Friday, October 25, 2013

Lurid Tales, Desperate People

A couple of days ago I finished the first draft of a new novel, Lurid Tales, Desperate People, set in Northern Virginia and documenting the largely empty lives of seven women and five men. It’s been tremendous fun, and for once really easy to write.  In fact, from start to finish, the book took less than eight months to draft and its 43 chapters fell into line painlessly, with an ending that left no loose ends and did not rely on the hated deus ex machina

Lurid Tales is a short book, barely 260 pages long, with a not-too-contrived plot. About three months into it, the characters got legs--they began to move about on their own; they told me what to write, and where to take the book. Some characters defined themselves by their patterns of speech; one, in particular is a master of malapropisms. Another is the beneficiary/victim of massive elective surgery; a third is obsessed by past and present slavery.

The men, though necessary to the plot, are far less important than the women who clearly dominate this book. I’ve had a long-held belief that females in real life are all-around tougher and more interesting than males, and creating and working with female characters has always been easier for me than dreaming up men. The guys in Lurid Tales are dressed up trashcans--generally vile, manipulative yet simple-minded. Mostly, they want to get laid, mostly they get caught and suffer the consequences. The majority of the women characters, though no less shallow, have at least an inkling of morality.

Now that the brunt of the book is done, I’m struggling with post-partum depression. I want to keep writing, create sequels, and get a deeper and more rounded knowledge of Briotta, Josephinetta, Shhoney (not a typo) and Lyubonka, the Ukrainian au pair porn queen. These ladies, after all, became my family for almost a year and I’m pretty sure their plotting to achieve a better social standing is a reflection of my own insecurities.

Part of the joy of writing Lurid Tales is that it is set in my own backyard. McLean, Virginia, is two hundred yards from the less wealthy Falls Church, where I live. According to Wikipedia, McLean had a total population of 48,115 as of 2010 and Business Week ranked it as one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States with a median family income of $188,682. It is home to hordes of diplomats, members of Congress, and high-ranking government officials, partially due to its proximity to Washington DC, and the CIA.  The Kennedys, including Jackie and Ethel used to live here, as did Queen Noor of Jordan and Amha Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia.  Says Wikipedia, “McLean is known for its many upscale homes, as well as for its high-end shopping, such as at the nearby Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria. Land values in McLean are among the highest in the Washington area.” Among McLean’s more celebrated current citizens are (unfortunately) Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Dick Cheney, Lewis “Scooter” Libby (come on, now, you don’t remember Scooter? He was Cheney’s Chief of Staff), and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. There’s also a scattering of Representatives, Cabinet Secretaries, retired generals, mega-billionaire business people, and my personal favorite, the largely toothless Alex Ovechkin, captain of the Washington Capitals hockey team.    

So really, setting a novel in McLean wasn’t difficult. What was challenging was making fiction as believable as the everyday around here, and creating characters somewhat more appealing than the town’s real-life denizens.

My agent likes it, which is encouraging since he rarely likes what I write--it isn’t commercial enough.

I’ll keep you apprised on the fate or Lurid Tales, Desperate People. In the meantime, it’s back to The Cancer Club, a book I started writing about a year. I’m just beginning to get a handle on it.

1 comment:

  1. Can't believe you're already finished. Can't wait to read it even more! Yay!