What’s wrong with me? The girl didn’t die or run off.

An early rendition, but not the final cover of Back Side of a Blue Moon.

What is happening at the moment revolves strictly around the secrets that have shrouded my character’s past.

I have never thought much about the kind of book I write. Maybe I should. It seems that so many of the legendary writers we read and revere studied, examined, and analyzed their novels, tore them apart scene by scene and often character by character, carefully putting them back together again in order to maintain a book that reflected their style and their identity.

I always thought I wrote thrillers and occasionally a mystery. At least that was my intent. I don’t think I studied, examined, or analyzed my craft or my novels nearly enough.

I was comfortable with the top layer. I didn’t peel back enough bottom layers. I didn’t dig deeply enough. And now I’ve written a few books that have tension, conflict, and drama but no specific, cut and dried genre.

I had never thought much about it until I recently read a quote by Franz Kafka. His thoughts were tucked away in a letter he wrote to a school friend in 1904. He said: I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.

That’s pretty strong stuff.

But he’s right. It’s not necessary to write novels as dark as those penned by Kafka, but writers do need to write stories that deeply affect people, whether it’s with humor, love, mystery, the unknown, or grief.

Hemingway’s goal in a book, he said, was to take common, ordinary people and throw them in uncommon, unordinary circumstances, stir the pot and see who wins or loses.

For me, it’s all about the backstory. What is happening at the moment revolves strictly around the secrets that have shrouded my character’s past: the pain, the grief, the mistakes, the faults, his loves, his loves lost, his loves thrown away, his compulsions, his obsessions, and his memories, both good and bad. They all dictate what he does next: when he runs, when he fights, and why he tries to love and finds it so hard to love and winds up alone again. He hates being alone, but it is an old familiar feeling he well understands.

I would like to write more humor. I have always said that writing humor is exactly the same as writing horror. The build up is identical. You simply change the punch line.

I’ve tried. My punch line is always dark.

I would like to write about romance. But I don’t understand it. Never have. I’ve been in love with the same woman for fifty years. I understand us. That’s all. Yet, I keep working hard to toss a little romance into my character’s miserable life.

My hero almost always meets girls. He wines and dines girls. He protects girls. He feels responsible for girls. He will even kill for them. But when the novel ends, she’s not with him anymore. I hope that someday – when I have written down the final sentence – she has decided not to leave. I would like that a lot.

For a long time, I’ve been waiting for the right girl to come along. Maybe, at long last, she finally has.

I’ve just finished writing Back Side of a Blue Moon. I thought I had a hero. He was a con man, a scam artist, a fraud. I understood him. I liked him. He woke up one morning and, much to his dismay, discovered he had been replaced. He’s still had a major role in the story.

But the girl took over the book, and I never saw it coming. Blue Moon belonged to her. I have a genuine heroine, and I’ve never had one of those before. She finds herself in the middle of a genuine love story full of struggle and conflict, and when that last period was hammered in place, she hadn’t died or run off.

Where had she been all my life?

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