Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tale of Lust, Hate, and Despair--Interview and Review with Ian Truman

Mary Ann: Hi Ian! We're delighted to have you at All Things Writing. Our blog mainly reaches other writers so we like to talk about the process of writing. How long have you been writing?

The absolute first thing I ever wrote I think was some sort of Role playing game when I was in 4th grade or something. We were a few soon-to-be-geeks in school and we played a lot of Nintendo games and this thing that was called Hero Quest (a board game). It was around the time when the first Jurassic Park came out (In 93 I think) and my dad had bought me the game and so I adapted the Jurassic Park video game into a sort of D&D. That is the first thing that I can remember.

I don't think we ever played more than a few games and then high school kicked in and I was sent to this specialized class for smart kids (and I am not saying this to brag) which does not land you points with ladies or jocks, but hell if we learned how to use computers. We were really into like early cyberpunk novels and I remember reading a bunch of the Shadowrun series and then trying to write one. I don't remember what I did with it.

It wasn't until I went to Cegep (some sort of community college here in QC) that I took my writing seriously. I played around with philosophy, political science, poetry, script, but after a while I realized I was more comfortable with novels. How long have I been writing you asked? I guess 19 years now.

You bio and your synopsis of Tales of Lust, Hate, and Despair indicate you were strongly influenced by music and cinema for this work. Is that the norm for you when you are writing? Or is this the first time you've attempted that style?

I have been a huge fan of all things cinema for as long as I can remember but it was when my uncle gave me a copy of Aliens (the Cameron one) when I was something like 15 that my mind was really blown away. I started digging into these kinds of stories, asking people I knew if there was anything else like it they knew about.

There was this weird goth kid (we became friends) at the record shop and he introduced me to a few of the bands that I still love to this day. If you look at the “thank you” part of movies, novels or Cd's (back then), that's how you discovered these gritty movies or underground bands. I had the internet, but there was no such thing as wiki or youtube back then and finding an director like Kevin Smith still required some work.

For the longest time I didn't want to write novels “Who the fuck would buy them?” I was thinking. I mostly wrote songs and sang in a hardcore band, but when the band broke off, I had to do something else. That was the first time I thought about moving away from music and I tried writing scripts first which I still do from time to time, but then I figured I could actually sell my own books so I started writing novels for the first time. That was maybe three or four years ago.

I think that what I write is visual and I have heard people call it something like “cinematic” because it is mostly descriptive with a lot of dialogue, but that's just how I learned to do narratives when I watched these hundreds (if not thousands) of movies. I think my writings will always be influenced by cinema and music. There's no way around it.

This novel is full of gritty characters and complex situations. Where did you get your inspiration from?

Movies and music are a big part of it. I cite Kurosawa and Samuel Fuller as major influences, you could add writers like Richler, Hemingway or Lehane, but as far as the story goes, I was mostly influenced by the darker sides of Montreal. I know the city has (had?) a reputation for being a place where people are all happy and all, but there are these places and times where people struggle and conflicts are real. I would never say that it is as bad as places like Baltimore or Detroit but the conflicts are not unlike New-York in the 80s-90s (from what I've read of the era). There was this think in Montreal in the late 90's, early 00s that has been called “The Biker Wars” and although I was never part of it, that's all the news would talk about back then.

I also spend a lot of my young adult years in the red light district at this community center called “L'x room” which is where I discovered “Straight Edge” but also a lot of violence, drugs and prostitution. The room was sort of a safe heaven for young punks and bums where you could see a show for 5$ and there were old used books for sale every now and then. The whole area is gentrified now and I can't say I miss it (I still work there for a student coop) but it was a time and place of turmoil and a lot of stories in the novel are from that time in my life.

The city is certainly a huge character in the book!  Agent or no agent? What's your take on that part of the publishing process?

I did send out stuff to a few agencies, mostly when I was still in college, but none of them seemed to care. Back when there was no DIY option (or no viable one) for self-publishing I understood their necessity even if I could argue that they maintained themselves in a position of power in order to guarantee themselves a job, but now that self-publishing is incredibly easier, I see no reason why I should get an agent.

I also discovered art and music by going at L'X (which I mentioned before) and it was a very special place where most of the people believed in direct democracy and the DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic. There were these bands that we all loved, like Minor Threat, Bad Religion and Black Flag, and these bands had built their careers (and an entire musical genre) from scratch. There was no one around willing to support them, so they did it themselves.

In the 90s in Montreal and early 00s, there was this void downtown where most of the buildings were vacant and artists kinda took them over and there was no scene at all and no money, so everyone I knew were adamant on DIY. If you could find a few instruments, a few mics and a computer you'd be alright. It was the beginning of the accessible numeric-age, the very first “affordable” pro-tools and CD printers.

So going to a major was never much of an issue for me whether it was music or literature. If ever a publishing house or an agent calls me, I am not saying I would say yes or no, but I would simply ask if the deal was to my advantage or not.

What is something major that the publishing world has taught you?

“You're on your own kid.” I guess that's nothing new to people my age, but in today's world, if you are a creative person, you have to know how how to do (almost) anything. Of course, there are endless databases and videos online on how to do this and that or this and that. If someone asks you good money for information on anything, look elsewhere, there might be someone who wrote a similar article and was happy to give it for free.

Libraries are also free and have endless on a vast aray of subjects. If you are expecting to be a self-published author, you need to know how to write, but then you need to know how editing works, how the programs themselves work, how the technology is evolving and mostly, how marketing works. All of these competences ca be found for free if you are willing to give in the time.

Something else I learned is that I am not proficient in all aspects of book publishing. For example, I know how to work the basics of photoshop, but I am not a graphics designer in any ways. That is why I gave the cover design for Tales of Lust, Hate and Despair to a professional. I came up with the general idea, I spent maybe 16 hours just looking at stock photos. I had made a plan to have my wife take pictures of models we knew, but as I am not rich and we have little place (and a daughter) I took the decision to buy stock photos instead. I sent the proofs to my graphics designer (who is a friend as well) and he replied “this one will work, this one won't for this and this reason” which are details that I don't know about.

There is also this issue with editing and proofreading that I (really) such at. I think I know how to tell a story and I am far less interested by the grammar than I am interested by the tone and the story I am telling. So I hired two people I used to go to college with who are now graduates as well. And these persons are now professional writers and publishers in a certain way. I could have looked for someone with ten years of experience, but having spent countless hours in workshops and classes with these two (I am talking here of Sarah Needles and Alex Manley) I knew their work was just as good as the next guy with “more” experience. So I paid them what I could and they seemed happy to put in the time. Hopefully I'm make a little money out of the novel (or at least cover my costs) and be able to pay them more next time but their inputs has been invaluable to the novel.

So I guess the lessons you need to remember is :

A) learn at least a little bit about all aspects of the work


B) know your own limitations and act on them by getting the proper help.

What's next for you? Any other books in the works?

I started writing my third novel a few months ago. It was mostly snapshots at first and a good idea, but I've been putting in the hours lately and the novel is advancing almost as fast as I'd like it. The title will be “A Teenage Suicide” and it is a straightforward look at the lives of young men and women whose lives have been struck by that kind of event. It's more of a Young Adult marked I'd say, but it is also a story that is closer to my heart so I wanted to get it off my chest before going back to my more hardboiled stuff.

I had a bunch of fragments and ideas written down on scrap paper for something titled “Memoirs of a Hit-man” but it'll have to wait for A Teenage Suicide to be over. I would love to get the third novel ready for late November and catch a bit of the Christmas crowd, but I am not willing to cut corners just for that.

That's pretty much it for now.

Thanks for having me.

Review of Tales of Lust, Despair, and Hate

Be sure to enter the raffle copter giveway at the bottom to win a copy of this book!

This is not a sunshine and roses book. It has no paranormal element to it or pages and pages of a romantic hero looking to ride off into the sunset. And none of that is a bad thing! I have to admit that I've been swamped with romance novels, historical fiction, and high fantasy books for review so I was really looking forward to something with a little more grit to it.

And boy, did I get that.

If you read my interview with Mr. Truman, you probably gathered that he is quite passionate in his beliefs. You can easily sense this in his writing as well. Tales of Lust, Despair, and Hate is a gritty, brutal novel that travels a dark path of self-discovery. Full of tough truths, this is the book that stays with you long after it's done.

Here’s the synopsis:

Samuel Lee has known three days of freedom in the last eighteen years. Three days to come out of prison, see his daughter, settle a score with the mother of his child and her dangerous new boyfriend. Finding shelter in the unlikely company of a group of prostitutes, Sam will have to challenge his friends, his family, and ultimately, himself.

Told in the tradition of the best literary noir, Tales of Lust, Hate and Despair is a modern, lowdown and gritty take on the genre. Inspired by the cinema of Akira Kurosawa and Samuel Fuller as well as the music of Tom Waits, Sage Francis, Neurosis and Marilyn Manson, it is a novel that is sure to please anyone who has ever found themselves trapped and cast aside from the world.

Cast aside from the world? Yeah. I would agree that is where we find Sam when the novel begins. He is  a man looking for answers and looking for his daughter. He tries to be peaceable, tries to mind his business and walk a straight path, but his internal struggle with himself does not make that easy. Oh, and then there's that little liquor problem he seems to have. He doesn't exactly make the best impression on people when he's been drinking. 

I had mixed feelings about Sam as a character. On the one hand, I liked him and wanted him to stop daydreaming about what he could do with his life and just do it! He often wanders into flights of fancy where he imagines himself living the good life or where things are perfect. Yet, he doesn't allow himself the opportunity to follow through with those thoughts and make them a reality. This was frustrating for me as a reader,and unfortunately, very true to life. There are so many people like Sam who think about how great their life could be, but yet do nothing to make it happen.  The author really had me here!

There is quite an eclectic group of characters within this story ranging from Alice (Sam's drugged up ex) to Josie who fits the prostitute with a heart of gold stereo type. I particularly liked how the story of the European client who beats the prostitutes unfolds.  I liked Mikey (the best friend) because I could feel his concern for Sam. So all in all, great character development!

There is a lot of backstory which guides the reader to the present day situations that are occurring.  While I think backstory is important, I did feel that at times it slowed the forward motion of the novel.  The descriptions of the city were vivid and painted a picture, but once that picture is painted, I want to move on. Occasionally, I felt like some of the setting stuff was taking away from the pace of the tale. I also loved the narrative style of the author, but there were times when the tense changed and some head hopping occurred.  I spotted quite a few typos and misspellings--not enough to make me stop reading, but enough to make me think the book needed one more pass with a line editor.  On the other hand, I was reading the Kindle version  and I always find more mistakes in that format.

I agree that there is a cinematic feel to this novel, and I would recommend  putting it on your reading list! I'm glad I got to read this one! Don't forget to enter the raffle for your free copy of this book!

Amazon code:

Ian Truman Online:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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