A few years ago, I knew I would never, ever write a book. I’d written short stories, a few plays, even a screenplay or two, but a book? A book was two-hundred (plus!) pages. A book had characters doing God-knows-what, chapter after chapter, and staying interesting at the same time. A book had the interweaving of types and archetypes with subplots and symbols and…
Short stories were my love. A unique art unto themselves, they struck me as the climax to any imagined novel. Why write the book when everything truly important could be found within the pages of a shorter piece? In a short story, the drama is constant, the most fascinating qualities of any character magnified to the Nth degree. Every character is essential, every scene key. Short stories are passion on paper, and I was perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life writing them. Who needed books?
Truth was, I knew I couldn’t write a whole book. I didn’t have it in me. My first short stories didn’t even have endings for the first year. Once the endings finally came (and what a breakthrough that was!), the stories came more easily, but by page ten they would end themselves and the characters would have nothing left to do or learn. If I’d tried to keep them going, it would have been like a bad game of Sims. Why is the character in the kitchen? The character isn’t happy! There’s nothing to do in the kitchen! You lose! You lose!
And so, it was decided. I would not write a book. The conclusion felt mature, because it meant I had recognized and accepted my limitations.
I went through the MFA program writing short story after short story, and I continued, publishing here and there, after graduation.
About two years later, something very strange happened.
The stories wanted to be longer.
Characters wanted to go inside after the sunset walk on the beach and put a band-aid on the cut from that broken clam shell half-hidden in the sand. They wanted to have more dramas.
They wanted to be a book.
Well, who was I to argue? They would see. I would try, and the natural end would come at some wildly idiotic page count, like 47. Too long for a short story, too short for a novella.
As I wrote, the page count reached 20. And then 80. And I didn’t feel anywhere near an ending.
For the next several months, I wrote a book. I even finished. It’s edited, revised, and now available at an online bookstore near you! Was it picked up by an agent? Well, no. A publisher? No, no. I tried, though, and while it may never be bought by anyone not in my family, or be adapted into a screenplay or end up on the New York Times Bestseller List, I wrote it. And it’s now in my hands, with a cover and everything.
Kristen J. Tsetsi has published stories and articles online and in print and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives in New York (State) with her husband and a few cats. Please visit her website at https://kristentsetsi.comto read a preview of her book, Homefront.
Homefront sheds needed light on the highly under-documented internal battles suffered by those left waiting. Each true-to-life character in Homefront (Mia, the professor-turned-cabdriver whose boyfriend deploys to Iraq; Jake, the boyfriend; Olivia, Jake’s mother; Denise, a disgruntled soldier’s wife and friend to Mia; Donny Donaldson, an alcoholic, maybe-Vietnam veteran and Mia’s cab fare ) responds to the war in his or her own unique, and painfully intimate, way. Says Alan Davis, Senior Editor of New Rivers Press, “… the interplay of vivid secondary characters, braided together with the transcribed correspondence of the lovers, force its readers to feel from the inside what the horror and the tedium of the homefront is like over time.”