Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

C-41 Process Nostalgia K-Holes

I am in the thick of editing this next book, and I really hate editing. I’m doing the work and fixing a lot of problems, but I like writing and creating and counting the words added a lot more than I do swimming in the soup of words and trying to kill passive verbs. There’s no metric for me to tell how much better or worse I’m making things, except to tell how many comments in Scrivener I’ve completed and removed, only there’s no way to count the comments in a Scrivener document (I think.)

I’ve been on the fence about this book. In some senses, I think it’s the best stuff I’ve done in a while, or at least very different than the stuff I’ve been writing. It’s a traditional plotted science fiction book, and sometimes as I’m cruising through the text, it amazes me how all of the pieces come together perfectly. And there are so many themes and concepts that I managed to shoehorn into the thing, that it amazes me to rediscover them as I’m editing. On the flipside, I wonder if it’s enough to sell, and I find the writing clunky, and the more I stare at it, the worse it gets.  And as I’m editing, I keep thinking I want this to be over with and to move onto creating something else.  But I need to keep up the fight.

Unrelated: I recently realized that Rumored to Exist and Atmospheres both end in the same parking lot in Elkhart, Indiana. This was entirely coincidental.

My old boss from the school theater where I worked just posted a picture of me on Facebook from maybe 1986. I was probably fifteen, must have weighed about 135 pounds, and had spiked hair. I don’t remember the picture being taken at all, and that sort of thing always amazes, mystifies, and scares me. I have such a solid concept of my memory of the past, and it flummoxes me to see a picture that challenges that, or fills in a blank I don’t entirely remember.

The same thing also happened recently when my sister sent me a picture from the fall of 1990, at my other sister’s first communion. It was in the parking lot of the church, a whole-family thing, and I’m dressed in a suit and tie, and my girlfriend from that era was with me. It’s an incredibly haunting photo to me, for three reasons. First, this must have been right around the time I started taking lithium, and the weight gain had not happened yet, so I was probably six feet tall and weighed about 140 or 150 pounds. I would kill all of you and all of your children and pets and relatives to get within ten pounds of that weight again.  That’s superficial, but there you go.

Point two: I have not seen a picture of this ex in twenty years. After we broke up, she broke into my house while I was at work and destroyed every picture, note, and letter in my bedroom, including all of my paper journals going back to high school. I’m still beyond pissed she did that, because it included my first stabs at writing a book (and maybe I should be grateful) but it also means only my memories of her remain, and those memories are faint. I occasionally talk about writing a book about the time that happened before Summer Rain, and if I ever did, a fictionalized version of her would play a major role. It would have to be some hybrid-composite thing, capturing the feelings without revealing any details, maybe rolling a few relationships into one, like the character Amy in SR. Aside from the million other reasons I haven’t written that book, a big one is the unconscious self-censorship involved with having that bad breakup hanging over me, even 25 years in the rear-view.

Point three: I don’t remember my sister’s first communion. I remember that fall: commuting to IUSB, hanging out at that girlfriend’s place in Goshen, working in the computer labs, laboring over calculus M215, listening to the Queensryche album Empire every day for a year straight. But I don’t remember going to that church that day, or hosting all of my mom’s family from Chicago, or any of it. I remember the Sundays of that fall, because we had such a regular ritual, of going to the grocery store and eating dinner and watching that funniest videos show of people getting hit in the nuts with a frisbee and doing my calculus homework. But I don’t remember that Sunday.  And now I have a picture of it.

So yeah, if you have any pictures of me, send them and blow my mind.

I’m still knocking around the idea of some long novel about nostalgia, a straight fiction book that pries apart at these things. The two big things stopping me are the aforementioned self-censorship thing with regard to old relationships, and the feeling that I’ve already completely strip-mined my past for any good stories.  I know this isn’t true, and I’m sitting on a quarter-million poorly-written words of stories that need to be rewritten and pushed into a novel at some point. But that’s like four burners back on the stove. I have another really big project on the horizon, and this UFO cult book that fell apart last fall will have to get revisited.

Also I think I should just compile together all of the shitty comments I leave on Facebook posts and make that a book. Someone needs to find a way for me to monetize that.