Saturday, 9 May 2015
Interview: Curtis Edmonds
I have published two novels, RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, which came out in 2013, and WREATHED, which came out last year. Earlier this year I published LIES I HAVE TOLD, a collection of humorous short stories I’ve written over the last five years. My short fiction has mostly been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
What genre(s) of book do you write?
Both RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY and WREATHED are contemporary romance novels. RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY borders on literary fiction—it’s the story of an aging American football player who is dealing with the loss of most of his family. WREATHED is much more in the chick-lit tradition; it’s main character is a lonely, borderline-alcoholic attorney who meets her dream man at a funeral.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I drew a lot of material from RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY from my own wedding (on which, needless to say, it rained buckets). My parents and my wife’s parents are both divorced, and there was a lot of underlying tension about how everyone would get along. The main antagonist in the book is the main character’s ex-wife, who emphatically does not want him at the wedding. Fortunately, we didn’t have any of the emotional fireworks in our real-life wedding.
How long did it take you to write “Wreathed”?
I started working on WREATHED in late June 2013 and finished the first draft in January 2014, so about six months, all told. It took a couple of more months to complete the revisions after I got the manuscript back from my editor, and then I went through another round of proofreading.
What is the working title of your next book(s)?
Right now, the next book is called THE SNOWBALL EFFECT. It takes place on an interstellar spaceship, and has some romance elements and a murder mystery.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing movie reviews in the early 1990’s – the first one I did was for a Jackie Chan movie, although I can’t remember which one. I think writing movie reviews is good practice for anyone who wants to write, because it lets you develop your own voice and it helps you figure out why you like the things that you like. I like to think I was good at it, although I never got to do it professionally—there were a lot of other amateur movie reviewers out there at the same time, due to the internet, and I just never got myself in a position where I could get paid for it. I finished my first manuscript in 2003 and my second in 2009, but I couldn’t get either of them published.
Do you self publish your books or go through an agency?
I am a self-publisher. I don’t take a lot of pride in that, mind you. I’d rather have an agent and a publisher, but it hasn’t shaken out that way. I don’t mind. Every book I sell as a self-publisher is a book that someone sitting in an office in New York City didn’t think I could ever sell, and that’s fine with me.
What part of writing books do you find the hardest?
Finding and correcting mistakes. I like to think of myself as a careful editor, but every time—every single time!—I get something back from an editor or a proof-reader, I feel incredibly stupid for making elementary mistakes. Even after I correct them, you still have problems—even problems you think you’ve corrected. For RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, I have two of my characters sitting in a restaurant and ordering refills on their coffee from the server. Sounds fine, right? What I forgot was that they were in an American chain restaurant called the International House of Pancakes. Most of those restaurants serve coffee in large pitchers, with a warming element right on the table, so you don’t have to pester your server for refills. Embarrassing. For WREATHED, I somehow managed to put out a print version where the heading for Chapter Nine showed up as plain text. You do everything you can, and you still end up with basic mistakes that you’d never make if you put a moment’s thought into them.
What do you do in your spare time?
I cook barbecue. I am from Texas and live in New Jersey, and you simply can’t get good Texas barbecue in New Jersey. It’s much easier and more effective to make it myself, so that’s what I do. I have a large cast-iron grill with a fire-box attached to it, and every so often I load it up with brisket or ribs or sausage and cook it low and slow at two hundred degrees for hours on end. It’s beautiful.
Who is your favourite author?
Mark Helprin is our greatest living author, and I’ll stand on Phillip Roth’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that. I will say that I didn’t much like his last two novels—one was a very silly satire of Prince Charles that just never got over the mean-spirited attitude, and the last one was an overwrought melodrama set in post-war New York. But even in the bad books, the writing is just splendid, and the best of his books are simply irreplaceable.
What’s your favourite genre to read?
I absolutely devour military-based historical fiction. Bernard Cornwell is my current favorite in that genre. I read a lot of military non-fiction, too—I really like the work of Winston Groom, who wrote FORREST GUMP, but does a lot of really excellent non-fiction as well. The one thing I won’t read is romance books, which is odd because I’ve written two of them. Unaccountable of me, really.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I think all advice to writers is basically variations on the same thing, and that is to be considerate to the poor reader. Your average reader spends his or her days doing mind-numbing, thankless work, all day every day, and then comes home and handles all their domestic chores, whatever they may be, watches an hour or so of television, and then gets into bed with their e-reader to knock off a couple of pages before they collapse into unconsciousness. You owe that person your best efforts. Don’t bore them, don’t condescend to them, and don’t waste their time on boring sub-plots that don’t go anywhere or on characters that are empty-headed puppets. Make your readers happy and the rest will fall into place over time.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, obviously you should buy all of my books on Amazon right now, and review them, and tell all of your friends about them. (Don’t tell your enemies, though, because what have they ever done for you? Nothing.) After that, you should do what you like. Drink delicious, tasty beer! (I am a Texan, so I’ll recommend Shiner Bock if you can get it, or Newcastle Brown Ale if you can’t.) Eat delicious, tasty ice cream! (I make my own ice cream, thank you very much, and I’m actually overdue for making some of my favorite flavor, butterscotch pecan.) Take a nice walk by a gurgling stream. Relax.