Hello people, friends and foes! What a ride writing Hunter’s Trap has been: fast, sometimes furious, most of the time scary, and always fun. I’m back for a quickie: a dear friend of mine has plunged into indie publishing and I had to share his wonderful books with you guys. So here is Adam Sydney and Yolanda Polanski and the bus to Sheboygan (come back soon for our chat over his other book).
me: Hello Adam, welcome to your first interview. Would you like to say something to my dear followers?
AS:Hi Anne, I am very honored that you would like to interview me! It’s my first interview ever, so I’m very excited, too. Thank you!
me: For those of you who don’t know, Adam and I met in England as we both completed a Master’s in screenwriting at the University of London. So, dear friend, let me hear about YOUR reasons for deciding to quit screenwriting and prose it up into novels, instead.
AS: Why did I stop screenwriting? Well, I don’t look at it as completely over, to be honest– more of a hiatus. My last two screenplays were extremely experimental (read: no one would ever buy them), and although I think that they had the most merit of the screenplays I’d written, I realized that I wanted to share my work with other people, rather than just having it sit in my computer, being all avant garde.
A while back, I went to the American Film Institute to study screenwriting, and everyone there told me that as a screenwriter, I’d make a great novelist. I’d actually tried it back then (horrible result), but three years ago, I thought I’d give it another go. I’d read The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and in that particular edition, Michael Chabon described how he’d written the book in his parents’ basement or something. For some reason, this really inspired me, so I wrote my first novel. I enjoyed the experience so much that I’ve just kept writing prose.
AS: I’m so glad to hear that the characters in my writing are working for you, because the characters really are the most important element to me. I try my best to step out of the picture and let my characters run the show, which really feels like a weight off my shoulders (even though that makes no logical sense).
That’s not too unusual in novels, but I think my secondary interest in story is less commonplace. I believe an emphasis on story really does help readers connect with characters in a way that nothing else can. As a screenwriter, I’ve been trained to focus on story first and foremost. But I was just at a book store yesterday in search of some newer writing (at least newer than 19th Century), and read several covers. Most of the synopses I came across for the newer, literary novels seemed to indicate that the books were really situations, rather than stories. “A group of people living together,” “a town in turmoil,” “a woman who goes back home after being away for years”– that sort of thing. I most enjoy books in which the narrative really moves forward, rather than being focused mostly on a place and the internal thoughts and feelings that occur there. I think that bias is reflected in my writing.
I wonder what my influences are! I love Jane Austen, Henry James, William Faulkner, E.M. Forster, and Edith Wharton. I think that these writers certainly develop engaging characters, but I’m not consciously inspired by any of their work. I certainly remember being inspired by films in my past and then writing similar screenplays, but that doesn’t seem to happen with my novels. Of course, that’s only as far as I can recognize it; I think that other people might be much more likely to recognize influences in my work better than I can.
Have you spotted any? I’d love to know!
me: You do have a certain vibe of Austen in your sense of humour and Faulkner would love the voice and drive you give your characters…speaking of, let’s talk a little bit about Yolanda. Now, she’s weird and unusual, which means I love her! I found myself missing her as a friend once I finished your book…can you tell me where she came from? What motivated you to write about someone who dreams of sundaes and tries to make the best out of everything, even when people think she’s totally insane?
AS: At some point before writing my second novel, I remember feeling Yolanda’s personality rising up somewhere in my brain, although it was very nebulous. At about the same time, I’d decided (and this didn’t happen) that I was going to try and write a novel in which every sentence was funny, as well as the characters and situations and plot line. I almost wanted every juxtaposition of words within each sentence to be funny.
It’s an fascinating goal, but in practice, it was really hard to do. I think I really tried it in the first chapter, but even there, I realized that sometimes, in order to set up jokes and funny situations, you basically need straight lines– which kind of function as straight men. So not too long after starting it, I realized that Yolanda Polanski and the Bus to Sheboygan would need something else.
That something else became Yolanda. I found that seeing everything — and how she distorted everything — through her eyes could be funny, so the first person narrative stuck. But I wasn’t wholly satisfied with that alone and so decided to have those distortions change over the course of the book.
So in her first phase, she mistakenly believes that she can instantly deduce the past event that has since defined the psychology of each person she meets. After determining this, she then goes on to use this “knowledge” to manipulate the people to do what she’d like them to do. Of course, she’s profoundly wrong about everyone and their defining life events, so her manipulations end in failure– or at least not the success she expects. Then, when she finally realizes that her powers aren’t quite up to the task of instantaneously analyzing everyone’s psyche, she turns to her misguided understanding of Zen Buddhism to run her life. I hope that these shifts help to keep the humor up throughout the book.
But getting back to your question, I have to say that I really don’t know where Yolanda came from. As I had no idea where the story was going right from the beginning, she literally developed before my eyes. She quickly became crazy, and laughable, and terribly self-important, which I found funny. (Hmmm, maybe I based her on myself.) However, I couldn’t have a main character who’s just a kook, so she also became a fundamentally decent, kind person, too, under everything– someone who needs the people she’s found in her life much more than they need her. I don’t think I could’ve kept going if she’d just been a thin joke.
AS: I hope that I would recognize that she’s harmless and ultimately kind at heart, but judging by the way that other people in the novel respond to her, I don’t know if I’d be perceptive enough in person. She seems to annoy pretty much everyone she comes into contact with, at least at first.
I think that she’d only do something to me if she thought she saw something in me that led her to believe that we could be friends. She does seem to have a sixth sense in that department– if not in any other! And what would she do to me? I think it would ultimately depend on her scheme and how I could be of service.
me: Famous last words in a true Yolanda fashion?
Yolanda: It’s been a real teat speaking with you, and I hope we can do tit again soon!
Adam trained as a screenwriter at The University of London and The American Film Institute, then segued into literary fiction with his first novel, My Heart Is a Drummer, written in 2009. The following year, he completed his second book, Yolanda Polanski and the Bus to Sheboygan.This year, he’s finishing an experimental horror novel, Something’s Wrong, and has formed Newcraft Press after discovering that traditional publishing is unable to support him and the other authors with whom he’s worked over the previous 20 years. He lives in Tucson, Arizona with his dog, Jerry, and cat, Alan.
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