“Twenty two, reading Camus, feeling blue, life is absurd. Why even try? Live for today, stay blown away. Inherent meaning does not exist in this universe.”
Immediately I was pulled in by the funky voice of your narrator. It’s fun! I needed to find out what would happen. Did you know Doreen would be part of this story, or did you discover her somewhere down the line of writing it?
J. Mykell Collinz: Doreen is the story’s central character. That started with Drug War Snitch, which takes place about ten years later. After the fourth episode of that story, I felt a need to go back to the very beginning of our relationship and start writing it over again with more of an emphasis on Doreen. The first paragraph describes my mental condition as I grabbed my guitar, jumped in my car, and headed for the bar, one pivotal evening early in our relationship. The rest, about practicing the guitar, singing in my basement, imagining myself performing in front of Doreen and her adoring friends at the bar, and then actually doing it, is a compressed version of the evening where we became more seriously involved at a gathering in someone’s house after the bar. Doreen is my central character in several other stories, also.
ST: You say “our” rather than “their” relationship, which forms my next question: How much real truth is here in this story? You can fudge this answer for the sake of your privacy, but you can also tell as much as you wish.
JMC: Doreen and I were eventually married in June of 1965 and we’ve been married ever since. She died at home of cancer last May. This is part of a series of stories based on the facts of our life together which are still in progress. Many details are compressed or simplified in this story to characterize a number of different experiences.
ST: Oh, my. That’s very sad news. John, I’ve always found you to be a writer with a deep heart. That you’ve chosen to share this personal information here, well, I’m speechless. And honored that you feel this is a safe space in which to do so. Thank you.
One of the many things I loved about this story was the narrator saying: “I needed a miracle.”
There is purity to that line. It doesn’t get any truer than that. Who hasn’t been there? Who hasn’t needed a miracle? It helps us relate to him. And, to my mind that is the single strongest element in story-telling. Can we relate to the character(s). And I don’t mean we need to “like” the characters. Though I happen to like your guy. And that night he got his miracle, right?
JMC: Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned her death at this time but it’s now a part of the story. Yes, he received his miracle, in the form of love, infusing his universe with meaning. And, yes, the need for a miracle to get him out of his mental and spiritual funk does help the reader relate to the character, which is the single strongest element in story telling, I agree.
ST: I don’t think there is a right or wrong time to reveal things. I think we do it according to our own timetable, and as you say: it’s now part of the story. And stories are what these chats are all about.
I’ll reveal something. I was a “girl singer” and can so relate to much of this story, the atmosphere you’ve created, the nerves that go along with certain gigs. You write:
“While practicing at home, I would visualize myself standing on stage in the large, square, dimly lit barroom filled to capacity for open mic night. With ceiling fans circulating smoke filled air, the atmosphere would be torrid.”
Torrid. Perfect word for the atmosphere of the bars back then. Your male character lets us in on his vulnerability. That’s very nice in a story. A lot of male writers will not allow that to happen. Does it come easily for you to write a vulnerable male character?
JMC: I’m not sure if I can say it comes easily to write a vulnerable male character yet it does apply to many of my characters, particularly the characters based upon my own direct experiences because that’s what I’m usually trying to convey, to give insight to the character’s basic fears, desires, and motivations.
ST: I applaud you for that! Go for truth, I always say (especially to myself). By the way, John, speaking of truth, your character talks about strapping on his Martin acoustical six-string guitar. There’s more truth. The fake musicians often call it an acoustic guitar. Ha ha! Do you still play, and if so, what do you like?
JMC: That’s very insightful of you to catch that. Yes, I still play every chance I get, usually when I’m alone. I don’t play songs, I explore musical patterns, it’s a mystical experience. I listen to all forms of music. I love music.
Read “Along Came Doreen“ by J. Mykell Collinz
Monday Chat is a bi-weekly series in which Susan Tepper has a conversation with a Fictionaut writer about one of his or her stories. Susan’s new book From the Umberplatzen is a collection of linked-flash published by Wilderness House Press.