Hello, all. I hope everyone enjoyed The Truth of Rock and Roll. I’ve certainly received a lot of positive feedback for it, for which I am very grateful. So I thought I’d take that positive response and build on it by…doing something completely different. Starting next week, I’m going to take you all on a long, but hopefully fulfilling journey.
I started writing Hometown when I was fresh out of college. During college if you want to count the half-finished stub of a story that I scrapped for raw materials. That first story had a bit of potential, but I was a few hundred pages in when I realized that I was meandering. I was just writing one creepy moment or scare after another with no real goal. What did I really want to say? Hometown was the answer.
I finished Hometown in 2004, or at least I thought I did. I spent the next year or so shopping it around to agents, trying to find a taker. Then I…well, gave up isn’t the right way to put it. I put it aside. I decided that the reason I wasn’t finding any takers was because my Writing Resume didn’t have enough credits on it. I wrote short stories and tried to sell them (sometimes I even succeeded), I came up with ideas for other books and started on them, all in the hopes that I would accumulate enough cred to get this book published. Even as this book sat on my hard drive and in binders on my shelf, it haunted me. It stood behind and overshadowed everything else I did. None of the other books got written, because a) they were being written for the sake of advancing this story, not for themselves, and no story will stand for that; and b) this was the story that my first twenty-two years wanted to tell, and they wouldn’t let anything else move forward until they’d had their say.
Even so, I can’t say that the delay has been all bad. In the time since I thought Hometown to be finished, it has grown. Both in length (it’s now rather Stephen King-esque) and depth.
When I first wrote Hometown, it was essentially a primal scream against my own hometown. As I explained in one of my earliest posts, it was a place of little hope or opportunity that was probably dying even then. It didn’t help that, as a rampaging nerd, I didn’t get much access to that fabled small-town close-knittedness that makes it all worth it (or at least bearable). I was deeply unhappy, and I got out as soon as I could.
There’s still a great deal of that in there. But it’s nine years later, I’m thirty-six years old, and I have some perspective. There are worse small towns than the one I came from, outcasts more lost than I ever was, and cruelty that I wouldn’t have dared attribute to my human villains for fear of creating unbelievable caricatures.
Which means I wasn’t finished with Hometown after all. It wasn’t just mine anymore. It couldn’t be. Belford, NY is no longer just Camden, NY. Its bullies are no longer just my bullies. They’re the bullies of every fat, slutty, nerdy, gay or wrong-color friend I’ve met since I got free. They’re the bullies of Jena, Itawamba and Steubenville. Belford is every small town that you have to escape in order to have a real life.
The only difference is that in those small towns, it can feel like the town itself is monster that you have to escape before it eats you alive. In Belford, that’s literally true…