First things first: Don’t forget to follow the #StrangeLit blog tours. Which will be going on for the rest of the month!
My featured author for today is Therese Barleta. She’s a good friend–smart, armed with beautiful words, but is one that isn’t very fond of people-ing. (Like me.) So I thought, what better way to open her up to people than to force her to write something that will give everyone else an inside look at that big brain of hers. (There’s also an interview coming up from another friend of ours. We are, as the author will say behind the cut, “sadistic” like that. :p)
Read more to learn about her and her #StrangeLit story, When It Rains In Mystic River.
Personal Taste, An Aim Towards Substantive Writing
and The Things That Matter to Us.
by Therese Barleta
Being given free-reign to write about something is one of the most horrifying things that you can do to a novice writer. Because fledglings like us–or myself at least, need direction, a mother duck to follow around while I do the duckling wobble through this thing called writing.
But because I’m friends with wonderfully sadistic people, Chi Yu Rodriguez told me “You can write whatever you want, it’s your guest post so it’s your call.” Great. Super.
A guest post?
Before she could even tell me “again, it’s your call,” I’ve already answered my own question in a socratic manner.
Yeah but what do I write?
What do we usually write about?
Things that matter to us.
As surely as I arrive at my answer, I also arrive at another question, because that’s dialectics for you: So what is “writing the things that matter?” How do you go about it?
Now, this is very subjective. It varies from person to person, but let me get at my own idea of what I think matters when I write: The technical aspects of writing and the themes we choose to address when we write.
On the technical plane, It matters to me that my story be substantive in a way that I’m not just unfolding a series of events to a reader, but also that what i’m saying, is saying something and that no part of the process is ham-fisted.
Nuances matter, layering matters, all on top of everything that should already be covered by good writing: good characterizations, good prose. (And yes, I struggle with all of the above, thus why ‘Aim’ is a keyword in the title.) I view writing as something very organic such that the technical is closely weaved with the thematic and both work together to serve a single function and purpose: arriving at a narrative that explores the human experience–and even better if it raises questions about it. These are the things that I try to aim at when shaping a story at the most basic level and as a reader, I enjoy it immensely when these things are fulfilled in a work that I am reading.
Fulfilling goals, I feel, gets more complicated when the story has to be a certain genre however. Priorities shift. With StrangeLit, I admittedly struggled with the challenge that it must revolve around the paranormal. I like moody and atmospheric and feel that the paranormal is scarier in a bleak place so I set it in a gloomy, rainy Boston, the neighborhoods near the Mystic River and put two desperate characters in that setting, one a paranormal being (half human at least), one a human criminal, gave both of them a struggle with their identities and then hoped everything would work well.
Paranormal to me was an opportunity not only to write about strange things that happen but also a good chance to explore something that I feel isn’t always explored in paranormal stories: an intimate and grounded exploration of character experiences, in this case, specifically it’s the feeling of being an ‘other’.
Paranormal is essentially something outside the norm so I thought it felt natural to have central characters that were living with the feeling of marginalization and alienation. We have Naomi, who has strange powers, she doesn’t know who she is or what she is–which is also a parallel of her situation of being an adolescent. Whether you are paranormal or not, it’s a time when you don’t know who you are yet, or what you could become, it’s a time where the other people can easily influence your being. It’s a time when you want most to fit in–and Naomi is experiencing that twice as a paranormal teen.The few adults are that are in her life are basically absent–her estranged father, her missing mother so she’s really very alone during a crucial decision-making process, or at least that was how she felt.
And then finally have Seth who, while he is an adult, is also a member of a marginalized sector of society because of his “occupation” and he is as trapped in this stake in life as Naomi is. It’s a kind of reversed position where one wants to be human to belong in society, and the other a human who for the most part of his life is trying to fly under the radar and be as undetectable as a ghost. They’re both scrambling for an “out” together, but only one of them makes it.
Lastly, what matters to me is that hopefully, the things I try to achieve gets through to the audience.It would mean a great deal to me that what the story is trying to communicate is understood. I know it’s on me to execute it well, but I’m not sure if I am actually achieving that goal so this guest post exists to at least fulfill that last part, ironically, in a ham-fisted sort of way.
About The Author
Therese Barleta is a human anomaly. This chill frat man trapped inside a 12-year-old girl’s body enjoys HBO and Netflix a little too much. She likes reading and writing depressing stuff. Contact Therese at AuthorThereseBarleta@gmail.com