Dodd breaks up a convenience store robbery when his car breaks down in Sweet Water Falls, Texas. What’s the thanks he gets? The sheriff won’t let him leave, the car lot can’t find the parts and everybody wants him for something—sales pitch, church membership, and even stud pony.
But most of all, it seems a family named Dodd were shot down robbing the bank in 1949 and the half million they stole remains missing. Everyone thinks Dodd returned to dig up the loot and no one intends to let him leave until he finds it—along with (or so the legends go) a long lost flying saucer.
(1) Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
Ideas come to me in scraps. It’s hard to say where they come from. I just have lots of little ideas I write down, develop them and some develop more and then some become novels. Cigerets, guns and beer came from a joke about how they used to sell six packs of beer in iced barrels next to gas pumps in Texas in the seventies and eighties. I said that all they needed was guns and Texans would have gone to heaven. That little joke became the book.
(2) How do you get inspired to write?
I don’t allow myself the luxury. I just make myself write. I pick up where I left off and I write at least four days a week, and try for six. Writers don’t have the luxury of inspiration, per se. Inspiration is the desire to write itself. Then if you want to write, you look for threads in your environment, the news, on television, in your reading, your pet’s play, what your loved ones said that was funny or pissed you off and you weave it into a story.
Since I started Twitter, based on Rayne Hall’s Twitter for Writers, I came up with the idea of four 110-144 short stories a day. I steal them from little scraps, and some are serial stories. But I do them. I realized they are almost all homages to Charles Addams, who greatly influenced me as a child, which would have horrified my imaginary Baptist Texas parents (not the real foster parents who abandoned me behind the book store). It really isn’t hard. I often simply mull over material as I go to sleep.
(3) What are you currently working on?
A novel called Seeing Jesus, about a city girl forced to live in a small town where she sticks out like the longest spike on a prickly pear. Her dad’s job makes him suck up to everybody and he expects her to do the same. She makes friends with a homeless man who teaches her that stories can help her cope with her problems, but no one else can see him. Sara’s insistence that Mr. Fisher is real threatens to make her the town pariah, and ruin her father’s business.
(4) What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t wait for the perfect sentence. Just write. You can always fix bad writing, but you can’t fix an empty page.
(5) What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Truthfully, the joy of writing and seeing the problems with your prose and finding a way to turn turgid words into something that flows. Then when you finally have it write, you know it.
If, after you publish, you read a review and the reviewer understands what you were trying to do and says, “he did it,” which has happened two or three times with me, then that’s the second best thing.
The money, truthfully, not that important to me. Sales are a validation that people want to read my work.
(6) How do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t suffer writer’s block because I just start writing. If it’s crap, I don’t mind throwing it away. Like I said. Better fixing crap (or even tossing it) than an empty page. It’s hard for new writers to get it, but after thirty years I’ve axed thirty to forty pages of a draft without a heartbeat. In fact I’ve done it in several different places of the same novel.
A beta reader just suggested that I kill a parallel narrator (the villain) in a novel I am working on, and I was pissed at first, and then I remembered, when I first started working on it, I hated novels using the villain’s POV in parallel. I only added it as a cynical ploy because so many readers seem to like it. So my solution may be (since it’s an eBook) to allow readers to hide those passages. Because the beta reader’s right. They don’t need to be there. On the other hand, I know other readers that love that stuff, which is the only reason they’re there.
Ten years ago, I would have said, screw those readers, and come to my senses and axed the scenes. Now, I’m more flexible.
But the point is, you don’t have to suffer writer’s block if you don’t suffer the illusion that your writing must be inspired. If it can be mediocre, or even total refuse to clean the pipes out and get your pen flowing, then you can move past it altogether.