March 9, 2017
This is my last post on the blog tour for my novel, The Sparky, which Dreamspinner has generously arranged for me. The other posts have been mostly about things in the book—rural Australia and its role in the story, music that appears in it and why, the novel Maurice and how that’s connected—but this one is just about some of what I’ve learnt in getting a first novel published.
When I’ve read blog posts or bios by other authors in the M/M romance space, I often see people who have dreamed about being a writer since they were fifteen, or eleven, or eight. That’s not me. It never occurred to me that I might like writing. I did like reading, but I was always the maths kid. Then I started writing a bit for myself, and it was fun. Then I wrote a little for others: I posted some free stories at nifty.org, which has rather a different audience from the M/M space. (Go pick a story at random, look at it, then come back. You’ll see the difference pretty quickly.) There were some criticisms—mostly along the lines that the characters didn’t get their kit off quickly enough, being too busy getting to know each other and falling in love—but on the whole the positive response was even more encouraging. Then, still writing for myself, I sent off a novel-length manuscript. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had looked up the publishers that some M/M writers I like had published with.
And Dreamspinner picked up The Sparky. I’ve really appreciated how organized and helpful they are, which is great for someone for whom writing is not their main job. And the editors were very helpful with suggested changes. (Thank you, kindly editors!) That’s where I really got to learn about the tension between writing for yourself—which I think is a pretty natural place to start—and writing for an audience. In part the tension comes from the writer knowing what’s happening behind the scenes, what motivates a character, and the editor seeing it with fresh eyes and realizing that what should be coming across actually isn’t. One instance for me was with Paul. The Sparky’s written in first person, from Aaron’s POV, so you pretty much always understand him and what motivates him. Paul, you only get him through Aaron. So I got back an edited manuscript which, starting from midway in the story, had comments like “Grr! Paul makes me really angry!” and “I don’t like Paul at this point!” And I thought, Really? I like him a lot. But I came to realise that that was because of things in his backstory that I hadn’t really brought out—they were all there in my head, but that’s not what writing is about. After editing, Paul’s maybe still a bit unconventional as M/M main characters go, a bit rough around the edges, but hopefully more understandable now.
The following Friday evening is when I meet Paul’s ex-wife Kaylee. Not meet, exactly. From my desk I hear some arguing in the street, sounding heated, and I hope it’s not a repeat of the disagreement between two drunken pub-goers from a few months ago that led to another neighbour’s car window being smashed.
So I go out my front door, and it’s Paul and a woman. Paul is facing away from me and doesn’t see me, but the woman scowls at me, so I put up my hands in a sorry-to-intrude-on-you way and go back inside. I sit at my desk again, and even though the window’s open because it’s been such a warm day—I don’t shut it, even though that would be polite—I don’t hear anything they’re saying, just the hisses and growls of bad feeling. It could be a disgruntled customer of Paul’s whose wiring is still faulty, I think, but that’s rather unlikely. Almost certainly Kaylee. I think she was pretty, although the scowl made it hard to tell.
I do see Paul carrying a sleeping Sam out to a car, and then Kaylee taking off with more of a screech of tyres than is strictly necessary.
Shortly after that Paul comes to my door.
“That was Kaylee.” The anger’s still there.
“She just came to get Sam—change of plan. She was supposed to pick her up tomorrow, but she’s just decided, just right now, that she’s leaving early in the morning, going somewhere with this new guy of hers, so it was more convenient for her to pick up Sam now, even though she’s already asleep.” The word “convenient” is layered with scorn.
“Want a beer?” I ask.
“I dunno what I want. Yeah, a beer, ta.”
When I come back with one, he takes it and puts it down on the table, and then grabs the bottom of my T-shirt and starts pulling it over my head. The beer will have to wait.
Check out The Sparky today!
Aaron’s been living in what his friend Howie calls a sexual desert. But an oasis appears on the horizon when Paul, a divorced electrician with a five-year-old daughter named Sam, moves in next door. He’s a country boy from northern Australia, and although he’s never been with a guy before, he has an impression that anything goes in the city. They find that the ordinary things in life—books, footie in the park, looking after Sam—lead them into an unlikely relationship.
But as their relationship slowly deepens, with Aaron spending time on Paul’s family’s cattle station, it becomes clear that Paul might have a harder time leaving the country behind. To him, happiness means a conventional life—including a mother for Sam. Being with his old friends convinces him he’s on the wrong path with Aaron, and he starts a relationship with a girl from his hometown. If he cannot find the courage to go after what he truly needs, he and Aaron will become nothing more than awkward neighbours.
Marek Moran is, in his day job, a computer science professor. If you want to know about shortest path graph algorithms, he’s your man. However, that’s probably not why you’re reading this. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia, and has previously lived in France, Germany and the US, enjoying travelling around and listening to people talk: he’s learnt to respond to enquiries after his wellbeing with a ça va merci, sehr gut danke or copacetic, thanks.
The only member of his book club to like George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, he’s discovered that he enjoys writing romance as well as reading it; the other members of his book club don’t yet know this. He plays piano, squash, and his cards close to his chest. The Sparky is his first novel.