Let’s get this out of the way. My book, Where Have You Been, was published in September 2016 and follows the day-to-day life of
Iraq veteran Johnny Milaowic and his addiction to heroin and crack. This is definitely not a happy book, but I kept a light tone by using the “I” perspective of a man who sees the world in an odd way and tries to gloss over a lot of the more terrible parts of his life. The story follows his struggles to hold on to his girlfriend Jenny, the changes in the dynamics of his group of friends, all of whom are addicts, and trying to lead a more or less normal life.
His attempts at having a normal life are ruined by his inability to deal with conflict, stress, or anything that takes him out of his comfort-zone. A serious fight with Jenny sends him into a spiral, and later on a violent path.
Before anyone gets any ideas, I would like to clarify one thing: This is not any kind of attempt to drag veterans of any armed forces through the mud, on the contrary, I respect all men and women who decided to serve their countries (I was also a member of the armed forces). My interest in this book lies in the lasting effects conflict and poor support of the veterans might have on those men and women, and society in general.
In addition, I am interested in the paradoxical phenomenon of the social view of war. Most people would agree that war, as a concept is bad. Most people would pity returning veterans with PTSD or other injuries. Most people would also pity civilians in the opposing country. So why is it that humans know all this, see the damaged people coming out of a war, and be completely fine with sending more people to war a few years later? That is what baffles me.
Seeing that it’s my first published novel, I am of course very excited about it and sometimes spend a few minutes in my day just looking at it. The hard part now is promoting it. Even in the age of the internet and social media, getting things out there is hard because you are one of a million things out there. Living in a non-English-speaking country is also making things a bit harder as readings and things like that are unlikely to draw a crowd for a book in English.
So now you more or less know what my book is about, let me tell you about the writing process. It started out as a little short story that I just didn’t know how it should end, and which I presented in one of my creative writing groups to rather enthusiastic reactions. As I kept writing, the thing expanded into a novella, and finally a novel.
The hard part, as I am sure it goes for other writers too, was to get the abstract ideas I had in my head into paper. It wasn’t an easy task to translate the “desired narrative effect” to actual dialogue or action, even when I did have more concrete ideas on what should more or less happen in Johnny’s life. Several time during writing I had to stop, make a plan, and about two days later completely ignore it due to some moment of inspiration.
I suppose it’s a matter of writing style, some people have detailed plans on where their stories need to go and how they want to get there. I’m a bit sporadic, but that works for me. I sometimes have a single sentence in my head, and it sounds good, great even, and I build whole stories, or chapters, around that one sentence. Because if this rather erratic style of writing, I found myself writing, deleting, then writing, and rewriting segments, which really gnawed at my pacing. So I, after speaking with another novelist friend of mine, decided to give myself daily goals: 1000 words a day.
Another goal had more to do with content. At the end of each writing session, I wrote down in a note book what will be the next step, and the next day I would take it up and find a way to get there. This helped me make good time; not that I had a deadline, it was more for my own confidence. Another thing that slowed me down, but was both necessary and fascinating, was research.
To better write about the life of drug addicts, I had to get to know that kind of life, no, not on my own flesh. I joined forums and help programs for addicts, I talked to addicts online, and basically tried to find out as much as possible from first hand sources. As a student, I still had access to a lot of resources about different subjects, and I am sure I could have found books on addiction, but I thought it will be more authentic coming from people who lived through it, not just some doctor writing down his observations.
This was just a very general description on the way I wrote it. In subsequent post, I will give more detail as I also get into different aspects of writing, like characters, setting, and action, the 3 major things every writer has to deal with when setting out. I will try to give some advice as well in how to tackle these issues out of my experience.
Where Have You Been is available on Amazon, Thebookdepository, Barnes & Noble, Biblio (United States and England), Lulu, eBay (international), PriceMinister (France), BookWorks and Pubmatch (United States). digital format through online stores, such as Amazon Kindle (France, USA, England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Japan, India), Payloadz, Smashwords (United States), Kobo and more.