Saturday, March 25, 2006

20 Questions? Here's Number 2:

Oh, great. Now I have a visual of Tom Arnold saying, "Show that turd who's boss." (a scene from Austin Powers) Let's just give that a courtesy flush and move on.

2) How do you, as a writer, deal with your family?

Two weeks ago my daughter found my website while showing her students how to research their families online. She left a comment here on the blog. Later that day, my mom commented. Mom has had the link for months, and shared it with most of the extended family. I'm sure many of them occasionally read my blog. My daughter, my oldest son, my mom, and most of my brothers have read Transit Gloria.

From the comments on Number 1:

Tanya said, "I cringe about... the love scenes I write. Just thinking about my agent and NY editors reading them makes me nervous. It's embarrassing."

Dana said, "...the only folks who ever complained were my own family. They take everything I write as if it really happened to me somehow."

Cece said, "I have written a book (it's not done) that I KNOW will catch me a ton of flack from my family. Do I care? Some."

Kitty added this, "My mother read my short story You Won't Tell, Will You Rigby? and was shocked- SHOCKED! - that the woman turned to prostitution to help pay the rent."

"Where did you ever get such an idea?"
"It's fiction, Mom!"
"But good Lord, you had her do THAT?"
"You're outraged that she turned to prostitution but you weren't shocked that she killed a man?"
"No, because he deserved it!"

I try to be fearless when I write. I don't make my narrator (my protagonist, my POV character) look like a comic book hero. They have inappropriate relationships, dark, hidden desires, and occasionally do things that shock even themselves. All of those things find themselves torn from somewhere deep inside my psyche and placed on the page. I'm not a murderer, but I can find the emotions that make a murderer not too far under the surface. Sometimes it's frightening, sometimes it's embarassing, and sometimes it's just damned weird - "Where the hell did that come from?"

It's hard enough to share those things with strangers, but sharing them with friends and family? Cringe

My family has decided they are all characters in my books.

In One scene in Transit Gloria, John Mallory discovers Reno Sanders having sex inside a car in a public park. When a woman slides over the front seat into the back, John doesn't recognize her, but is amazed to see she is wearing nothing but pantyhose - in a public park - in the middle of the day.

My mom told me that when she read the scene she was trying to remember if she ever did anything like that. She added that she wasn't sure she wanted her grandkids to read my book. One of my brothers hasn't spoken to me since he picked up his copy of my book. I'm not sure there is a cause and effect relationship, but I have to wonder. I also wonder if my family has realized that if they are the characters they think they are, then one of us is a murderer... hmmmm.

How do you deal with family? Do you not let them read your writing? Do you tailor your writing to their sensibilities? Do you just lay it all out on the table?

"That's how you become great, man. You hang your balls out there."

-Kinko's Guy, Jerry Maguire (stolen from Agent 007's blog - she's back)

p.s. Here's an invitation to check out my photography. The key to great photography is taking hundreds of pictures, but maybe showing the public just one - isn't writing a bit like that, as well?

Mark Pettus,
Saturday, March 25, 2006

24 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger kitty, Blogger serenity, Blogger Lady M, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Amie Stuart, Blogger Michele, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger Jeff, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger M. G. Tarquini, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Shesawriter, Blogger Adam Hurtubise, Blogger Moni, Blogger S. W. Vaughn, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Blogger Candice Gilmer, Anonymous alexandra, Blogger Amie Stuart, Anonymous Anonymous, Blogger Savannah Jordan,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 4:39 PM Blogger kitty said...

First of all -- GREAT photography! I'm an amateur photographer; my father was a professional before I was born.

I like your word "fearless" when describing writing. I've really got to work on that because it does hinder the story. It's worse than writer's block.

at 5:04 PM Blogger serenity said...

I like this game.

Because a lot of my writing stems from events in my life, I used to have a problem letting my family read it. Probably goes back to my very first story ever, when I was four years old. I wrote about a girl who thought her parents didn't love her, so she ran away. I showed it to my mom, and she got very upset - she said, "Do you really feel that way?"

My first instinct now in those situations is to cry, "It's just a story! Don't you get that?"

But I've come to realize that yeah, I do really feel that way.

Since my mom started writing a few years ago, it's become a sort of interpersonal therapy between us. She reads my work, I read her work, and through our characters' relationships with those around them, we now know what we really think of each other. She recognizes scenes in my stories and I recognize scenes in her stories, and some of them are based on things that happened between us in the past, and we get a little perspective on things.

I still wonder, though, what she thinks of the scene in which my main character severes her father's penis in revenge for abusing her as a child.

Some things just may be better off unknown.

at 11:59 PM Blogger Lady M said...


I try very hard not to write about that which I know has happened in my life that someone else may read and can go "AHA - That's ME!"

I definetely dislike hurting people's feelings, and some of my stories could have things in them that would insult, embarrass, mortify or anger others, if they were true pieces of my life - at least, I think they might.

So I tend to stay away from things that have actually happened and choose to imagine things that didn't.

My works are 99.9% fiction, so that works well.

On a second note: Your pictures are very well done. There were a few that I went ----- "OOOOOOOOhhhh" on.

For me, it was the manatee and the b&w of the farmhouse(?) through the trees with the moss on it.

The one that made me look 3 or four times was the boarded up window...

And the rest were asthetically pleasing - but those really made me look. I call photos that make me look... story tellers. Pictures that when you see them, a story starts in your mind...

Good work - please, feel free to post more --- and maybe post the stories behind them.

Lady M

at 4:56 AM Blogger Bernita said...

Some writers would use their grandmother's guts for copy, others bleed over whether families disown them if they use a singular bad word, most of us are somewhere in between.

at 9:07 AM Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I think family (and even friends) alwasy try to see themselves in your work. I think it's human nature--as a rule we think it's all about us. =)

Which is the nice thing about writing smut. I doubt anyone's gonna look to closely LOL However, I dont' ever want to know if my dad reads any of my erotica--there's a definite ick factor involved.

My family knows I write but they don't even know my pen name, so at this point, catching flack about my writing or anything I put on the blog is moot.

at 9:45 AM Blogger Michele said...

I cannot speak to the writing ..haven't gotten that far to have the right to an opinion.

Now the photos are a different matter. They are truly astounding. The first one brings to mind Alred Hitchcock's The Birds, which I LOVE.

I amazed at the photo of the oldest school house... amazed that the termites haven't gotten it yet.

What in the world was that grey thing in the water?
The pawprints remind me of racoons ... what were they?
I'm partial to ocean scenes, flora, fauna, wildlife...doesn't matter, it's awesome!
Thanks for the invite to view, wouldn't have missed it for anything!
Florida, right? Wow! Look at those missles!
This was fun!

at 10:07 AM Blogger anne frasier said...

many people who aren't creative have an impossible time grasping the concept of fiction. they just don't think that way. i remember my grandmother reading one of my first books and insisting that the main character was kenny rogers. she was really annoyed that i didn't reveal that he was kenny by the end of the book.

every reader brings herself to a book. some also bring kenny.

at 10:13 AM Blogger Jeff said...

I'll repeat here what I said on Bernita's blog concerning this.

Not long ago my stepmother said to me, "There must be something wrong with the people who write some of the sick stuff I've seen written." I directed her toward a couple of my more "descriptive" short stories and she said, "I worry about you!"
I tried to explain creative imagination to her, but I don't think she understood.

at 10:58 AM Blogger anne frasier said...

oh, this brings back some memories. many relatives thought i had to pay to be published, and they shook their heads over how i was being scammed by city slickers. :D

at 11:57 AM Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

I write what I know. I know my family.

Good thing we're all comedians.

at 12:58 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

My mother says I have gratuitous sex to pander to the public - mmm-hmm - hasn't stopped her from reading EVERYTHING I write. The mom-in-law pretty much told me her parents went bazerk when they read the warning label on my new release!

My kids- I have written short kids' stories just for them - they will never get published but when asked the boys can say they have read their mom's work - and that is all they will read of mine if I can help it!

at 1:11 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Kitty - Thanks for the compliment. Writing is such a solitary act that I can usually be fearless while I'm composing. It is only when I'm revising that I have to fight the urge to pare out all of the painful parts.

Serenity - Your comments are a great example of what I would label fearless writing.

Lady M - Thank you. It's interesting that you single out the manatee picture. It was the one photo in the bunch that I wasn't sure I wanted to include. I'm glad you liked it.

Bernita - I think I lean toward the grandma's guts end of the scale, but it sure sounds bad when you put it that way.

Cece - I was very curious how authors of erotica dealt with their family. Tanya's comments about editors and agents reading her love scenes made me wonder how she felt about Mom reading them - or DAD.

Michelle - Thanks. I think you mean the manatee - or sea cow. They say that when sailors reported seeing mermaids in the Saribbean, they were actually seeing manatees. No wonder they quit letting sailors have daily rations of rum.

Anne - I have tears in my eyes from laughing - re. Kenny Rogers. I'm not fearless enough to tell you why Kenny Rogers, my family, and getting scammed by city slickers all go together. Maybe someday over a beer...

Jeff - That reminds me of a story that has nothing to do with writing - when I was 12 or 13, a couple of my buddies and I took a plastic baby doll and covered it with ketchup then threw it onto the highway - It seemed funny at the time. One of my buds' dad told us "some sicko" had thrown a baby onto the freeway. Guess you had to be pre-adolescent to see the humor.

at 1:19 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Dennie - Just to be clear, you said you "have gratuitous sex to pander to the public?"

How come I never meet girls like you?

The idea of writing two different genres just so you can show your family what you do is a unique answer. I'm guessing you write under a nom d'plume?

at 1:41 PM Blogger Shesawriter said...


I just checked out the pics and boy, do you have one hell of an eye. Great job, bud!


at 3:49 PM Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...


In and of itself, that post was fearless.

I've often had the same questions and the same thoughts.

My dad recently discovered my blog. He said he liked it. My mother knows about it but has yet to read it. My wife and kids don't read it.

And they're all over the place on my fiction, too. My parents read my novel early on and liked it. My wife didn't read it until after my agents started submitting it to publishers.

They all work overtime to figure out which characters I've based on them.

The novel I'm working on now is quite a bit darker, so I'm hoping they have a field day trying to figure out which characters I've based on them.

The answer is none, just like with the other novel, but it's fun to watch.

Great, great post.


at 5:48 PM Blogger Moni said...

My parents have read all my lyrics and listened to all my songs. I learned a valuable lesson my first time in a studio. My friend who was recording a song we had co-written, sang a phrase incorrectly. The studio owner and 20 year music veteran could see the look on my face. He stopped the recording and asked me what was wrong. Not wanting to offend the singer/my friend, I reluctantly told him that she had sang one word incorrectly. I said that it was okay though, because it still worked. He told me to never, ever compromise my lyrics for the sake of someone else.

If you believe in your work, if you believe in yourself and if you write with integrity staying true to yourself, then never compromise. If your loved ones can't see your work as anything other than offensive to them, well they'll just have to get over it.

Just my humble opinion. :)

BTW--your pics are wonderful.

at 7:58 PM Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

Hey Mark, how's them pay-the-bills gigs treatin' you? :-)

Well, let's see... my family. My mom is enthusiastic about everything and tries real hard to pretend all the violence in my books doesn't bother her. Many of my relatives don't believe I wrote "this stuff" because I'm just so damned nice. And my son and two nephews, ages 8, 9, and 10, really want to read my books because there's swearing in them.

Family rocks. :-)

at 9:58 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Tanya - thank you.

Adam - I think most of my character are mostly me, and a little bit of a lot of somebody elses. BUT, the things I've experienced didn't happen in a vacuum, so I can't blame my family for thinking they are tied to the story somehow, especially since the setting probably seems familiar to them.

Moni - Your second paragraph deserves to be framed. Thank you.

S.W. - Being a reporter beats working for a living, but not by much.

A ten year old has a special relationship with swear words - he knows all of them, but only uses them in special, secret circumstances that never involve anyone older than twelve. Unlike you and me, he also knows what they mean, since he looked them up in the dictionary.

at 10:02 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

um - nope, I write under my real birth/married into name - the kid stuff I have written is just for them.

...and it depends on your opinion of gratuitous =)

at 3:17 PM Blogger Candice Gilmer said...

I'm pretty blessed in that I get a great deal of personal support. Course, there are a few things I've done I wouldn't let my grandmother read, not because I'm worried about exposing her to sex or anything like that, more the stuff I wouldn't give her, or expect her to read would be the more science fiction stuff I work on... She's 81, I can't expect her to grasp another galaxy and people with blue skin. :)

at 4:09 PM Anonymous alexandra said...

I think CeCe hits the nail on the head, although a lot of my characters and the situations they find themselves in, are amalgams, but friends and family still think I'm writing about them.

at 4:35 PM Blogger Amie Stuart said...

The book I mentioned, that you quoted me on, will probably catch more flack than (almost) any erotica I write.

Regardless, I told all the major players in the family when I sold (that it was erotica). If they have issues with it, I figure that's not my problem.

Yeah I know, that's sorta messed up, huh?

at 8:14 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the sad truth - most of my family wouldn't read a book written in my genre if it was given to them with a $20 attached to it. And you know what? I'm absolutely fine with it. The one time I allowed family members to read a novel of mine, it was the first one I had written and that's when I learned a valuable lesson - be very selective in terms of who can read the drafts. Oftentimes strangers can give better feedback than family, for all of the reasons already mentioned on this post.

Does it hurt when a family member completely rips apart something I write with little or no logic behind the critique (for instance, "Well I read thrillers and you should write a thriller. This literature stuff just isn't going to do it ..." and then all of the advice of how to write a thriller begins (by a non-writer, but she's read enough to know more than your typical Josephine). The answer is yes, it can hurt. But there will always be folks who won't like my writing style nor my writing. And that's just the honest truth. No author can please all readers.

I think I'm done babbling now.

at 10:55 AM Blogger Savannah Jordan said...

Hey, Mark. Thanks for dropping in on my blog. I appreciate that!

As you can imagine, with my chosen genre, it's more than awkward with my family. LOL I thought my Mum was going to stroke out when my sister let that cat out of the bag. My hubby still seems uncomfortable about it all. And, I am trying very hard to keep the truth of my Savannah shorts from the in-laws. THAT will not be pretty...


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