Monday, January 25, 2016

Building a Book: Sand and Asbestos, Part 1

In the spring of 2009, I was writing manuscript after manuscript. My goal when I left Goddard College in January of that year was to write a handful of short stories and one novel. After all, I had just spent thousands of dollars on an MFA degree and countless hours doing the work. I really had something to prove, especially to myself.

The day after returning from Vermont I started writing. The piece was originally called “The White Party” but I changed the name because of possible misinterpretations. That piece became Dysphoric Notions, my first published book with Ring of Fire Publishing.

At some point when I was writing Dysphoric Notions, I had taken a day trip to Palmer Lake. On the road there, I saw what looked like an old canvas bag covering a road sign. The sight struck me funny. The image became the inspiration for Sand and Asbestos.

In 2009 I quickly went from one manuscript to the next. When I was nearing the end of one, I was already thinking of the next.

But the canvas bag on the road sign kept coming to me.

When Sand and Asbestos began in early 2010 it was something I worked on only here and there, 5,000 words at a time. It was a project that I would work on between projects. Of all I've written, Sand and Asbestos is the only one I didn't write in a single stint.

For whatever reason, I was unable to fully commit to it. I wanted it to be different than anything else I'd written. It was an ever allusive piece.

When I first began writing for The Sophia Ballou Project, I thought I might write another novel. I had just completed Warehouses and Rusted Angels, the third and final book at Ring of Fire Publishing. I had had a few ideas. I thought I might write an Oregon novel. It was late 2010, and we were living in a dark mother-in-law basement apartment in Wood Village, Oregon.

I'd come up with about a half a dozen proposals. None were very good. Then I came to Sand and Asbestos. I had maybe 10,000 words.

The idea went over well at Sophia Ballou. So, I began to deliver 1,500 words of this piece on Fridays.

Sand and Asbestos is many ways a great departure from anything I've ever written. In some ways, it's just the same as the rest. After all, it's the relationship of two characters over a very long period of time. It also deals with generations. Where it differs is that I wrote a dystopian novel. I'd think some might call it science fiction, or maybe in scifi, but there is no science in it. It's the observations of life today and exaggerated. It's also not a very “happy” book, and there is nothing hopeful for the characters within it. This is also a big departure for me. Even the saddest piece I've ever written had a hopeful aspect to it.

I finished the initial work on Sand and Asbestos in March or April of 2011. And it had its run until August at The Sophia Ballou Project.

Now, five years later, this novel come out of its file folder. It goes to press in the summer, and will release in September, revised and expanded from the original Sophia Ballou serial.

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