Where Did All the Writing Talent Go?

The audio version of this post appears below. Just click on “play”.



Ok, the title is a little harsh. The reason for it is I’ve been pondering Harriet Beecher Stowe for the last couple of days whom I consider one of the most talented authors of the last three centuries. Every year I go back and read Uncle Tom’s Cabin for a couple of reasons; the first is to keep myself aware of the horrific things we did and still do to our fellow humans and the second reason is to bask in the amazing talent that was Beecher Stowe. In my humble opinion, you just don’t get that kind of talent anymore. Well, we do its just very different.


With Harriet Beecher Stowe, we have a privileged white woman who so effectively slips on the personage of black slaves that readers feel as if they are seeing the plights of the black slave in the 1800’s directly through their eyes. As if it is an autobiography rather than a well-researched and beautifully written piece of fiction. Her depiction of Uncle Tom’s life is so timeless and powerful that it grabs you by your core and whips you around like a soiled rag whose centrifugal force strips away the dirt of our self-absorption and ends up clean, white, pure and raw and imprinted with new awareness. It is powerful stuff – and, it’s beautiful.


So, how the hell did she do it? I can’t do it and neither can most of the authors in the 21st century. Sure, there’s some real good shit out there, but it ain’t Harriet Beecher Stowe good.


The only thing I can figure is this; Stowe had less distractions and thus more time to hone her talent. Just like reading has been given the shaft for interactive technologically rich activities – so has writing. A couple of years ago I was talking to an editor of a large magazine over martinis at my local gin joint. I told her that at this ripe old age I was going to try and make it as a writer. Her suggestion was not to think about just the book, but all the multi-media that goes along with it. I tried that – you know what happens? You write crap.


Harriet Beecher StoweDistractions are killer. It’s not that we’re not as talented as Hattie, we’re just not as focused. There’s too much going on in our little worlds. The iPhone is pinging, we’re instant messaging on Facebook or G-chat, oh…and we must pin those drapes on Pinterest. (I just posted an im on FB arguing politics with my cousin – yep, just now) The dogs need assistance, the kids need assistance, we have to eat, there’s the daily donation to Starbucks, etc. Hattie had the luxury of having large blocks of time where, really – there probably wasn’t anything else to do.


I realize I’m oversimplifying here, and really should just relate this post to myself, because except for the Pinterest and Starbucks reference, I’m guilty of being a slave to all of those distractions and I know it hurts my writing. It certainly can’t just be me, though. I imagine many a decent novel has gone from the next Great American novel to “meh” due to the siren song of our devices.


I could go on and on and mentally masturbate this topic to death, but this is a short post since I really have to get back to Facebook, and it is only meant to provoke some thought. I’d really like to hear what other writers think, so please go ahead and comment.



Lestat Comes Home

Welcome Back. Lestat!

Welcome Back. Lestat!

The audio version of this post appears below. Just click on “play”.



So, let me be the fifty-millionth person to write about the return of Lestat.

I rarely look forward to book launches. It’s not because I’m a pompous egotistical a-hole who feels he is beneath reading new literature (even though I am the egotistical a-hole part, that’s not why), it’s just that there is so much great stuff floating around that I haven’t read. Therefore, I don’t get excited. However… my ears perked up and a Chris Matthew’s style shiver went up my leg when I heard Anne Rice was bringing back her antihero the vampire Lestat.

Like millions of Rice fans, I love Lestat. He is one of my favorite characters ever and I’ve always wanted to be able to create a character with the kind of layered supernatural richness braised in human foibles that Lestat embodies. To no avail of course, Anne Rice is Anne Rice after all, and there’s only ever going to be one, thankfully.

But, I do think about my characters like Anne thinks of hers, as living beings that come to her and not vice versa. Lestat hasn’t been around for a very long time and as you can see here, there is a reason; she has been wrestling with the brat prince for years. I totally get that. I read Rice novels because of Lestat. As much as I love all of her writing, I can only get through the books of the vampire chronicles because her other work doesn’t hold my interest. The writing is always beautiful, but the plots aren’t to my taste.

Lestat is like the James Bond of the vampire world – he never gets boring and always stays true to his character. Anyone can identify with him and the situations he goes through – even if we’re not all preternatural beings, we can put ourselves in his place and enjoy the ride.

Hopefully, all fiction writers have characters like Lestat who even when they are dormant in our mind hang in the background like an ethereal mist, just waiting for the right time to come out and pounce on our consciousness. That’s what makes writing and reading fun – the realness of fictional characters.

I’ve written before that we are our own main characters in one way or another. I definitely identify with that idea. My Lestat is Charlie who appears in my short story compilation 5 Tales. Charlie is an amalgamation of real people I know, but his personality is closer to mine than any other character I’ve developed. He’s not an alter ego by any stretch of the imagination – but he possesses my snide-ness and some of my mannerisms. I couldn’t be Charlie, he likes killing too much, but I identify with a lot of his characteristics and experience.

Anne has spoken of Lestat as her lover. I find that incredibly intriguing – inventing a character that is so close you can call them a lover, begs the question as to what aspects of that character are a part of the author? I mean; that’s fun to think about. I’ve never created a character that I thought of as a lover. I’ve created ones I thought could be best friends, or ones I’d like to kill, but a lover? Not yet. That’s some serious character development right there.

Yeah, I can’t wait for Lestat’s return.