Day 3 of Macho May is upon us and I have a guest post from Glen Kenner, the author of The First.
An original new voice at the start of a thrilling series that busts old genres and holds no punches – perfect for fans of Lee Child, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci and Stephen Hunter.
John Smith has lived under the radar for thousands of years, avoiding attention from those around him. John is a First, an ancient race of super-humans shrouded in secrecy. Although they walk among us, their normal appearance conceals their super strength, inhuman speed, and powerful healing ability.
But now many Firsts want to come out of hiding and live openly. John knows that humans aren’t ready to knowingly live alongside them. He remembers the threatening mobs and the fear of being hunted down, tortured and killed.
His perfectly designed predictable and mundane life is disrupted by the appearance of a beautiful woman who needs his help—on the same day an old enemy resurfaces. Soon he finds that he and other Firsts are targeted by cutting-edge tracking technology that can detect the superbeings.
John is forced to make uncertain alliances as a frantic chase around the world puts them in the crosshairs of elite hit squads and psychopathic murderers.
Read THE FIRST today and dive into this fast-paced action-packed thriller that’s like nothing you’ve ever read!
Twitter – @glen_kenner
Facebook – glenkennerauthor
Advice To Readers Who Want To Be Writers – Glen Kenner
When writers are new to writing, usually either at a young age or in an introductory writing class in college, they are always given the same advice by well-meaning instructors: write what you know. No other words have ever prematurely ended so many writing careers.
I first started writing fiction and poetry in my third year in college. I was a strong reader from a very young age and was reading adult mysteries and horror novels in elementary school. I read my older sister’s copy of the novel Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin when I was seven or eight years old. Rosemary’s Baby was a huge bestseller, and not just for horror novels. It sold four million copies when it was written in 1967 and literally jump-started the adult horror fiction movement that others, namely Stephen King, would carry forth in the 1970s and beyond. I read Rosemary’s Baby around 1976 or 1977, long after the blockbuster movie adaptation by Roman Polanski was released in 1968 and just as Stephen King was becoming a household name with his earliest novels Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, and The Shining – all of which I read as a child. It’s no surprise I’m still an insomniac more than forty years later.
I stopped reading horror fiction in high school, though I still read mysteries. I branched out and started reading history, science fiction, thrillers and then literature. I read the Old and New Testaments (thought I admit to skimming over all of the begatting in Genesis) and I’m sure I was the only 15 year old at my large high school to have a subscription to The New Yorker. In all that time, I never wrote any fiction. I was deeply into art and music, and reading was something I did when I wasn’t able to draw or paint or sing or play my trumpet. But then I went off to the University of Missouri – Columbia, and in order to boost my GPA in my junior year majoring in Political Science, I signed up for an entry level fiction writing class. It was as if I was Saul in Acts 9:18 and the scales had fallen from my eyes. I had found my true calling – writing fiction. And as quickly as I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life, I nearly threw it all away. My well-meaning instructor gave us that terrible advice: write what you know.
What did you know at 20? I knew pretty much everything. But to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, delusions of grandeur are wasted on the young. And it was evident when I sat down to write. I loved the act but everything I wrote was so flat, so hollow. So unconvincing. So boring. True, some writers seem to thrive by writing what they know. John Updike built his very successful, long, and extremely prolific writing career by writing about white men at whatever age and status Updike himself happened to be. But John Updike was a one-in-a-million writer. And as talented as he was at crafting perfectly beautiful prose, he still wrote quite a few boring novels (mostly everything he wrote after Rabbit at Rest in 1990 to his death in 2009). In my college classroom, as I read other students’ writing assignments, I realized none of us knew what we were talking about. I remember a particular male student who exclusively wrote tame erotica. It was painfully obvious that he had little to no knowledge about the subject. My breakthrough, that has sustained me for thirty years of writing short stories and now novels, was the realization that some of my favorite genres and writers ignored the self-limiting advice of writing what they knew and instead wrote stories of a man raised by apes in the jungles of Africa
and of the sophisticated British spy who got the bad guy and also the beautiful girl and the five year old boy named Damien with the birthmark of 666 on head and so on.
My debut novel, THE FIRST, is, in essence, about a man named John Smith who is the original anti-hero loner. Not exactly my background. But, to me, more importantly is the second main character of Sarah, a strong-willed, twenty year old black female second year law student from a small town in Texas. What do I know about any of those characteristics? Nothing much. I’m a 49 year old white guy from the suburbs of St Louis, Missouri. But I do know a few strong young women and I am lucky enough to have a few black woman friends and family members. And I have a family member who is an attorney. And I’ve known a few people from small towns in Texas. You get the picture. By taking bits and pieces of people I know and throwing them into an action-filled and thrilling world with a touch of magical realism and horror and just enough dry humor and sarcasm to be tolerable, I’ve created a world of scenarios and characters that no one could know and therefore couldn’t have been brought into existence on the page by following a writing instructor’s terrible advice.
When young writers ask me what to write about, I ask them what they like to read. Young adult fantasy is most commonly the answer. I ask them have they tried writing that genre? Yes is always the answer. But, despite their newness to writing, they recognize that their fiction doesn’t quite work and so we talk about their characters and the nature of those relationships. What I always find is that a fifteen year old writer starting out in YA Fantasy will write about fifteen year old saving the world. In other words, they are writing what they know. Not the witches and wizards and dragons and so on. But the main characters. In fact, often the main characters is simply an idealized version of themselves. The most eye-opening question I can then ask them, the one that changes they way they see the art of writing, is to ask which writer is the best-known YA Fantasy author in the world? J.K. Rowling, of course. And did you enjoy reading the story of a 32 year old unemployed single mother on welfare at Hogwarts? The laughter and then quiet contemplation means they get it. Joanne Rowling didn’t set out to write what she knew. She set out to write the engaging, fantastical adventure of an 11 year old boy and his friends.
Writing classes, and by extension, writing instructors are rarely needed to become a good writer. The best writing advice is not to write what you know but to write what you want to read. And keep writing, over and over and over until you tell your story like no one else can.