THIS BOOK IS STRICTLY FOR THE SEASONED, MATURE, ADULT READER-contains language, sexual situations & subject matter absolutely not appropriate for underage readers or conservative tastes*
Angie Situation (INNOCENCE)
*The Reading Group Guide / Meet the Author Q & A / the entire first chapter of the Angie Situation sequel: (NAIVETE') is only in the back book matter of the paperback of "Angie Situation (*INNOCENCE).
~MEET the AUTHOR Q & A~
1) How did you come up with the idea for this book? The original 'idea' (which began in 1997) was this same story and pretty much the same concept. However, as a novice-then; my writing style was indicative of what was “popular” at that time: the self-help/spiritual guru craze. And even though my story was what it is (then and now), I had the book broken down as such that I was kind of “evaluating” each chapter and speaking to my readers as if I was identifying a problem & providing a lesson by finding a solution for it.
There were three big chapters: “Innocence,” “Naivete,´” and “Sophistication.” But the “lessons” were listed in categories of how we evolve. First by: learning ourselves, then earning ourselves (having being done by way of surrendering things that stunted growth and evolvement-be it by way of people, certain situations, circumstances etc.)
I completed the manuscript (which ended up being 600 pages).
When I took a step back from it and evaluated it after some time-I started hating it-badly. I got discouraged. So I sat the manuscript down-for years.
In 2000, I picked it back up and started to “fine-tune” it. And that’s when my feelings of being discouraged turn into courage. Because I began to re-write it honestly and from my voice-instead of trying to interject what the “new what’s-happening" was (that self-help/spiritual market).
I’m already a spiritual person just-by nature. So I had a long talk with myself. I told myself to stop trying to write to please a whole world of people-so as to not offend, appall or isolate anyone. In short: BE YOURSELF ANGELA. The only way I could “be myself” was to write: introspectively, reflectively, and efficaciously. I had to tell myself to let the motivational/inspirational/self-help gurus (who define themselves as that) do their thing, and me-do mine. And in order for me to be myself and do my own thing; I had to come to realization that I was indeed going to offend, appall and isolate some people (in the world). I struggled with that. But I dealt with it.
I had to condition myself, to believe in myself by saying: “so what, there is an audience out there that will appreciate you simply being yourself. And since you are naturally spiritual and a good storyteller; narrate your story as such that if there is any self-help, motivation and inspiration to be found within it; allow the reader to find it for themselves within the message in the story. Narrating and storytelling is your strength, so stick to that-even if you only have ten readers who love you. Do not try to please everybody. People who like you-will find their way to you and stick to you.”
That is the talk I had to have with myself. And after conditioning myself to write honestly and from the heart (introspectively, reflectively, and efficaciously); that 600-page manuscript looked a complete mess to me-how stupid and fake I sounded trying to be a little bit of myself plus tell a story, but at the same time, trying to be something that I wasn’t-simply because sententious guruism was popular.
So in order to do it my way, I put out of my mind; having an audience of ten, one-hundred, one-thousand, ten-thousand or one-hundred thousand. I allowed myself to be my own audience. I then taped to the wall, these words when I began the re-write:
Although the concept and story was still in the crux of the manuscript; it required a complete literary overhaul. Page for page, and paragraph by paragraph; I was reading from the manuscript’s (fakeness) and had to turn to the computer and say: “Okay, now write it how you really wanted to write it. Say it how you really wanted to say it-and without fear of being judged and feeling the pressure to be apart of the guru market-share. Just do you-Boo."
It was one of the most liberating but expensive-emotionally and creatively taxing experiences I had never gone through. Because the re-write had taken me more time to do-than it actually took for me to write the book itself. That experience (though it took years to discover) taught me a big lesson in being comfortable in my own writing skin: that even if my style or "way" wasn't the "new what's happening-" as long as I remained true to myself from start to finish; the task will be smooth and nothing but a total labor of love that will surely birth nothing but pretty little unique babies with their own look.
The lesson: be your own guru-your own way. Even if in the end, they have to create a genre around you…
2) Why the title? And how did it come about? The original title was called: “Keeping Secrets.” I gave it that title because (as you know from reading the story) “Angie” (the main character) talks about many things that were kept secret, and how she had grown so accustomed to the “covert;” that almost by second nature, she was “pro-vert,” (with all that was secret and covert). But then in the middle of my re-write, I discovered there were so many situations within the story surrounding, and within the main character: “Angie,” that I felt compelled to change the title to: “Angie Situation.”
3) Speaking of “so many situations within the story, surrounding, and within the main character: ’Angie.’ ” All that is packed in to her journey, life and experiences within this book; the reader learns a whole lot about: bullying, peer-pressure, molestation, sexuality, tween growing pangs, the mentor-mentee relationship, sexuality, sexual identity, bi-sexuality, teenage love and rebellion, teenage angst, the parent-child relationship (father-daughter/mother-daughter), elitism, classicism and teenage-pregnancy. Did you have to do a lot of research in order to bring so many important, taboo, and heavy issues into the story? Scientific research-no. I went with and wrote on life as I know it, experienced it, heard tale of, supposed, witnessed and observed-period.
4) It is interesting to read this story from the voice of “Angie” (the story’s main character) and her thoughts behind the goings on. Yet, we can clearly see all the other characters involved in the story as well. We know their personalities without you going in heavily on physically “describing” them and making your readers paint-by-number/page for page; trying to bring those characters to life through extensive physical description and excessive dialogue. It’s like, you go right in to narrating your characters, and as we read on, we already know what they look like, what type of person they are, and how and why they do what they do within their role/character without a lot of description and dialogue about them, in order to bring them to life. How did you manage to do that and why? When I write, I like to write how I like to read. And when I read, I want to read as though I am reading someone’s diary. I want to read as though someone is telling me a story: uninterrupted-uninterrupted by my asking questions and uninterrupted by excessive quotations and dialogue.
To me-a book is just like a diary. When we kept a diary, we didn’t write a lot of dialogue and quotations in order to describe a conversation, secret, desire or happening. And when we talked about a person in our diary, we didn’t go heavy in on describing them. We described them within the context of talking about them.
Don't "remind" me that I am reading a book. Make me feel like I am reading a diary (or watching a movie).
The “rule” in (fiction) writing is dialogue.
The “rule” of Angela Sherice fiction is “narration” and some dialogue (when absolutely necessary).
Because when you think about it, when a person buys a book and goes to tuck themselves away in the corner of a couch or an area to read it, they almost do it like it’s a secret. (Take a look around at people at the bookstore-next time you go in). And when they go off to read a book, they tuck themselves away like they are hiding a secret. They want to be left alone to read [it].
When you catch someone staring at the book in your hand at the library or bookstore, what do you do? You draw back and frown, just like you would with a letter in your hand. Words are emotionally powerful (and personal).
How often is it that two people get together and cuddle up in the corner of a couch and read out of the same book together? That visual is odd isn’t it? That (to me), is because the reader wants to be a voyeur. And for me (in my opinion), I think it (subconsciously) forces the reader to think while reading (when there is too much quotation dialogue and description).
I feel that as a writer, if you are thorough enough in your storytelling; you can build the character’s personality, their description and the scene right in your readers head through good narration and storytelling versus too much quotation-conversation (dialogue) and list-like description.
The five senses are magical. I’m an extreme “sensualist.” And to me-reading is as personal as it is sensual, especially novel/fiction. Your words, your writing, and your storytelling can send your voice narrating to a reader’s head like a movie in front of their eyes, and theme music in their ears.
Too much dialogue (quotation-conversation) and description in order to build a scene makes a reader think and ascertain rather than see and voyeur. Readers tuck themselves away because they want to be a voyeur. I insist on allowing them to voyeur when they open up my book. I did all the thinking when I wrote it. None of the five senses require “thought.” I just want the reader to voyeur and enjoy.
As a writer, I do not treat a book or novel any less different than a diary or a handwritten letter.
5) Speaking of characters. Some of your characters, you do give actual names to, while others-you give names like: “Ms. You Know Who,” “Ms. Beautiful,” “Painful Pam,” “TGGF,” “Basketball Lena,” etc. That is very interesting, but why do you do that? I do that almost for the same reason I elaborated on in the previous question.
As a writer, I have the responsibility to take full control of how I deliver my story. And as I stated in the (previous) response, narrating the story works best for me so that I can allow my readers to sit back and watch a movie in their head by the words that their eyes are seeing-line for line. In doing so (using names like: “Ms. You Know Who,” “Ms. Beautiful,” “Painful Pam,” “TGGF,” “Basketball Lena,” etc.), challenges me to make sure I have done a thorough enough job in narrating my character’s personalities, and what significance they play in a scene. And in having delivered that, what they do should be more memorable than what their name is.
It’s just like watching a movie or television show. When we are telling someone about something that we watched once or for the first time, we may be talking about ten different people within that movie or television show. We may be able to recall two or three of ten of their names (definitely not all ten). But one thing we will remember about all ten of them is: what they did, what they wore and what their role was in the movie or television show. In recalling or re-enacting the movie to someone, when we don’t recall the name-we will snap our fingers and say: “the one with the light-blue suit on-who showed up late to the meeting!” …(and recall the name after that-if at all).
Well, for me [if the moment hits me while writing, I feel that because of the role he may have played in my book] butthat my reader may not recall his name; the fact that I know I was thorough enough in narrating the scene and the character, I leave myself with the option to call him: “Michael,” or call him: “The Late Man in the Light Blue Suit”
As I stated before-two things: As a writer, I respect my reader enough to allow them to relax and voyeur. I don’t want them to have to snap their fingers and “think” when trying to recall a character from any of my books. I’ve already done the thinking for them (in that regard). I just want then to “feel.” It's no different than they saying: “people will not remember exactly what you said to them, but rather, how you made them feel.”
That’s what I mean when I say that I am an “extreme sensualist.” An extreme sensualist doesn’t just use their own eyes; they try to use someone else’s eyes to see what they see, touch what they touch, smell what they smell, taste what they taste and hear what they hear, as well.
An “extreme sensualist” will go the extra mile to see (and intermix): smell, taste, touch and sound, the same way a blind man has to go that extra mile to hear (and intermix): sight, touch and smell.
It may sound excessive and confusing to you, but I am the mother of a blind child so for years, my senses are like that of a blind person. I’ve had to see, smell, touch, taste and hear for two people practically all my life, so for me-sensuality/the senses is second nature.
That being said, as a writer-I oversee my reader’s senses like I’ve had to learn to oversee my child’s senses-with him.
So in that regard, that’s how the naming method fell into place for me. And in overseeing while writing, the task of remembering character’s names takes me away from delivering a good story that my reader can experience.
And as I said before, from a creative standpoint, I let go of trying keep up with the “new what’s happening’s.” When I let go of trying to be that genre that hindered me from delivering good storytelling, I also stuck with all things (creatively) that worked for me-for my reader-as well.
So by my book “Michael” (the man in the light blue suit who showed up late for the meeting) might be: “The Late Man in the Light Blue Suit,” so that my reader can move on. I’m not going to tie their brains up with trying to remember “Michael” by name when there may be nine other characters within the story with names as well. They’re not necessarily going to remember all ten characters’ names, but they will remember what all ten characters did, (and how those characters made them feel).
6) How has writing “Angie Situation” changed you, if at all, in any way? It humbled the hell out of me! Because (just like all novice writers feel) once that first manuscript is “completed,” I thought I was ready for the literary world. In addition to that, you couldn’t convince me that my manuscript wasn’t blessed after the fact that in October ’97, I had even gotten it to sit across of the desk at Oprah Winfrey’s. And the fact that it was 600 pages of blood, sweat and tears, had me feeling like the rest of my literary career and process would be easy as pie. I felt like I had almost arrived after hearing all those voices in my head of the ghosts of millions of people chanting: “I always wanted to write a book.”
Well, I had done it. And to add homage to honor (after countless query letter mailings) a major New York publisher-Kensington Books did the proverbial rarity: wrote back and told me they were interested in reviewing some sample chapters of my manuscript after my writing and mailing to them-that winning query letter that piqued their interest.
“So step aside world-here I come!”
All up to that point was the high, stimulated by ups and downs at the fact that Kensington began asking for a few different sections of the manuscript versus simply asking for the entire manuscript. It annoyed me, and I couldn’t understand why, until some time had passed and eating that humble pie: when I got the letter that they were going to pass on it. The only crumb I had left was the fact that I “almost” got picked up (maybe)-which still meant nothing, since “almost” never counted for anything. That shook my faith in the book, so I closed it for three years and went on to write and complete three other manuscripts (to feed my “I can write a whole book” ego). One book in which a smaller publisher was interested in publishing (my astrology book): “in about two years” from date. I was serious about writing, and two years was a lot of time to just hang around-happy, when I knew I still had the book (“Keeping Secrets”/“Angie Situation”) lingering in my head.
By this time, it had become a handy-dandy footstool for all those years. I picked the book back up after three years, and dusted it off.
As I began to look at it all over again, I could see it with a different set of eyes. I had done a lot of living, loving, thriving and growing (as a writer) and could now (finally) see what I suspect Kensington saw: The book’s story was the “diamond,” but the rest of it was fluff in the rough. The fluff was in the way-a distraction-and better suited for a whole other book (all the rhetoric and “lessons” of learning, earning, and surrendering-as mentioned in question number one). So I began to re-write it by being myself and writing in my own voice, versus trying to write so “safe” so as to not offend or appall any particular reader. In addition to that-I could clearly see what parts needed to be cut out, but it was interwoven so well with the storytelling that it was very hard to do-very hard to get to that diamond (buried) within the book. I suspected that editor knew if she asked for that entire manuscript-she would have turned me down immediately. Because after growing as a writer, I (myself) could tell that regardless what parts of a manuscript an editor asks for, the story should still flow and be able to be followed-regardless the break or interruption. Those certain sections, regardless which ones were asked to be sent via query, could tell a lot about the amount of editing that would have to be done to it in order to make it a marketable book that would resonate with readers and sell.
I had to do some creative and personal soul-searching and reminiscing.
Over those few years, I would allow some of my close work-friends, associates, and friends read the manuscripts and I would end up having conversations (and even handwritten letters) from them revealing to me-many things within the story they could relate to and had experienced.
That’s when I realized that the diamond was in the story and the storytelling, not the fluff (surrounding it).
I could clearly see it-but not until after all those years.
The diamond was interrupted with too much “teaching.” The attractiveness and thick of the book was in the story. Inter-mixing both (the storytelling and the teaching) made the book run all over the place.
I could finally see that Kensington sure as hell did not want to deal with all of that. It was a full-on, knock-down drag-out editing overhaul that even I (myself-the writer) did not want to tackle. So if I didn’t want to do it, how could I expect them to?
My eyes and novice didn’t know that, then. I was too busy being “impressed.” I had to get rough and real with myself. First, by dropping and letting go of all that I had been “impressed” with:
-the fact that the manuscript had once upon a time lay across Oprah’s desk
-the fact that it got a second glance by a major New York publisher
-the fact that the manuscript was “600 pages” of a story
-the fact that I proved to my ego that I could write an entire book quicker than a person could write a love-letter
I had to slow down and get real with myself.
In getting real with myself, I had to have the same conversation with myself, and give myself the same advice that I would give to someone else who would ask me if they were in my shoes: “you can remain impressed with those “impressionables” that really mean nothing anymore, other than the fact that you have a manuscript of “600 pages” that too, mean nothing. Because until those 600 pages are re-written right, you just have 600 pages of words on paper. Get over yourself and get over being impressed about something that amounted to and produced-nothing (for you or anyone else).Get to work on those 600 pages. Get to the crux and diamond that people are responding to and resonating with first: the story. Save the guru-ism and teaching for another book. Until then, those 600 pages will sit there and always serve no-body and no-thing until you do it right-by serving it like you (really) mean it. After that-then be ‘impressed’ …with yourself. Because one thing is for sure: a good story-teller can still always ‘teach’ if he told a good story-the way it’s supposed to be told. Whereas a good teacher can just-‘teach.’”
7) “Angie Situation” was at one time, a stand-alone novel. Now it is a trilogy. How’d that happen? I study the business and the market as a publisher, an editor and a writer. It became a trilogy rather than a stand alone novel because in studying the market, you will eat even more humble pie and be forced to put your preconceived notations about how things are done-down. And in getting myself unimpressed with the fact that I had completed a “600 page manuscript, I had to remind myself that people aren’t anymore impressed with a 600 paged book any more than they are with a novice bragging about having written any number of books. ONE good 100 paged book can vibrate, sell and resonate for twenty years. Times are getting tough, people are busy and attention spans are getting shorter. No one wants to read a 600 page book. However, a 200 paged book was more reasonable. Therefore, what was once 600 pages was eventually divided by 2 and made into a trilogy-broken down by its three main chapter titles: “Innocence,” “Naivete,´” and “Sophistication.” It made no sense to try and stuff an entire story that [in “Innocence”-alone] has a storyline built around issues dealing with: bullying, peer-pressure, molestation, sexuality, tween growing pangs, the mentor-mentee relationship, sexuality, sexual identity, bi-sexuality, teenage love and rebellion, teenage angst, the parent-child relationship (father-daughter/mother-daughter), elitism, classicism and teenage-pregnancy. So imagine what “Naivete,´” and “Sophistication’s” storylines around it are going to contain? That’s all too much for one book. Therefore, I made it a trilogy.
8) What (if anything) has surprised you the most about “Angie Situation” or since writing it? That so many people identified with some and most all parts of the main character and the storylines. And as a result, brought up a lot of old wounds and fond memories-alike, and as well; they still got those “lessons” that I wasted so much time trying to inter-weave into the story-anyway! Because the story provoked a lot of thought, consideration and proposed questions for many answers they thought they already had, while providing a resolve where there were once questions. I was surprised, humbled and inspired by that. That is what kept telling me that regardless how bad I ignored the book, there are people out in the world that needed it more than I ignored and suppressed it because my bruised ego wanted to battle it. I had to earn the right to write the book and eventually surrender to doing so, as well. To do anything else or start another book without finishing what I started was less than acceptable to my spirit-both creatively and personally. The book came back to bite at me one-too many times. Now, I know and have surrendered to the reasons-humbly so.