Next month will be my first blog-anniversary. I should celebrate, shouldn’t I? But there’s a problem, the month is already completely taken for a different thing (post will follow later this month), so I thought, mhm, March is the month of my birthday. Let’s celebrate now.
But how will I celebrate? Well, I’m a reader and a writer. This is what I like to blog about, so I decided to dedicate this entire month to my favourite author.
I hear you, you’re saying, hey, wait a moment. What does Sherman Alexie have to do with dieselpunk, the Roaring Twenties and especially with your WIP?
This is an easy answer. He’s truly an extraordinary storyteller, so, no matter their preferences or chosen genre, both readers and authors have only good things to gain by an acquaintance with him.
As a reader
As a reader, finding a favourite author is an all-encompassing experience. It isn’t just that you enjoy this author’s every story. Sure, this is part of it, of course, but a favourite author gives you more than that. It’s a connection, the sensation this authors tells something so close to your heart that it feels like he’s speaking about you, in a voice that sounds familiar. Not your same voice. You know it isn’t you, but him, telling the story. It isn’t only a matter of this author writing things you’re interested into, in a way that you find highly entertaining and involving, it is that he does so in a voice that you sense as attuned to your own voice. It’s a connection of emotions, not just reasoning.
This is why sometimes you end up doing unreasonable things when it comes to your favourite author. If I see his new book, I’ll buy it without even reading the backcover. If I find a special edition of one of his books, I’ll buy it, no matter if I already own that story. It’s some kind of anxiety to commune and communicate. It goes beyond the mere, yes, I like his stories.
As a writer
As a writer, finding your favourite author means you want to write exactly like him. It comes from your experience as reader: you feel what this author gives to you with his storytelling and you want to give your readers the same experience.
My experience with Alexie’s storytelling is of total immersion.
I love the way he chooses and uses words. Maybe because he’s a poet as well as a writer, he has a very sharp sense of the power of words. The way he chooses them, the way he puts them together, the way they sound, everything adds meaning to the narration. This is particularly important if you consider Alexie never says exactly what he says in his stories. Words and images create a resonance which turns into layers of meaning. Layers create connection and those connections suggest more meaning and more connections. Between the images he creates with his words and the words which describe those images, Alexie creates entire universes existing between the lines of the stories he is telling.
This is why reading Alexie is such an experience for me. Every time I read one of his story, I see and feel and sense something more than the last time I read it, because I see new connections and this creates more meanings. This is possible because Alexie leaves a lot of space for his reader. In between his words and their meaning, in between their actual meaning and the meaning suggested by connections, there is a lot of room for the reader’s interpretation.
It’s a bold way of writing, because when you leave so much autonomy to your reader, you can never be sure they’ll see what you’re trying to say and of course there’s a risk they won’t see what you’re trying to say at all. But if a connection happens, if author and reader touch each other even only on one of the many levels, then it becomes a mind-blowing experience. The author will let you live your experience through his own – which is why you feel like this author is speaking about you.
Sherman Alexie is a master of this. He has such confidence in his stories and what they can offer that he never asks you to understand. He asks you to take part.
Now, as much as I would be willing to give anything to write like Sherman Alexie, I know I never will. First of all, because I don’t have his talent. Simple as that. And please note I don’t often use this word, because while I think gifts are quite common, talent is very rare, and Sherman Alexie is one of those rare human beings who have it.
But aside from this tiny detail, there are other reasons. I’m a genre writer, he isn’t, so the logic and the very structure of my stories are different from those of his stories. I’m a woman, he’s a man. We have wildly different human and cultural experiences. We don’t even speak the same native language. There’s no way I’ll ever write exactly like him.
But you know what? That’s fine. That’s actually what it’s meant to be. I don’t need to write like anyone but myself… and this is also what Alexies teaches to me though his example. I should find my own voice, the same way he’s found his.
But because my voice and my favourite author’s voice are partly attuned, I can learn a lot from him. I can learn how he works his voice, how he makes it sing, when is it that his voice most resonates with mine and gives me emotions.
I don’t need to be like him, but I can certainly follow his example.
And this is what I’m trying to do.
So, here it goes my declaration of love to Sherman Alexies.
Now that I’m done with it, let’s go on into the true meat of the matter.