Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Letting go of Tony

What a fantastic year I’ve had. A hat trick - three books published in three different genres. 

THE BRAND DEMAND, my first completed novel, my first mystery, first sex scene, first publisher east of the Mississippi. Controversial, cathartic. Unread. Sigh.

CELESTE, the continuation of my best-selling, much-loved YA series THE UNSEEN. A love letter to my families—broken, whole and healing.

And now THE FINGER TRAP, the first Tony Flaner mystery.

Of all my books, this one, THE FINGER TRAP, is the most personal. Each one is a part of me, a dissection of some part of my psyche, some vexing question I’m trying to get at, some itch I need to scratch, some reliving of some trauma. Each protagonist, each character is a reflection of me, the author. But then there’s Tony Flaner.

A couple of dapper Flaneurs
Tony is an everyman slacker. He’s had an easy life. He’s had more hobbies than you’ve had socks, more jobs than you’ve had shoes. He’s a lazy smart-ass in a world of trouble—divorce, generational alienation and murder. Yeah, murder.

Okay, Tony Flaner is not exactly me, actually pretty far afield in most ways, but what what he represents, by action, speech, and attitude is what I wish for. What that is, I have represented in the very structure of the book, by it’s indulgence, tangents and length.

Let me explain.

It all comes from a pun of the name. I pun lots of names. Most of them actually. They’re cues for me so I remember who and what they're about. Eleanor ANDERS - (Anders comes from the Danish for “change”). GALEN Reed (Galen is a doctor who cures ills). 

Charles Baudelaire
— the king of fun!
And now, dear world, Tony FLANER. Flaner is a reference to Charles Baudelaire’s concept of the Flaneur, a "stroller," "lounger," "saunterer," or "loafer." Believe it or not, these are not bad attributes. Wrapped within this concept is the idea of Carpe Diem, "seize the day." There was an architectural movement developed around this concept. If you’ve ever gone to a park and taken a path that weaves and turns, goes out of its way to this tree, that fountain, that other bench over ther before arriving, that is the application of the concept of Flaneur. There’s a destination to be sure, but the journey is not to be missed. This is the lesson that I explored in my murder mystery, mid-life-crisis, coming of age modern noir social satire, THE FINGER TRAP. Really.

The book is deliberately long. Originally, I had it at 150,000 words because I’d heard that was the maximum word count for a novel before you had to call it something else, like an “epic” or a “cinderblock.” That was meta - the form speaking to the content in the art. The long pleasant journey. Editors and agents, publishers and common sense cut it back to a tight (?) 125K, but it’s still long as it was intended.

The book is voiced. It’s tangental. It’s indulgent. It’s funny. There’s a solid connecting plot leading the journey but the story is the Flaneur, or Flaner.

Tony’s not perfect. Oh, god no. In a sense, I may have created an ideal of attitude, but he also has the vices of his virtue. He’s lazy, flippant, weak, selfish, opinionated, often out of touch, and ultimately a vicim of his own capriciousness—he’s never finished a thing in his life. He’s an “eighty-percenter” — he goes so far in a thing but then when it gets tough, when he’s got to double down to go farther, he loses interest and gives up.

This is much me.

But I’m trying to do better.

Tony’s array of hobbies, his collection of jobs, is a mirror to my own wanderings. And the book, his book, my book—THE FINGER TRAP is again Meta in that I pushed past the eighty percent and saw it through. I wrote it, worked it, pushed it and never gave up on it until now, here, this month, it’s alive and in print.

Upon each new book release I feel a certain vulnerability, but this one is different. There’s a zen here even though this is the most “out there” title I’ve ever published. It is the most daring, experimental, vulgar, personal and fun. People will either love it or hate it; I foresee little middle ground. That's all okay, because it is unabashedly what it is. For that reason, I think, I am strangely calm about letting Tony loose.

I love this book. It is an icon on my shelf, a triumph in my life, a holy artifact of tenacity and success in a sea of weakness and failures. It overcame rejection and its own limitations. I’m proud of it. It’s good. It has pieces of every genre I like and then some. It still bursts me to laughter when I read it (Chapter 6 is a masterpiece, if I say so myself) and years after it was conceived, written, and shopped, I still completely relate to what and why Tony does what he does. It speaks to me as if the writer had known my very soul. 

I pray THE FINGER TRAP is popular and finds an audience because I have written three Tony Flaner mysteries so far, but in truth, for this book, the “Ideal Reader,” as Stephen King would say, has always been me.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re still required to buy a copy. Maybe two. Three would be best, just load up your Christmas list with them. Send the gift of saunter, a fun journey of a whodunnit filled with adult tantrums, sarcasm, local color and far away places. Feel free to like it, feel free to love it, feel free to relate. Feel free.

Thanks Tony!

When the only way out is deeper in…

A voice-driven, modern noir, comedy, coming of age, mid-life crisis, 
social satire, detective mystery. 
With quiche.

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