I write. I started my first novel when I was 12. It was a roman a clef (although I certainly did not know what that term meant at the time) about a sleepaway summer camp. I had recently learned how to touch type, a class I had to take in school in order to be allowed to skip a grade (to this day I maintain it was the best class I ever took), and I made it to three single-space pages before I ran out of things to say. Not long ago, I moved and I actually found that artifact. It’s in a drawer somewhere, but I haven’t had the nerve to look at it yet. But I will. Some day.
I never wanted to be anything but a novelist, but I got sidetracked. Having to put a roof over my head and food on the table, I found myself writing nonfiction. First, magazine articles, then nonfiction books. But I never gave up the dream of writing novels, and so that’s what I did. I published my first novel, a paperback original, based on a magazine article on street gambling I wrote for the Sunday magazine of the Daily News. I was going to use a pseudonym, but the publisher forgot, printed the covers with my real name on it and when I complained said it would cost me to make the change, so I let it go. If you look for it, you’ll find it, but I’m not going to help you by giving you the title. My real first novel, Swann’s Last Song, wasn’t published until 2007, even though I wrote it 25 years earlier, and it was actually nominated for a Shamus Award for Best PI Novel. Since then, I’ve written nothing but fiction, have published six other novels, two novellas and several short stories. My next novel, probably the last in the Swann series, will be out in May, 2019. I just won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Crime Novel of 2018 for Second Story Man.
I was a shy child. An unhappy child. Reading took me to other places. Happier places. I made new friends. I became part of other families. I carried books wherever I went. At meals, I read the labels off cereal boxes or Ketchup bottles. I devoured all three newspapers that were delivered every morning, and two that were delivered in the evening.It was a foregone conclusion that I’d wind up a writer because then I could create my own worlds to live in.
I’m extremely undisciplined as a writer. I have no routine, I never have. I’m extremely lazy. I’ll do almost anything to avoid writing. I’m amazed when I look back and see that I’ve written and published over 30 books, almost 100 magazine articles and book reviews and close to a dozen short stories. The only explanation I have is that I’m a very fast typist, 90 words a minute, and that I can really focus when I do sit down at the computer. I’m constantly rewriting. When I’m working on a novel, I’ll always go back to the first chapter and read through it until I get to where I ended and then start writing again, rewriting as I go. I do this until I’m about halfway through the manuscript. Only then will I just forge ahead. And then I’ll periodically go back and rewrite, making sure things keep making sense. So, by the time I finish writing the manuscript is in pretty good shape.
I never outline. I never know what’s going to happen next. I not only don’t know what’s going to happen in the next chapter, I don’t even know what’s going to happen in the next paragraph or sentence.
I almost always write in the first person, and several of my novels have multiple voices. In Devil in the Hole, the novel is told through the voices of almost two dozen characters. In Second Story Man, the novel is told through the voices of three characters.
When I’m writing short stories, which isn’t too often, I’m more likely to experiment. In the last two short stories I wrote, one was in the second person and the other was written in present tense.
I write best when it’s dark or when it’s bad weather outside. That’s because if it’s nice out I want to be outside.
Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, GQ, Redbook and The New York Times Book Review. He has written over 20 non-fiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA; and Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times; and On a Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place: Baseball’s 10 Worst Teams of the Century. He is author of the Shamus Award nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, nominated for two Silver Falchions, Swanns Way Out, Devil in the Hole, named one of the best crime novels of the year by Suspense magazine and Second Story Man, winner of the Beverly Hills Books Award for Best Crime Novel of 2018. His novellas “Twist of Fate,” and “The Maybrick Affair” appear in Triple Shot and Three Strikes. He was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and he teaches writing the New York Writers Workshop where he is a Founding Member. He is a member of the MWA-NY Board.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell her truth without shame.
2017 New Apple Book Awards Official Selection
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage