Interview with author Nathan Everett
Author Nathan Everett adds to his opus of literary fiction with City Limits, an unusual tale that captures the heart of small-town America. Everett travels the world, visiting towns and countryside to capture characters and locations for some thirty books published under different pen names. A true peripatetic author, tomorrow, he may be writing near you!
twogalsandabook: There is a long-standing division among participants in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, regarding whether people spend time plotting out their novel before they start writing or simply write by the seat of their pants. It’s known as ‘plotter vs. pantser’. Nathan, are you a plotter or a pantser?
twogalsandabook: That was supposed to be an open-ended question to engage you in a discussion about the differences.
Nathan: Well, the truth is that at different times I’m both with a lot of shades of gray between. My first NaNoWriMo was completely by the seat of my pants. In fact, I blogged it daily as I developed it. I’d been working on developing websites and created a little town I called Willow Mills, Indiana just so I could put some content on my sample site. When I found out about NaNoWriMo, I just started writing stories set in this mythical town on the Eel River and hung them all together with a loose storyline about what really happened to Albert Bailey’s Prize Bull? Each time the subject came up, I’d say, “But that’s another story.” Finally, there was the day that I had to deal with whatever happened to this bull and it pulled in all the characters and storylines I’d developed in the snippets about the city. It really wasn’t a traditional novel and when I went to validate my words about two hours before midnight, I discovered I was about a thousand words short. I had the newspaper editor interview all the characters for a few words about what they expected in the new millennium. I just barely made 50k. The next year wasn’t much better, but I had a general idea of who the characters were going to be and how the story would go. Accidental Witness wasn’t bad, but I kept discovering how much I had to make up in order to fill the word count for the day.
twogalsandabook: And that brings us to For Blood or Money.
Nathan: Yes, though the original title I envisioned was Security and Exchange. When I first made that public, though, people thought it was about Microsoft email servers.
twogalsandabook: But you plotted For Blood or Money pretty carefully.
Nathan: Yes. I spent about two months before NaNoWriMo developing characters and storylines. The story was to take place during the literal thirty days of November 2006 and I intended to blog it daily. I guess by this time, I was really into the serialization of my novels—something that I still do.
twogalsandabook: I remember some software you showed during one of our write-ins that year that looked like a corkboard with sticky notes on it.
Nathan: Like many things, I’ve lost track of that software and don’t even remember its name any longer. But what you saw was exactly the kind of tool that I still use. I created a calendar or timeline at the top of the board. I had a line beneath it that indicated what the major plot points would be on each day of the story. And another line that had action scenes. Those were two different colors. The story had half a dozen principal characters, so I had a line of cards for each of them indicating what they would do that day. Since the other characters came in and out of the story, I created timelines for each of them with where they were and anything that would affect why they entered the story at a particular point or disappeared at a point. It was pretty complex, but what a breeze it was to write that story!
twogalsandabook: It sounds like you had it all written before you started.
Nathan: No actual words that would go in the story were on my electronic notecards. But following them really made it easy to know the characters better than I’d ever managed before. I’d even decided where the sequel would go and that it would be narrated by a young woman. For a month before I started writing, I posted a blog on one of the popular sites from the perspective of the young woman who was my detectives assistant.
twogalsandabook: You impersonated a young woman. How do you look in drag?
Nathan: Not great. What was amazing, though, was that she became ‘friends’ with a few dozen young women who followed her every day and gave her advice regarding what was happening in her life. Before you ask, I didn’t try to deceive anyone. I put a pinned post at the top of the blog disclosing that I was a middle-age man exploring the character and voice for a young woman who would narrate a story. But the fans really got into it.
twogalsandabook: Did you write the sequel?
Nathan: Yes. As soon as the last post of November went up on Security and Exchange, Deb Riley began her narration of Municipal Blondes on December 1. And even though I’ve not formally published that story, Riley’s fans really got into her. Around the holiday, I missed a few days posting to her blog. Then I got a message from one of her fans that said, “Deb, I’m so worried about you! I don’t trust that guy who just saved you. Please write and let us know you are okay.” It was like she was a best friend that had lost touch. I had to get right back to work.
twogalsandabook: Do you continue to plot out all your books now?
Nathan: No. Certainly not to the same degree. When I wrote Steven George & The Dragon, I had only the idea that an inept dragonslayer would be sent out to slay the dragon, not know where the dragon lived, what it looked like, or how to kill it. But he would encounter people and they would exchange Once-upon-a-time stories that would each lead him a step closer to the dragon. But I had no idea who the people were that he’d meet nor what the stories would be. On the other hand, I treat mysteries and literary fiction with a great deal of forethought. In one way or another, I’d researched The Gutenberg Rubric for twenty years and had compiled a large notebook of background notes before I started writing.
twogalsandabook: Was that a NaNoWriMo book?
Nathan: Not originally. I’d spent so much time researching and planning that book that I started on January 1 and determined that I would carefully craft the story and each sentence. By the end of July or early August, I had 40,000 words and hated every one of them. I sent them off to my editor, Jason Black, and pled with him to tell me what was wrong. I think he wrote back almost as many words as I had in the story, telling me in great detail what was wrong. I put the story in a drawer and did some more research, then pulled it out on November 1 and started over. I wrote the 80,000-word story in the month of November and started revisions that eventually won it an award.
twogalsandabook: We’re going to pick up that story next time and talk about the writing and revision process. You can find out more about Nathan and his writing at http://www.nathaneverett.com
3 *** stars
##Spoiler Alert!## I finished this book earlier but couldn’t get on until now. So for my thoughts….
This book was definitely different…. unusual, and strange (in a way). Gee (aka George Edwards Evers) walks into the little town of Rosebud and ends up saving a toddler from drowning shortly after his arrival, in the process hitting his head and destroying long term memory. He can’t remember where he is from, who any of his family are, what his occupation may be. No memories of childhood or any of his life prior to coming within the city limits of Rosebud. In Rosebud, though, he does always seem to be in the right place at the right time to save someone, earning him the name of hero and title of “City Champion”. He falls in love with the resident investigative reporter, Karen, who has a knack for uncovering scandals, cover-ups and corruption. The ending left me hanging with several loose ends, but I do understand that this is the first of a series. I liked much of the story. What I thought was weird was the town of Rosebud’s industry was mostly in someway connected with the ancient hickory forest that the town owns. They can’t eat the nuts (they are poisonous), but make all sorts of stuff out of every bit of the trees. The town almost worships these trees. 7 families pretty much control the town. When the head of one family dies, if there is a challenge to who will be the next head (say between two brothers or cousins) then each one wishing be the head must eat one of these nuts….whoever of the two lives gets to be the head of the family. The families say the “forest” has “chosen”. Some feel that the trees “talk” to them, and many members of the various families over the two hundred years they have controlled the town have wanted to go out into the outside world but felt such a powerful connection to these trees as to feel it impossible to leave.
Also, (I really didn’t think this weird, but I didn’t care for it)…. the local Christian pastor is portrayed as an overbearing fanatic, a religious zealot who is also a pedophile, in charge of a kidnapping and child trafficking ring, and makes illegal drugs that he uses with the consent of many of the church to drug not only the kidnapped kids, but the members’ kids as well to brain wash them and make them “more obedient”. While I know all professions have good and bad people in them, and people running around with the title of “Man” or “Woman” of God have used that label to do much evil through history I still think the silent majority is good. I am getting quite sick of seeing Christian pastors in literature (and movies) portrayed as scheming crooks, strange quacks, and heinous criminals or just plain idiots. I wouldn’t mind so much if in the same piece, and opposing good one was presented. With all the focus so much all the time on this twisted view, I think it gives a negative perception of Christianity and Christians in general as greedy, intolerant, violent and mentally ill, which I do take offense at. This caused me to view this book in a more negative light, and the strangeness with the forest would have been better explained I might have liked it better. Also, I never got closure as to who Gee actually was or where he came from, etc. which left me hanging, and the issue of the child trafficking the church was involved in was never resolved. So, because of these drawbacks I give it just 3 stars. It isn’t lower because, like I said, there was parts I did like…. the suspense, the character of Gee, some of the mysteries that were resolved. I am thinking perhaps my opinion may improve after reading more of the series. I received this book in exchange for a free review from the author– thank you
Giveaway for City Limits!
Good luck and thank you to Nathan Everett for the book, interview and giveaway, and to SassyBrit for bringing it to my attention! : )