Coffee Talk with Steve Drennon

It’s time again to grab your favorite mug of joe, pull up a comfy chair, and chat with poet and author Steve Drennon.

JW: Welcome to Get Jack’d Steven. You are, to the core (it seems) a poet. You started writing poetry at the age of fifteen. That would imply (I believe) a young man who tends to wear his heart on his sleeves and is not at all afraid to confront, explore, or display emotions. That’s tough in a country (and in a state) where it’s so often frowned upon when men have a visceral connection to their emotions. I know this well, because I was an actor for nearly half of my life and have always been deeply in tune with my emotions. From my perspective, this has enabled me to write characters not only with more depth of desire and passion, but enabled me to more easily write female characters. I would imagine being a poet at heart, emotional connection is second nature to you.

When I was in undergrad I always considered my writing to be as much poetry as I did prose. I think, on some subconscious level, I was trying to prove to myself I could take the ordinary and make it not-ordinary. I have always felt juxtaposing a twisted phrase within regular prose was a great way to draw attention to a particular moment, thought, or feeling. This works better for some characters than other, but when done well, it’s such a powerful tool.

SD: You know, when I first started writing poetry, it was my way of expressing my emotions without having to actually show them. I was never really one of the “cool” kids, and I never really tried to place myself into any specific clique. I found that by writing poetry and focusing closely on the words and what they meant and how they made me feel, it made me better at expressing myself in person. As a result, I usually found that I could converse and relate to kids in any clique. I never really went out of my way to become an “insider”, but I never had any problems being accepted as part of the group, regardless of their particular focus.

As I grew older, I realized more and more that words were the keys of communication, and if you knew how to put them together well enough, you could accomplish a lot. I never really set out to be a poet, but I always found myself going back to my old familiar form anytime I needed to think something through or express my emotions.

Over time, I had some friends who were looking to start a band, and they needed a songwriter to help them put together some original songs. I found it quite easy to adapt poetry writing to songwriting, and I had a lot of fun with that. Sadly, none of them ever made it very far, but I enjoyed doing them all the same.

When I decided to write a full length novel, I pretty much abandoned everything I knew about writing poetry. I thought that I needed to focus more on delivering a lot of words without concentrating so much on the quality of the words. In time I realized that a novel needs the same imagery that you would put into a poem, but on a grander scale.

The one disadvantage I quickly recognized was when it came to writing dialog. A poem is all about one voice or one perspective. Trying to write a dialog between two or more characters was something I struggled with for a long time. Even now, some 35 years later, I’d say it’s my biggest weakness.

JW: Quality of words…such an interesting issue. I know writers that fret and suffer over every single sentence and writers that fly through, with reckless abandon, from beginning to end. I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ll be whizzing along and then get stopped by a sentence that begs, nay..insists, upon my utmost attention and suffering. And I give…and I give…and I give until that sentence is perfect.

And then my editor insists it go away.

But that’s how I find the art of writing works. It’s a push and pull between the heart and mind of the writer and then a give and take between the writer and the editor. That exchange is then passed onto the reader who enjoys an emotional connection the writer and editor might not have had or seen. Regardless, that story (the one that started out as a tiny grain of truth in the heart and soul of the writer) holds a powerful sway over a lot of minds in the end. But while they are ours, those works and words became so deeply, but temporarily, embedded in our psyche that it’s often hard to be able to view them with any sort of eye on reality.

I try, very hard, once a book has been published, to let it live a life detached from me. I gave it life and now it’s time for that book to grow up and become a part of the lives of the readers. After a few years have passed, I’ll pick those books back up and re-read them. The distance those passing years have put between me and the books allows me a fresh perspective on the characters and stories.

SD – I don’t know, I don’t get too caught up in trying to make everything just right as I write. I tend to be the type who would rather forge on and then concentrate on perfecting it when I do the second draft or third. I found a long time ago that if I got caught up with trying to perfect everything as I went along, it caused me to get into a logjam.

I agree with the concept of letting the books go once you write them. I don’t make a point of going back and reading them again once I’ve turned them loose on the world. Instead, I would rather start work on the next project. At the same time, I don’t really allow myself to become too emotionally invested in anything I’m writing. I try to keep it fresh in my mind as I’m writing it, but I never have any problems setting it aside and moving back into the real world.

JW: I agree completely, on both accounts. I have found that, should a passage or piece causing me problems, I will write a place holder and then come back to it on the first rewrites. By the time the first draft is complete, I know better what need is missing or how to fix that placeholder. But by not struggling over a moment in the story, I am free to get the book done. Otherwise I’d have one book published and not three (or four or five or six).

At this point in my career, I believe I am capable of publishing two books a year. If it weren’t for my day job, that number would be more like six. I want that number to be six…oh, how badly do I want that number to be six. But…life and reality have a different path for me at the moment and I must follow it. But soon I will be hopping off that path to forge my own. Do you find yourself at fate’s mercy right now? And how do you handle it? It can be frustrating at times.

SD: Yes, indeed! I am still plugging away at a day job, and add to that two teenage kids at home. There really never seems to be enough time in the day! I am divorced from their mom, but the kids live with me during the week and then go stay with their mom every weekend (except the first, which is my weekend). I am very blessed to have a new wife who is very tolerant of my desire to write. On the weekends when the kids are gone, she allows me to set aside a few hours each day to concentrate on my writing. She’ll keep me company by reading and “doting” over me. During the week, I try to squeeze in an extra hour each night after my wife and the kids go to bed. Even so, it means less time to write than I would truly like.

I have decided my next several projects will actually be novellas instead of full length novels. I feel that I can finish them off more quickly and make them available sooner. My plan is to first write three suspense novellas, and release them individually as they are completed. Once the third is done, I will also offer all three together in a collection. Then I will do the same with three contemporary fantasy novellas, and then close out the year with three more suspense novellas. I already have the covers and outlines for all nine books, and the first two are very close to being finished.

I had originally planned to work on an historical fiction series next, but each of them would have been full length novels and required a lot more time than I could truly devote, so I’ve put them on hold. I have also postponed work on sequels to each of my fantasy novels. I just feel that if I can get more options out there for the public to see, it will help me to start obtaining a following. By the end of the year I will go back to working on the full length novels. I hope to be able to complete at least two of them by the end of 2012.

My goal is to get as much work done as I can between now and the summer of 2015, which is when I will turn 55. If the writing is bringing in even a little money, I may decide to take early retirement and just become a full time writer. I’m very fortunate to have a pretty stable retirement plan in place, so I am hopeful that I can reach this goal.

Check out Steven Drennon’s Amazon Author page for more information and links to purchase his works.