Kevin Brennan has published another delightful story. Fascination. Only he’s taking the bull by the horns and is selling directly to his readers. No publishing contract, no Amazon, nothing more complicated than buying the e-book directly from him. Here’s how you do it.
Fascination tells the story of Sally Pavlou, Clive Bridle, and Mason Speck. Three people who are on different journeys that wrap around each other forming the tale of one grand journey. Mason and Sally have been married for years when suddenly Mason commits suicide. Only he didn’t. He faked his suicide and disappeared into a new life. Once Sally realizes that he isn’t dead, she embarks on a journey of self-realization and vengeance, with Clive as her private investigator and erstwhile friend and companion.
This is the fourth book written by Kevin that I’ve read. Each one is a lighthearted read that pulls the reader in. I wanted to post a review of his book but thought there was a better way to draw attention to his work and his publishing direct effort. Kevin and I have started a discussion about Fascination, writing, and what he refers to as guerrilla publishing. I’ll be posting the discussion in parts over the next few days and weeks. I hope you enjoy it. More importantly, I hope this will prompt my readers who don’t already know about Kevin to hop over to his website and buy Fascination. His idea is exactly what I have pondered over the last couple of years as I consider my own writing and publishing efforts. Guerrilla publishing is an idea that needs to catch on but it only will if readers take a chance on writers. Kevin Brennan is definitely a writer worth the chance.
MP. Is (or was) there an old arcade game like Fascination?
KB. There really is an arcade came called Fascination. I think it originated in the 1920s or ‘30s, and it was the kind of thing you’d find on beach boardwalks and places like that. In fact, I know there are still a few Fascination parlors (as they seem to be called) in operation, so if you’re in the mood for a little retro recreation, you can plan a road trip and try it for yourself.
MP. I may have to find myself a Fascination parlor. It’s kind of amazing that such things still exist these days.
Whenever I read fiction I find myself wondering how the author came up with the idea for the story. What was the spark? Stephen King has always provided a little glimpse into his storytelling. When I’ve published things, I try to do the same thing. With Fascination, there are so many ways in which I could see where this story originated. So, what was it? What was the spark that started this story for you?
KB. Since this is a book that I started a long time ago, its origins are a little hazy. I went back to my early notes about it and was surprised to learn that I began with Sally’s husband, Mason, and not Sally at all. He was the one left alone after a faked suicide. And he was the one heading out on a journey to find his wife. It wasn’t going to be comic, and I think it was headed in more of a semi-thriller with philosophical overtones. After a couple of stabs at it, I just couldn’t make it work, so I switched characters and everything started falling into place. As for the Fascination part, I happened to see an article in the Chronicle at the time about the old Fascination parlor on Market St. in SF (which is pictured on the cover, by the way), and I thought it would be interesting to make Sally an aficionado. Or aficionada. It also seemed to have odd metaphorical potential — a game that’s almost impossible to win is a lot like life …
I’ll add that this isn’t the only book I’ve ever written that I put away for a long time then came back to with new enthusiasm. A lot of writers find that changing things up after a long hiatus offers a new slant on a project. You might just land on the perfect approach.
MP. If I remember correctly, Occasional Soulmates was told from the perspective of the female character. In Fascination, you also tell a significant chunk of the story from the perspective of the primary female character. One of the ways in which I want to challenge myself as a writer is to write from the perspective of narrators that aren’t me. Old guys (I’m not that old yet), women, members of ethnic groups to which I do not belong, etc. You clearly want to take that challenge on as well. Do you ever doubt your ability to do that? I mean, how can you as a man possibly narrate a female’s tale of self-realization and vengeance? Or do you just roll with it and see what happens?
KB. One of the benefits of writing fiction is that you get to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When you think about it, unless you write nothing but autobiographical fiction, successfully assuming the identity of any character is going to be the challenge because it has to be believable. I think, in a general way, that men and women aren’t that different psychologically. Socially, culturally, sure. But in terms of human instincts and tendencies, male/female isn’t a problem. That said, you can’t phone it in. Female readers are rightfully critical of male writers who don’t try very hard to draw believable women in their fiction.
I do doubt myself sometimes, but not just writing female characters. There are times I’m on shaky ground with, say, a character’s profession I don’t know enough about (like my doctor in Soulmates) or, in historical fiction, getting the period right in a way that doesn’t bother the sticklers out there.
I know your WIP has at least one first-person female character. How did you approach writing her, and did you have to go through a lot of drafts to feel comfortable in her head?
MP. I don’t generally go through a lot of “drafts” when I write because I edit a lot as I go along. I consider my best stories to be the ones where I am able to narrate from the perspective of a character that is as far removed from me or my own experience as possible. How do I do it? I don’t really know. I think it helps that I generally write stories about common life experiences. As you suggest, there may not be much difference in how different types of characters react to common life experiences. I also base the character’s actions and words on my own experiences. For instance, in the second novella for the WIP you refer to, one of the female narrators is going to get pregnant. How do I write in first person about her experiences with pregnancy and childbirth? I look to the experiences and words and thoughts my wife shared with me during her pregnancies, to my sister’s when she was pregnant and I was her delivery coach, and to the many other women I have known through the years who went through pregnancy and who shared those experiences with me.
It’s these kinds of characters and efforts that really require writers to be educated and observant and to have good mental filing cabinets. So, when it comes time to write a character that isn’t you, you’ve got something in there to base it on.
KB. Good point about having at least some awareness or familiarity with a character’s experiences. Talking to people is a great way to get the nitty gritty. Even better when you’re married to them…
Part 2 Coming Soon. Don’t hesitate to go here and be a part of Guerrilla Publishing and treat yourself to a good read at the same time.