Writing “Different” / by Dale Wiley

I have a history of writing things that people like. They are quirky, different, sometimes about Amish detectives, sometimes about barbecue chicken parties.  When I was younger, I wrote a column for my local newspaper that was weird and surreal and the kind of thing you would never expect to find in a tiny town’s weekly paper, but it was quite well-received.

But those people knew me. They knew some of the subjects involved in the articles. There was a commonality that allowed me to write those pieces in a way that they were easily (or at least somewhat easily) followed by that audience, but less understandable by people outside the circle.

Then I wrote a novella about TV and TV characters. Very early 90s, very post-modern. Very good. But a nightmare for anyone to publish considering all the rights and trademarks that would have to be dealt with like a Gordian knot. I got an interview with a New York publisher (honestly so long ago I don’t remember which one). But the lawyer in me, who had yet to start law school then,  knows now that the novella, no matter how interesting, never had a chance.

Over the last couple of decades, I’ve written one history-tinged memoir, and I’ve started three dozen other more “normal” narratives, but none of them has led me past the front gate. There’s always got to be something different.

In preparation for finding a publisher for my second novel, Sabotage, I pulled out something I had written and cared about years before. It was called The Intern.  I wrote it at the point I realized I liked reading thrillers as much or more than Proust. But I wanted to make it “interesting” to me, and that meant different. So I like to think that my book has a little more humor thrown in than the average thriller is.  Characters huuuuuuurt when they get hurt. Silly things happen. Stuff that is normally looked upon with horror by the average thriller writer.

And it never found its audience. Part of it was me, getting out of law school, getting married, reproducing, and never following up much with a project I had really enjoyed. But part of it was a culture of agents and editors that want everything they pick up to be safe and sound just like the last thing that got published.

I realize that could be construed as a very “sour grapes” statement. But I also think there’s some truth in it. And as I’ve started my quest to find a place for that novel and for Sabotage, and as I’ve seen The Intern jump onto Nook and Apple best seller lists within days of its release, I think I’ve seen some vindication and much of that is thanks to Smashwords.

So much about traditional media channels has changed within the last twenty years. People have access to technology that rivals the best tools that New York has to offer in their pockets or book bags. Forget Gutenberg; we live in the edge of Streaming Steve Gutenberg. Anything can be at our fingertips in a fashion that would make those aboard the Starship Enterprise jealous.

So now The Intern, born online, midwifed by Mark Coker’s vision for an author-driven device that could open arteries of distribution not for fees, but instead for just a (small) cut of the profits. No feeling that the profits were made on the birth itself but instead in watching a healthy child grow. Mark provided (online) not only critical tools for publishing success but a marketing plan to match, one which explained how to scale the heights of best-seller lists once the private domain of big publishing houses.

And as for Sabotage? Guess what: It’s different too. Multiple points of view, and a short quick pace that will stick with even the quickest attention span. It may well end up having the same birth as The Intern, although I’m hedging all bets until I can see just how high The Intern can reach in its current form.

I’m happy. My “different” book has shown everyone that different doesn’t always have to disappoint; sometimes it can land right among all the sameness it was chafing against.