31 October 2014

Happiness and the Art of Storytelling: An Interview with Daniel McInerny

It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.
~ Patrick Rothfuss

Tomorrow marks the beginning of that madcap dash into the world of words and word counts: National Novel Writing Month – affectionately known as NaNo.  I didn’t sign up this year, but throughout the month of November, I’ll be highlighting authors, their books, and the writing process.

W
e all live in a story.

Some of us just happen to narrate our own stories.  We are sometimes called crazy.  Sometimes we are. 

We are writers.

And it is both our gift and our curse to live in the midst of a jungle of words – poetry intermingled with prose.  Some of our stories have tragic ends.  A few have happily ever afters.

But all some have moments of happiness and joy.  Moments, that if they are gathered up, would shine a light on the darkest dramas and mysteries.

Throughout the month of NaNo November, I will highlight different authors and their books.  Because you can’t become a good writer, if you aren’t a good reader.

Today marks the launch of a new blog series, The Happiness Plot by novelist, screenwriter, children's author, playwright,  Daniel McInerny.  This blog series focuses on storytelling and the quest for happiness and will be available as an ebook by the end of the month.

Join us in the La Belle library, where we’ve just sat down with a pot of Earl Grey.

Image: Google Images

Why do you write?
I write because I love to contemplate the human predicament through the means of beautiful language.

Name two mentors who influenced your writing.
My father, Ralph McInerny, and all my high school English teachers, who as a group were exceptionally gifted at teaching the fundamentals of writing. 

Name five writers you recommend (any genre).
Evelyn Waugh
P.G. Wodehouse
Flannery O’Connor
Muriel Spark
Walker Percy

What is the toughest challenge you face as a writer?
I struggle to be a more “seat-of-your-pants” writer, making up the story as I go along, line by line. This is an important struggle for me because my entrenched analytical habits (I hold a PhD in philosophy and taught in academia for many years), while immensely valuable, can also be a hindrance to creative work. Thus I am trying to learn not to plot and analyze too much ahead of the moment of actual composition.

Describe your writing process. 
I tend to get an idea for a story long before, sometimes years before, I actually begin writing a first draft. The thing often begins as a series of scraps and influences and vague possibilities that I collect in a notebook. It takes me a long time, and more than one false start, before I have a firm sense of what I’m doing, which is typically toward the end or even after the first draft.

What does your writing space look like?
Dreary.  Home office in the basement. No windows. Rickety desk with a broken leg. Horribly uncomfortable chair. Insufficient shelf space.

I can’t think of a more perfect place to write.

Your new series on storytelling, The Happiness Plot, begins today.  What inspired you to write this?  And what can writers (and readers) learn from it?
I really love James Wood’s little book, How Fiction Works, with its pithy 200-word sections.

It occurred to me that these sections were just about the length of a blog post and that Wood’s book provided a good model for a series of posts on storytelling structure. My contribution to all the “how-to” material in this area concerns the link between story structure and our human quest for happiness. I believe understanding this link allows us to tell more emotionally moving, intellectually satisfying, beautiful stories.
Daniel McInerny

The series is perfectly timed for those participating in National Novel Writing Month in November.  As soon as the series is done at the end of November, I’m going to collect the posts into an ebook, with the addition of some bonus material I’m sending out to the folks on my email list. I further plan on doing further blog series on other aspects of writing and the writing life. 

All this material is great for lovers of fiction as well.

Give 3 brief words of advice for writers.
Sit. Now. Begin

Anything new in the works?
Currently I’m writing a novel for adults as well as returning my play, The Actor, about the young Saint John Paul II’s subversive theatrical activities during the Nazi occupation of Poland, back into its original form as a musical. A producer has shown some interest in the work and right now I’m doing a revision based upon his and another friend’s notes.

Thanks for stopping by, Daniel!

To follow the storytelling adventure and to subscribe to Daniel’s email list to receive cool bonus content and a free storytelling consultation, go to  The Happiness Plot.

For more info on the Kingdom of Patria series for children, go to www.kingdomofpatria.com.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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