Yes, I’m still writing blogs about research. But this one serves a greater purpose.
I’ve got essays in two books out currently.
The first book is the new edition of the NOW WRITE! series, called Now Write! Mysteries. The book features essays from loads of outstanding mystery authors and each author includes a set of exercises designed to give the reader the opportunity to learn the skills discussed in the author’s essay.
I’ve attached a link to my contribution, so you can get a sense of how the book works. I haven’t really given anything away that cannot be found by clicking on the “Look Inside!” button on the book’s Amazon page.
Some of the many talented authors in the collection include Aileen G. Baron, James Scott Bell, Rhys Bowen, Rachel Brady, Robert Browne, Rebecca Cantrell, Reed Farrel Coleman, Deborah Coonts, Bill Crider, Meg Gardiner, Gar Anthony Haywood, Harley Jane Kozak, William Kent Krueger, Robert S. Levinson, Sophie Littlefield, Tim Maleeny, Christopher Moore, Kelli Stanley, John Lutz, Louise Penny, Lorenzo Carcaterra and many, many more. I apologize for not including every contributor; the names themselves would fill a book.
The NOW WRITE! series includes other notable publications, such as Now Write! Fiction, Now Write! Nonfiction, and Now Write! Screenwriting.
The books are edited by Sherry Ellis and her niece Laurie Lamson. Laurie took over finishing the new book after Sherry passed away unexpectedly last year. It was a terrible loss to our community. And I’m honored to have been part of her last creative effort on this planet.
The other book I’m in is called WRITERS ON THE EDGE: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency.
My essay here finally answers the big question I get when I’m on panels at conferences. The question: “How the hell did you do your research for Boulevard and Beat?”
When I don’t want to get into the specifics, I go with the answer I have in the Now Write! series. I discuss the passion I have for boots-on-the-ground research, how I love to meet and interview people and learn the details of their lives.
When I get down-and-dirty, I talk about the struggles I had with my own sex-addiction, how I went to twelve-step meetings and marriage counseling and therapy and took a potentially life-threatening problem and turned it into something life-affirming and creative. My essay in this book is open and honest and, ultimately, uplifting. I discuss the things I did, how the addiction began, how it affected my psychology, my relationships, my marriage. It’s the most personal discussion I’ve had on the subject. I was actually reluctant to write the piece, but the editors, Diana M. Raab and James Brown, convinced me that my experiences should be shared with others who might be struggling with their own addictive behavior. After all, it’s Twelfth Step stuff – helping others along the path to their own sobriety.
All the essays in the book are fabulous. The authors speak from their hearts and I admire them for the vulnerability they exhibit.
The book also features a forward by Jerry Stahl, author of PERMANENT MIDNIGHT.
For those of you in the Los Angeles area, we will be launching the book from Book Soup on Saturday, February 25, at 4:00 pm.
That’s it for now, folks.
Brave and brilliant work, Stephen
I hope both the books do as well as they undoubtedly deserve!
Very excited about Writers on the Edge! Does it have essays on codependence, too? A 12-step group saved my life when I was in pieces over the addictive relapse of a loved one. Until I got into Al Anon I didn't realize that I'd become as sick as the addict.
Of course I would already have a mini-conference on the 25th in Long Beach, but I'll try to make it back up in time for the signing, I love Book Soup.
Zoe – thanks.
Alex – some of the essays definitely touch on co-dependency. Many also focus on parents who were alcoholics or clinically depressed. One of the essays is written by Linda Gray Sexton, daughter of Anne Sexton.
Stephen, you do have a lot going on…the screenplay, the third book (now Las Vegas) and these two essays? I can't wait to read them both, as soon as I get another chapter done…
Brave of you to put it out there, but I agree it's good. Get it outside of you and let it help others.
Can I just say that I love how the Muderati not only write wonderful novels but also give back to bring others into the fold as writers? I love that. Reminds me of what the New Orleans musician families do, as soon as you get on stage, you bring someone else up with you…a good way to live.
I admire your bravery — putting our stuff out there in the world is always a fraught decision.
As coincidence would have it, a couple of weeks ago I bought the NOW WRITE! book as an inspirational tool to start the New Year. I was psyched to see your essay first!
Allison – Yeah, it's pretty cool to have both essays out at the same time. Especially when that thriller set in Amsterdam then reset in Las Vegas and now thrown into the gutter won't be out for a long, long time. Ready for this? I'm starting an entirely new thriller. I just wasn't passionate about the other story – my voice never came out. I've had this new idea for a number of months and I can't stop thinking about it. The moment I started writing it – just a few days ago – it came out beautifully – my voice has returned. It's fun, it's cool. It's The Killer Inside Me meets The Collector meets The Player meets Fargo. What the fuck, right?
I love the New Orleans jazz reference – and that's just what musicians do, they share. It's about communicating, beyond racial, economic, sexual, spiritual boundaries. It's about making a connection. I love it.
Lisa – I was amazed and delighted to discover that my essay started off the whole damn book! It's like I won the lottery or something! What an honor.
Stephen: I second everyone who's applauded your bravery in writing and publishing something so personally revealing. You've got guts, man.
True story: Years ago up on the cul-de-sac where our Silverlake home sits above the reservoir, we used to have a neighbor we almost never saw, except when he was driving his Cadillac in or out of his front gate. This cat's ride was black, his clothes were black, he even wore black shades—at night! I used to wonder, who the hell IS this guy? He was so damn mysterious. One day I see him down at the coffee shop Alex and I used to write in (separately, of course) and I gather the nerve to introduce myself.
It's Jerry Stahl. And he is the coolest mo-fo I've ever met in the writing biz. We ended up trading books, he gave mine a great review in Time Out magazine, and we've been distant buds ever since.
I've always thought that writing what one knows takes pure courage.
Thanks for sharing, Stephen.
Gar – that is a kick-ass cool story. Geez, man, it could've been the head of the Mexican Cartel or something. Look who's talking about having guts! I'm glad it was Jerry. I've never met him personally–I'd love an introduction someday at that coffee shop.
By the way, did you meet him pre or post Alf? If it was during Alf, I can guess where he was going all those nights, with his shades on….
Sarah – thank you. Nothing's ever that scary once you put it out there. I've only experienced positive results from talking about my past.
Stephen, I apologize in advance but please let me preface my question by saying that I hold the door closed on some really intense skeletons held by all the men who are close to me. I wonder how difficult it is to write about your addictionand the path from earliest recollection of the issues you've faced, knowing that it will be published and family and friends, your wife, and eventually your children will read your work. And if I may be so bold, what kinds of discussions took place about fielding questions the essay generates when directed to those closest to you? Sorry for being so personal but thank you for being open.
Debbie – great questions. No need to worry. My journey through recovery was done with my wife at my side. I disclosed to her about everything I'd done and we went forward from there. We went to meetings together and marriage counseling and, in time, our marriage grew closer than it ever was when I was acting out. She could have left me, but she chose to stick through it to see what kind of person I was. My children know quite a bit about my past, but they don't know all the specifics. They've learned a lot about addictions of all forms in the process, and I think they're better off for knowing how to deal with their problems, how to communicate and stand up for themselves, which people who fall into addictions tend to avoid. When I disclosed to my wife, I also disclosed to my family and friends. The entire recovery experience has been great – better than anything I ever experienced when I was acting out. It feels good to be honest. And there are some checks and balances, so my wife is able to make sure I stay on track. It's all in the essay – how it began, where it led me, the journey I took with my wife. Writing Boulevard was a catharsis for both of us, and a creative endeavor we could share. She actually pushed me to go deeper into my past memories to make sure it came through accurately in the books.
For me, it's always feeling like I'm accountable for not disclosing (as though the other person had the right to know), or if I don't know something I'm given this look that says, 'Well, you're close to them didn't you ever think to ask?' Sometimes I'd like to say, MYOFB, and I'd like to not feel guilty because I didn't disclose something that was none of their business, or am left feeling apologetic or better yet—am forced to apologize for anothers actions, when I only know of the situation. because of the relationship of the person to me.
Jim Brown is a great guy, and I'm not surprised you two teamed up. Best of luck in all this, sir.
David – I haven't had the chance to meet Jim yet – I've been working with his partner, Diana. I'm looking forward to meeting him at the Book Soup event. Jim's essay is excellent – really heartfelt.
It takes a lot to surprise me these days, but I admit I did a double take when I read your seemingly casual admission here, Stephen. A successful novelist engaging in multiple acts of short fiction? How shocking.
Seriously, what a commendable thing you have done, writing about your addiction. I believe you when you say it feels good to be honest, but everything leading up to and resulting from that disclosure, at least in the short term, must have been torturous. I'm very glad that you and your marriage came through it stronger.
I'm intrigued by the Now Write book. This is the first I've heard of the series, but wow, what an impressive list of contributors. Hope both books do very well.
Admiration. Yes, that's a good word for what I'm feeling.
KD – your words mean so much to me, thank you. And yes, it was tortuous. Really, really hard. The only thing worse was my father's death. But it's made me a better, happier person. It taught me a lot about life. That there's much more to learn.
Stephen: I met Jerry well after his Alf days. He was well into his novel writing career, I think he'd just finished I, FATTY.
Ah, I wonder what it would be like to have a novel-writing career….