Alongside our Inside the Writers Corner series, the Green Rover is launching the About [insert work] series as well. Here we’ll get a preview of the creative process behind published short stories as the writer’s discuss everything from influences, initial ideas, themes, motifs, intentions and the gruelling process itself.
Just like our Inside the Writers Corner series, this series will start off with James Antanov who has published his own short story on this very blog and today will be talking about his work. So, let’s talk about As the Sun Rises;
I always had and have an urge to write yet I almost never act on this impulse which, when I indulge in it, is truly enjoyable and a stimulating experience. I am much more a collector of ideas and scraps of prose than a compulsive grinder who might put themselves to the stone and work away until some crude style and individuality is honed. Rather I employ a much slower, less efficient and all round unproductive approach. I barely ever write yet when I do I love it. It, and reading, are two of a few truly great things that feel meaningful in my young and sometimes meaningless life.
I’ve been an admirer of many writers since my birth (ignore me for I am not a prodigy), although I am not of that school of thought that reads Shakespeare at three months old because their parents feel it an ‘education’. My tastes come from my parents as well as my own wanderings and meanderings in bookshops and from the libraries of friends. Among the true greats and those folk that changed my view of the world are writers like Cormac McCarthy, who directly influenced the short story I wrote, As the Sun Rises. His apocalyptic descriptions and crazed plots and characters are quite beyond this world we inhabit. Others like Joseph Conrad and John Steinbeck are truly fantastic. Science fiction has a huge spot in my heart but that is a little out of the way of the American West as a setting. McCarthy’s books Outer Dark and Blood Meridian are perhaps some of the greatest American novels ever and seem to encapsulate the whole universe within the eyes of a single person or in the brief moments of a battle or the lightning of a distant storm, he captures images and descriptions I never thought existed or possible. I feel compelled to quote him and do these books justice,
“…the scene compressed into a kind of depthlessness so that the black woods beyond them hung across his eyes oppressively and the man seemed to be seated in the fire itself, cradling the flames to his body as if there were something there beyond all warning”.
This excerpt from Outer Dark is just one of dozens that I would love to quote but I feel one must experience the book for it is truly remarkable maybe even his best.
Travel and adventure books about the real world like the Account of the Narvaez Expedition or An Account of the Destruction of the Indies are quite shocking looks in at the early relationships between the European explorers and colonists and the native peoples. My love of writers is deeply rooted in the American and though I have read little of their work, people like Hemmingway and Philip Roth are some of the greats but they are not really influences on me. In writing this piece I am realising just how little I have read and how ignorant I am of the subject.
My love of the American West and also my interest in the paintings of Frederic Edwin Church and the photographs of Ansel Adams are great romantic visions of the West but I also like nihilistic, apocalyptic view that McCarthy takes and I try to focus on the West as some other world, not made for the newcomers, alien and foreboding. It hazards and viciousness are truly incredible and the imagery of a land left unfinished by God (not that he exists but I maintain a faint idealism in these matters) is something that I think is important and recontextualises the people in it. The chaotic destruction by the Europeans of the Americas not to mention the brutality of all those involved in the centuries of conflict seems to me like an endless war, never heeding and constantly raging from coast to coast like war till the end of time.
In terms of my intention in writing, in this story As the Sun Rises and my overall intentions concerning stories, I try to focus on perception. Of the world, people, the landscape, the things we never notice, moods, atmospheres and so on. In perceiving the world in the way I hope to succeed I aim to re-contextualise things like people and their actions and so on to extrude new meaning like paralleling an old man to a knot in a tree, he becomes something more than a man but a relic and a bystander to time. My stories, of which I hope to publish many more very soon, are heavily weighted toward aesthetics and the atmosphere equally as to the plot and character. In short I aim to produce a prose that create a universe for the reader that is unlike anything seen or imagined before. I do not bother with too much grammar as I feel it then turns the page into a myriad of symbols and becomes a navigation between character and description. I prefer to make simple declarative sentences with similes and separate sentences for further, more metaphorical descriptions. I may be a rationalist but the good ole romantic deep inside always comes to say hello and taint my writing.
My process of actually sitting and writing is fairly simple and quick. I always write with pen and paper and only use a computer if I am aiming to publish work like this very piece. I never plan stories out and always write things as they come out of my mind, I never rewrite and never use diagrams. I simply follow my intuition and write until I can no longer. This does however mean I must sit for hours and hours to maintain the spirit or tone of a piece. I love the quality of writing on paper more than anything else and though slow it is far more satisfying to read over it than a screen.
I hope this was not a pretentious drawl and I hope you have read the story before this or it may shake off any mystery or idealism that I hope the story captures. And as Horace Mann once said,
“A house without books is like a room without windows”.