Today I’m talking with James Snyder, the author of the novel ‘The Beautiful-Ugly’ the story of Connelly Pierce, who loses her parents at age six, and begins a fourteen-year odyssey of survival and self-discovery. Think “Girl, Interrupted” meets “She’s Come Undone”.
James, thank you for being so generous with your time today letting me ask you a few questions about your novel. To start of today’s session I’d like you to take us through where this book commenced.
The image of my newborn daughter through the pediatric window. Being a parent for the first time, I began to think about her growing up, what awaited her, and then what if my wife or myself were not there to help her along. Then–bam–Connelly’s story basically came together quickly inside my head.
So, the birth of your daughter was the main life experience that you drew on when writing this book?
That was the starting point, putting it together. What I knew directly, what I’ve experienced. And even the secondhand experience I tried to filter through as much personal osmosis as possible. Of course, this is the coming-of-age story of a girl from age six to her early twenties, so that osmosis only went so far in some instances.
Since you’re following a girl through the first part of her life, I’d like to know how the characters developed through the course of the novel? And who was your favourite to write?
Most of them, like the story, quickly and strongly. Others developed more slowly, as the deeper layers of the story developed.
Connelly, of course, was extraordinary, but I enjoyed creating and being with them all, for different reasons.
Is there any character in your book that you would like to go out and socialise with?
I wouldn’t mind having a cast party and having everyone in the book there to celebrate.
I love the idea of having a big cast party to celebrate. So apart from the strong presence of Connelly and your other characters did you feel a need to integrate themes or morals into the book?
Not in the beginning. At first it’s all about the concept, the idea, then the story. I believe if you have a good story, with great characters, hopefully the universal nature of it will shine forth. Little ideas become big ideas become themes. Maybe I see that more as a subconscious process; otherwise, you run the risk of becoming didactic, which may be one of the cardinal sins of writing.
Did you do any research to when you were writing this book to prevent yourself falling into that didactic trap?
Tons. The setting and circumstances in the book are extremely varied, some of them entirely unfamiliar to me in the beginning, but, I knew, very familiar to others. I always like it when professionals in whatever field weigh in and give a thumbs up. It validates the effort.
Did you find that effort of going through the research the most rewarding part of the book, or were you struck by another factor as more satisfying?
Overcoming the challenge of making my characters as real as possible. I wanted them there, flesh and blood, before the reader, which may have its downside. Some readers have told me they were unable to finish the story, because it was too painful or real or whatever. Other readers, including my wife, stopped talking to me for a while.
With feedback like the novel was too painful or real really highlights the strong emotions that you were able to communicate in your writing. Can you give us a bit of insight into your writing style by starting off with any techniques you use for writing to bring this to life?
I try to write every day, as another author said, without hope and without despair.
That’s great advice to write without such strong emotions. Do you find that your day job helps you with your approach to writing?
I’m an executive for a Fortune 500 company. I meet a lot of people under a variety of circumstances. I have to think some of that makes its way over to the creative side.
How about the editing process, do you bring in the same idea here? And do you edit yourself?
I edit as I go, usually prior to writing new copy. I could not imagine writing a complete first draft and then going back and editing it. Then it goes to beta readers and more editing. Then to professional editors and a final revision.
And how long did this process take for this book?
About two years.
One of the things I liked about book was the cover, who designed it?
Richard K. Green did The Beautiful-Ugly. I’ve used different designers, depending.
Do you have any tips for self-publishing for other authors?
Be able to write a really good book, and be as professional as possible in every part of the process.
How did you feel when you got your first book review?
I’ve always tried to take a neutral attitude toward reviews. Once the book is published, it belongs to the readers. Although I occasionally wonder if the book they’re reviewing is the one I wrote.
How do you feel about the future of reading/ writing and publishing?
Generally upbeat, like watching a three-ring circus.
What are you working on next?
A Victorian detective thriller.
Good luck with that novel. To me that sounds like a bit of a jump from ‘The Beautiful-Ugly’. Do you feel that your favourite authors have influenced your ability to move work in a different style?
All good writing influences and motivates me.
What good writing influences are you currently reading?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
And in the past, what was your favourite book as a child?
And who is your favourite literary character?
I see a pattern here. I think that I might know the answer to the next question, is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
Outside of writing Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
If you can’t learn from your mistakes, don’t make any.
Nice, that is a good one. How about your favourite quote?
“Nothing is impossible for gods and authors.”
I like that one too. Now just a few crazier questions to round out the interview:
If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A killer whale and a canary. It would be a killer-canary. I may write a book about it.
Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
I can’t stand on my hands assisted.
If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
Shakespeare’s 1623 First Folio
Another good choice. I’d like to thank you again James for spending some time allowing our readers to gain a bit of insight into your novel and yourself as an author. And good luck with ‘The Beautiful-Ugly’.
Want to find out more about James? Contact him at the following locations: