Adrift in The Artist's Studio

Adrift in The Artist's Studio
"More Color! More Color!"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Power to Move Forward

Let's face it. When you're working on a writing project, it isn't all fun and games. Not all the time. True, there is often a tremendous rush involved: during my first draft, for instance, I was many times transported by my writing. There existed only the screen in front of me, the typing of my fingers, the music in my headphones. Why? Because I was so involved in the story. I lived, at least temporarily, in the respective minds of my characters. That is what makes writing so addictive, when it's so full of disappointments.



But it isn't always like that. Every writer must also weather the storm of naysayers, experts, doubters, haters and salespeople who swarm all over the business of writing like flies on fresh roadkill. Because that's what it is, folks. When you write and put yourself out there, you scent the air with your blood, and it swirls in the water. There are always bigger sharks than you.

Scary times. Sleepless nights. The roller-coaster ride we know so well, that takes us from delusions of grandeur to the pits of black despair, and back again. It makes me want more cotton candy every time.

Why? Deadlines, for those of us lucky enough to be hooked into agents, publishers and editors, and for those who sell their articles and have to keep to a tight schedule. That's one reason for the stress. Another? When you're nobody ... trying to be somebody. In such a case, the novelist is always writing on spec, in the hopes that the industry (which Kafka would have wet his pants over) might deign to give her or him a momentary glance of recognition.

Unfortunately, I have no answers. How could I? If I did, I could be one of those motivational speakers and make my living that way. One of the reasons I write these blog posts is to buck myself up: when it inspires some of you, that's great too, but it's gravy. I need this.



But if I did have an answer, it would be something along the lines of: Believe in Yourself. Follow Your Heart. You want to be a writer? You want to wake up, morning after morning, year after year, essentially alone with your need to create written works? If so, you have to find some way of believing in yourself, and I'm not just talking about belief in your abilities, formidable as they may be.

Nothing fancy here. It may be a simple mantra: "I can do this" or "Write Every Day"

But then you gotta do it. Don't get it right, get it written, as my old professor used to say. There comes a time when a writer has to show her or his stuff and sling the words down on the page. What separates the writers from the wannabes is this: the writers take what they've got, and rework it (or scrap it), and keep trying, and work on craft, and submit, and learn, and read (very important), and write some more, in a continuing process. The wannabes sit back and talk the talk, or else quit ... and often both.



So where does that leave you? Do you feel lost in this (as I often do), yet unwilling to give up? I'm not one of those motivational speakers, as I've said, because if I were I'd be raking in the cash doing that, instead of playing with imaginary fictional characters on paper, doing structural edits, soliciting feedback, and the like.

Look to your heart. Keep trying. Be true to yourself and your art, and don't try to second-guess a fickle marketplace that not even its careerists comprehend. Believe in yourself, do the legwork, and be tough. Stand tall and keep your pencil sharp.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Writer's Daily Nutrition Log

Is this thing on? taps microphone

No, looks like we're text-only. That's all right. I can work with that. No pictures, though ... wait, here's a picture!



Isn't that nice? I'm selling that for $10,000, and please don't waste my time with counter-offers, nor should you approach me (the artist) without a licensed art broker. I don't talk to just anyone.

Anyway, getting back to the subject of this blog post: the Nutritional Needs of the Modern Author. Let's see. Today, after getting out of bed at 2PM, I struggled against ennui, made it to the communal kitchen here at the homeless shelter, and after directing Davey away from the blazing flames of the gas range (Davey has a full beard, looks like a deranged Santa, doesn't smell good on fire), I poured myself a cup of black concentrated stale leftover coffee--with a caffeine concentration that makes amphetamines look like OTC--shoved it in the microwave, then while it was heating up I ate two freckled, speckled yellow-black bananas. Not quite soft, just starting to fill the homeless shelter with the tropical liquor of their putrefaction.

So: coffee, two bananas ... oh yes, a cup of grape juice (Davey yelled at me for finishing it, but Fortune favors the brave) ... and back in my rack, my cubbyhole, on my just-sprayed mattress, I unlocked my broken footlocker and took out my secret stash: premium-quality vitamins. That's right! That's the key. You can write a novel IN A MONTH if you have the right vitamins, and in my case I have MegaMen vitamins from GNC [this is not a paid advertisement], as well as high-potency sustained release Vitamin C (to ward off the effects of scurvy, from when I was a sailor, and we got lost in the Azores, or was it the Bermuda Triangle, but in any event we ran out of fresh fruit, and it left several of us snaggle-toothed, if not dead).



You see, anyone can go to her/his local grocery store and steal cheap store-brand vitamins. Or buy them. But if you're serious about this writing kick, which many of us are (way too many)...partly because many if not most of us are unfit for any other occupation...you need the good stuff. In my case, I'm a strappingly handsome man in my (ahem) early 30s, with big pecs (chest muscles) and arms, few if any tattoos, the kind of dude for whom high-performance vitamins are made. The women thank me for it, believe me. But that's a whole nother barrel of monkeys.

In all seriousness, though. Your body needs the stuff, all the vitamins and minerals...but so does your brain. It's all part of the same package. And writers (at least in theory) need full use of their brains. For many of us, this process of rough-sketching and early drafting and outlining and first drafts and structural edits and revisions, and draft after draft thereafter, require vitamins like the B-complex group, E, etc. It helps you think, and helps keep you stable.

Now, usually, I don't start off my day with just coffee and two rotten bananas. Around 5AM, for example, I ate a two-egg omelette with low-fat cheese and a bran muffin (yes really). You have to keep the nutrition coming in. But vitamins, particularly B-complex, help you think, help your body metabolize energy, and keep your heart ticking as it should.

Garbage in, garbage out. Think you're up for the competition on a diet of soft drinks and chips? Think again. Chances are your fiction sucks even worse than your diet.

In this world, you MUST take care of yourself, and Wielders of the Pen are no exception. So pour in the good stuff, and good stuff comes out. At least you'll have more energy to work on it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Courage to Write

You wouldn’t necessarily think courage has much to do with writing, would you? Seems like writing has more to do with intellect, introspection, imagination and storytelling. All true… but what about courage?

Courage, and its opposite discouragement, are two ends of a continuum that is very much a part of the writing process. In fact the argument could be made that courage is the engine that drives the writing process, as the heartbeat drives the heart and makes the blood flow. Personally, I’d have to agree with such an argument, and not only because I’m the guy who’s making it right now.

Courage, simply put, can mean the difference between getting words down on paper… and not.

How? you may ask. Don’t you just hold a pen, or sit at the computer, and write? Yes… and no. Sometimes we writers sit and stare at a blank page, or the blinking cursor, and we are afraid of what will come out. We might fear that it will sound too stupid, or clumsy, or self-revealing. We may be afraid of writing badly.

The whole point here is that discouragement and fear can prevent us from putting words on the page. Fear may disguise itself as procrastination.

My solution: just slap something down on paper. As my old Physiology prof used to say, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” That is one of the most profound lessons I took away from the university. It’s one well worth remembering, as a mantra against fear.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Making of a Book: THE PODCAST

For a quick tutorial on how to embed your own podcasts (mp3) in your Blogger blog, check out this link: http://blog.bluebearr.net/2008/10/how-to-host-mp3-files-on-blogspot.html


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Making of a Book: THE REVIEW

http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/2009/03/25/the-legend-of-jimmy-gollihue-by-george-lacas/

Check out the above link to read a review of my book.

Lesson: you don't have to wait for traditional publishers to notice you to get your book reviewed! Believe in yourself!

Coming soon, my ham-fisted adventures in videos and podcasting.


THE REVIEW

George LaCas spent years playing pool in the Deep South as he wrote The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue, and it shows. The novel, about a young pool shark in the not-too-distant past who takes his game on the road to prove himself to the bewitching young woman he loves, reads like something straight out of local legend.

One of my pet literature peeves is the technique (or lack of technique) of plunging straight into a worst-case scenario without giving the reader a chance to get their bearings. LaCas avoids this problem admirably, coaching the reader through the intricacies of professional pool hustling without ever resorting to tedious exposition. By the time the more complicated situations kicked in, I was feeling the way I always do during James Bond gambling scenes—I’ve got no real understanding of the game, but I know plenty to appreciate the action.

The feel of a legend permeates every part of Jimmy Gollihue, right down to the array of different voices telling the story. The multiple narratives develop a dreamlike quality as it becomes apparent that none of the speakers is exactly trustworthy—all of them are just telling a tale. It’s to LaCas’s credit that this comes off as rich and fascinating rather than distracting or frustrating.

The narrative is a tall tale told by a crusty old pool shark, and a legend recounted in lowered voices by true believers in the back rooms of Louisiana bars. It’s a mythic parable of a hound dog running through the mist, hunting an evil prey whose scent it can’t always quite hold. And it’s the matter-of-fact truth in the sassy, adoring voice of Iris, the green-eyed, back-woods Irish witch who weaves magic tapestries in her clan’s trailer park while she waits for her man to come back home.

Jimmy Gollihue is a tapestry unto itself, weaving in traces of the Odyssey, the Paul Bunyan school of American tall tales, magical realism, and some gritty Delta-blues deals with the devil, without ever becoming derivative or muddying the brilliant colors of any of its influences. It’s a fun, absorbing read, with enough violence, humor, sex and magic to keep you on your toes, and enough depth to make you flip it right over when you’ve finished reading to start it all over again. -- Erin Stropes, SelfPublishingReview.com

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue - making of a book

The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue - making of a book

video

I did this with a digital camera that also shoots videos. Indie authors: use all available tools to improve your work and promote yourselves. You can post videos to You Tube that were done with digital cameras, cell phones and smart phones. You do not need a studio, or even an expensive camcorder, to make a promo video. Let your imagination take you to the stars!

The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue - making of a book








First you have to ensure that your manuscript is ready to BE a book. A lot of self-publishers skip this step, or do it badly. Yes, I'm talking about boring stuff: rewriting, getting people to proofread, running spell checks, making corrections... and that elusive term "Editing."

I'll say it again. Editing. This includes everything from correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation to rearranging the parts of your book to checking and correcting facts. And then some. It's one of the reasons self-publishers have earned themselves a bad name--that, and the underhanded tactics of some vanity publishers.

Let's face it. If your want your book to BE a book, and you've decided to self-publish, it's up to you to represent yourself well, and represent the entire Indie movement well. In other words you must take steps to bring your book up to industry standards.

Prove the world wrong, when the world says: "Self-published books are NEVER as good as traditionally-published books!"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue - making of a book

Some of you may be wondering: how does a person write a book? And, how can you, why would you (since nobody reads), why should you?

For me, this book started on exhausted evenings after coming home from the pool room. I'd write these little scenes or vignettes in notebooks (yes, people do write by hand, even in this modern age), and over time these notebooks accumulated. I had the good sense to keep them.

So, when I decided once and for all to finish the book, I had my raw material. It was not a matter of typing up what I had, but of mining the morass of papers. There were characters and a story in there somewhere, in all the sloppy writing and tales of pool games.

Writing a book, for me, was a slow multi-stage process. Many people seem to think you just sit down and type, and when you get about 300 pages you stop and somebody makes it into a book and sticks it in the bookstores.

I'll tell you all about it. But one piece at a time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Global Reviews Pour In

"In the name of things holy this book rocks and this book rolls. It’s full of energy it’s full of invention and my God it’s full of voice. It’s great writing of a kind you only get at certain times in a writer’s career - either right at the beginning (kitchen sinkism) or when the writer has mastered their form and knows and can articulate every artistic decision they’ve made...there are sparks and fireworks and utterly brilliant turns of phrase (The red sun settling among the trees took my breath away)" --Paul Ebbs

THE NEW FACE OF MODERN HORROR

Watch for the Green Eye, for Iris is Coming...

THE AUTHONOMY INTERVIEW


INTERVIEW with GEORGE LACAS, author of THE LEGEND OF JIMMY GOLLIHUE
now available on Amazon.com in trade paperback and in Kindle format!

http://www.amazon.com/Legend-Jimmy-Gollihue-Novel-George/dp/0615274668/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236353099&sr=8-2

What follows is an edited transcript of an interview conducted with George LaCas, the author of The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue. The interview took place live on Authonomy.com and was conducted by author and poet Laura Lascarso, with an appearance by James Hagen


Laura Lascarso:

Hi, George. Welcome to the show.

*nods*

Your book, The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue, is a loose interpretation of The Odyssey. My first question to you is, which came first? The character of a pool-hustler named Jimmy, or the idea to give a new spin on an old classic?


George LaCas:

They said you were a tough interviewer.

Jimmy was always supposed to be a hero—bigger than just a winning pool hustler. There was, from the beginning scenes that I wrote, an element of epic heroism.

As I explored the character, and as he moved through the events in the novel, I began to realize that in certain respects he echoed major heroes from the classics: Odysseus, Beowulf, Don Quixote. And others.

So, to answer your question, both. But it was only later in the process that I chose The Odyssey to use as a framing device.


LL:

How familiar with The Odyssey were you, when you chose it? And how did that affect the story after you'd made the decision.


GL:

I'd read The Odyssey in college, in a verse translation, but back then it was just another book you have to get through. So you might say I had to take some refresher courses.

And I've got to hand it to two of my early manuscript readers. Both of them recognized the elements of The Odyssey before I'd even told them (like it's a dirty secret!).

But about ten months ago, I got ahold of two other versions of it and studied it: the Introductions, the storyline, and I looked for things I could use. I did not do what James Joyce did, but then who could?

It affected my story after I made the decision, mainly, because with the Prologue and Part Four my book is unmistakably a tribute to The Odyssey. Before that only a few people might recognize it.



LL:

I admit it has been awhile since I've read The Odyssey, but the compulsion that Jimmy feels, along with the disorienting effects from his travels on the road, are really reminiscent of Odysseus and his wayward ship. And then there's the Cyclops....

Where did you draw inspiration for the bewitching, emerald-eyed Iris?




GL:
Iris is the Penelope figure, of course, who weaves tapestries and puts off suitors while her man is on the road.

But inspiration for the character herself? My first impulse is to tell you Iris is based on a girl I used to work with (though I don't remember if her eyes were green). The build, the short blond hair, the country-girl sassiness, and a strange way she had about her. As I wrote, when I needed to picture Iris, I pictured that girl.

But the whole Iris character (and the green eyes) was one I had to invent, because she's a witch, and also it's implied she was a foundling child left by fairies on her aunt's doorstep. She took on superhuman proportions once I was in the final drafts of the book.

LL:
Let's talk about the poolroom. It's rumored that you spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on research for Jimmy. Tell us about that.

GL:
I started that rumor (or as they say here, "rumour"), so I know it's true.

But I'd say, more than three thousand and less than nine thousand. Who the hell knows?

As for the pool room itself, I've been going to pool halls since 1989 or so. That's not counting bar pool. There's a dividing line between casual bar pool, and serious pool played on regulation tables in pool halls, pool rooms, nightclubs, etc.

In other words I was a serious player there for awhile, but never really great. I went through a couple thousand dollars in pool cues alone, and compared to some players that's pocket change. Table time and/or membership fees costs, also, even if you pay by the year ($400 or so).

My research included casual pool games, gambling for cheap, not-so-cheap, playing in tournaments (beginning/intermediate, and advanced). I frequently played in local tournaments where, most of the time, professional players would take first place. I took lessons from a former snooker champion from the UK who'd gone pro in American nine-ball. When working 40 hour weeks I sometimes played pool for 25 hours a week, and sometimes more. Twice I spent paid vacation time in the pool room, playing and gambling and goofing off, sometimes for 12-16 hours. I would have slept in there if they'd allowed it.

I read extensively: instructional books, billiard magazines, online research, nonfiction books. I talked with professional players, pool hustlers both big-time and two-bit, and with the makers of pool-related equipment. With pool room owners and all levels of staff, even those who spoke little English.

Pool was my life. It wasn't just "research". Pool was my lover, my drug, the world that took the place of the sun, which I didn't miss.

Along the way I wrote little vignettes about a pool hustler, and thankfully through all the hard knocks along the way I kept my notebooks. Always intending to make them into a book. And I did.


LL:
Tell me about Old Sheldon and One-Eyed Brock. Are these composite sketches of players you knew?

GL:
Yes. Neither of those characters is based on actual people, but they are inspired by many, and then highly fictionalized.

And Brock has two eyes! Why'd you take away his eye? Are you trying to sneak in a Cyclops question?

It's One-Pocket Brock!

One-Pocket, by the way, is a pool game.

LL:
Sorry, sorry, my mistake.

Jimmy does battle with quite a few characters in the poolroom, sometimes getting away with only his life.

What's the hairiest situation you ever found yourself in, in a poolroom?

GL:
I got pretty lucky. I've been bounced out of a couple of places for gambling, but mostly for doing it in such a way that it drew attention. I can get a little excited.

I never got in a fight in a pool room, or outside of one.

The hairy situations happen when you square off against some drunk at the bar (a swift and immediate ass-kicking), but in the pool room itself it comes from dishonesty: gambling when you have no money ("playing on your nerve") or other forms of cheating.

And that's one thing I would never do, is cheat. So I stayed out of trouble. When you lose you pay off, and that's it. You play fair, you gamble honestly, and you're usually OK.

LL:
What's “the shot the Devil don't know about”? [Here Ms. Lascarso is referring to a plot situation in Part Four of the novel]

GL:
Laura, you promised!

My answer: I can't tell you, for the same reasons Old Sheldon can't tell the reader. Because the secret would get out, and the Devil would get wind of it, and then damnation for all.

Hint: "the shot the Devil don't know" involves making the ball spin in two different directions at once, a physical impossibility.

Then there's the symbolic aspect of it: a bit of forbidden knowledge used against evil (like Iris would!), hidden even from Satan, hidden from us all.

LL:
I know, I know. I just had to throw it out there.
Q: What does the side story of the hound dog represent and how did that come about?

GL:
An incisive question, about the hound dog.

That one's no secret. It all goes back to a talk Jimmy and One-Pocket Brock have, in which One-Pocket tells Jimmy: "Fear is your hound dog". And then goes on to tell him that fear has to be dealt with and put to good use, for it will always be there.

From that point on, the reader is given a symbolic anchor for all appearances of the hound dog, a few of which take place in dream sequences before that point, chronologically, in the story. I made it very easy for the reader, because The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue is literary fiction for everybody. "HOUND DOG" = "JIMMY'S FEAR"

The hound dog has no actual existence in the story, until... well, no plot spoilers. He is metaphorical in nature, a figure who even pulls free of Jimmy's dreams and Iris's visions. His battle of the monster in the fog, his determination in the face of overwhelming discouragement, parallels exactly Jimmy's battle with the red-haired man. The hound dog, having become transcendent, enables Jimmy to do the same (i.e., rise above fear and act according to his mission, which is greater than himself).

It was some pretty weird shit, writing that.


LL:
I really liked it, the weird shit. I also loved your colloquialisms. Where did you learn all those backwoods expressions? Or did you make them up?


GL:
One or two expressions, I made up. But I grew up in various locales in the Deep South, and my mother and her people came straight out of Appalachia.

I'm no linguist, or dialect expert, but I grew up hearing that kind of stuff. Those few things I made up are nothing compared to some stuff you'll hear.

The colloquial speech/dialogue, I feel, is pretty realistic (as opposed to mimicry), and true to the real rhythms. It shapes the rhythms of the narrative, also.


LL:
Yes, and your use of color was wonderful as well. The attention you gave to detail is to be admired, the chalk stains, the grit and grime of the road, the bankroll growing like an erection, etc, etc.

What's your favorite scene and why?

Jim Hagen:
Keep him on his toes Laura! Reading this has triggered a few questions of my own so if you like we can double-team him.

LL:
Ask away!

GL:
Ooh boy. Do I have to pick one single scene?

I don't know if it's my favorite (or if I even have one), but one stand-out scene is the first road scene. That's the one where Jimmy, unprepared, gets off the bus and finds a pool room, goes in, and even though it's loud and rowdy, he gets into a money game with a couple who are holding money for drug dealers. They're drunk and high, he hustles them out of all their money, and they come and pay him a visit in his motel room. (again, no plot spoilers! you know what happens!)

That scene was a breakthrough. That was a scene I wrote after practically nothing for about six miserable months. Then I sat down and opened a document and that scene came out. I let go. I took my character and let him go where he wanted, or where his stupid head led him.

I have other favorite scenes, like with Jimmy and Iris, and Iris alone.

JH:
You mentioned The Odyssey—did Joyce's Ulysses have any influence on Jimmy?

GL:
A very astute question.

I read Ulysses while I was writing my book. It's such a monumental piece of fiction that I don't think it influenced me (except maybe that I had to rewrite an extra three times or so!)

But of course Ulysses is based on The Odyssey. Joyce used it as a template, but the creatures from The Odyssey were expressed in Irish life. For example, the Oxen of the Sun, Lestrygonians.

My version of The Odyssey is different, and more loosely-based. No one can touch Joyce.

But if Ulysses influenced me, it was in my language. And in that department, Joyce is also untouchable.

My book is a tribute to Joyce, as well as a tribute to The Odyssey. At the same time, because of that, my book is an act of literary hubris, one which has been punished, and will be punished further, if I escape obscurity.

But Jimmy is not Leopold Bloom. He's a pool-shootin son of a gun.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

FREE E-BOOK: The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue

This week you can download THE LEGEND OF JIMMY GOLLIHUE for free!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1065

deadline March 14

Friday, March 6, 2009

THE AUTHONOMY INTERVIEW

INTERVIEW with GEORGE LACAS, author of THE LEGEND OF JIMMY GOLLIHUE
now available on Amazon.com in trade paperback and in Kindle format!

http://www.amazon.com/Legend-Jimmy-Gollihue-Novel-George/dp/0615274668/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236353099&sr=8-2

What follows is an edited transcript of an interview conducted with George LaCas, the author of The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue. The interview took place live on Authonomy.com and was conducted by author and poet Laura Lascarso, with an appearance by James Hagen


Laura Lascarso:

Hi, George. Welcome to the show.

*nods*

Your book, The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue, is a loose interpretation of The Odyssey. My first question to you is, which came first? The character of a pool-hustler named Jimmy, or the idea to give a new spin on an old classic?


George LaCas:

They said you were a tough interviewer.

Jimmy was always supposed to be a hero—bigger than just a winning pool hustler. There was, from the beginning scenes that I wrote, an element of epic heroism.

As I explored the character, and as he moved through the events in the novel, I began to realize that in certain respects he echoed major heroes from the classics: Odysseus, Beowulf, Don Quixote. And others.

So, to answer your question, both. But it was only later in the process that I chose The Odyssey to use as a framing device.


LL:

How familiar with The Odyssey were you, when you chose it? And how did that affect the story after you'd made the decision.


GL:

I'd read The Odyssey in college, in a verse translation, but back then it was just another book you have to get through. So you might say I had to take some refresher courses.

And I've got to hand it to two of my early manuscript readers. Both of them recognized the elements of The Odyssey before I'd even told them (like it's a dirty secret!).

But about ten months ago, I got ahold of two other versions of it and studied it: the Introductions, the storyline, and I looked for things I could use. I did not do what James Joyce did, but then who could?

It affected my story after I made the decision, mainly, because with the Prologue and Part Four my book is unmistakably a tribute to The Odyssey. Before that only a few people might recognize it.



LL:

I admit it has been awhile since I've read The Odyssey, but the compulsion that Jimmy feels, along with the disorienting effects from his travels on the road, are really reminiscent of Odysseus and his wayward ship. And then there's the Cyclops....

Where did you draw inspiration for the bewitching, emerald-eyed Iris?




GL:
Iris is the Penelope figure, of course, who weaves tapestries and puts off suitors while her man is on the road.

But inspiration for the character herself? My first impulse is to tell you Iris is based on a girl I used to work with (though I don't remember if her eyes were green). The build, the short blond hair, the country-girl sassiness, and a strange way she had about her. As I wrote, when I needed to picture Iris, I pictured that girl.

But the whole Iris character (and the green eyes) was one I had to invent, because she's a witch, and also it's implied she was a foundling child left by fairies on her aunt's doorstep. She took on superhuman proportions once I was in the final drafts of the book.

LL:
Let's talk about the poolroom. It's rumored that you spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on research for Jimmy. Tell us about that.

GL:
I started that rumor (or as they say here, "rumour"), so I know it's true.

But I'd say, more than three thousand and less than nine thousand. Who the hell knows?

As for the pool room itself, I've been going to pool halls since 1989 or so. That's not counting bar pool. There's a dividing line between casual bar pool, and serious pool played on regulation tables in pool halls, pool rooms, nightclubs, etc.

In other words I was a serious player there for awhile, but never really great. I went through a couple thousand dollars in pool cues alone, and compared to some players that's pocket change. Table time and/or membership fees costs, also, even if you pay by the year ($400 or so).

My research included casual pool games, gambling for cheap, not-so-cheap, playing in tournaments (beginning/intermediate, and advanced). I frequently played in local tournaments where, most of the time, professional players would take first place. I took lessons from a former snooker champion from the UK who'd gone pro in American nine-ball. When working 40 hour weeks I sometimes played pool for 25 hours a week, and sometimes more. Twice I spent paid vacation time in the pool room, playing and gambling and goofing off, sometimes for 12-16 hours. I would have slept in there if they'd allowed it.

I read extensively: instructional books, billiard magazines, online research, nonfiction books. I talked with professional players, pool hustlers both big-time and two-bit, and with the makers of pool-related equipment. With pool room owners and all levels of staff, even those who spoke little English.

Pool was my life. It wasn't just "research". Pool was my lover, my drug, the world that took the place of the sun, which I didn't miss.

Along the way I wrote little vignettes about a pool hustler, and thankfully through all the hard knocks along the way I kept my notebooks. Always intending to make them into a book. And I did.


LL:
Tell me about Old Sheldon and One-Eyed Brock. Are these composite sketches of players you knew?

GL:
Yes. Neither of those characters is based on actual people, but they are inspired by many, and then highly fictionalized.

And Brock has two eyes! Why'd you take away his eye? Are you trying to sneak in a Cyclops question?

It's One-Pocket Brock!

One-Pocket, by the way, is a pool game.

LL:
Sorry, sorry, my mistake.

Jimmy does battle with quite a few characters in the poolroom, sometimes getting away with only his life.

What's the hairiest situation you ever found yourself in, in a poolroom?

GL:
I got pretty lucky. I've been bounced out of a couple of places for gambling, but mostly for doing it in such a way that it drew attention. I can get a little excited.

I never got in a fight in a pool room, or outside of one.

The hairy situations happen when you square off against some drunk at the bar (a swift and immediate ass-kicking), but in the pool room itself it comes from dishonesty: gambling when you have no money ("playing on your nerve") or other forms of cheating.

And that's one thing I would never do, is cheat. So I stayed out of trouble. When you lose you pay off, and that's it. You play fair, you gamble honestly, and you're usually OK.

LL:
What's “the shot the Devil don't know about”? [Here Ms. Lascarso is referring to a plot situation in Part Four of the novel]

GL:
Laura, you promised!

My answer: I can't tell you, for the same reasons Old Sheldon can't tell the reader. Because the secret would get out, and the Devil would get wind of it, and then damnation for all.

Hint: "the shot the Devil don't know" involves making the ball spin in two different directions at once, a physical impossibility.

Then there's the symbolic aspect of it: a bit of forbidden knowledge used against evil (like Iris would!), hidden even from Satan, hidden from us all.

LL:
I know, I know. I just had to throw it out there.
Q: What does the side story of the hound dog represent and how did that come about?

GL:
An incisive question, about the hound dog.

That one's no secret. It all goes back to a talk Jimmy and One-Pocket Brock have, in which One-Pocket tells Jimmy: "Fear is your hound dog". And then goes on to tell him that fear has to be dealt with and put to good use, for it will always be there.

From that point on, the reader is given a symbolic anchor for all appearances of the hound dog, a few of which take place in dream sequences before that point, chronologically, in the story. I made it very easy for the reader, because The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue is literary fiction for everybody. "HOUND DOG" = "JIMMY'S FEAR"

The hound dog has no actual existence in the story, until... well, no plot spoilers. He is metaphorical in nature, a figure who even pulls free of Jimmy's dreams and Iris's visions. His battle of the monster in the fog, his determination in the face of overwhelming discouragement, parallels exactly Jimmy's battle with the red-haired man. The hound dog, having become transcendent, enables Jimmy to do the same (i.e., rise above fear and act according to his mission, which is greater than himself).

It was some pretty weird shit, writing that.


LL:
I really liked it, the weird shit. I also loved your colloquialisms. Where did you learn all those backwoods expressions? Or did you make them up?


GL:
One or two expressions, I made up. But I grew up in various locales in the Deep South, and my mother and her people came straight out of Appalachia.

I'm no linguist, or dialect expert, but I grew up hearing that kind of stuff. Those few things I made up are nothing compared to some stuff you'll hear.

The colloquial speech/dialogue, I feel, is pretty realistic (as opposed to mimicry), and true to the real rhythms. It shapes the rhythms of the narrative, also.


LL:
Yes, and your use of color was wonderful as well. The attention you gave to detail is to be admired, the chalk stains, the grit and grime of the road, the bankroll growing like an erection, etc, etc.

What's your favorite scene and why?

Jim Hagen:
Keep him on his toes Laura! Reading this has triggered a few questions of my own so if you like we can double-team him.

LL:
Ask away!

GL:
Ooh boy. Do I have to pick one single scene?

I don't know if it's my favorite (or if I even have one), but one stand-out scene is the first road scene. That's the one where Jimmy, unprepared, gets off the bus and finds a pool room, goes in, and even though it's loud and rowdy, he gets into a money game with a couple who are holding money for drug dealers. They're drunk and high, he hustles them out of all their money, and they come and pay him a visit in his motel room. (again, no plot spoilers! you know what happens!)

That scene was a breakthrough. That was a scene I wrote after practically nothing for about six miserable months. Then I sat down and opened a document and that scene came out. I let go. I took my character and let him go where he wanted, or where his stupid head led him.

I have other favorite scenes, like with Jimmy and Iris, and Iris alone.

JH:
You mentioned The Odyssey—did Joyce's Ulysses have any influence on Jimmy?

GL:
A very astute question.

I read Ulysses while I was writing my book. It's such a monumental piece of fiction that I don't think it influenced me (except maybe that I had to rewrite an extra three times or so!)

But of course Ulysses is based on The Odyssey. Joyce used it as a template, but the creatures from The Odyssey were expressed in Irish life. For example, the Oxen of the Sun, Lestrygonians.

My version of The Odyssey is different, and more loosely-based. No one can touch Joyce.

But if Ulysses influenced me, it was in my language. And in that department, Joyce is also untouchable.

My book is a tribute to Joyce, as well as a tribute to The Odyssey. At the same time, because of that, my book is an act of literary hubris, one which has been punished, and will be punished further, if I escape obscurity.

But Jimmy is not Leopold Bloom. He's a pool-shootin son of a gun.

Monday, February 23, 2009

by author of THE LEGEND OF JIMMY GOLLIHUE

Surging with the hot, sensual blood-pressure of another incisive stab of punditry, Jonathan moved toward the washing machine (a brand-new Spellmaster from the United States, complete with a voltage converter that enabled it to run on the British-flavoured 220V, always smoother and more refined than the American counterpart, thought Jonathan), lifted the lid, and peered inside.

Wrapped round the inner drum of the American machine (which Jonathan had long preferred over the more commonly-available front-loading machines, which he'd always found had forced him to hunker painfully thus stretching his knees, or to kneel as he would before a literary lion, or to sit in a half-lotus position in front of the machine as though about to stack his notes in chapter piles, as he had been wont to do previous to the advent of the modern word processor,which enabled Jonathan to carry an entire office around with him in the form of a notebook computer, so convenient he could prance confidently into the Waterstone's bookshop cafe, his full writerly arsenal just a few keystrokes away) was the waterlogged carcass of a nude man.

The face stared up at Jonathan from the drum of the top-loading washer, but the staring face was unseeing though full of accusation (and what a strange miracle that the man's old-fashioned mustache wax has perfectly preserved the delicate, manly handlebar curves of his masculine mustachio! gushed Jonathan within, as he wondered where he'd left the oil for the chainsaw (both of which, chainsaw and oil, he'd had to order special from a lumberjack's journal, to which he subscribed).

from THE BANSHEE'S MESSENGER BOY

The heavy lorry trundled north on the Link Road to Kells . The driver of the lorry was dressed in gaudy showman’s clothes: a bright green wool jacket, a black pinstriped waistcoat of cheap shiny silk with a great looping silver watch chain dangling from it. He wore no hat or cap and he had an unlit cigar jammed in his jaws.
Painted on the sides of the lorry like great garish rolling banners were circus images in five or six bright colors. There were clowns both happy and sad, lions, fat ladies, acrobats all frolicking round three stylized rings. On the rear of the lorry was stenciled St Brigid Brothers Circus Show.
“If you are stopped by the Gardai,” the red-headed witch had said, “simply tell them you’re the circus bound for the Fun Fair, you can’t tarry for you’re late setting up the tents. Then pull out your money roll like a boss barker and slip him a hundred pounds.”
The driver had a roll of money in his trouser pocket, and inside his jacket he carried not a pistol, and thus one possible means of escape, but a radio device with a single large black button. Hidden under his crotch was a live fragmentation grenade, as a failsafe. In no case, the red-headed witch had said, will you be going to the Gardai, nor to MI5, but rather straight to your Maker with no middlemen to quibble over the flesh and bones that cover your soul. If it makes it easier for you, the witch had said, think of your wife and daughters in that Londonderry basement, and what my men will do to them if you fail us.
Oh, sure I’ll not fail you, Miss, thought the driver, who fought to keep control of himself, fought to stay conscious with the blood pressure splitting his head open, struggled to keep the screams inside. “But I will see you in Hell, you bitch,” he muttered.
Kells town came into view. All he could think of was the Unfinished Cross, and how Maire had tried to corral the girls as they’d dashed screaming and happy in their summer frocks, back and forth between the broken cross and the Round Tower, and how proud he’d been that day to be a man under an Irish sky.

Ciaran’s legend was airtight and so he had no trouble entering the country at Dun Laoghaire. In fact all he got for his modicum of worry was a passing glance at his British passport (doctored special in London, along with the rest of his funny papers) and a nod from the Customs Inspector: just another merchant seaman from Liverpool. And Ciaran had the accent to prove it, had he been required to open his mouth and speak.
Ten minutes later he stood on the walk before the Town Hall. His sea bag thrown over one shoulder, Ciaran removed his his cap and let the sun touch his face.
A young garda approached him.
“Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb,” said the garda.
Ciaran was careful not to twitch the hand that held the cap, for it would be a dead giveaway that he understood the young garda’s words as a windy day is not the day to be fixing your thatch.
“Sorry, officer, I don’t speak the Irish,” said Ciaran, and he pulled a long face. “I was trying to recall the way to the Merchant Seaman’s Rest.” It was a code, one he’d been instructed to use upon first contact with any man on the street.
The garda stared at him with a blank face.
“Between Kelly’s and Crofton, and if you’re at George’s you’ve wandered too far.”
Then the garda nodded to him, looked him up and down in case anyone was watching, and strode off along his beat.
Ciaran placed his watch cap back upon his head. Still his hair stuck out around the edges, and blew in the breeze of late afternoon. No day indeed to be after fixing the thatches, he thought. He set off in the general direction of the streets the garda had named, but it had been a code: his contact would be a man named George Croft.
He strode briskly until he was hidden between the dark buildings of the harbor city.