More About the Author
So, here is where I am supposed to tell you where I was born, how many kids I have, and the names of my dog and cat. You know, "Just the facts, ma'am," like on the old "Dragnet" TV show. Instead, I'm going to risk embarrassing myself and offer a glimpse of who I really am, and explain why I write fiction. Hopefully, by telling you why I'm compelled to write, you'll find a reason to want to read me. I suppose we'll see.
It began like this: When I was in the 9th grade, my English teacher assigned the class to read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Everyone hated it to varying degrees. Except me. I connected with the story, or at least to the book's unusual structure and playful language. Right in Chapter Two it says "Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time." Well, I did listen. And I became unstuck. I began to fall into the flow of stories rushing inside my head. I reread Slaughterhouse-Five and said "I can do this." Then, trying to pen a Vonnegutesque-like short story, I soon realized "there's no way I can do this," but I want to. I would spend a decade studying and learning the craft, finding my own voice, before I could write anything that anybody would actually want to read. But I'm jumping ahead. First, as a hopeful, awkward teen, I proudly gave my father some scribbled pages I'd written - my very first story. My dad graciously spent the next twenty-minutes reading my masterpiece before setting it on the coffee table and returning to his newspaper. His face offered no expression of approval or rejection. Impatient, nervous, I mustered the courage to ask him what he thought. He looked over his reading glasses and said, "If people could make money writing, everyone would write." I said nothing in reply. Have you ever been kicked in the stomach? Yeah, it was like that. So it goes.
Okay, so writing became my secret shame. I would take a spiral notebook into the bathroom, close the lid on the commode, and take a seat with the notebook on my knees. I would ignore my mom's knocks on the door and her asking me "are you okay in there." Being questioned about constipation was better than being accused of fiction writing. In that tiny bathroom, I began to fall into the flow. That is, the stories started writing themselves. No, that's not exactly true. The stories existed independently of me and I tried to jot them down without screwing them up. (This is why I needed years to learn the craft.) It was like watching a movie, but not a regular movie or even a 3D movie. It was like watching a 4D movie where you're not only present within the scene but also inside everyone's head at the same time. A lot of people ask author's where they get their ideas from. Mine come from the flow. I don't really get to decide what I write. Writing is a submissive, passive thing to do. It's like slipping on ice. Maybe a lot of the creative arts are like this. I have a friend who is a sculptor. When I asked her how she decides what to sculpt, she said, "The stone tells me. I look at the stone and see who or what needs to be released." And I nodded politely in agreement, while inwardly attributing her perception to all the pot she smokes. But maybe it's true. Stories are rescued like that. At least for me they are. The tales may be scary or humorous, or dramatic, I just try to capture them in words on paper without effing them up too badly. The funny thing is, sometimes I write horror even though I'm too scared to read horror. I don't even watch horror movies because I can have nightmares for days afterward. Yet my novella, The Unwanted, is a chilling story, and my first full-length novel, Dead Soul Mary (February 2014,) is an extended, character-driven, supernatural thriller with pervasive frights. Go figure. Incidentally, Dead Soul Mary was nearly lost to the Hurricane Sandy tidal surge that claimed my house, car, and personal property, including my computer that I stupidly did not have backed-up. I lifted the tower PC from the floor as the seawater filled our home. Whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, you can decide for yourself.
So, now, if I was following the unofficial Author Bio template, I would name the dozens of literary and mainstream authors, the giants of fiction, who have influenced my writing. There's been many, but I won't bore you with a list of men and women who write better than me. Moreover, I'm supposed to include my adventurous and electrifying life experiences so you'll know I'm competent to write an exciting book. Unfortunately, I'm not a mountain climber or a combat veteran or a bullfighter, so you'll have to settle for a writer who crafts stories about fully-realized people, often placed in extraordinary or supernatural circumstances. I wish I could say I've lived the life of a typical mainstream fiction protagonist ; that I've traversed deserts as a Green Beret, boxed five rounds with Sugar Ray Leonard on a bar bet, or worked as an FBI mole to bring down a ruthless organized crime boss, but I haven't. Nor have I done anything other than intensely reading and writing to learn and hone my craft. I don't have an MFA in creative writing from an Ivy League university. I don't network, hobnob with other authors, or keep a writer's blog. I don't teach creative writing at a community college. Although my work has been published within small press publications that nobody reads, I have never been published in the Iowa Review, the Paris Review, The Threepenny Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, or any other literary journals with names ending in the word "Review". I have never worn snug, sequined women's undies while typing in order to try and write better female characters. Really, I haven't. And I have never been awarded any big literary prizes from "juried" committees that like to dole out such recognition. So, in other words, I'm a lot like you with the possible exception that I devote my time to fiction writing. Hopefully, you'll give a little of your time and try one of my books or short stories -- you might be pleasantly surprised. If you do, please post a review on Amazon to let me know your thoughts. You can also email me at MJWinn@jandaypublishing.com I'd love to hear from you.