DOES A WRITER NEED PEOPLE SKILLS?
By A P von K’Ory
The answer is yes, and writers do this through research and interviewing people.
Before the blessed World Wide Web, the only way to do research was get to the library and search and read, ask someone specialized in the subject, or buy books on it written by the experts and gurus, then read and learn. Things are a lot easier now with the Internet, but also rather tricky: not all that glitters is gold in the ‘Net. You must be able to check and counter-check. At least you can do all that from the comfort of your writing desk.
But you still have to go from one expert to another, until all of the fragments begin to make sense. This is a serious process of putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle without a picture of what it would look like when completed. Each research assignment is at first a mystery to be solved, often with very few clues.
So you should question yourself about what the point of your story should be. Mine almost always dwell on different cultures and traditions clashing. I have to make my characters – at least for a few breaths – stop seeing other people or the partner and other cultures and traditions as projected from their own cultures or social background. Humankind is as diverse as the geographical locations they live in, down to which part of the city or town. A Maori will not share much with a Sami; a native of Queens not share much with a native of Manhattan. All they have in common is their human roots.
The point of my story then becomes how these two could fall for each other and drop all or part of their “spectacles” to enable them to view the other objectively. Then my next question would be: What do I need to know in order to make that point? To answer the questions, I have to be prepared for weeks or months, even years of research. You can’t take shortcuts in research even if you’re writing fiction; the cultural and traditional facts must never be fictitious. Unless you’re writing fantasy.
I still believe that the best research sources are people I interview to get the “nativity” in speech, conduct, beliefs, even mode of dress and the culinary. The same applies to interviewing the “experts” in their respective fields. I approach a historian in a different way than I do a scientist.
Interviewing an expert means risking my own lacking in the subject and coming across as a complete idiot. I may not even be able to pronounce their names or areas of expertise. It means admitting how little I know and still get this person to talk to me, to teach me everything I need to know. Riskier still, is to believe I can then write about such a topic credibly, accurately, and understandably, so that people who know less than I do will understand it and find it interesting.
In person-to-person research, I cultivate the ability to get the ego out of the way. I become virtually invisible, and the spotlight is on the expert, not on me. I stop being conscious of myself, of the questions I’m asking, of how I’m coming across, of whether the other person thinks I’m smart or clever, or of needing to prove how much I know. If I can’t discard all this, I’ve missed the point altogether. The interview isn't about me; it's about the other person. It's about what that person knows or has experienced or can share with me that will add to my understanding of my topic.
Lastly, it takes the rare trait of empathy -- the ability to feel what the other person is feeling; to capture their enthusiasm for the subject; to view it as they do; and, beyond that, to transmit those feelings through the words I write in my story, so that they are still alive when the reader finally sees them. Empathy is more art than skill, but even art improves with practice.
Golden Shana: The Chase (Book 1)
An evening at the opera house La Scala in Milan twirled the lives of five people into a web of intrigues, heartaches, human hunts, loss and revenge.
Roman: I never chased after a woman. It was always the other way around. Then I caught a glimpse of the woman I would kneel for, at the opera, and I didn’t even know her name. But I determined to find her if it took me the rest of my life.
Shana: He stood in the room with her. The frisson in the currents freaking between them was as solid as a steel portal. The mutual force of predator and prey blasted its way into her core ... her soul ... Danger. Keep far away from him.
Marie: Some men were born to rule the world; others were born to ruin it. Roman Alastair Northcott Broughton Castell was born to do both. But she loved him and awaited his baby.
Alyssa: He was the lover she wouldn’t tire of. Roman had something so damned perilous about him he was addictive. Who gets addicted to safe and riskless? Not her.
Grieg/Phoenix: Had His Girl interpreted that Friday night as abuse? He’d only done what she wanted – protection of her cherished innocence.
Excerpt from Golden Shana: The Chase (Book 1)
What a difference a day makes… And it hadn’t been a day. It had been an evening in Milan. Brief moments of an evening. I didn’t care about the consequences to whomever. Through my obsession with Svadishana I became aware of the fact that I was a person. A human being, not an almighty god, with all the baggage that comes with being that. I too – eureka! – had a heart pumping white and red corpuscles through my veins. Blood, not icicles.
Was it love I felt for Svadishana? A woman I’d spoken three whiny words – Please call me! – to? Was it more than simple lust and desire? Did I want to possess more than just her body?
Pondering these questions alone was so unlike me. That woman had turned me into an alien even unto my own self. What I felt, my inner voice said, was more than the thrill of the hunt. More than lust, desire, need, passion, the excitement of possession, and subjugation.
Of course all that was part of it. But the basis or the source, the seedbed on which all that sprouted and was growing to full blossom in me, could well be something else.
When I thought of her, saw her image from Milan in my mind, watched how she moved in long smooth strides in YouTube, my brow beaded with sweat. I couldn’t pull my gaze away from the few photos I’d fished out of the Internet. Group photos at a family birthday or the authorized biography of her father. Her movements in a YouTube conference clip were springy and powerful even in their smoothness. She exuded strength all over the place, laughing, talking, gesticulating.
A breath-taking beauty. Such beauty that I dared not believe it at times.
And brains to go with it.
In love or not, I knew what I wanted and Svadishana was the answer. I wanted her and would do anything short of suicide to get her. Who knows – perhaps when it came to that as the only means available, I’d really murder too. I didn’t in the least care about the consequences, as long as they got me to where I wanted to get to.
Svadishana’s arms and knickers and… heart?
What obsession, Roman. Get back to real.
No chance. Real was Svadishana.
Blurb: Golden Shana: The Capture (Book 2)
Roman finally gets together with Shana. But he finds himself wedged between three women and the man intent on killing him because of Shana. And there’s the secret of Marie’s unborn baby.
Roman: I wanted to eat all of her. Even within that fortress I longed to erect around her to hold her captive in, to keep her away from men not worthy of the sight of her, I’d devour her.
Shana: Roman was deadly sex. She had no antigenic for immunity against him. Instead she lay there on his bed, in an impossible state of sluttish disarray, holding her breath.
Marie: “So you didn’t bring your rich old cow with you.” The bitch was ten years older than her, years older than Roman himself. Weren’t men supposed to prefer younger women?
Alyssa: She was not going to let Roman treat her like a hole in the air. He started this triangle and she was going to make it equilateral.
Grieg/Phoenix: His philosophy stated that peace was bondage, and war was freedom. His Girl was his territory, and no other man’s.
Excerpt from Golden Shana: The Capture (Book 2)
I picked her up and carried her like a bride. Or a sleeping child. She nuzzled between my neck and shoulder. I kicked the door shut behind us.
We were both ablaze, and I needed to check that, wind it down a notch.
“Like to lie down on the sofa and cuddle till we both slow down a bit?”
“Bed.” Her voice vibrated against my neck.
We left the entrance hall behind us. The flames kept on leaping.
“Overriding my sensible decision?”
“Yes. Bed.” Tremulous once, tremulous twice.
“Just got me, and you want to run away with it.” I bore her past the living room.
“I’m getting a restraining order on you.” I took the first stair, chest tight again.
She lifted her head off my shoulder and her Huskies sent megawatts to my blues. Unveiled desire. My balls clenched. At this degree I risked coming where I stood with her in my arms. I was tempted to close my eyes and summon my control. For the first time I felt life surge through my veins for a woman, the whole woman, not just sex with her. Again, I experienced that powerful instinct in me to guard and protect her, the fragile and most precious thing in my life. She had a pull on every cell in me. Her masses of loose curls gave warm slaps through my chinos to my hip, sending the sergeant into planning guerrilla warfare for its freedom.
The witch. I was hypnotized. I had to stop climbing the stairs and get my head cleared. She was as necessary to me as the air I breathed, yet she knocked that air straight out of my lungs. Her naked desire was intoxicating. Insanity mingled with reality. I really had her back in my arms. She came to me, came to my home for the first time. And ordered Bed, not a mutual shower. She was the first and only woman to take me to this Newland. She was my perfect balance. I’d fallen hard and didn’t even want to get back up. It happens to the worst of us ingrained rogue playboys.
The Huskies still pinned me in Newland. “Skirting around the deed, are we?”
“Protecting my golden goddess.”
For sheer survival, I broke the lock of our eyes and started up the stairs again.
Blurb: Golden Shana: The Untouchable (Book 3)
Roman doesn’t even want a harem. But the harem relentlessly seeks him. No sooner has Shana left Roman than Grieg/Phoenix is marking time on Roman’s door, out for a war, not a fight, over Shana. And so is Marie, whose pregnancy Roman still keeps a secret.
Roman: I loved owning women. Then I found my woman. But she would never be owned, not even by the gods. She left me. Still, her dangerous admirer and I began wars over her, not merely street fisticuffs.
Shana: Roman scares me in every way and the fear excites me. I’m brainless in his arms, brainless just from thinking about him. He makes me navigate so many labyrinthine passages and secret doors that I’d never even been aware of before. My body knelt and wept for him. My common sense made me flee from him while I could.
Marie: I sold Roman my heart and soul. Only to realise my body had not been consulted, and was therefore out for war.
Alyssa: I really got all that about Roman. The super-ink indelibility of him, the substance of him that stamped his four-figure-euro Ferragamo Oxfords, the supernatural charisma that rocketed him all the way up there with Lucifer. His square would never fit my round. But hope springs eternal, right?
Grieg: “If I have whoever your girl is, why don’t you simply come over and take me off her or her off me?” Roman had not reacted like a man who had received that damning message. Over the phone, he’d sounded as if he didn’t have a single feather ruffled. Time to start the war.
Excerpt from Golden Shana: The Untouchable (Book 3)
I heard him change the phone to the other ear. “Castell, you’re a kid running a billion-euro crib, you pervert.”
My system actually waged wars for me to jump out of my skin. Control, Castell.
“Oh, yes. I’m about as straight as the U-bend under a sink, fuckwit. So is this the problem? A pissing contest based on having some beef about your wallet being a little anorexic in comparison? Have I got that bracketed?” I heard him swallow again. I decided on a blind knock on that, although for all I knew he was drinking water. “By the way, I’d ease up on the drink. Otherwise you won’t manage to solve the square root of bugger all, let alone remember if you have any other name but Sggirb.”
“I know you right up to your fucking perve room, Castell. I delivered the CD—had the CD delivered – right into your fucking office, practically into your hands. You know nothing about me. So you better watch your smart mouth.”
“Ah, you thought you’d simply storm the Bastille that’s my home and be discreet about it, then slink into my office building and show me the dot over the i that amounts to your balls? You’re right, I know nothing about you. You’re not even in my periphery, private or public.”
“I’m not a ball of yarn to your kitten, so watch your fucking mouth, Castell!”
Just to keep him put off his stroke, “Who would you say has all the tools for annihilation, fuckwit, the kitten or the yarn?”
“You’re lucky I’m—”
“Luck is basically mythical. Reality is called chance. How about we meet?”
He said nothing.
Not good, because now that I was screwing him hard, I needed to keep up the pace. So I said, “You could make it your mud hole or you could haul your arse back here to my city. Then we roll up our sleeves, or whisk off our T-shirts. Then we start doing a little tribute to Muhammad Ali out in the Congo with Joe Frazier.”
He said nothing. I heard him swallow at intervals during the silence. “I’m rapt with attention, fuckwit Sggirb, so let’s have a date and then – to quote your countryman –you are an American – float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
“You think you’re so fucking cool…” He rumbled the word out long: Coooooollll…
“Oh, I don’t just think it.”
“Just keep your hands off her, Castell. Keep your hands off My Girl!”
“If I have whoever your girl is, why don’t you simply come over and take me off her or her off me?” I paused for a reply, none came. “Or is this the sheep being docile until they get utterly famished?” Another pause. Silence, so I continued, “You sound like you wouldn’t find a clitoris if you were armed with a compass, street map and a fucking NASA telescope.”
“You can’t intimidate me, Castell.”
Which only exposed to me the wound I’d ripped open in him. Time to add chilli.