Should Culture Dictate What Characters Authors Can Comfortably Create?

This was the BBC.com headline:

Spy Author Anthony Horowitz ‘Warned Off’ Creating Black Character:

Author Anthony Horowitz says he was “warned off” including a black character in his new book because it was “inappropriate” for a white writer. The creator of the Alex Rider teenage spy novels says an editor told him it could be considered “patronising” … Horowitz, who has written 10 novels featuring teenage spy Alex Rider, said there was a “chain of thought” in America that it was “inappropriate” for white writers to try to create black characters, something which he described as “dangerous territory”.

Dangerous territory, indeed like riding an e-scooter without a helmet on the open rode. So everybody had to make sure they planned out everything safely.

What are we to make of this? Is an author limited to only writing characters within their race? What about gender? Religion? Age? Ethnicity? Sexual orientation? Where do the boundaries stop?

The old adage, “write what you know,” is a thesis that implies a writer should limit their imagination to the parameters of their own life and experience. But does that maxim still hold true today? Certainly in these times of viral accessibility, contact, research, knowledge, and interaction with people, places, and things far outside our own proximity is as every-day as 24/7 updates from the farthest corners of the globe. Our ability, consequently, to gain perspective sufficient enough to write outside one’s own “house” is not only doable, but, perhaps, universal and insightful, presuming one does it well.

But is it “patronizing”? Are we, as writers, simply not allowed to write outside, say, our culture, regardless of how well we might do it? Has society become so compartmentalized, so hypersensitive, politically correct, and wary of triggering repercussion, resentment, or misinterpretation that reaching beyond our own skin — literally and figuratively – has become verboten to us as creative artists?

Interesting questions, these; particularly when you consider that men have been writing about women since time immemorial without particular societal concern that they couldn’t possibly know, couldn’t authentically muster, the requisite experiential perspective. It was a given that they could get the job done; accepted without debate. Yet the specificity, the sensitive and unique nature of being female, could be considered as disparate from the male experience as being black is to a white person, but that hasn’t stopped male authors, from Vladimir Nabokov to Wally Lamb, from creating their women of note.

Which is fair. Because the explicit job of an author is to climb inside the experience of LIFE, real or imagined, to tell compelling stories that reflect the incalculable diversity of detail, nuance, thought, and emotion of any variety of people, places, and things. And the creative mind can find and translate authenticity whether writing about Martians, coquettish teens, dogs who play poker, or characters who exactly mirror the author‘s gender or race.

I’ve had my own experience with this interesting conundrum: my last novel, Hysterical Love, was told through the first-person point-of-view of a thirty-three-year-old man, and it goes without saying: I’m not one of those. Yet I felt completely capable of infusing my story with authenticity by relying on my skills of observation, as well as my experiential knowledge as the sister of five men, the mother of a son, the wife of a man; my years on the road with rock bands, and the immersive research of being a close friend to many, many men throughout my life. I’ve been told I pulled it off, even by the men who’ve read it, so my conviction proved out.

But is the divide between cultures, races, wider than that of gender diversity? Does a white writer delegitimize their prose by including black characters? Is the reverse true?

I don’t think so. I think it depends on the writer, the quality of their work; the depth and sensitivity of their depictions. Those are my initial responses. But I also understand the question:

About two years ago I had an article up at HuffPost titled, No, White People Will Never Understand the Black Experience, a piece that became a flashpoint for much conversation on the topic of race. It was written in response to events of the time, particularly the egregious injustice of Sandra Bland’s arrest and subsequent (and inexplicable) jailhouse death, and the cacophony that arose amongst, amidst, and between parties on both sides of the racial divide as a result. My own thesis, my perspective on the tangible limitations we each have in perceiving and assessing the realities of life outside ourselves, is made clear by the title alone. But while there’s obviously much more to that debate, here and now we’re discussing the issue as it relates to the job of being an author and I have some specific thoughts on that.

Inspired by the many responses and conversations that ensued after the aforementioned article, as well as others written on the topic of racial conflict, bias, and injustice, I took one of the stories referenced, about an interracial couple’s experiences with police profiling, and developed it into a character-driven novel called A NICE WHITE GIRL, a title that reflects commentary made within some of the conversations I had.

This “sociopolitical love story” is told through the intertwining points-of-view of a black man and white woman dealing not only with pushback to their new and evolving relationship, but the ratcheting impact of police profiling that ultimately leads to a life-altering arrest. It’s a story that’s human, gut-wrenching, and honest, built on the foundation of my own experiences in a long-term interracial relationship earlier in my life, as well as journalistic research and interviews, personal interactions, even friendships with members of the black community. Given a commitment to creating the characters outside my demographic as authentically and sensitively as I possibly could, without watering them down or pandering to political correctness, I believe I served both my story and its cultural demands well. Did I?

Every author relies on, taps into; mines the wealth of thought, opinion, perspective, and acculturation of their own unique life experience. Certainly that’s true. But as artists, as observers and chroniclers of life by way of prose, we go beyond that pool of reference. We reach out, we expand; we explore plot lines and include characters that stretch our imagination, that dig deep into worlds, events and experiences, imagined or real, that can pull us onto less traveled roads that might demand the challenge of research, of specific observation, even outside consultation. We take these extra steps, even for fiction, because we want to infuse our work with inherent realness. Particularly when writing characters outside our culture. That was certainly the demand I faced when embarking upon this latest novel.

But I am a white woman who’s written a book with a black male character, inclusive of his mother, his sister, and various friends. I’ve depicted their family life, their interactions, relationships, thoughts and feelings. Do I not have the creative right to do that? Will I be seen as patronizing, insensitive, off base, and inappropriate? Will this make my book too controversial for representation, for publishing, for sale? Will it garner derision and disdain from members of the black community? Even members of the white community who may resent the harshness with which I depict some of the police?

I don’t know. Maybe. But it was a story I felt passionate about, compelled to write; that took the many debated aspects and elements discussed in my articles and put them into fictional form, with imagined characters who embodied and borrowed from people I knew, from conversations I’d had, from ideas, agendas, politics, and passions that had been conveyed to me by real people expressing essential and sometimes controversial perspectives. I was determined to honor them by candidly, honestly, and without apology, telling the story.

But perhaps, as Anthony Horowitz was told, I’m entering territory that is off-limits, that puts me at odds with those who might frame me as presumptuous and patronizing. “A nice white girl” who’s stepped outside of culturally acceptable boundaries.

I hope not, because I, like Mr. Horowitz, see that as “dangerous territory.”

Just as brilliant male authors have gorgeously written female protagonists; as female novelists have conjured male characters ringing with truth; as writers of one ethnicity have honestly depicted another; as fabulists have invented entire worlds of imagined wonders, authors must be limited by… NOTHING. Not a thing. They must be free to create without fear of cultural naysaying, societal judgment, threat of reprisal, or the discomfort of crossing cultural boundaries.

The only mandate to which they’re obligated is GOOD WRITING. Writing with wit and clarity. Honesty. Authenticity. Sensitivity and depth. Engaging prose, compelling plots, and visceral emotion. And, if need be, if determined helpful, the use of “sensitivity readers” who can ascertain if the writer got the cultural references right.

But just as Idris Elba could certainly make magic as James Bond, as Anthony Horowitz could create an intriguing black spy for his books; as I can write characters both male and of a culture outside my own, so must every author of merit and worth be allowed to view the entire panoply of life as fuel for their imagination. Anything else is antithetical to the mission of art… and stymying art serves no one. Not the writer, not the reader, not the myriad members of our diverse world hungry for stories that reflect their lives. Art is imagining; creating, mirroring, and provoking… all of which can and must be achieved by artists free to explore without the limiting effect of creative and cultural boundaries.

Photo by Cristian Newman @ Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

‘before the second sleep’ Reviews HYSTERICAL LOVE

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It’s been a while since a book blogger has taken the time to read this book of mine, my second novel and a book I loved writing, so it was a true pleasure to find this post today from Lisl Zlitni of before the second sleep book blog.

I always appreciate when someone not only enjoys my work, but discovers and appreciates the bigger themes and subtler tones, the nuances and humor, the characters and story twists, and puts her perspective into thoughtful words. I hope those of you who haven’t yet grab a copy, but mostly I want to thank writer, Lisl Zlitni, for giving my work her time and thoughtfulness. Following is her review:

Hysterical Love by Lorraine Devon Wilke
A B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

When I first picked up Lorraine Devon Wilke’s Hysterical Love, it was with anticipation, a muted sort of joy, not unlike that of a child anticipating a delicious treat or new toy. I had previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Devon Wilke’s debut novel After the Sucker Punch and was very ready to dive into this one.

Dan McDowell opens the novel, telling his readers he is “flummoxed” by relationships—not that this is so odd, but he was sure by now, at age 33, he’d be a bit past that phase. His bewildered recounting of what had just happened to him gave not only a promising opening to what looked to be a great yarn, but was also, well, so on target. It read, as I delivered the opening paragraphs aloud—reading aloud being a frequent habit—in a very male manner. It sounded like a man would say this, as opposed to the way a female author might write what she wants a male character to be expressing.

In this case, Dan is still a little confused as to how he ends up camped out in his neighbor’s spare bedroom, when just an hour or so before he and his longtime girlfriend had been setting a wedding date and Jane became Dan’s fiancée, at least for that hour. The long and the short is this: Jane muses aloud on the passage of time, she can’t believe it’s been three years of exclusivity, and…a split-second eye avert on Dan’s part and it’s all over. “I am the only person you’ve been with since we met, right?”

Something else about that male thing: Devon Wilke has got it down. Having read her before, I knew she was adept at writing a protagonist who is fast on her feet, articulate and can be sharp—the unifying trait being she wraps all points together and responds in full and succinctly. But that is a female character. How would the skills of her creator be utilized to mold a male type who didn’t merely change costumes for a different book?

The answers came as I continued to read—and laugh. As Dan relates his tale to us, his speech reveals who he is: “[S]omehow, despite amazingly good behavior on everyone’s parts, and often against the nature of all parties involved, someone in the room pulls the pin.” Like Tess’s, his remarks are witty, but closer to the nature of male metaphorical speech and the types of symbolism men tend to engage.

As Dan continues his narrative, his own commentary within the script, his hindsight enables him to recognize what he’s done wrong, and trigger phrases that just don’t go down well with the opposite sex: “Technically,” “What’s the big deal?” and a hilarious transition phrase that cues us into the impending shit storm: “The temperature drop is like the girl’s room in The Exorcist.”

As it turns out, Dan had been with his previous girlfriend after he’d met (and slept with) Jane, his defense being that he and Jane hadn’t verbally or officially committed to an exclusive relationship. From Jane’s point of view, just having slept together constitutes the commitment, and she isn’t having any of his excuses.

At this point I was no longer the least bit curious about a female author writing from a first-person male protagonist perspective. It was Dan speaking.

Not long after, Dan’s sister Lucy and he have a series of conversations pertaining to their father, who has recently fallen ill, and the concept of whether Jane truly is Dan’s “soul mate.” Lucy reveals the existence of a short story their father had written before their parents’ marriage, about a woman he’d had an impassioned affair with, a revelation startling Dan enough to spark questions such as, “Do you suppose there’s a genetic component to being crappy with relationships?”

The sarcastic question is two-pronged. The father he knows is impatient, unsentimental and underwhelmed with just about everything, “all of which combine to make his previous self impossible to reconcile with who he is now.”

 

But Dan also, following Lucy’s train of thought within her ongoing advice to him, begins to contemplate the idea that this woman, “Barbara from Oakland,” might really have been the one his father was meant for. Could that explain the deterioration of his father’s previous creativity and passion, and poor relationship with the family he does have? Moreover, what might this bode for Dan and Jane? Was their disastrous argument meant to steer Dan to his true soul mate? In order to seek answers, Dan concludes he must find Barbara. In so doing, he befriends Fiona, a waitress and herbal pharmacist who soon becomes partner in his “vision quest.”

Through this Dan continues to have contact with his daily life, such as phone conversations with his sister who is, unsurprisingly, angry with his disappearing act. The heated conversations are slightly reminiscent of those between After the Sucker Punch’s Tess and her own sister, and though Dan answers back in self-defense, he carries a greater restraint; he holds back more often, perhaps having quickly absorbed a lesson learned from his unthought out answers during the engagement-ending skirmish with Jane. In his subsequent reflections he assesses himself in a straight forward, honest manner. His commentary is pithy and on-target, and he doesn’t discount what others say to or about him. In Dan McDowell, Devon Wilke has created a character eager to grow and learn, but one nevertheless subject to the shifting of mood or whim. He is well balanced, but as in need of growth as any of the rest of us.

Devon Wilke is also an astute observer of human behavior, and there were frequent bouts of laughter on my part or murmured “Mmm hmm” upon recognition of the comically familiar….

[Click HERE to read full review.]

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Yes, Dear Book, Let’s Go With $2.99 For a Bit!

Wiping Window_photo art by Brenda Perlin

Book marketing is like dieting: occasionally necessary but tends to make one cranky.

At least that’s what book marketing has been to me, especially after so many years of doing it, so much desire to do it well, and so much sensitivity about not eliciting eye-rolls from those weary of hearing about my precious tomes. I’m probably overly-sensitive about such things; I’d guess that’s based on my own weariness with book marketers on social media (relentless… have you seen Twitter??). One does have to be judicious, doesn’t one?

Truth be told, I don’t know how successful I’ve been in my own marketing efforts. Sales have been sporadic and unpredictable, titles struggle to stay afloat in the sheer ocean of available books, and promised reviews from both readers and editorial writers have too often not materialized. But I do get an inkling, from time-to-time, of my marketing success. When new readers write to tell me my book reflected their life, made them laugh, brought them to tears, or, as one fellow wrote about my first novel, After The Sucker Punch, “it’s going to help me in my lifelong quest to understand women.” That’s when you know your efforts have struck the right chords.

And since it’s been a while since I’ve attempted any book-related chord-striking, I thought I’d take a moment away from slogging through Draft 1 of my latest effort (a third novel set to launch… well, not sure when it’s set to launch), to gussy up my second, HYSTERICAL LOVE, for a little “Kindle Countdown” love:

HYSTERICAL LOVE will be on sale for the price of $2.99 (for the e-book) from 6:00 am PST Friday, July 22nd, until 11:00 pm PST, Sunday, July 24th.  

That’s three full days of sale… which is lovely, because the ebook typically sells for $6.99 (still a bargain when you consider the price of movie tickets or that non-fat latte!). So please stop by to take advantage of this brief but welcoming sale price to enjoy a book that’s received delightfully widespread kudos!

Let me share a bit about it:

HYSTERICAL LOVE tells the story of Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, who finds his pending marriage tossed after a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier. Out of the house for longer than expected, and unable to breach the gap with Jane, life is further upended when he reads a story written by his ailing father about a lost love of fifty years ago that appears to haunt him still.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan sets off on a wild ride beset with detours, twists, and semi-hilarious peril in search of this woman from his father’s past, convinced she holds the key to happiness for them all. Along the way he collides with an eclectic array of characters — particularly the preternaturally stunning Fiona — leading to unexpected truths and, ultimately, the story’s  startling conclusion.

Hysterical Love explores themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

HL_camera2_photo art by Brenda Perline

Want some reviews to further intrigue you?

Hysterical Love: Review by Barb Taub @ Writing & Coffee Book Blog:

“I never found a writer who was as good as DH Lawrence, but who could also get into a man’s head and tell that story. Until now…Wilke combines humor, terrific writing, and some none-too-gently acquired truths into a different kind of relationship story.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: review by Ali Levett @ A Woman’s Wisdom Book Blog:

“This is one of those books which exceeded all my expectations. I was expecting a romance with a couple of twists to the tale but what I got was something far deeper and more satisfying…If you want a book with many layers and to be thoroughly entertained by a cracking story then this one is for you.” (Read more…) 

Hysterical Love @ Kirkus Reviews:

“Wilke is a skilled writer, able to plausibly inhabit Dan’s young male perspective… A well-written, engaging, sometimes-frustrating tale of reaching adulthood a little late.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: Judge; 3rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards:

“The author has an incredible skill for storytelling and her voice is without reproach. The novel is well designed, well-edited and of high production quality.”

Hysterical Love: reviewed by Charla White @ WordsAPlenty:

“Wilke is passionate about the development of her characters as they come to life with each word. The reader cannot help but connect to her characters. The plot is strong, fresh, balanced and delivered skillfully. It is a moving story and is a must read for anyone who has been, is, or thinks they may fall in love someday.

Don’t miss this book. It is a wonderful read. Wilke is a truly gifted writer and one to watch grow; she will continue to provide thought-provoking stories based on real issues. WordsAPlenty gives this book a highly deserved 5 star rating.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love @ Literary Fiction Book Review:

“The narrative is effectively told through first person, with Daniel candidly confiding his fears and confusion to the reader. Devon Wilke manages to convey the male psyche with a good-natured humor that seems eminently believable. Hysterical Love is a deftly told tale about not only the search for love in the 21st century, but about seeking a greater understanding of the intricacies of the human heart, about love in all its various forms and disguises: puppy love, lost love, emerging love, enduring love, and of course, hysterical love.” (Read more…)

Hysterical Love: review by Tracy Slowiak @ Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews:

“Oh my, oh my! I just finished reading Hysterical Love, the newest novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke, and I must say, I simply adored it! Lorraine Devon Wilke’s writing style is witty, pointed and funny, even hilarious at times.” (Read more…)

[More HERE, if you’re interested.]

So, that’s the pitch. Now go get your copy and… enjoy the read!

Once again:

HYSTERICAL LOVE will be on sale for the lovely price of $2.99 (for the e-book) from 6:00 am PST Friday, July 22nd, until 11:00 pm PST, Sunday, July 24th.  

HL photo art by Brenda Perlin.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

That Universal Yearning: How Finding Love Became the Theme of HYSTERICAL LOVE

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An interviewer asked me recently about the themes I most often employ in my writing, mentioning that love and family were central pivots around which both my novels spun. She wondered why those two themes so resonated with me, and I told her it was simply because they’re the most universal themes in all of life. Regardless of circumstance, ethnicity, social status, or any of the other qualifying ways in which we define and divide life, we all have family and we all want love. Even Edward longed for his Bella and he was a vampire!

When I started writing Hysterical Love, my second novel, the story evolved in a way that made it a companion piece to my first, After The Sucker Punch. While very different stories in terms of tone, plot, storyline, and protagonist, both involve thirty-something people reacting to the words of their fathers. But where Tessa, of my first novel, was most involved in rediscovering who she was—and who she was to her deceased father—after reading his scathing journals, Dan’s journey in Hysterical Love is all about love, sweet, elusive, maddening love.

And it’s an exploration of love on many levels: not just the heady lust and passion of new love that’s so often the driving force of drama, but the longer-term love of Dan’s three-year relationship with Jane (his very-soon-to-be-ex-fiancée); the lifetime love of his parents married for forty years; even the fleeting love of youth described in a fifty-year-old story written by his father. His roommate, Bob, revels in love’s abundance, his workmate, Zoey, can’t seem to find it, his sister, Lucy, is convinced it’s all about soul mates. But it’s when his father has a stroke and hovers near death, mumbling the name of the woman from the fifty-year-old story, that Dan is struck by the realization of another kind of love: love unrequited.

Given the strains and struggles of his parents’ cranky, utterly unromantic marriage, the story of his father’s aching first love of fifty years earlier overwhelms Dan’s imagination. And when he hears his comatose father mumble the name of the woman from the story, he’s struck by an unrestrainable urge to go find her, convinced she holds answers to his many questions about love.

So Dan sets off on an untimely and ill-conceived road trip to Oakland, CA, where the woman was last located, determined to change the course of his and his father’s lives. While on that tumultuous journey, he not only questions every aspect of his life, he’s faced with defining a whole new level of love when he meets the gorgeous, intriguing Fiona, a woman surely formed from someone’s fantasy. She appears as if sent from the gods to help in his quest and, in doing so, takes his breath away, forcing him to face his own definition of the elusive emotion.

But it’s the one-two punch of the plot’s unfolding—the reality of the woman he’s searching for, and Jane’s unexpected arrival to win his heart back, that forces love, an urgent pull both life-giving and soul shattering, to be most deeply examined.

For any adult who’s experienced the roller-coaster ride inherent in our human urge to connect and find affection, Dan’s story, and that of his parents, his fiancée, his workmates, his roommate, even Fiona, will surely resonate. He’s led to new thoughts, new realizations, and some painful, if undeniable, conclusions about the many faces love wears, and, in ways he couldn’t have imagined at the start of his story, he finds life altered accordingly.  

The true testament to the power of love… 

Photoart by Brenda Perlin

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Sharing Some HYSTERICAL LOVE with IndieBRAG’s Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Photoart by Brenda Perlin copy

Given the many challenges of marketing indie novels in a wild and crazy industry teeming with books of every kind, I’m always grateful for those who step up with true interest and awareness of what I’m doing as a writer. It’s gratifying to not only get noticed in the literary tsunami, but get pulled out for recognition and a little conversation.

My debut novel, After the Sucker Punch, was awarded an indieBRAG Medallion last year and that honor triggered a lot of media attention and a spate of new readers who might not have heard of the book otherwise. So when, this year, Hysterical Love was awarded that same honor, I felt doubly fortunate.

They’re a great organization run by a strong leader, Geri Clouston, with an able and enthusiastic ambassador in Stephanie Hopkins, who is indefatigable in her efforts to promote indieBRAG authors and their books.

Toward that end, she invited me to sit down with her to have a chat specifically about Hysterical Love, as well as my general writing process. Thank you, Stephanie; I enjoyed the conversation, always delighted when my books strike a chord!

Click HERE to read the interview.

Photoart by Brenda Perlin. 

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Loving A Little Love From Kirkus, indieBRAG, et al.

photoart by Brenda Perlin
OK, remember my
last post, about the “necessary evils of self-promotion”? Well, here we go, right here… sit back and enjoy a little “sonata for horn ensemble”…

When I was prepping for the launch of my latest book, Hysterical Love, I approached it with more forethought than was applied to my first book, After The Sucker Punch. Despite that book doing remarkably well (and still doing remarkably well) via my own little independent author efforts, this go-around I opted to work with a wonderful publicist, Julie Schoerke at JKSCommunications. She and her team were very helpful in sorting out and working on the most effective options available to me, given my indie status.

Because it does get confusing. For every blog, site, “expert” that tells you to do this or that, another slew will say something akin to the opposite. Additionally, (and I’ve written much on this) the unfathomable glut of indie books, along with the subsequent media nose-sniffing and stereotyping, have conspired to make it difficult for any indie author to leap through the burning hoops requisite for success. But still; we are writers writing books and once you’ve written a book you love, you’re obligated to get it out there and market it into vibrant life, come hell or high water. 

But back to the publicist: amongst the many words of wisdom she imparted during our time together, and after I asked her specifically about industrial-strength review sites like Kirkus and Foreward, she expressed an opinion I was not expecting: go for it, she said. She felt those two, of all the like-options, were valid, bona fide; often very tough, but worth the pursuit in that they have great reach and tremendous influence on what books people pay attention to. So I pursued Kirkus, fingers crossed that I wouldn’t get eviscerated. 

But I did wonder about that purported toughness, because I couldn’t help but notice there are few (if any) negative reviews posted, for example, at Kirkus. Then I discovered that every reviewed author has the option to not publish the review they receive if it’s a negative one… which explains the disproportionately jolly outcome of what’s up there! But what a charitable option, I thought. Who wants a gutting review from one of the biggest book/media resources in the world bouncing all over the internet for the rest of time if there’s an option to opt out? I felt at least assured of having some control over whatever Kirkus outcome came out.

And what came out was a lovely, largely positive review that I’d be happy to share with even my mother! I was delighted, because whatever one thinks of such “shallow pursuits” as reviews (something an acerbic blogger snarked to me once), having positive perspective of your book bandied about is much better than the opposite. Here’s the takeaway quote:

“Wilke is a skilled writer, able to plausibly inhabit Dan’s young male perspective… A well-written, engaging, sometimes-frustrating tale of reaching adulthood a little late.”   

I don’t know about the “frustrating” part (they also took exception with my protagonist’s behavior with a bit more verve than I might’ve, but others have also found him such, so likely I’m biased!). And though I didn’t garner one of their “stars” or “prizes,” I was grateful to get what I got. Yippidy do dah day! May floods of Kirkusian readers come rollin’ my way!  

The other “love” Hysterical Love garnered this week was the very lovely B.R.A.G. Medallion from indieBRAG.com. This acknowledgment is awarded by book clubs and readers affiliated with the site, and it really is quite an honor (my debut novel, After The Sucker Punch, is also a Medallion honoree). The site’s president. Geri Clouston, as well as its most public and passionate voice, Stephanie Moore Hopkins, are incredibly supportive and generous with their “honorees,” and the nod from them and their organization is always a welcomed gift… thank you!

To cap off this utterly self-serving but authentically felt trumpet solo, I’ll end with the other two accolades recently received: a wonderful review from Literary Fiction Book Reviews:

Hysterical Love is a deftly told tale about not only the search for love in the 21st century, but about seeking a greater understanding of the intricacies of the human heart, about love in all its various forms and disguises: puppy love, lost love, emerging love, enduring love, and of course, hysterical love.” (Read more…) 

And another from the sweetly enthusiastic Tracy Slowiak at Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews:

“Oh my, oh my! I just finished reading Hysterical Love, the newest novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke, and I must say, I simply adored it! …I loved this book! Loved, loved, loved it. Wilke’s writing style is witty, pointed and funny, even hilarious at times.” (Read more…)

So yes, a good run.

But here’s the thing: none of this matters if you, the readers, aren’t inspired to get out (or get to your computers) to buy and read said book(s)! What ultimately matters most to me is that reviews and awards spark a, “that sounds good… I have to get a copy” kind of response. Because (and I’m not just saying this!), getting my books into your hands to read and enjoy is the whole gig. THE WHOLE GIG. I’m just here doing my part to make sure you know how wise you’d be to pursue that goal. 🙂

And now I’m done. Thank you for listening and go have a great day. (Damn, my lips hurt!)

Photoart by Brenda Perlin

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Lorraine Devon Wilke Reviewed! by Mark Barry of Green Wizard Publishing

The author_2sm

It’s not every day you have a deliciously brilliant author/indie publisher from the UK spend a little word count on your behalf, so when it happens, how remiss would you be if you didn’t share those precious words with your always interested audience?

Please take a moment to enjoy the very funny, astute, and really touching write-up Mr. Mark Barry wrote up about the state of fiction in general, and my fiction specifically.

And when you click over to read the full post, I urge you to take some time to click on Barry’s books posted on his site. The three I’ve read—Carla, The Night Porter, and Once Upon A Time In the City of Criminals—were each incredibly original stories, with fierce wit, enough edge to slice a finger, and utterly intriguing characters and plot lines. Which makes his kudos for my work all the more meaningful.

Thank you, sir; you are a reminder of what a wonderful circle of wagons the indie community can be!

• • • • • • • •

Lorraine Devon Wilke Reviewed!

by Mark Barry

Contemporary Fiction is the unwanted, bastard stepchild of Independent fiction.

Harsh? No. True. Don’t believe me? Come and join me at the shelter where, just outside the soup kitchen, you can find ten, fifteen, twenty Contemporary Fiction writers huddled around the brazier, polystyrene mug of powdered Minestrone warming fingerless mitts and coating trembling, arid lips.

Contemps just can’t catch a break.We starve for our art.

I’ll go further.

To sell in Indie, you need to be writing genre fiction.

Famous Nottingham author Nicola Valentine held court on this in a debate at the Nottingham Writer’s Studio a short while ago and many, many blogs and analysts on the scene allude to the eminence, the supremacy of genre. Here’s the top four (outside non-fiction and self help).

Vampire – preferably the stuff that sparkles.
Erotica – atm, LGBT erotica in particular.
Young Adult – pick something unreal and it’s likely to be written about: Wizards, Zombies and Gargoyles have been popular recently and of course,
Romance/chicklit – say no more.

(The really clever authors who are sitting on biblical piles of paper moolah the size of the Tower of Babel are those who write dirty vampire romances for teenagers. They’re rolling cigars made of crisp twenties and laughing all the way to the bank).

That’s genre.

Unreal. Invented. Other. Escapist.

In fact, genre fiction= escapist. The more fantastic, the more unreal and out there, the more it is likely to sell.

Contemporary fiction writers can usually be found hunting for food in skips outside conferences full of genre authors, which is a shame as generally contemporary fiction authors, as writers, knock genre writers into a cocked hat. These boys and girls can write.

And Lorraine Devon Wilke, who lives just up the road from Brenda Perlin, the “Faction” writer I featured last week, is a damned fine contemporary writer indeed.

She’s written two books. The first, After The Sucker Punch, I reviewed here: Review of After The Sucker Punch

I loved it. It was in the top three books I read last year and in the top thirty of my lifetime. It is that good…

CLICK TO CONTINUE READING….


Smashwords2Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Huffington Post. Her article archive can be found at Contently, her photos at Fine Art America, and details and links to her other work @ www.lorrainedevonwilke.com.

Her novels, AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH and HYSTERICAL LOVE, are available in ebook and paperback at Amazon and Smashwords. Her short story, “She Tumbled Down,” (ebook) is available at Amazon. To view the After The Sucker Punch trailer, click HERE.

Be sure to stay current with her adventures in publishing here at her book blog at www.AfterTheSuckerPunch.com.

Words & Pictures: How Important IS Cover Art?

"Walking the Cambria Shore" original photo, Hysterical Love back cover
“Walking the Cambria Shore” original photo, Hysterical Love back cover

Someone asked me the other day what was the singlemost reason I chose to self-publish my books. Actually, I have two reasons, which, I suppose, makes this a “doublemost” situation.

First: while I would’ve loved (I mean, seriously loved) the help of an enthusiastic literary agent and the support and heft of a publisher with name value and cultural prestige, procuring those collaborators in our ever-changing industry has become an increasingly elusive event; it certainly was for me. I gave it my all over several years then decided I had no more all to give; since I truly believed what I was doing merited further advancement, and I’d gotten to the point where I just wanted to move forward, I leapt off the indie cliff.

Think I’m still in mid-fall!

Second: I wanted control over the work I put out. Frankly, if you’re not getting the perks of industry collaboration, there has to be some kind of trade-off; one of the most phenomenal trade-offs of “doing it yourself” is controlling exactly how your work comes to fruition. For the uninitiated, this is a big thing because, with traditional publishers, items like final edit, title, and book cover are typically taken out of the hands of the author. Certainly an unknown author. Which would be me. And since I was one of the brave souls striking out independently—for better or for worse—one of the “betterest” reasons was the ability to create and produce EXACTLY the books I wanted.

"Bene Bene" original photo, front cover, Hysterical Love
“Bene Bene” original photo, front cover, Hysterical Love

Now, if you’re like me, a creative perfectionist who’s driven many a musician, producer, co-writer, actor, director, sound mixer, editor, or wildly opinionated drummer crazy with detailed, nuanced, and very specific standards and opinions, you’ll understand that the perk of creative control for someone like me is a boon. I’ve always believed that, if you’ve put in the time to truly learn your craft, gain your experience, hone your expertise, and bring to life a beautifully imagined story and set of characters, you deserve the power to render the final edit, pick the title, and decide on your cover art. Certainly working with professionals in the arena of editing is essential, input on titles is always illuminating, and a cover designer is a must-have, but ultimately it all comes down to YOU.

She Tumbled Down_v
“Street Memorial,” She Tumbled Down

Which is lovely.

And a book cover, to my mind, is one of the most important elements of the final product. Why wouldn’t it be? Books truly are judged by their covers and too often the covers of self-published books are artistically lacking, poorly designed, and amateurishly rendered. Those covers then become litmus tests to the perusing and reading public, signaling to many that this writer may not have a firm grasp on professional market standards and, therefore, likely hasn’t delivered a professionally excellent book. I’m sure that’s not true in every case, but from all reports: most.

So given my bona fides as a photographer with a deep catalogue of images from which to choose—convenient, considering my preference for photographic cover art—my design process was both financially beneficial and extremely simple. Add in the fact that my cover designer is a brilliant graphic artist from Chicago, Grace Amandes, who just happens to be my sister, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d get exactly the covers I wanted. And I did.

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCHwith its story of a woman who discovers on the night of her father’s funeral that he thought she was a failure, needed a female face in the background, one that reflected the mood and emotional tone of the piece. After pulling an image from my gallery—as well as finding a back cover image that illustrated another story point that takes place in Cambria, CA— I handed the images to Grace, who ultimately came back with a cover I loved: 

AfterTheSuckerPunch_front_cover

With HYSTERICAL LOVE, a more whimsical story about a thirty-something guy struggling to find the meaning of true love and his father’s long-lost soul mate, a through-line involving an ice cream truck became the inspiration. There was no doubt I’d be using a favorite photograph taken in my neighborhood and processed with a “selective color” concept (see original above). Grace found the exact right font and color for the title, and it has become a cover that people literally smile over. I do too!

HL front cover

For “She Tumbled Down,” a short story about a tragic hit-and-run, published only in e-book, I decided to design the cover myself, trusting that, since ebooks don’t require quite the specifications of a print cover, I could pull it off. Inspired by Grace’s work, I came up with another “selective color” version of an image also taken in my neighborhood (see original above). It makes the very poignant point.

She Tumbled Down

Working in both literary and photographic mediums, I’ve discovered my general thrust as an artist is, quite simply, storytelling. Whether visual, literal, or musical, the narrative I see and feel impels the work forward, and so it has been a natural marriage between words and images in bringing my books to happily imagined life…a result that makes all the challenges and occasional indignities of self-publishing all the more easy to forgive!

To view my photography galleries at Fine Art America click HERE.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Art of the Book Cover: Pictures Tell the Story

Walking the Cambria Shore_sm
“Walking the Cambria Shore” — original photo used for back cover of AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

Someone asked me the other day what was the singlemost reason I chose to self-publish my books. Actually, I have two reasons, which, I suppose, makes this a “doublemost” situation.

First: while I would’ve loved (I mean, seriously loved) the help of an enthusiastic literary agent and the support and heft of a publisher with name value and cultural prestige, procuring those collaborators in our ever-changing industry has become an increasingly elusive event; it certainly was for me. I gave it my all over several years then decided I had no more all to give; since I truly believed what I was doing merited further advancement, and I’d gotten to the point where I just wanted to move forward, I leapt off the indie cliff.

Think I’m still in mid-fall!

Second: I wanted control over the work I put out. Frankly, if you’re not getting the perks of industry collaboration, there has to be some kind of trade-off; one of the most phenomenal trade-offs of “doing it yourself” is controlling exactly how your work comes to fruition. For the uninitiated, this is a big thing because, with traditional publishers, items like final edit, title, and book cover are typically taken out of the hands of the author. Certainly an unknown author. Which would be me. And since I was one of the brave souls striking out independently—for better or for worse—one of the “betterest” reasons was the ability to create and produce EXACTLY the books I wanted.

Bene Bene_sm
“Bene Bene” – original photo used for HYSTERICAL LOVE cover

Now, if you’re like me, a creative perfectionist who’s driven many a musician, producer, co-writer, actor, director, sound mixer, editor, or wildly opinionated drummer crazy with detailed, nuanced, and very specific standards and opinions, you’ll understand that the perk of creative control for someone like me is a boon. I’ve always believed that, if you’ve put in the time to truly learn your craft, gain your experience, hone your expertise, and bring to life a beautifully imagined story and set of characters, you deserve the power to render the final edit, pick the title, and decide on your cover art. Certainly working with professionals in the arena of editing is essential, input on titles is always illuminating, and a cover designer is a must-have, but ultimately it all comes down to YOU.

She Tumbled Down_v
“Street Memorial” — Original photo used for cover of “She Tumbled Down”

Which is lovely.

And a book cover, to my mind, is one of the most important elements of the final product. Why wouldn’t it be? Books truly are judged by their covers and too often the covers of self-published books are artistically lacking, poorly designed, and amateurishly rendered. Those covers then become litmus tests to the perusing and reading public, signaling to many that this writer may not have a firm grasp on professional market standards and, therefore, likely hasn’t delivered a professionally excellent book. I’m sure that’s not true in every case, but from all reports: most.

So given my bona fides as a photographer with a deep catalogue of images from which to choose—convenient, considering my preference for photographic cover art—my design process was both financially beneficial and extremely simple. Add in the fact that my cover designer is a brilliant graphic artist from Chicago, Grace Amandes, who just happens to be my sister, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d get exactly the covers I wanted. And I did.

AfterTheSuckerPunch_front_cover

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCHwith its story of a woman who discovers on the night of her father’s funeral that he thought she was a failure, needed a female face in the background, one that reflected the mood and emotional tone of the piece. After pulling an image from my gallery—as well as finding a back cover image that illustrated another story point that takes place in Cambria, CA— I handed the images to Grace, who ultimately came back with a cover I loved: 

With HYSTERICAL LOVE, a more whimsical story about a thirty-something guy struggling to find the meaning of true love and his father’s long-lost soul mate, a through-line involving an ice cream truck became the inspiration. There was no doubt I’d be using a favorite photograph taken in my neighborhood and processed with a “selective color” concept (see original above). Grace found the exact right font and color for the title, and it has become a cover that people literally smile over. I do too!

HL front cover_indieBRAG

For “She Tumbled Down,” a short story about a tragic hit-and-run, published only in e-book, I decided to design the cover myself, trusting that, since ebooks don’t require quite the specifications of a print cover, I could pull it off. Inspired by Grace’s work, I came up with another “selective color” version of an image also taken in my neighborhood (see original above). It makes the very poignant point.

She Tumbled Down

Working in both literary and photographic mediums, I’ve discovered my general thrust as an artist is, quite simply, storytelling. Whether visual, literal, or musical, the narrative I see and feel impels the work forward, and so it has been a natural marriage between words and images in bringing my books to happily imagined life…a result that makes all the challenges and occasional indignities of self-publishing all the more easy to forgive!

To view my photography galleries at Fine Art America click HERE.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The New Novel Is Here! HYSTERICAL LOVE Hits The Book Shelves

HL on the rocks

Like a gestating, beloved baby, Hysterical Love has been nurtured, polished, fed well, spit-shined, and lovingly led to glorious life in the last many months, coming to full creative fruition, and finally, right on time, stepping onto the stage:

HYSTERICAL LOVE now available for purchase!  

For those who’ve asked, it is, in some ways, a bookend to my debut novel, After The Sucker Punch. Though very different stories told from very different points of view, both books involve adult children reading the written words of a father and being propelled onto a journey of a personal and/or transformative nature as a result. In the case of Hysterical Love, the story is told from the first-person perspective of Dan McDowell, a man knee-deep in a burgeoning existential crises:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long. It’s long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona. But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Hysterical Love infuses a deft mix of humor and drama into a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist, exploring themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

I realize these are wild times in the book industry, traditional, independent and everything in between. Hundreds of thousands of titles are published each year and it’s a challenge for readers to know what to buy, what books will engage them, and which authors they want to explore and follow. As a reader myself, I know it’s hard to ferret through the tsunami of supply to find the work that resonates with you. Given that, I hope you will take a look at this new book of mine. I guarantee you will find something within it to engage you, make you laugh, pique a thought or two, and, hey, there’s much mention of ice cream and pie… that can only be good! 🙂 

Pick up a copy…and ENJOY! I’ll be most appreciative, I promise.    

Hysterical Love on Amazon
Hysterical Love on Smashwords

Photograph of Hysterical Love by Julie Schoerke @ JKSCommunications.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.