Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Am Michael Weston

From IAMTW Member Tod Goldberg, author of the Burn Notice novels...

Since the first week of December, when I sat down with Matt Nix to talk about writing the first book based on his show Burn Notice (called The Fix), I've pretty much spent all of my writing time, my waking time, much of my sleeping time, a considerable amount of free time, trying to think like Michael Westen. This means I spend a lot of time imagining I am doing spy shit. I now know how to blow stuff up really well using household items. I'm prTubbsetty handy in a fight. I've got witty rejoinders coming out of my ass. I know the streets of Miami like I'm fucking Philip Michael Thomas (I mean that literally -- I imagine if I were fucking Philip Michael Thomas that he'd drive me around a lot showing me places where he filmed episodes of Miami Vice, pointing out precisely where it all went so terribly, terribly wrong...).

In the past, I've generally written fiction without a deadline, which is actually a far more preferable way for me to work. I like to navel gaze. I like to ponder. I like to play Madden for three of four hour stretches. And the result is that it took me three years to write Living Dead Girl, two years to write a book that I ultimately decided sucked, ten years to write Simplify (of course, those were all stories...), a year and a half to write Fake Liar Cheat, about 18 months to write a new collection of stories (which I'm putting the final touches on now, too) and I imagine it will take me about a year or so to write the next big book I plan to write, which, as I've told many people over the years, will be about the Salton Sea in the 1960s. I've done the research. I know the characters. I have the story. But for a long time, I haven't been prepared mentally to write it. It's not a tremendous amount of fun to write a novel -- it requires monastic patience from those who love you and monastic personal patience -- particularly not a novel like Living Dead Girl, which really took the wind from me for a long time. I imagine this Salton Sea novel will be like that, too. I need to write it. I yearn to, really, but I also don't look forward to the kind of mental torture that sort of work puts on me. It happens the same way with stories, really -- there were two this year that did it to me -- one in Barrelhouse called "Walls" and one in Hot Metal Bridge called "Palm Springs", both of which got nominated for the Pushcart, so maybe I did something right -- but at least with a story, it's done with in two weeks, a month.

But...this Burn Notice book? It's a fucking hoot. Minus the 2 weeks I was in Bennington and the two weeks I had fucking Captain Tripps, I've spent every day from the first week of December writing The Fix. And it's true that not every day is a good day, as Ice Cube would agree, there are however many days where I feel like if I saw the lights of the Goodyear blimp it just might say Tod G's the pimp. I can see the finish line from here, maybe another 10 days to go, maybe slightly longer, and while I'll be happy to stop thinking I'm Michael Westen and to start thinking about these two short stories I've been putting off since December, I must say that writing this sort of comic noir is pretty damn fun to do. I've got two more to write after this one, each with a substantially longer deadline, thank god, and I've really had to teach myself that I don't need to have an unreliable narrator facing some sort of mortal pain in every line, like many of my stories and novels previously have had, and that it's okay to just have fun, line by line, day by day, writing for the entertainment of it all. I've been asked by a lot of people why I decided to do these books and my answer has been the same each time: It seemed like it would be pretty cool. It seemed like I'd reach about 50,000 more readers than I usually do. It seemed like a great way to learn, again, how to write something completely out of my comfort zone, to challenge myself in new and interesting ways. And the end result? Well, I guess you'll know in August.

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