Friday, January 9, 2015

Join me in welcoming Christopher Koehler and his newest novel "Poz"!

Clutch the Pearls 
Writing A Book In First-Person When You’ve Never Done Such a Thing

Thanks for joining us, Christopher. It's great to have you here celebrating the release of your newest book, Poz. Today you're talking about writing in deep first-person perspective and the attendant doubt and fear that had you clutching your pearls, as it were. Nonetheless, you found wonderment and fascination in the process and it allowed you to feel closer to your characters and write a far richer story. Can you tell us a little about that?

Some writers are pantsters, meaning they write by the seat of their pants. Some are plotters, meaning they plot things out. I fall into that latter camp, and may in fact be the arch-plotter. I’ll spare you the gory details of my plotting, but it’s thorough. I have a plot structure that has served me well for five novels, and carried me though the ups and downs of my characters’ dramatic and emotional lives.

There was but one problem when it came to Poz. That structure bored me to tears. Don’t misunderstand me. I still use it, but it’d become so familiar to me that it no longer held any challenge. How could I shake up my writing and do something to get me back to how I felt when I wrote my very first m/m romance, Rocking the Boat? The writing of that book scared me to death. I questioned myself at every step and nothing I did felt right.

The only thing I could think of was to write Poz in the deep first person. It was something I’d never done before. Of course, I’ve never tried writing while standing on my head or while submerged up to my neck in human blood, so let’s not chase this novelty bit off a cliff. 

What do I mean by deep first person? The writer situates the reader inside the head of the protagonist. The reader sees everything that happens from the perspective of that primary character. Or, perhaps I should say, the reader sees everything the author chooses to depict from that primary character’s point of viewbecause you don’t see literally everything. 

Writing, regardless of the genre or whether it’s Young Adult, New Adult, or adult story, is still just like life only without the boring parts. We don’t need to see decisions about which clothes to wear if they’re not part of the plot. President Teddy Roosevelt’s decision to put his glasses case in his left chest pocket would be important because they later took a bullet for him. In Poz, Remy’s decision to wear a certain tee shirt was only important at one particular time because it aggravated Michael. Otherwise? Booooring. 

Writing in the first person, whether you’re so deeply embedded that you’re tossed about by every emotion and thought the viewpoint character has, or whether you share that character’s somewhat perspective, puts you, the reader, right into the thick of things. And there was something about Remy’s story that demanded to be told from inside his head. 

So, that’s what I did. I started writing Poz in deep first person and I had never been so afraid of writing a book in my life. Every other book I’ve written has been in deep third, in which we’re inside a third-person narrator’s head with his thoughts and feelings. But writing Poz was magical! It was fantastic! First-person perspective was the answer. But because I try to take the reader so deep into the protagonist’s head, that protagonist—Remy Babcock—has been called unreliable—I suppose because there’s no attempt at an omniscient presentation of facts. 

Humor me with something. Extend your arm and make a fist. Close one eye and stick out your thumb. Take a good look at that thumb. Now close that eye and open the other one. The perspective’s changed a bit, hasn’t it? Same thumb on the same hand, but it looks just a little different, doesn’t it? What we see depends on our perspective, hardly an original observation. Good grief, even Obi-wan said that in 'Return of the Jedi,' "...You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." A fuller expression of truth and perspective can be found in Kurosawa’s classic film, “Rashamon.”

I don’t think a "deep-first" protagonist is unreliable because there is no omniscient presentation of facts. It's merely that we read everything from that protagonist's perspective. That doesn’t make the facts any less true. 

Writing Poz in deep first-person perspective filled me with doubt from beginning to end. I second-guessed myself with every word, every decision I made, but when you meet Jeremy “Remy” Babcock you will be right there inside his head; with him as he navigates the shoals of high school, dating, and some very risky activities. I also hope you fall in love with him, because I did. Well, him and his eventual boyfriend Mikey “call me Michael, dammit” Castelreigh.

Great information, Christopher! Thanks to all of you for joining us! Check out the blog tour and don't forget to enter for a chance to win Poz below!

Poz is available in ebook and print at 
ABOUT POZ

Remy Babcock and Mikey Castelreigh are stalwart members of the Capital City Rowing Club’s junior crew, pulling their hardest to earn scholarships to rowing powerhouses like California Pacific. Just a couple of all-American boys, they face the usual pressures of life in an academic hothouse and playing a varsity sport. Add to that the stifling confines of the closet, and sometimes life isn’t always easy, even in the golden bubble of their accepting community. Because Remy and Mikey have a secret: they're both gay. While Mikey has never hidden it, Remy is a parka and a pair of mittens away from Narnia. 

Mikey has always been open about wanting more than friendship, but Remy is as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is a demon on the water. After their signals cross, and a man mistakes Remy for a college student, Remy takes the plunge and hooks up with him. After a furious Mikey cuts Remy off, Remy falls to the pressure of teenage life, wanting to be more and needing it now. In his innocence and naivetΓ©, Remy makes mistakes that have life-long consequences. When Remy falls in the midst of the most important regatta of his life, he can only hope Mikey will be there to catch him when he needs it most. 

ABOUT CHISTOPHER KOEHLER 

Christopher Koehler learned to read late (or so his teachers thought) but never looked back. It was not, however, until he was nearly done with grad school in the history of science that he realized that he needed to spend his life writing and not on the publish-or-perish treadmill. At risk of being thought frivolous, he found that academic writing sucked all the fun out of putting pen to paper. 

Christopher is also something of a hothouse flower. Inside of almost unreal conditions he thrives to set the results of his imagination free, and for most of his life he has been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who encouraged both that tendency and the writing. Chief among them is his long-suffering husband of twenty-two years and counting. 

When it comes to writing, Christopher follows Anne Lamott’s advice: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” So while he writes fiction, at times he ruthlessly mines his past for character traits and situations. Reality is far stranger than fiction. 

Christopher loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he's especially fond of romances, because it is in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare. 

Writing is his passion and his life, but when Christopher is not doing that, he's an at-home dad and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and other ways people behave badly. 

Visit Christopher on his blog and 
follow him on Twitter @christopherink

Follow the tour and enter below for a chance to win an eCopy of Poz!


7 Jan - Prism Book Alliance
9 Jan - Cody Kennedy
10 Jan - The Novel Approach
11 Jan - 9-11 a.m. PST Meet Christopher at Harmony Ink's Author Chat
14 Jan - Jamie Mayfield
15 Jan - Love Bytes
19 Jan - GGR Reviews
21 Jan - Hearts on Fire Reviews
22 Jan - MM Good Book Reviews
26 Jan - James Erich
28 Jan - Joyfully Jay
2 Feb - Rainbow Gold Reviews





28 comments:

  1. Aloha Christopher and Cody.

    I loved this blog, it was super interesting. I write in deep first person and love it, both writing and reading it. I have almost no understanding of why some people don't like it. I'm assuming it becomes too up close and personal for them. My background is pysch, so I do always want to know what's inside someone's head. It's so interesting to me.

    So I'm looking forward to reading this book, thanks.

    Really enjoyed this. Good luck with this, hope it goes well.

    Aloha Meg Amor :-)

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    1. Thanks, Meg :-) Funny thing about first person...I went to write something in third, a bit of flash fic involving characters from another book and I could barely remember how. "Huh? Whaaaa?" I can't say everything will be deep first from here on out, but anything to do with Remy sure will be and I'll think long and hard about deep first for all new projects.

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  2. Interestingly enough, when I was younger I really disliked first person in my novels. I had a hard time reading Interview with a Vampire, which was the first book I read in first person. Over the years I still struggled with first person. In my mind a book was a story and needed to be told by a narrator,that third person so I could see both sides of the story.
    About 4 years ago I picked up a book by Mary Calmes, which I loved. As you may know she only writes in first person. She has become one of my favorite authors. I really don't know what switched in my head. Is it because of the many life experiences I have that make me want to connect to a character? or is it that now that I'm older I want that deeper connection so I can express feelings? I have no clue. Now I read first and third person, as long as the story is good.
    So far this blog our as been fun. This book looks good. Kudos to the author for writing about a subject many don't. HIV and AIDS are on the rise and education is very important especially to young adults. I look forward to following the tour and reading the book

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    1. Huh. Now that you mention it, I don't remember being that consumed by IWV, either, although other books in the Vampire Chronicles were much more engrossing. But I love Mary Calmes and her work; Steamroller has become something of a comfort read. I hadn't made the connection between maturity and getting a handle on the first person, but it's something I'm going to have to consider.

      I'm glad you're enjoying the blog tour. So far it's just making me anxious, but I'm sure I'll relax ;-)

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  3. Hi Cody and Christopher! Sometimes, reading a book in first person can be frustrating because you only get that person's perspective. But I enjoy them more because I feel like interact more with the book. I find myself arguing with the character, feeling more what that character is feeling and yelling at them when they are being pig-headed. 😊. I have been looking forward to this as I enjoy your stories.. Thanks for the post!

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    1. You have no idea how hard it was for me not to show Michael's side of things, because there are many times that Remy is incredibly pigheaded (so warm up your vocal cords ;-) But for me, that was part of the challenge of writing the book.

      Funny story about me and my husband...he once asked his mother who was more stubborn, me or him. She looked at us and said without hesitation that I'm more stubborn but that he, her son, was more pig-headed. We looked at each other and asked what the heck that meant. She refused to define her terms and quickly left the room.

      I'm glad you've enjoyed my stories, and I hope this one lives up to the rest.

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  4. Very thoughtful and thought provoking post!

    juliesmall2016(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. I enjoyed the post it interests me how authors write their books and how they have to overcome many hurdles to get the story told.

    ShirleyAnn(at)speakman40(dot)freeserve(dot)co(dot)uk

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    1. I'm glad you liked the post. I can't speak for all authors, but for some reason I enjoy talking about the process. Maybe I'm just overly aware of myself when I'm writing. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. You are a new author to me so I look forward to reading Poz, which sounds very appealing.
    I remember my first person book, the blurb sounded very interesting but when I started to read and didn't like the way it was written, I almost gave it up. However, I did want to read the story no matter what and so I did... and thanks to that now I like everything. =)
    Nice post, by the way.

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    1. Well, welcome to the Christopher Koehler Experience...the nausea will pass eventually ;-)

      I do hope you like the book. I think it has an important message.

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  7. I've always kinda liked first person once I get into the story. Sounds great. :-)

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  8. Thanks for the great post! Congrats on taking a risk with your writing. I am a "plotter" in my work and life, too, and it is scary to shake up a well-used process. I do think that the unreliability of a first-person narrator, if it is intentional on the author's part, gives the reader another facet on the narrator - why and with what is the narrator unreliable.

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    1. In all honesty, I might not have taken a risk if I hadn't been pushed into it. I'm one of the most risk-averse people you'll ever meet.

      I honestly hadn't considered those points about reliability. I'd approached it from the standpoint of subjectivity. Subjectivity is inherently unreliable, or perhaps I should say inherently biased.

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  9. first person is interesting to read

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    1. It turned out to be a lot of fun to write.

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  10. It seems like most YA is first person. I've never had problems with any point-of-view choices authors make, or at least I've never noticed that any particular POV bothered me. So, when I read comments from other readers about how they "never read 1st person," I'm often taken aback because I don't see the issue. I honestly don't understand what makes it unappealing. Thanks for sharing a bit more of your process, Christopher!

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  11. Trying this again, since my first reply seems have vanished into the aether...

    You're welcome :-) I'm glad you enjoyed reading about the process. Talking about it has allowed me to put it in perspective.

    As I'm sure I've said, writing was a stretch but I've come to appreciate it. It brought me much closer to a character that third person ever has. The trick going forward will be to keep all characters from being Remy.

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  12. I think it's hard for a lot of people to write in first person. I also think that once you can get into things, it works out well. I don't have a problem with any point-of-view choices. Congrats on the new book.

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    1. Okay, trying again, since Blogspot devoured my first try...

      That was more or less my experience. Once I got the hang of the verb tenses--present vs historical past--everything settled out. I just had to be sure that the only POV I presented was Remy's. I've read some first-person novels in which the author showed multiple perspectives, all in the first person, and I only knew whose voice it was because the author put the name on the top of the chapter. Ideally, the voices should be distinct enough for the reader to tell without the hint, but that's my own opinion.

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  13. Great post. I like reading books from the first person narration but I've never point much thought into what the author must be feeling when they write a story in such a way. The first time doing anything can be tough but I imagine it must have been an gratifying feeling upon completion?

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    1. Actually, not just on completion. I hate delayed gratification. It quickly became satisfying to write in Remy's voice.

      There may well be more of me in Remy than there usually is of me in my characters--people often ask which of my characters is most like me, and my stock answer is that they all have a little chunk of me in them.

      If I can write other characters in first person without them sounding like Remy, we'll know it wasn't just a fluke.

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  14. I look forward to reading this book and others you've written. You are a new to me author.

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  15. Great! I hope you enjoy my writing :-)

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  16. My first try at writing I was all over the place. Then, through the help of a few wonderful author friends I learned how to tame my head and thoughts. I think writing in first POV would drive me crazy for I know I'll have to bring forth thoughts of other characters. Interesting, though, that this is your first first and that it worked perfectly for you :)
    Much success to you!
    Give A Rush
    taina1959 @ yahoo.com

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    1. 'Worked perfectly' is a loaded term. What makes it into print is, as you know, the end result of a long process. At one point my editor emailed me: "Your verb tenses are driving me crazy!" Yeah, I couldn't decided between present and past tense.

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