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Here's an author interview with Bob Boguslavski!
Saturday March 22, 2014

Source Link: The Book Landers



The Book Lander: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Bob Boguslavski: I see them as being related.

The hardest thing about writing is trying to recount something you haven’t experienced in real life. I think that in order to accurately describe or detail it, you need to do a lot of research, talk to people who have lived it, and then try to put the topic, passage or experience together from that perspective. I think this hard work is needed, so that anybody reading the piece at hand who has experienced will see it as being credible. Now you can’t necessarily do this at length for every single little thing. Further, if you are writing something from a purely imaginary perspective (i.e., science fiction or fantasy), which nobody has lived yet, then I believe a good amount of time and effort needs to be spent mapping out the “world” and how it all works and comes together. It still needs to make sense, sound credible, be logical, and not have any glaring inconsistencies. That is all hard work to do properly and create from scratch.

The easiest thing about writing is covering something you have lived or that has happened to you. It certainly helps to have a good memory in that regard, so you can dredge up all the relevant details. You can then always change or tweak it, by applying a little artistic license and imagination to make it more appealing, interesting, shocking, or humorous, as needed, but the core is always best based in something that happened, and you were there for it.

Stitching the two parts together seamlessly with one’s own unique style and flair is the art of the deal.

TBL: Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

BB: Fortunately, writer’s block is something that has not happened to me yet, so I am lucky. If it looked like I was getting stuck on one passage or chapter, I could easily change gears by moving to another chapter, or do some research or editing on another part or angle altogether.

The way this first book was (and how future books will be) structured, on an episodic basis, albeit with many connecting tendrils between each “chronicle” or chapter, allows me to hop around from chapter to chapter. It took my editor some adjustment to work along this way as well, since the novel’s chapters were not completed in sequence, but were rather all over the place, and delivered individually for follow-on editing and review.

I realize writer’s block is a very personal thing that affects writers differently, so I imagine that everyone could have a different solution. Doing something completely different and changing your environment may work, like exercise or getting outside. I think it would be important to flag the problem area, put down some notes or placeholders, and then leave it for a while, and come back later.

Another factor could be time of day as well, as I think many writers work to different biorhythms, so knowing and understanding yourself and your zones of optimal creativity, and when you work best / most efficiently is important and can play a part in the solution, or at the minimum, staying away from recurring problematic time periods.

Music has a big influence over me, and helps my creativity, so music would be a factor as well. I always have music on as I write, to create a backchannel of random stimulation and unlock potential. Maybe that is why writer’s block hasn’t happened to me. If it ain’t broke, don’t go lookin’ to fix it.

TBL: Name a song that describes your book best?

BB: That’s a real interesting one. I’ll alter (or bend) the question a bit in terms of “a song” (i.e., single).

The book, in terms of styles and structure, (and my character) is a mix of many different traits and influences, and so I think a “song” in the realm of Mashups / Bastard Pop / Plunderphonics would be most accurately representative.

There is a lot of great stuff to choose from, but I’ll pick Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis) and the album Feed The Animals. Now, technically, one may view the entire album stream as one long contiguous “song”, but it has been broken up into 14 consecutive tracks to make it more digestible.

It combines hundreds of song samples, artfully woven together in an aural tapestry to create something new. It similarly represents the way I slammed and fused many different elements on multiple fronts/topics together for the book’s tale. It is also perhaps a model for the way I think as well. If you don’t want to consider the album as one “song”, then feel free to pick any of the 14 constituent tracks for a random sample.

This Wired Magazine infographic deconstructs one track “What It’s All About” from the album, visually mapping out in time and layers all 35 samples used for that one song.


In terms of describing my character in the book, and what Bobby Bo may be thinking at the end of it all, the last three songs in the Epilogue playlist by Nada Surf, Eels, and West Indian Girl were purposely chosen in sequence to add another angle as to how to interpret the ending, and what may be going on inside Bob’s head that he isn’t otherwise communicating.

Listen to those three songs, if no others in the book, and a reader will probably come away with a modified / enhanced understanding or perspective of the ending than the one given by the text alone.

I could go on a bit more about the music in the book and its overall general purpose, but this web/blog post I did a while back sums it up pretty well.

TBL: Chocolate or vanilla?

BB: Well, let me start by saying I have generally been a savory over sweet person for quite a long time now. I will always make more room for that extra piece of pizza or another helping of the main dish, and forego dessert altogether in most cases.

But faced with a choice, if it’s ice cream, I will take vanilla as my preferred flavor, but some squares of chocolate will always trump ice cream in a face-off, but it need be dark chocolate.

White chocolate doesn’t count at all as real chocolate—strictly speaking it is considered a derivative product, and doesn’t have the cocoa solids. Milk chocolate as a choice probably will keep me sticking to savoury.

I am not a hoity-toity, fussy eater by any means, so faced with situations where there is no choice, I go with the flow, eat what’s there, and not bitch about luxury decisions. Overall, in this part of the world, many of us have it pretty good when it comes to food and lots of choices. I will eat just about anything within mainstream reason and not complain.

TBL: Any favorite things / likes you want to share?

BB: In no particular order:

Mode of transport – train, for the continuity, views, pace, and not needing to be captain; note this ain’t the same as the subway.

TV show as a kid – Ultraman (it’s from Japan in the 60s; we had this stuff growing up in Canuckistan even in the single digit channel universe at the time, pre-cable).

Night of the week – Thursday, cuz it’s busy enough to be real good, not as crowded as Friday and Saturday with lines, and even if you hurt your ass real bad partying, you can limp through the day Friday at work/school to get home and collapse on the sofa and flop out.

Song/artist – can’t peg it to one as way too much I like; my next one though is something/somebody I haven’t heard yet. Get a very small feel for selections from here.

Sleep time – 4/5am – 9/10am (5 hours); unfortunately this doesn’t jive with much real-life, grown-up activity, and is at cross-porpoises [sic] with my best writing times on the front end. I do need catch-up days with more sleep now and again though for sure.

Food – so much I like, but thin crust pizza, Asian across the board, and Mediterranean fare are all up there at the top of the pyramid.

Booze – red wine

Other drug(s) – music, travel, and the above mentioned grape juice

Life moment – It hasn’t happened yet.

Color – blue (and shades therein for variety)

TBL: Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

BB: There is a lot of debate out there and ample well thought-out material has been written about the value of free with books, music and many other products / services. I certainly see and understand the multiple facets of the equation.

This Wired Magazine piece by Chris Anderson from 2008 is a good overview of the matter, and useful for getting started thinking about it all. But there is so much more out there, both pro and con.

I think this approach can be used effectively when done occasionally for brief periods of time (e.g., giveaways, contests, and short promotions) but if used constantly across the board, where does that leave a writer long term? If you, as creator, are not placing any value to your work, who else will? Any writer or other artist needs to be the biggest champion of his or her work.

In my case, I have one novel to date, with more to come. I have elected to put a commercial value on it for several reasons—it’s a highly differentiated product, initial third parties and readers have reacted favorably so far, and there are other value-added elements attached to it like the music playlists. Further, I also made sure the end product was professionally edited from start to finish. There is a lot of “free” and self-published stuff out there that isn’t edited, so that was another wrinkle in the mix.

Another consideration in my decision making on this matter is that pretty much all the e-book and online platforms provide for an adequate preview capability of the product, so any reader gets a really good “free” look at what they may be potentially plunking down part of their entertainment budget for.

When you are a first-time author starting from zero, it is tough to break into the market to begin with, given the sheer amount of new titles coming out all the time, and technology has really opened up the floodgates with increasingly sophisticated and polished self-publishing options.

Then one is also competing with all the other types of media / entertainment forms today, and social media. Then you have limited consumer mental bandwidth and time as physical constraints.

There is an ocean of free stuff out there as it is, and some evidence suggests many readers never finish or even get to start all the free e-books they amass on their reading device(s) of choice.

Providing a review copy to literary blogs/websites, highly-ranked independent reviewers, and select tastemakers / high profile folks is another matter, pretty much standard practice, and makes sense, given the volume of queries and material they contend with and would otherwise have to pay for. You never know how they will like, love, or pan it though in their review. It’s out of your control.

Whether a book is given away free or sold commercially to the public, the real bottom line investment any reader is making is in the actual time to read the book. If someone is going to allow a writer to crawl into their headspace for hours at a time to entertain, enthrall, inform, and/or shock at times too, then the currency sale price of the book paid by the reader is rather irrelevant at the end of the day when divided by the physical time spent reading, and looking at it on a $/hour basis. But that sale price revenue can certainly make a difference to the author.

You can experiment with pricing, but it can be difficult to go up in price from “zero, zero, he’s my hero,” as opposed to having the wiggle room to play with price selectively from a higher point.

In other cases, generally, the book itself, may be just a part of an overall business model with other revenue streams down the road too, such as speaking engagements, consulting, or other related revenue-generating activities, if that is what a writer desires and what kind of books are being churned out. One need to know and understand what their own end game and objectives are here, and many a time, it may not be the book at all.

At the end of the day, each writer will do what they think is right for their own situation, factoring in all the parameters at play, and where they feel they fit in the overall marketplace with their offering.

Then you can also just close your eyes, throw a dart and see where it lands on the board (or even missing altogether), and let that dictate your strategy as well. Ida know. Vega$, baby, Vega$.

TBL: Why do you write?

BB: There has never been some lifelong longing to write since childhood. It all manifested itself over time. Sure at school, one had to write essays, papers, and do projects. Then with business, there is a lot of writing as well, whether it is for planning, proposals, marketing collateral and other related biz type docs. Hell, even crafting a well-written email can be a challenge too. You are still always telling a story in some way, trying to convince someone of something, or impart something.

Probably my earliest knowledge of knowing I could write anything entertaining and humorous, dates back to my initial international work and travel days in the late 80s and early 90s. At the time, when abroad in places like Europe, Egypt, India, and the UAE, on the go, and many a time in remote areas or with no reasonable or convenient telephone options, the best way to shoot friends and family an update on what was up in life was via postcard. The major shortcoming was speed of delivery (weeks if not months at times), and the odd one may have also gotten lost along the way.

You had the picture on one side, and not a lot of room on the flip, once factoring in space for the addressee info, and the stamp(s). I kinda cheated (or altered the boundaries of the format) by writing in bordering-on-microscopic (but still legible, at least to younger eyes anyway) print, giving me a quite a bit more room than normal to play with.

I developed my own personal informal style of telling a short story of the place, picture and life moment and/or perceptions of where I was, and delivering it in comedic and graphic fashion. So much so, that over the years, I discovered that many of those friends and family have saved those postcards to this very day, because they said it made them howl with laughter, and was some of the funniest and out there stuff they had ever read.

Years later, I managed to get some of them to scan or loan them back to me for a bit. There is some real good material in there that may see the light of day in future series about travel and/or work abroad.

I knew I had something there in terms of some raw potential nuggets of value, but it still took quite a few years before it all came together, and knowing what to do with any of it.

Along the way, there were all these experiences abroad (for work, vacation, and school) that just started piling up over the years. The topic of weddings was just the first one to come bubbling up as the vehicle to tie some of that together into a longer story packaged in book form.

TBL: What does your family think of your writing?

BB: Well, a good chunk of the family is dead (parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents) so that makes things very easy! smiley With all the funerals there to date, plus some friends too, I see the raw potential down the road for another eye-opening series, but I will save that whole approach for when all other topical series have been exhausted.

Start with weddings, and end with funerals. Hmm, I think this one may have been done once before, but I think I can do it differently enough to make it interesting.

Other family members (sister, brother-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) don’t do the e-book thing yet at all, and are awaiting the imminent (but months overdue) paperback release to dive into it, and give me their overall opinion, even though a few may have had the odd early-stage preview chapter. Younger relatives, like nephews, still have a long way to grow up before they will be wanting to read this. Also, there is no wife to worry about yet either, and what she may think. So overall, this family angle really hasn’t been a shaping factor to date.

I will wait and see how this all turns out, and get back to folks on that with a more definitive answer if this question ever gets asked again down the road. I imagine that some family members will like it (or parts thereof), and others will be shocked by a lot of it too, as the material can be quite out there, and delivered with Tucker Max like flair at times. It’s just part of my natural writing style that goes back to my postcard writing days abroad. I did however tone down my language for family (a bit anyway) in those old cards, as opposed to friends and others, which were done with more of a no holds barred approach. If I was writing those cards for grandparents with very limited English capability, I had to keep things really simple.

TBL: Do you have any suggestions to become a better writer? If so, what are they?

BB: I am really just getting going as a writer, so I ain’t like no expert or nuttin’, but from very early stages years back, I certainly valued Authonomy as a forum to throw out early versions of chapters and see what people, especially other writers who may be a little more critical, thought. Those initial comments (all based on the raw first drafts, before any editing) can still be found up here. I haven’t been really up there much anymore apart from the odd update.

At the time in late 2009 when I first started on Authonomy with a few initial chapters, the book had a working title of All Over The Map with the byline underneath of Global Weddings, Wandering and Pondering. Bad, isn’t it? It was way too long, and got changed along the way, as the current title is a better fit. I had a long list of potential titles, and batted them around with quite a few friends, family, and my editor. At various stages, I had several more chapters up there (at one point about 70% of the full manuscript I reckon), but have since culled it back to pretty much mirror what is available now in preview mode for the book retail sites online.

I knew from the start I was trying to do something quite different in terms of concept, story and structure, and each wedding / chronicle / chapter was far longer than a normal novel chapter. I wanted to get an early feel to see if I was barking up the right tree, so to speak. There were things I picked up along the way based on initial feedback, and I was able to refine and fix them, the most important being how to split up those otherwise long chapters into smaller chunks, employing a series of repetitive icons to act dually as break / separation points, and also to symbolize different days and/or day parts for the event.

Getting all that right very early on was valuable to me. However, some writers might be loath to share early raw drafts of a new book for fear of rejection, nasty commentary, or having ideas stolen (or their publisher forbade it), but I didn’t see a problem with any of that and wasn’t tied to any contracts. Also, as a minor added deterrent to others copying and extending material, my editor felt early on that my style, tone and structure were quite unique, and would be hard to mimic.

I just felt I needed to test the waters early on, and was very glad I did. So that would be my only suggestion—get stuff out early on, and adjust accordingly as needed. I suppose if one is a seasoned pro, you may not care for or need that approach because you are comfortable with the whole product creation process.

TBL: What draws you to this genre?

I like to think my style of writing is rather genre-defying, as it mixes in so many different elements.

At the very least, it is a mashup, and in the way that Girl Talk wanted to turn things up several notches on the music front with his work, I endeavored to do so with this first instalment of Wedding Chronicles. I didn’t want to feel constrained or limited by standard industry labels or tags that would be applied to try to categorize it. There are too many, making it all meaningless in the end. It is what it is. It’s part of the reason why I created my own label for it, f(r)iction, and it’s explained right at the beginning of the book. We’ll see if it ever sticks over time.

Throwing fully-integrated music playlists into the mix was yet another thing I wanted to do, because music is something that is a big part of my life, and has a lot of power to help a story along (e.g., movies, TV, games) and set mood.

I intend to continue writing exactly like this. It is just me, following my own vibe, with a delivery and structure that feels comfortable and natural.

People can call it what they want in the end. I just hope they enjoy the read ride, and want to come back for more.

To close off this topic of style and genre, this Toni Morrison quote fits the bill nicely.

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”