Posted on March 11, 2019 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
We’ve interviewed a number of authors who’ve drawn inspiration for their fiction from the exotic places they’ve visited and lived.
Author Wayne Clark, a Canadian native, has also lived in Holland, Mexico, and Germany, but his general takeaway from those experiences, as far as writing goes, was how much we’re all alike underneath the cultural differences.
Instead, it was a place much closer to home that has heavily flavored his three novels: New York City.
His latest tale — Hollywood via Orchard Street — and That Woman are both set in historic New York, while his first book, he & She, splits time between the Big Apple and Montreal.
We quizzed Clark, a retired journalist who now has the luxury of full-time fiction writing, about his source of inspiration and motivation.
SADYE: What fascinates you about New York City?
WAYNE: I became intrigued by New York as an adolescent after discovering a newspaperman’s correspondence course my father had once taken in the 1930s.
It was packed away in a basement trunk of keepsakes. The course described the working life of reporters in NY in great detail.
It sounded exciting, and I could see myself running to the scene of a breaking story while carefully noting the nearest phone booth for phoning in my story — on deadline, of course.
Add to that two facts. One, my father was nuts about baseball. His team was the New York Giants.
Somehow the first team I ever rooted for was the Brooklyn Dodgers (I’m dating myself). My younger brother got stuck with the Yankees.
Fact two, by the time I reached fifteen or sixteen years of age, I was developing a taste for jazz. According to the movies I’d seen, New York equaled jazz and baseball.
By seventeen, I had a job on a newspaper, and from the get-go my ambition was to be one in New York. I had a good career in journalism, but I never worked for a New York paper.
I was still a teenager when I started visiting the city on my own. I continue to make regular and often lengthy visits to this day. I feel almost as at home there as I do Montreal.
SADYE: What has been your proudest or most rewarding moment as a writer?
WAYNE: Without doubt, that moment was publishing my first novel in 2013. It was a bucket-list moment.
Over the years I had written others but, in the end, I didn’t like them much and didn’t make any effort to publish them.
SADYE: So how did you change either the quality of your fiction or your perception of it?
WAYNE: For all intents and purposes, I was retired by the time I published my first novel.
I was free to do what I really wanted to do because writing didn’t cost money and I had time.
I’ve always been an early riser, and I started making my first activity of the day a session at the keyboard. I would picture random things and just start writing.
Intentionally, I never asked myself to map out the scene or make it part of something bigger. The scene was the thing, and I would let it take me where it wanted to go.
As I said, I regarded this as an exercise and a way to pass time on a rainy day.
Most of the time, what came out was drivel, and I’d stop at the end of the two-hour deadline I’d given myself, but some days a few hours would fly by unnoticed and I’d find myself with mini-stories or the beginnings of them.
One day, something I’d just written brought to mind the memory of having once sketched a scene or two about a woman I’d known.
Instantly, I realized that what I was fabricating that morning, just for the pleasure of writing, dovetailed nicely with those scenes from a couple of years previous.
My unconscious had made the connection. I soon had a chapter, which five months later became the draft of a novel.
I’ve tried to repeat that process ever since.
SADYE: One new challenge you mentioned encountering was avoiding Chinese stereotypes in Hollywood Via Orchard Street. What advice would you give another author in that situation?
WAYNE: I made sure that everything that was potentially stereotypical was being applied by another character in the book. In other words, not by me, the author.
I was writing a story set in another time, New York in the Depression, an era that was also called the Golden Age of Cinema.
As I wrote, I could hear the voices in newsreels, of actors and radio broadcasters of the 1930s.
I had to be careful not to get too swept up in my narration by their voices. That had to be left to my characters.
I also researched the slang used at the time. ... There were some things that sound bad to our politically correct ears today, but at the time were not perceived that way.
It also helped that my eldest daughter’s boyfriend is Chinese.
SADYE: What would you tell your younger self to do differently, as it pertains to writing fiction?
WAYNE: To keep plugging away more than I did, to not give up because what was appearing on the page wasn’t brilliant.
I used to get very down on myself when my writing wasn’t going well. I would turn my back on it for months or longer.
Now, I keep reminding myself that nothing gets written if there are no fingers moving on the keyboard. I tell myself there are surprises around the corner if I keep writing.
I keep any eye on myself to make sure I’m not doing any self-censoring. Get your story down, then edit.
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Categories: Author Interview