Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Light Fun in Starting Over by Dean Gloster

            Decades ago, when I was a lawyer, one of the name partners at the firm where I worked decided to become a novelist. I’ll call him John.

            The New York Times had described him as one of the top ten trial lawyers in the U.S. To do trial work, you put your case on in the form of a persuasive story, so he had some relevant background.

 


             He wrote a legal thriller. When he sent it to his agent, she reportedly told him, “This is great. Now add lots of sex.”

            He did, and the result was a best seller, the kind you see sold in airports, with a strand of pearls on the cover. It nearly put me off writing forever.

 


             Every character in the book was John, so reading it—if you knew him—was like watching a bunch of John’s personality fragments running around—some wearing short skirts—having enthusiastic sex with each other.

            Yikes.

 


             We bring who we are to everything we write, and for some of us, the stories interesting enough to turn into whole books are the ones full of the issues or complicated emotions we grapple with in our own lives. 

            In John’s case, his debut bestseller was about a law firm killing its clients. (Ambivalent about that trial work, much?)

 


             As I start over, finishing one novel and turning to starting the next, I’ve thought about the kind of stories I mostly tell, and why.

            When I was twenty, my mother finally succeeded in her decades-long effort to drink herself to death, which I wrote about here. As a teen, I thought it was my job to figure out how to save her. (Spoiler alert: That’s not how alcoholism works.)

 


            Now as a grownup, I mostly write stories about death and grief and love and whether it’s possible to save someone. I include lots of humor (I used to do stand-up comedy, so that comes easily), but they’re still hard stories to tell. Every time I finish writing one novel, I tell myself that the next book will be lighter and more fun.

 


             Then, on that new book, I give the protagonist a bunch of trauma similar to mine and find myself writing a story that includes death, grief, and the question of whether it’s possible to save someone. The book I’m in revisions on now is a YA novel, and I thought it would be fun, involving a pair of brothers who are funny, a wonderful love interest, and a lawyer dad who sold 54% of his soul to an interdimensional predator. (Possible metaphor for the practice of law alert.) But, of course, their mom is dead, their grieving father is an alcoholic, and the protagonist has the exact same counter-phobic mechanism for dealing with his trauma-caused PTSD—which makes him charge toward danger—that I have.

 



             You know, light stuff. (But the jokes are great.) 

            Still, the next book is going to be much lighter and more fun. For real. It’ll involve, among other things, a dhampir—a girl who’s the daughter of a human mother and a vampire father—who has to fit in, in a human school, and also save her family from deadly other-worldly danger. And—oh—for good measure I’ll give her some trauma that’s a version of the worst thing that happened in my youth.

            Yeah. That should be fun.

 


 Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and an off-kilter sensibility, including a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 54 percent of his soul.



5 comments:

  1. Right there with you, Dean. Thanks for writing this.

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  2. Pretty difficult not to put aspects of yourself in characters. My sister Kate Flora was asked endless times whether Thea Kozak's(her protagonist in one of her series) was based on our mother. She claimed not. There's at least a whiff of me in many of my tales. Maybe the people with dissociative Identity Disorder have the best options when writing.

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  3. I love this so much--the story we're trying to figure out the most is our own.

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