Sunday, November 29, 2009
FROM MALE STRIPPERS TO BALKANS - HOW I BECAME A WRITER PART 3
When I graduated from my four year college in 1996, I was getting over my ex-boyfriend and the crush on a guy I had in class hadn't showed interest in me. So what was I to do over the summer? I wrote my first romance novel. It was about a young landscaper working hard, barely making ends meet who finally gives in to become a male stripper. He forms a close relationship with one of his old classmates. But she is outraged when she finds out her ex-best friend working at a male strip club recruits him. I had painted the book cover, did another painting on the back. I went to the office store to buy plastic binders in a set holding 50 pages and binding about eight copies to give to my family and friends. The title was "Bare Asset". I was 23 years old. Following that year I moved to California, one of my dreams that came true. Although not the city, since I wanted to be in Southern California in Hollywood but winded up in Silicon Valley. I had written three short erotica stories into 1998. I got interested in sex positive feminism. I read books on feminism and the sex industry could collaborate together as a team, or as oppose creating great schism between the women activists. I joined a young feminist leadership club that met in Palo Alto, but none of them were that into learning about feminism within the adult entertainment industry. I stopped writing and wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. So I fell into a depression. I had insomnia for three months due to the moving away from my roots in New York had finally caught up with me. I didn't have many friends because it was hard to meet people. I didn't go to college in California. But slowly joining groups I developed some friendships. I began dating again and had put off writing to try to hunt for a better job in a bigger company. No success at that so I was in a career pit. Until one day right before 9/11 something significant happened that eventually put my writing career back on track. And in full force.
I won't say who or how but I formed my latest hero prototype that many wouldn't find in romance novels. Croatian and Bosnian men. They were all over. I met them at the church, in bars, and in restaurants. They had handsome DNA. They were flirtatious. They were confident and comfortable with themselves and they all wore nice clothes. They were tall, masculine, had distinct face shapes, mixed with dark Mediterranean features. And some knew how to be very romantic. The downside was that their views on men and women's roles were still traditional. Which presented a challenge to my feminism. But since I hadn't wound up in a serious relationship or marriage with any of them, it helped to keep painting my romantic fantasies. They were family men, chivalrous and wanted to take care of their ladies. So my second novel was about a Croatian falling in love with an American woman. But he had a secret. He worked for the Russian mob - involved in gas bootlegging scams. The title I came up with wasn't too appealing to many, but it was hard for me to come up with anything else. "Bad Fuel". Fuel, associated with the gas scams. Again, I made a cartoon drawing and reproduced it as a poster.
I fell in love with my characters and fantasized a lot about what they wore. Even my supporting characters. So after completing my first draft, I created paper dolls of them (above).
The next year I aggressively bought the Writers Market book because I finally wanted to get something published. I thought my writing was more suitable for "Bad Fuel" than "Bare Asset". And then I ran across an organization called Romance Writers of America. I attended their Silicon Valley chapter meeting. I joined right away without thinking it through from sitting at the meeting. The next monthly meeting, people submitted their first three pages of their novel to be read aloud. When mine was read, I was a boiling with sweat. And the criticisms flew through the roof. For a whole year, I realized I knew nothing about writing a romance novel. I sat through workshops learning about goal, motivation, conflict. They must have happy endings. If the hero is a bad boy, show that he is really good inside. I attended the RWA conference held in Reno in 2005. In one query workshop, the editor at a publishing company I won't mention, read everyone's query letter out loud. She was blunt and would make fun of some she didn't like. When mine came up, she ripped it to pieces, while tears were running down my cheeks like wild fire. And the "Bad Fuel" title had got to go as she had concluded. I worked another year on improving it, but no such luck as I received low scores from entering in contests. When I became involved in another close relationship, the passion in making the story better fizzled out. I had no other ideas for another book as some members advised me to think about. I was once again, falling into another pit. Not to mention my boyfriend was emotionally abusive towards me with his absurd jokes. Here's a picture of me at an 80's party, about seven months before beginning to write "Living With the Ex". Happy but torn inside.
When I finally broke up with my boyfriend the next year I thought a part of me was lost. I watched all my peers getting hooked up and married while I remained cynical about dating in my mid-thirties. I lost hope in ever finding a decent guy again. So I reverted back to my fantasy guy. Another story had been brewing in my head for the past year and it finally came out on paper or should I say Word. Summer of 2007; In the middle of my sorrows on relationships and a series of friendships gone wrong, I started my next novel that will be "THE ONE". It involved a sexy Bosnian player who made up a story to break up with a feisty chick from Brooklyn.
Two years later, she got her revenge by moving into his townhouse for a new reality show "Living With the Ex". And 2010 will be the year when it all unfolds.