Monday, September 10, 2012

Details on "Lily: An American Fable" and an interview with the author.

Goodreads info:

Lily: An American Fable  by Samuel Bagby
Kindle Price: $3. 50 as an e-book download
Available from: Amazon US Kindle Store and Smashwords
Amazon Kindle Store link:
Authors Website/Goodreads novel page is:

Story Description: Stephen Flashman loves sex. As a womanizer, he’s been using women for sex all his life. But there are two women who leave an indelible mark upon Flashman’s life, two women whose memory he somehow cannot lay to rest in a sea of forgettable conquests. Diane Densher is one of those women: she is incredibly smart, savvy and ambitious, an Ivy League graduate and a successful executive with a budding career on Wall Street: when she breaks up with Flashman he treats it like just another breakup, but deep down her rejection of him conjures forth a terrible nagging feeling that he could not keep her because she recognized him as a failure and unworthy to be her mate, and he is tormented by the need to win her back. Noelle Cummings is just the opposite of her ambitious and serious-minded predecessor: she is a free spirit from her head to her toes, carried along by an insatiable zest to live each day as if it were her last; she casts a wistful light into Flashman’s bleak inner world. After breaking up with Noelle, Flashman is torn between his affections for both women when Noelle reveals to him that she is pregnant with his child, but is anxious and fearful about raising a child on her own; she tells Flashman that she is thinking of terminating the pregnancy.
For Flashman it is the moment which sears his heart: with Diane—"the one who got away"—showing signs of renewed interest, should he continue to give chase to her, or should he devote his energies to Noelle and do all he can to ensure the birth of his child, while knowing his life will never be the same again?

 Author Biography: My name is Samuel Bagby: I am a bit taciturn speaking about myself in a blog like this. I was a student, a monk, a teacher, and now who the hell knows what--but none of that is really important. We are all vessels of love, of passion, of something on our own journeys towards a grand and surreal destination, and it is how we lift each other up, edify each other, and help each other along the way that matters: and I want to be that person that is lifting up, edifying, and helping other sojourners, because the road is no easy path; that much all of us know. 

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

I'm from Warren, Ohio, a diminutive little town in the Midwest.  I suspect that there must have been some abomination committed by the settlers who lived here before the time city was founded, a fact which would seem rather important, but which noone can actually tell you about. I've taken this of course from deductive reasoning: in Warren the sun leaves in September to go to California until next May, and the sports teams around here are literally incapable of winning anything, as a matter of fact they can't even play above .500. Something must have happened. As for myself, I was the valedictorian of my high school before I became fashionably confused in college and got Cs for four years: afterwards I took a year off in which I did not backpack through Europe. I went to grad school, became a teacher, didn't like it, and accidentally stumbled into a love for writing after doing deliberately things I disliked for something like twenty years.

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

This book had a sort of strange genesis which in turn shaped its narrative and its subsequent length: it was actually a flashback chapter from what was a greater novel, a much longer story; you might say it was the necessities of the circumstance that in the end determined everything. At the time the details of my situation were for the most part so profoundly dismal that I spent whatever mental energy was left over from the novel attempting unsuccessfully not to think about them. In a word, those were, no agent; no publisher; no readership. And I had been writing for some years then. To some degree it was becoming apparent to me that the situation was due in part to my tendency to let a story get away from me, my narratives exhibiting this sort of galling tendency to keep going and going with no end in sight, becoming what I understood to be the literary equivalent of a Grateful Dead live jam that takes a two minute song and goes on for two hours. Now that's admittedly some people's cup of tea; but the average reader goes in typically for the quick fix; the beach read. So I looked at the novel which had gotten away from me years ago, and then at the flashback chapter which was getting away from me presently, and then it occurred to me: why not take an incurable penchant for longwindedness, as it were, and utilize it for my benefit. The flashback chapter had fortunately become a short novella, which, after my natural tendencies had gotten hold of that, then became an actual novel. And this shorter novel, alas, demonstrated conspicuous advantages over its longer predecessor: namely, coherency. A beginning and an end. And I liked the story: it was filled with humor and made me laugh from start to finish, the characters were complex and interesting, I saw some sexiness and some heart definitely there, and I thought to myself: this is a really good story. Why not go with this, then spend the next two or three decades polishing the longer novel. And that's what I did.

How do you create your characters?
That's something of a mystery: I'm not quite sure how it happens. I think there are three basic archetypes: the first is the character who is the protagonist, who either is the author, or a person in the author's intimate circle whom he or she knows well and possesses insight into their psyche, worldview, spiritual makeup, etc. Or it's a fusion of the two, but in any case the author has deep and genuine insight into the person and from this clay, so to speak, a realistic character of depth can be created; the thoughts and the emotional states of the character can be described with acuity and power, because one knows them intimately—within the context of this character the author can then reveal insight about life, wisdom that he or she has personally gleaned, and share relevant, valuable experience with the reader. The second character is less relevant, more frivolous, and, as I see it, significantly more fun. This is the character one writes purely for pleasure. Dickens did not most likely write the character of Oliver Twist for fun—the Artful Dodger, however, he may have had other motives for.  For an author this may be simply a beautiful and charismatic person of the opposite sex which one writes about to explore the theme of beauty, its power and mystique, and simply for the pleasure of experiencing in a vicarious sense the society of the beautiful—a deep and insatiable reason, when you think of it, why we all read literature in the first place, or for instance, why every Wal-Mart in America stocks Fifty Shades of Grey. Then there is the third character, which is highly frivolous and incredibly useful to balance out what might otherwise be an interminable narrative—the comic foil. After Shakespeare shopped out Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, I have no shame whatsoever in pimping out in my narratives the largest jackass my mind can concoct, to take the edge off an existentialist drama or weighty discussion happening a couple of paragraphs back. Sometimes I muse to myself that Stephanie Meyer might have benefited from introducing some Chris Farley-type character into the Twilight series in order to defuse the stench of perpetual angst surrounding Edward and Bella, but then again in hindsight, billionaires are really exempt from taking advice, when you think of it.

What inspires and what got your started in writing?
I always loved writing, and I always loved reading, but for whatever reason in my mind there was a stigma to the whole idea of actually becoming a writer. It wasn't honorable or legitimate, you might say. I suppose the Russians ruined it for most of us in this instance persevering through food deprivation buzzes, stultifying poverty and Tsarist persecution to produce thousand page masterworks which have ever after set the tone for literary genius: it's that image of the artist as someone mired in wretchedness, either as a kind of sublime foundation and ingredient from which the masterpieces germinate, or as some inscrutable decree of fate one can't avoid; it's an extremely difficult thing, a true leap of faith, to say to oneself, I'm going to go through this period of privation, making little money, working a job I don't like or leaving a job entirely to pursue my art; that's a leap of the spirit for the prospective artist which required me many years to make. Seeing that it took Dickens 150 years to finally get on Oprah, one can understand how difficult that leap actually is. Eventually my love for writing just became consuming, I couldn't do anything else—I said to myself, I'll be a barista into my sixties to get this novel off the ground, and so far, it's all worked according to plan.

Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)

I write in my office. It's what I call quaint and claustrophobically small in a suffocating kind of way, and I love it: let me rephrase. In my second draft of the previous sentence I'd just say that I've learned to love it, because it's a maxim which holds true that poverty changes the way a person looks at things. I can't afford to write anywhere else. IN answer to what I need in order to write, it can be encompassed in a word: coffee.  IN explaining this dynamic, I think I can achieve here a clarity you'll rarely observe elsewhere in life: writer + caffeine= novel. And when I say coffee, I don't mean the crap that looks like iced tea they serve with a scone or some other ridiculous pastry: I'm talking about viscous, opaque, hypercaffeinated swill that you imbibe in brutal gulps like bourbon, that during the Middle Ages was poured over city walls onto ladders of attacking soldiers, the coffee that homicide detectives need to wake up when they get the call at 3 am to go look at a body—it's that kind of coffee, I'm reasonably sure, Dostoevsky was drinking round the clock when he wrote The Brothers Karamazov.

How do you get your ideas for writing?

This question I'm not exactly sure how to answer, except to say, you want something that will produce a deep, emotive effect upon a reader's heart. I don't mean that an author should become dogmatic in presenting a story or its themes, because there simply is no room for dogmatism within art: yet a writer can share things, can offer things, I think even about very controversial subjects—God, sex, relationships and so on—if it's done as an offering, not as a decree or a pronouncement. I say this because I don't want things to be off topic when it comes to art; everything should be on the table because we all can learn from each other as it concerns these deep existential issues. I shouldn't condemn a work simply for its theme or message, even if it doesn't strictly concord with my worldview; there are still some parts of the work and its perceptions which might enhance my own, which might facilitate my own growth in some way. We—as a democracy, and in a deeper sense, a community of artists—truly have to take to heart this notion of being a marketplace of ideas. That's why I believe that works dealing with subjects like God and sexuality should be entertained no matter what perspective is being presented, as long as it's done with a spirit of offering, not propaganda—it's in this that the great value of art lies, not only to enable us to contemplate nature and beauty, but to serve as a vessel through which people can share with loving freedom their own deeply felt insights on these issues of cardinal importance to life and the human spirit.   

What do you like to read?

I'll be honest here: I tend towards the classics. What you might call my process begins with me sitting down and reading some literary genius for five or ten pages just to sort of quicken one's faculties for the work of writing. To learn to write well one has to read from someone who is a master of the craft; then the sentence structure, the grace and beauty with which he or she chooses and constructs phrases and sentences will be duly absorbed. I'm not saying that if one starts reading Hemingway that he or she will sit down and start writing five word sentences—though he certainly composed some rather lengthy and beautiful constructions as well—but it will have some sort of an effect on one's own composition.

What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?

Self-publishing is something I would encourage all writers to undertake, that is, if the sense of discouragement in them is becoming increasingly painful, not to say unbearable—which was true in my case, at least. Self-publishing, together with the internet, has changed the face of modern publishing, I think in a quite remarkable way that represents true progress for writers, for readers and for literature as a whole. The marketplace has opened up for a chorus of voices who all have something to offer—the public will then decide what is quality, where previously quality was a certain nebulous concept, some sort of abstruse notion floating in the ether grasped only by a small coterie of elite individuals wielding an almost absolute power without accountability. What was fair about any of this? Nothing at all—if the public didn't like the books chosen for them, they couldn't get works from unpublished writers, they had to wait for the "quality" cartel you might say to select what they saw fit for them: almost like parents choosing materials for children not mature or competent enough to do it for themselves. What is most ironic about all of this—and most appalling to be sure—is that these agents and publishers themselves are often ruthless and cruel in their estimations of writers, they possess colossal egos with very little or any competence behind all the bluster; these people literally drip with hubris and dole out scorn to good writers while they themselves little comprehend what literature is—there is simply a formula in their heads, a kind of crude taste that one either corresponds with or falls shy of—and that either makes a writer acceptable or someone who should find something else to do with their time. But writers must never listen to these people; they must believe in their vision and persevere. Self-publishing is really the salvation of literature in my opinion: it is the true marketplace where artists can express themselves freely and receive the true judgment of the public, of the people they are really attempting to reach. Furthermore it can take years to actually get signed by an agent—meanwhile the writer is waiting and waiting for income, for the book to get turned out into the public—and it may never happen. Self-publishing and the internet, the blogs, thank God have changed all that.


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