. I sold them at festivals and coffee shops for $3 a pop.
I once sold thirty-five copies at Eeyore’s Birthday, an annual event in Austin. And yes, those are yard signs I stole and spray painted over. I’m hoping the statute of limitations on whatever crime that is has run its course.
At the same time, I was developing as a writer. I got my Bachelor’s in English Literature, and started paying more attention to my own approach to writing a novel. If you manage to find a copy of Jimwamba, you’ll see a fundamentally different approach to the basics of scene craft than I use now.
I started to strip exposition away whenever possible, instead relying on obscure details and reactions to supply the reader with evidence of my backstory. There was also a shift to seeing the book as a series of a scenes, a bit like a movie, with each scene having a definite beginning, middle, and end.
But my focus slipped. My early twenties were… wild. I wrote two more books in this period – one was a fully-illustrated novella with its own soundtrack called IDa. It was extremely surreal and very experimental, largely a reflection of what a mess my life was at the time. It was also my first (and last, really) attempt at collaborative art. A supremely talented artist by the name of Chad Stoermer supplied all of the illustrations for IDa, and it’s really my writing that let the project down in the end. Here are some examples from the story:
It’s still around here somewhere. I tried something very experimental, basically writing a cartoon, and I am just not confident in the end result.
After IDa came Frightened Boy. This was another experiment in writing as creatively as possible, with no boundaries. I think there are some good threads in Frightened Boy, and some interesting imagery. It’s a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel that may or may not take place inside a gun-toting terrorist’s mind. And that terrorist is the artist MC Escher, convinced he’s in a bad dream.
The end doesn’t really hold together, and it’s not as good as the books that came later. Nevertheless, it’s been clicked about a million times on Wattpad and has quite a few fans. I never plan to sell it, and would probably delete it if not for the loss of followers, votes and readers. I do plan on revisiting the central theme – solipsism – in a future novel. It is something that intrigues me.
Sorry, Frightened Boy. Still, I learned a lot from these experiments. By this time I was about twenty-five, and my writing was about to get serious.
It’s also around this time that I met Greg Poszywak, the brilliant artist behind all of my covers from Frightened Boy to the present. He’s had a huge impact on my career by distilling the essence of my writing into a series of eye-catching covers, and I wouldn’t have made it this far without him.
For the next entry in the Poor Traits series, click here.