This week we've got an interview with novelist and short-story writer Bosley Gravel. I hope you enjoy reading it!
1) How long did it take from you deciding to write with the intention of being published, to getting your first story published?
I informally studied fiction for about two years back in the mid-90s. It took about a year to publish my first short story, a literary piece titled "Stafford's Hands". I believe the magazine was called "Show and Tell" and I was paid two whole dollars plus the (handmade) contributor's copy. I was absolutely thrilled. I continued to write
for another year, I rarely submitted and no more acceptances. The pre-Internet submission process was far more involved, every submission cost you at least two stamps, and typically a sample copy of the publication. All of this works out to two or three months of time per submission. Eventually, as often happens, life got in the way and I abandoned my efforts for over a decade.
Fast forward to 2006, I dusted off some manuscripts, fixed them up the best I could, and started subbing them to on-line markets. As luck would have it, an e-zine named "The Deepening" liked my short story, "The Hanged Man" and decided to run it. That was encouragement enough to begin redeveloping my writing skills.
After some success (and a lot of failures) with the short form, I moved over to novels. Three failed manuscripts later I produced a story about an independent filmmaker in a small town. The novel is titled, "Cannibal Lesbian Zombies from Outer Space --verses-- Doctor Clockwork and his Furious Plastic Surgeons of Doom: The Movie". Despite being written in only 24 days, and starting with nothing but the title, it ended up a fun, and relevant little squib of Americana.
A year or so later, after minor revisions, I started peddling it to small presses. It was accepted on its second or third time out by Mr. Neil Marr over at BeWrite Books, an independent press based in Europe. I'm told it should be available at the end of the year as a paperback and e-book, directly from BeWrite and various other on-line retailers. The final revisions were painless, and even fun, under Mr. Marr's
expert editorial guidance.
Most of this was dumb luck, getting the right manuscript to the right publisher at the right time was crucial. In case I've made it sound like I've been magically blessed with fairy dust and all this just kind of happened, my records indicate an average of a ten to one ratio of rejections to acceptances.
2) Did you start with short stories or novels? Do you prefer one over the other? Why?
I started writing short stories with the idea that it was good practice for writing novels. It turns out, at least for me, this is really two different skill sets. Traditional short stories require tight focus on a single perspective of a theme to be satisfying. Novels, on the other hand, can incorporate multiple perspectives (even
multiple themes). This gives the reader an in-depth look at the theme from all different angles. In a novel, all those perspectives have to be subtly linked through a whole mesh of techniques. So while there is overlap, there is quite a bit of difference too; it's mostly one of scope, in my opinion.
With that being said, moving over to novels was not too difficult, just a little perplexing at first. I tried a couple of novellas, and then moved up to a short novel manuscript, then onward to full length novel manuscripts. I am still a bit intimidated by the commitment it takes to produce a novel.
As for preference, short stories are great for prototyping a concept or character, but due to their inherent brevity they don't allow for much depth. I do enjoy writing them, and will almost certainly continue to do so. However, I've focused on novels for the past year, as I continue to try and get a good grip on the form.
3) How do you go about finding places to have your short stories published? Do you write with a specific place in mind, or do you wait until a story is finished to work out where it's going?
I've always written the story first and then looked for a venue. Being something of an eclecticist (read that as hobbyist-hack), I've never learned any particular genre inside and out. As a consequence I've produced manuscripts in everything from Christian morality tales to visceral slasher horror. And because of this range, it's been difficult to chase a particular niche anyway.
There are some good reasons to write with market guidelines in mind, though. Keeping within a particular word counts and avoiding certain content makes a story much easier to place. For new authors anxious to see their stories published, it makes sense to shorten the wait by drawing inspiration from existing publications, or responding to a call for manuscripts.
4)What are the main differences, for you, between the processes for writing a short story, and writing longer pieces?
I typically produce a short story in one or two sittings. They are almost always incident driven, and show a narrow perspective on a particular theme. My habit for stories of the 2-4k word range is to write about half of it, take a break for a day or two, then finish it up. Flash, on the other hand, I write in one shot, let it rest, and then revise it.
Novels, of course, require stamina and a bit more planning. So I typically do a page or two a day, and a whole lot of day dreaming about the details. I'm much more willing to let the characters drive the story with longer fiction because there is room to guide them gently back on track if it becomes clear the story is heading in the wrong direction -- with short fiction you have no such luxury.
I follow the same pattern with novellas and novelettes as I do with novels; I rarely plan the length, I tend to go slow, and focus on staying one step ahead of the story.
5) Tell us a bit about one of your stories.
The most interesting manuscript I produced this year, I think, is a short novel titled "Servant of the Mud". The story is a dark mythic fantasy that deals with Pauly, a reluctant Christ figure, who must come to terms with not only his responsibilities as a human being, but his responsibilities as something far more. I really let my imagination go wild, and despite being somewhat out of my comfort zone
with the genre, it ended up being a lot of fun to write. The research was a blast; I deconstructed classic myths and then put them back together with contemporary twists, and what I hope was in unusual and interesting ways. The story really has it all: love, lust, betrayal, fist fights, ghosts, djinns, sorcery, angels, hidden worlds, earth, wind and fire elementals, and even a meeting with the Big Guy himself.
I was lucky enough to get Shadowfire Press interested in the manuscript, and it should be available at the end of the year as an e-book. The Shadowfire staff are a great bunch of talented, professional, and friendly folks and I look forward to seeing the final product.
6)Finally, a lot of the blog readers are aspiring authors - what advice would you give us?
You've heard it all before. ;)
Be yourself, learn the craft of fiction, don't be afraid to take chances and have some fun. The only writers I know that have failed, are writers that gave up. Read broadly, write every day, and take part in a writing community. Don't worry about rejection, believe in yourself and your stories; have fun with your fiction. Write for yourself -- don't take acceptances or rejections too seriously, after a certain degree of expertise it's all just a matter of taste anyway.
The is only one rule of writing: be engaging. Follow that and you'll find yourself with an audience.
Bio: Bosley Gravel, eclectic hack writer, was born in the Midwest, and came of age in Texas and southern New Mexico. He writes in a variety of genres. His fiction focuses on the absurdly tragic, and the tragically absurd. He likes good black coffee, nightmares, Billie Holiday, and that hour just before the sun comes up.
Coming soon: his debut literary novel "The Movie" from BeWrite Books (for pre-Christmas Release).
EPIC Member, HWA Affiliate