Hi Joe! Welcome to the blog. Tell us about your book!
I wrote it for a very specific reason; dudes don’t talk. We bottle up all these feelings in a vain attempt to stay deaf, dumb, and mute, while pouring bio-chemical crazy glue into our bodies trying to keep it to ourselves. As kids, boys are taught not to cry, and as men we are silently implored to keep our problems to ourselves by other men. My main character Jacob is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he’s suicidal, and there is absolutely no one he knows who can help him. That is why his job in the parks is so important, this is where he meets men like him, who have failed miserably at life, but somehow have survived. He wants to know their secret, and if possible, become like them.
What do you find special about literary fiction?
It is through fiction that we can truly examine our lives. In a story I can tell myself the truth I couldn’t otherwise find. Through it we can examine our health, both mentally and socially. Books like Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, and Johnny Got His Gun changed the way we think. It is proof mere words written on a page and printed for the entire world to see can be more powerful than any drug or weapon formed.
I was looking at the Goodreads reviews of your book and it seems like you’ve created a protagonist many can relate to! What’s your advice on writing characters people believe in?
Write about people you really have known. Start with yourself and see who else shows up to the party. The best way to perform any role is to be able to empathize with a character, to bring some kind of humanity to what is otherwise just words on a page. Another thing I like to do is carefully select dialogue. Sometimes it isn’t as much as what a character says as what he or she implies, reading between the lines allows the reader to make some inference as to what the writer really means. Last, and I learned this the hard way, is to not use adjectives to describe a character's mood while speaking. If John is sad, show it. For example: “Looks like rain,” John said sadly or “Looks like rain,” John said. He rubbed the back of his neck. His hand trembled, realizing what he had done. This is what those who so blithely advise ‘show, don’t tell’ are talking about. One way is direct and succinct, but there is no air in the balloon. The other is more like an exotic dancer taking one piece off at a time, frustrating you in the best possible ways, making you damn near beg to see more, but oh, what sweet misery it is to have to wait.
The cover art is gorgeous! How did you come up with the perfect image for capturing Jacob’s feelings about his life?
I wish I did! The cover is the genius of my publisher Kitty Bullard and her graphic artist Amber Rendon at Great Minds Think Aloud. They had foolishly asked me what I thought the cover should look like and I sent them some monstrosity of an idea. Fortunately, they thoroughly rejected it, realizing I had no idea what I was doing when it came to such things. When I first saw it, I realized immediately they had captured in one picture a tone I had tried to create in over three hundred pages. A cover is so very important, as much as the story itself or the editing to perfect it. They say don’t judge a book by its cover because that is exactly what people do!
Part of the description hints that Jacob will discover that “there really is a God”. How do you deal with themes of faith and spirituality in A Season Without Rain? Do you often explore the spiritual side of life in your writing?
I was recently asked at a book signing, “What if you don’t believe in God?” My response was this: imagine your child was critically ill and the outcome was predictably grim and, given five minutes alone, you desperately reached out in prayer for God to save him or her. Later, unexplainably, a full recovery is made. A person can look at this as a miracle of modern medicine or a supernatural gift of faith. Either way, the outcome has not changed. I believe miracles happen every day, from the simple to the complex. Coincidence, chance, and random events are how we are dismiss these things, calling it ‘lucky’ when we could as easily discern the same situations as divine intervention. I am not trying to convert anyone to any religion, but I really do believe there is a God and I can’t help but write from that point of view.
Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading?
I first cut my teeth on fiction with John Steinbeck. His work was the first to personally touch me. The Bachman books were also something once read it was impossible to think of life the same way. Charles Bukowski and Donald Goines are a couple awesome writers I’m a bit late coming to appreciate but have found their work inspiring. My favorites lately have been Antonya Nelson, Chad Kultgen, Tony D’Souza, and Greg Baxter.
Thank you so much for joining us on the Freelance and Fiction blog! Keep up with Joe Schwartz on his Facebook page, Twitter, or find his work on Amazon.
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