Wordsmith Interview – BAM

BAM after working on editsBertram Allan Mullin aka BAM

Age: As of December 19, I’ll have one month left to be thirty-two years old.

Location: Nagoya, Japan.

Educatio:  Received a BFA in English with concentration in creative writing and minor in psychology from the University of Houston. Graduated with honors. An alumnus of Sigma Tau Delta.

The Writer

How long have you been writing?
Not sure how long I’ve been writing. I recall at thirteen sitting against an oak tree scribbling paragraphs with a pen and paper. I read what I’d written to a friend who subsequently sang in a band. The following week I went to that pal’s rock and roll talent show contest. He recited my prose piece, without permission, and claimed he wrote the lyrics. It was that moment I decided to always write. If someone was willing to use my thoughts and call them their own, the words contained value. For the record, the plagiarizing musician and I were no longer chummy.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Someone once messaged me that they’d read one of my stories and didn’t like it. No mention of what piece or why. One word describes my reaction: “Yay!” Not everyone is going to enjoy what I put on paper. Yet an individual going through the trouble to contact me shows it’s being read and thought about. Minus that negative message, which I see as positive in ways, I’ve received tons of praise from readers about my stories. One person emailed me after reading my short with Writer’s Ezine, “How My Life Changed the Time I Almost Got Mugged,” detailing how much they appreciated that I’d written it—how the story moved them that few short stories ever had. Each time someone reaches out to me because of something I wrote, no matter the reason, it’s the result of my greatest accomplishment. I’ve done what every writer wants to do by getting my work to the eyes of the reader. There’s one accomplishment that ties with this one though. Helping other authors. A legendary creative writing professor at the University of Houston told me: “It’s a marathon, not a race,” meaning as a writer your running with people, not against them. Throughout the time I’ve written stories, I have been fortunate enough to assist other authors with their tales and see some find publication. Helping. That’s a huge accomplishment.

What is your ultimate goal as a writer?
To not just write a bestseller, but for a novel I’m proud of to be that bestseller. Also, to help others achieve such a feat.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Finding readers. I’m not sure if the reason is people have a screen in hand every minute with too many options or if fewer eyes are scrolling pages, but it’s very difficult to reach others who still appreciate the all-powerful sentence. If you’re not a bestselling author, haven’t won the Pulitzer Prize, aren’t published somewhere like The New Yorker, or a college professor isn’t discussing your writing than hardly anyone sees your story. Even then finding readers can be tough. A gloomy reality. However, if I continue putting work out there more interested minds will pop up. The challenge keeps me on my toes with a need to constantly improve.

The Work

Tell us about your work in Crack the Spine.
“Kindness and Decency” or K&D is a diptych piece centered around two people in a grocery store during the same timeline. The first half is from the viewpoint of a suicidal hero (my favorite type of protagonist to write about). The second half of the short revolves around a desperate man with a gun. K&D was rejected almost thirty times. I’d get the story back from somewhere, work on it again, and resend the short elsewhere. Aside from the first sentence of K&D almost everything within the story changed from the draft number one. It’s not just a tale someone can read and get something out of. Also the story is a reminder for me to never give up.

What inspired “Kindness and Decency?”
Professor Alexander Parsons at the University of Houston said to read the first sentence from a book, choose a specific date, and write a diptych. I grabbed one of four books in my backpack. “All this happened, more or less.” So in a way, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” and the professor’s imaginative prompt inspired “Kindness and Decency.” Another professor at the University of Houston, Aaron Reynolds, inspired aspects of the story too. Example, whenever there’s a pattern of threes in the story, that’s his influence.

How long did it take you to complete this piece?
The first draft was written in 2011, so about four years.

Tell us about another project you have published or are currently working on.
I’m working on the thirteenth draft of my paranormal suspense manuscript: “Diaries of Karma” or DOK. It’s the first of a trilogy, currently in the editing stage. When ready, I’ll be pitching it to agents and publishers. So far, DOK was a finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas Agents and Editors Contest in 2014 and the winner of the WILDsound contest in 2015. DOK is about a karma-loving guy who watches over his friends after he kills himself by accident. The novel has an assassin that thinks his seizures are warnings from God, an executive who gets into fistfights, and a psychologist who tries the kinky stuff her patients tell her on her husband—so expect a lot of humor and action. You can hear the first chapter from the twelfth draft on YouTube or at WILDsound’s site by searching for Diaries of Karma online or going to my website, listed below, for the link.

The Methods

Where do you write?
Usually at my desk at home or work or at a café. I’ve taken writer at a coffee shop to a new level now that I live in Japan. And there’s nothing like writing at the top of a mountain while the sun rises.

How many drafts do you generally go through before you consider a piece to be complete?
Is this a trick question? The mantra: write, edit, send and repeat comes to mind. All “complete” means to me is I haven’t reread and changed anything recently.

How do you react to editorial rejections of your work?
One hundred seventy-five. That’s how many rejection emails I’ve received. Actually, I have a satirical dialogue piece “Rejected!” on this topic, which you can find a link to under the works category of my website or with The Oddville Press.  And I react differently to each editorial rejection. Mostly, I’ll work on the piece that comes back to me and send it elsewhere. That’s resulted in about forty acceptances. When someone takes the time to respond to my work I take the rejection as a learning tool including the first time I submitted to CTS. Kindness and Decency was my second submission here. The first one came back with a motivational rejection email, which urged me to submit again one year later.

How do you react when one of your submissions is accepted for publication?
I get tossed Ernest Hemingway style. Doesn’t everyone? Joking. I’ll reread the published piece to look for mistakes—no idea why. I will then post about the work on my social media pages, next send the story to the readers on my mailing list, and ask them to share the work if they enjoyed it. After I’ll go out to celebrate the accomplishment. That’s when I get tossed Ernest Hemingway style.

What is your best piece of advice on how to stay sane as a writer?
Don’t. Take all of that zaniness within you and put it into words. Hone in on your inner crazy—create something from your insane imagination—you nutcase you. That’s how “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” happened.

The Madness

What is your favorite book?
Current favorites: “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

Who is your favorite author?
Three favorites at the moment. George R. R. Martin. Shakespeare, because well Shakespeare. Elizabeth Cary, too, who not enough people know about. If you’re interested in more of my favorite authors check out my website, (yeah, yeah I’m ambitious) where I’ve created a detailed list of favorite writers under the Fun Pages section—it’s like a blog—but not one.

What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer?
Overthinking. Under-thinking. Not thinking enough. Wait, the last two were the same, right? See, overthinking.

What is your favorite word?
Rhythmically.

What makes you laugh?
These Bernard Pivot style questions. Also, the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”

Rain or Sunshine?
Rain. Because it’s the only time the sky and the Earth touch.

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
The Beatles. In fact, I’m listening to “Imagine” as I answer this question.

Pen or Pencil?
The pen is mightier than the sword. Apropos to that, I don’t need some dang gum eraser! Just give me a red pen.

Additional Reading on BAM

Personal website/blog

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon Author profile

Goodreads

Instagram

You also can join my mailing list by emailing your full name here with the subject BAM’s List: bam@bamwrites.com

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on “Wordsmith Interview – BAM
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