Saturday, January 7, 2012

Twenty Years and Counting by Reed Farrel Coleman

Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan, Reed Farrel Coleman has published fourteen novels. He is the three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year and a two-time Edgar Award nominee. He has also won the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. Reed is an adjunct professor of English at Hofstra University and he lives with his family on Long Island. 

Twenty Years And Counting
Reed Farrel Coleman

With the recent releases of my thirteenth (Gun Church, and fourteenth (Hurt Machine, Tyrus Books), it dawned on me that my very first novel, Life Goes Sleeping, was published over twenty years ago. Many are the day I wonder where all that time has got to. So much has happened between the call I got from Permanent Press’s Marty Sheperd informing me they intended to publish LGS and now, that it is really hard to fathom. On the one hand, it seems to have taken forever to get from there to here—wherever that is, exactly. On the other, it’s all been such a blur. Two things, though, have been constant through it all: my family and my routine.

Well, about the family first. It hasn’t remained quite constant because my son Dylan was born in 1992, but since then … It’s so strange to look back and to realize how little I knew then and how little I know now. I wonder sometimes if I wasn’t so naïve about publishing if I would have let myself in for all the heartache. No, of course I would have. I was born to write and, for me, it has all been worth it. I mean, we all have heartache at even the lowliest jobs. Heartache and disappointment are part of the package in any career choice. It just hurts a little more when you push all the chips into the center of the table and invest everything you’ve got.

The things I’ve been thinking about lately aren’t necessarily my sacrifices, but the sacrifices my family has made and continues to make for me. Without them, I would have achieved nothing. Without them, anything I would have achieved would have meant nothing. It’s one thing to have a dream and to make sacrifices, but art is a weird dream. Inevitably, the people around you make as many sacrifices for your art as you do. I think of all the vacations we didn’t take, of the schools my kids voluntarily didn’t apply to, of all the clothing my wife wore for that extra year.

And I cannot emphasize enough how important routine is to a writer. Sure, when we’re inspired, writing is easy, but how many days of the year can one count on inspiration? Very few, my friends … very few. I learned that lesson when I took poetry writing in college. Until then, poetry was always a matter of the inspirational moment. Then I started getting assignment. POD: poetry on demand. Eventually, you learn to sink or swim. And you learn that routine is the way to swim. Sit your tush down in your chair at the same time every single day and you’d be amazed at the results. I’ve been doing it for twenty years and so it must work.

Synopses of new novels:

GUN CHURCH: Kip Weiler was once an 80s literary wunderkind. Now because of his own foibles and insecurities, he’s fallen on hard times. Twenty years after his last novel, he’s teaching creative writing at a rural community college. One day he saves his class from a potential bloodbath. For this he gets a second fifteen minutes of fame and, more importantly, the urge to write again. Little does he know that the book he is writing may be his undoing. He gets deeply involved with two of his students and a cult-like group obsessed with the intrinsic nature of handguns. It’s kind of like WONDER BOYS meets FIGHT CLUB  with guns.

HURT MACHINE: It’s two weeks before his daughter’s wedding when Moe receives very grave news about his health. Then to add to the drama, his ex-wfie and former PI partner, Carmella Melendez, returns after a nine year absence to ask Moe for a desperate favor. It seems Carmella’s estranged sister has been murdered outside a Brooklyn pizzeria, but no one, not even the NYPD, seems interested in finding the killer. Why? That’s the question, isn’t it?


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Reed, Welcome!!!

What a kick for me to have you here to help us bring in a new year at Meanderings and Muses. Thank you.

I think you and family are quite blessed to have one another and able to share all that you have. I'm betting they wouldn't have it or you any other way.


P.S. LOVED LOVED LOVED HURT MACHINE!!!! Moe Prager rocks, as do you, of course.

jenny milchman said...

Reed, I'm so glad to be introduced to you by the Queen of Introductions, Kaye Barley. Both your novels look great--I love the description of FIGHT CLUB meets WONDER BOYS. That one is going on my TBR, or to be more exact, in the email I forward to my husband in time for Christmas and my birthday so he'll know what to buy :)

As for writing and the toll it takes on family...I understand. My first novel isn't even out yet, but I feel like both my young children and husband more often than they should revolve their lives around this dream of mine. On my better days I hope this will be the glue of family togetherness, lessons for the little ones in finding your passion and never giving up...that kind of thing.

But in bleaker moments I worry that I'm selfish or driven and that I won't even know how much I've asked until it's already been given.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Reed, you are brilliant, as always.

"Sitting your tush down" means being serious about your task, right? YOu can "think" about your book all you want, but that doesn't make the pages appear. Some days, it's amazing, like the waves of the ocean, one good idea after another.

Other days, it's the doldrums.

But it's all driven by the story, right? And, Reed, you always have the story.


LJ Roberts said...

Reed has been one of my "must-buy" authors since I read "Walking the Perfect Square." I was lucky enough to meet him, several years ago, at Dark Carnival in Berkeley, where he even gave me a t-shirt and a hug--the t-shirt was nice, the hug even better. He is such a nice man. I'm about 1/2 way through "Hurt Machine". His writing never disappoints.

Bobbie said...

Reed what a thoughtful piece-but I'm not surprised, you are a thoughtful person and a very good writer, as well as being fun and funny, and vociferously brilliant when speaking. I've seen you a few times in person at conventions both large and tiny, and always, you have that focus, that smile, that attitude. You write Moe Prager very well indeed, but for me, it's Tony Spinosa I think of first, smile. I've even gone back and found your first three books, and even 'twenty years ago', you had that style and that ability. And twenty years on, you have it in profusion.

Thank you for this post, it speaks truth. Thank your family, from this one reader. You are a 'must get it now' writer for me, and on social security that's saying something, ha. So keep working, and I know you will, even when it doesn't feel worth it to you. Thanks Kaye, for having this great writer as your guest!

Bobbie said...

Oops, I meant it is Joe Serpe I think of first, written by you, Tony Spinosa, smile.