Off to The Big Apple


Goodgodbird_publicationJohn Corey Whaley's journey to publication continues as he preps for his first trip to New York City! While there, he'll get to meet his agent and editor face to face for the first time, and who knows, he may even be spotted in the WEbook offices...

I decided shortly after Simon & Schuster bought my novel that I’d plan a trip to meet Ken, my agent, and Nami, my new editor. Having never been to New York, I figured there was no better way to experience it for the first time than now—when I have a valid excuse to fly across the country to mix business with pleasure (though, it’s hard to tell the difference these days).

And so, I will be setting off next Saturday to spend Spring Break (yep—I still live by the schedule of a student, being a teacher and all) in the Big Apple.  

I was thinking about what this trip really means to me as a writer. You always read about New York City and its often magical power over one’s actions, attitude, style, etc., but what is it going to mean to me—a Southern writer who mostly focuses on rural towns?

The first thing that keeps popping into my mind when I think about my trip is Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I’m not sure I’ve shared this with anyone, but The Catcher in the Rye, is what made me want to tell the kind of stories I write. Good God Bird is heavily influenced by Salinger’s story of a troubled young man who flees to the big city to figure out his life, the world, et al. There are several references to Catcher in my own novel, given that one character in particular seems to have a fascination with it.  It may be stereotypical for a young writer to say: but I share this fascination. And, I think the fact that Salinger passed away just a few weeks ago has made the work more present in my mind. When I think about my trip, I think of Holden Caulfield standing in Central Park at the end of the novel and I realize that one of my characters, too, could one day come to mind when others have similar experiences. 

I say this all to start a conversation of sorts. I’m always interested in the type of works that inspire others to write. I actually get inspiration from many sources, including other writers, movies, television, and even National Public Radio (as with Good God Bird). 
So, what books, movies, people, animals, places, sounds, etc., inspire your writing?
I look forward to seeing what the city inspires in me…and sharing that with you all!

To learn more about Corey's journey so far, check out his previous posts here, and stay tuned for news from NYC! To hear some more from Corey's agent, check out Ken's latest Ask the Agent post.

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  1. One book that has inspired my writing over the years is Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson. It's a collection of interconnected short stories about a drug addict, beautifully written all the way through.
    Always a good one to return to when everything I write seems to be coming off flat and I need a jolt!

  2. There are a lot of books that have inspired me, but Nadine Gordimer's 'The Pickup' is always on my mind. She has paragraphs that you can read, then reread, then reread again, gaining a deeper appreciation for their style and meaning with each pass. But the most inspirational aspect of this book, and what I aspire to in my own writing, is that she tells a story that flipped my understanding of oppression and freedom. She writes about people who crave what they've never had, and although there are acute social and cultural issues, I finished the book incapable of judging either main character. She made me see that everyone experiences internal contradictions, and that's what makes people, and characters, so interesting.

  3. When I was 17 I was assigned to read "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving. I don't know if it was the fact that the places in the book are real, and that I could go there (since I live near the southern NH town the book is set), or how real the characters seemed to me, but ever since reading that book, my life has been profoundly different.
    This book changed the way I write, it changed almost everything about life.

  4. I think I can nail it down to Poe as my first source of inspiration to write. That he could take one of his greatest fears, being buried alive, and use it in his writing as a coping mechanism sparked something important in me.
    Clive Barker expanded upon this for me through his short stories, plays and novels by taking elements of folklore and religion and presenting alternative explanations for them. This is what triggered something in me to attempt to reconcile my own conflicts of belief by rationalizing them and playing 'What if...?' with them.
    I think it would be fair to mention the works of David Eddings also as they serve as a reminder to me that the quality of the story and the characters trumps all else.

  5. I agree with Rich. Clive Barker is an amazing artist and writer. He's always on my mind when it comes to drawing or painting or writing. He influences me when it comes to right-brain thinking -- maybe he's some kind of muse...? :)

  6. I always imagine stories just inside my head when I felt bored and it's actually a really fun way of getting ideas! So then, my ideas came in handy but I never know what happens in the end.

  7. I'm never really inspired by authors or writers. My inspiration usually comes from real life events or sometimes from movies and books that I like but would change one thing about them.

  8. In 2006 I was wrapping up my BA in Social Sciences firmly convinced that I would continue on through grad school until becoming a professor of History. Then I read 'At Swim Two Boys' by Jamie O'Neill, a Gay coming of age story set against the backdrop of the 1916 Irish Easter Uprising.
    To say the novel had a dramatic impact on me would be an understatement. While I consider myself a rational person, someone trained academically and professionally in critical thinking, this novel transformed me into something of an emotional basket case for a few days: I obsessed about the characters, and more than once I spontaneously broke into tears when thinking about them.
    What I realized was that O'Neill had done what I had always aspired to do but had been too afraid to try: impact, touch, transform another through story: the kind of story I'd always wanted to write but believed completely 'unmarketable' (for lack of a better term). He proved me wrong, making a few million dollars in the process.
    Of course, I remain too much the rationalist to imagine penning my way to millions is at all likely, but after 'At Swim' I do know that I can at once follow my heart, write what I want to write, and slowly build a career in writing. With enough effort.
    So, first, I wrote Mr. O'Neill; he wrote back giving me words of encouragement that hang on my wall even now. Second, while I'm a pretty damn good essayist, I needed to learn the art of fiction writing if I hoped to write well so I dropped my applications to grad school History departments (losing scholarship money in the process) and applied to an MA in Literature and Writing program. Finally, I've ever-so-slowly worked to improve my own writing through painful and sometimes embarrassing trial and error. Always, 'At Swim' remains my model--a kind of icon that I reflect on whenever self-doubt or exhaustion begins to settle or grinding poverty tells me this dream is absurd. I consider O'Neill's influence on me, and recommit to the goal of writing stories that will transform the life of some stranger halfway across the world. And if I can make that stranger cry or think he might be going just a little bit insane, even better.
    -AK Spencer

  9. Great comments, everyone. Keep them coming.

  10. I subscribed to this whole feed just so that I could say that I also love "the Catcher In The Rye." Now after I read your book Corey, I will be forced to read the Salinger

  11. It would have to be the Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt. I read that book and realised I could take anything and make it my own. I enjoy her books, and wish she had finished the last one, but alas I couldn't be so fortunate.

  12. I, too, am mostly inspired by Salinger, but I prefer the female perspective of Franny from Franny & Zooey. I loved it so much, I adapted the short story into a one-act for my highschool's theatre festival. Besides Salinger, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath has also lit my literary fire.

  13. Man. . . There are numerous things that first inspired me to write, Authors, people, and especially teachers.My second grade teacher, Mrs. Varella, though, combined with the school's librarian at the time, Mrs. Hinson, were my first inspirations. They pushed me to develop writing skills, and I was given most of the day to read works by authors such as Jules Verne, C.S. Lewis, and even Phillip Pullman in that period of my life. My first story was written as a second grader, ,and I think it's still in my closet somewhere.
    To look back over these years, and realize that my entire writing career started in that dusty little town of San Angelo, Texas. . .

  14. J. Edward Griffin11 March 2010 at 21:08

    There is an absence of writing for teenagers in regards to what the emotional impact a skin disorder has upon them. In my writing, I am focusing on what I feel has been left out of the writing forums. Walls of Consciousness is attempting to shed the taboo issue of a skin disorder in regards to how it is not discussed but what needs to be addressed. This is what inspires me in my pursuit of literary genius and fortitude. I think in Walls of Consciousness because of the main characters conflict with his skin disorder and issues that confront him from a personal perspective, the reader will be introduced to some references from Kafkas Metamorphoses and Catcher in the Rye, but also to Richard Pelzers A Privilege of Youth. The issues need to be addressed in a format where other teenagers can follow along with another teenagers approach to dealing with the issue a skin disorder can cause.

  15. Have fun in NYC. A little advice: make sure your feet are in shape! You'll be doing a ton of walking. You probably have it covered since you're a teacher, but I was not prepared.

  16. I've always been influenced by "Alice in Wonderland" and "Peter Pan"... Imagination facinates me. :) Good luck and have fun in New York! Congrats on your great success!

  17. FUP by Jim Dodge. Damn good book.


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