Friday, March 7, 2014

The Epistolary Novel: The Writer’s Challenge A Guest Blog by David-Matthew Barnes

The Epistolary Novel: The Writer’s Challenge
A Guest Blog by David-Matthew Barnes

Somewhere between writing my eighth and ninth novel, I started to feel like a lazy writer. I began to worry the quality of my work was suffering because I was focusing too much on quantity. There were weaknesses in my work that never existed before. I saw them. I knew I had to do something about them.

I needed to challenge myself and my writing.

As I approached the writing process of my tenth novel, Stronger Than This, I decided to take a risk and experiment with the traditional narrative form I had written all previous novels in. I made the commitment to write my first epistolary novel. In doing so, the challenge I needed was definitely there, but the reward was worth it. As a result, my writing skills were sharpened, my imagination was ignited, and my creativity was refueled.

The storylines of Stronger Than This are revealed to the reader in multiple forms: text messages, letters, online chats, memos, interviews, and more. This posed many creative challenges, specifically the substantial lack of dialogue (which, if used correctly, can move a story forward quickly). As the novel features two protagonists (one male and one female), I had to establish significant differences in their “voices” and try to capture each in every form of communication they used throughout the book.

The writing process was a fascinating one. Constantly I discovered new means to reveal important plot points, establish place and time, and create characters that were as authentic possible. I also found ways to tell the story from the perspective of the supporting characters. By doing so, it added to the universe I was building for my two main characters; how others viewed them was equally important to their development on page.

Looking back, I’m pleased I made the decision to challenge myself as a writer. In doing so, I discovered a new passion for what I do. Writing Stronger Than This certainly kept me on my toes each step of the way. But the entire journey is one I am grateful for. The result is a book that is unconventional and unique, much like the characters whose lives fill the pages.

I don’t have any immediate plans to write another novel in this form. However, I do find myself examining form – and the possibilities that can occur by experimenting with it – with every new project I embark on. 

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Stronger Than This
David-Matthew Barnes

Genre: Literary Fiction/LGBT/

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Date of Publication: February 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1602829886

Number of pages: 216    
Word Count: 55,000

Book Description:

Charlene’s soul mate, Samantha, has been killed in a car accident. Daniel’s partner, Martin, has been murdered in a robbery gone wrong. Seeking comfort, Charlene and Daniel attend a support group where they meet for the first time.

Emotionally devastated and discarded by their loved ones’ conservative families, Charlene and Daniel feel an immediate connection. Rather than reveal their pain to a room full of strangers, they decide to see each other through their shared anguish.

As a beautiful friendship emerges from grief, slivers of new hope are found.

About the Author:

David-Matthew Barnes is the bestselling author of ten novels, including the young adult novels Swimming to Chicago and Wonderland, which were nominated by the American Library Association for their annual Rainbow Books, a list of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content for children and teens.

He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Boys Like Me, and two collections of poetry, Roadside Attractions and Souvenir Boys. He has written over forty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in eight countries. Collections of his theatrical works include Deuces: Stage Plays for Two Actors, Monologues That Kick Ass, You Think You Know Us: Stage Plays for Teen Actors, and more. He is the writer and director of the feature film Frozen Stars and the dramatic short film Threnody.

His literary work has been featured in over one hundred publications including The Best Stage Scenes, The Best Men's Stage Monologues, The Best Women's Stage Monologues, The Comstock Review, and The Southeast Review. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina.

He teaches college courses in writing, literature, and the arts.

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