Interview with Wyatt McIntyre, Author of The Last Dance

Born in Valleyview Alberta and currently residing in Woodridge Illinois, as an amateur woodworker, Wyatt McIntyre sees crafting a story in the same way he carves. Starting with a blank and rough surface, each word, each sentence and line is meant to express a vision that slowly turns the original material into a finished work of beauty. Along with The Last Dance, his first novel, Wyatt is also the author of the theological work, Coping Through Christianity: Strengthening the Wounded Heart and Broken Spirit through God’s Love.

When did you first realize you needed to put pen to paper?

I was young, very young, and the truth was I was an awkward and odd kid who used to spend a lot of his time lost in books and stories. By first or second grade Mom had to put a limit on the number I could bring home from the library or I’d just end up taking out the entire thing. I think that was when I really started to write. I always had an imagination and I lived in it a lot, especially as time wore on and we moved a lot. I discovered that I had a hard time connecting with people my own age or making friends. Later I was told that I write so I can have the story that I want and the ending to it that I need, and in a very real way that’s what I had always done. I wrote to re-imagine myself, to re-imagine situations and circumstances. It was my way of feeling normal and that everything could and would be alright. Over time this has evolved, but in some of my stories, even in some of them that don’t have the ending I would have wanted, there’s a lot of me there.

One of the most important aspects of any story, in my opinion, is description. Often either overdone or underdone, what is your best advice to writers on how to strike the perfect balance?

You know, overdone has always been my fault. I’m a serial over-describer in my books and stories and the balance has always been a difficult one for me to overcome and I have to battle with my inner Steinbeck (that is if I were anywhere near the writer he was that is). Usually I have to cut a lot to really make it work and not drown someone in the details of it all. I guess the best advice I can give is that writing is meant to be organic and natural. Think about life, think about yourself in the situations, the places and the thoughts you are writing about, and put yourself right there. Then, when you do, think about how you would describe it to yourself and to someone else to make them understand. Imagination is such an important part of writing, but it has to have an element of reality in it. We tend to over describe when we just don’t have a way of relating it, and under describe when we don’t necessarily know how to. Find what’s real for you and put it to paper, and be willing to adapt it later. That’s about the only way I know how to strike that balance.

Your writing has a trait that I personally love to find in books – a certain honesty and realness in characters. For me, I find much of my inspiration in coffee shops, and many of the conversations and interactions I have witnessed there have proved to be influential in my tales. Has anyone you’ve ever witnessed become the inspiration for a character, or at least a particular part of a character?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is I actually go out looking for inspiration for some of them. In The Last Dance, for example, I struggled a little with Alejandra because I knew who I wanted her to be, I knew the kind of person that I wanted her to be, but I struggled a bit with making her real. She was very one-dimensional and rough in my early sketches of her. James, on the other hand, was easy because I could wrap my head around him, his hopes, his fears, what drove him to make the decisions he made — her though, not so much. So I went back and I found inspiration where I could, I took pieces I could find, read interviews with women, and found inspiration. I leaned on that to try and make her more than just a character, but a real person as well, taking these bits and pieces, adding them to what I knew I wanted her to be like and just put together a puzzle. I have one source of inspiration that’s perhaps more apparent than others, especially for female characters, but I suppose that’s a different story for a different time.

Finding your voice in writing is one of the most important aspects of it. Some writers, myself included, wrote in a myriad of genres before discovering where our style was best suited. Is there a particular genre that speaks the most to you? Why? And how did you find it?

I never really tried other genres. I mean, yes, I write Non-Fiction as well as Fiction, and I will continue to in the future, sticking to the areas I am comfortable writing in. For Fiction, even my short stories, tend to lean heavily on the emotional experience. Yes, some are darker than others, but that’s mostly because I tend towards the wide range of the human experience and loss and pain is part of it. That being said, I love a good love story, and have ever since the first time I saw Roman Holiday as a kid. A part of me always wants to believe that through whatever losses and pain life may bring there is faith, hope and love. Perhaps it doesn’t happen the way you thought it would happen, and perhaps the story is different than the way you thought it would be written, with more struggles than originally anticipated. But, in the end, you find that sense, that feeling, that love that encompasses you, that takes hold of you and never lets go. I write them so that I can give a story that’s perhaps familiar to me, and hopefully the reader, except with a different angle or two that’s thrown in, and give it the ending that, in my heart of hearts, I want it to have.

Speaking of voice, when you write, do you find that you become the characters, or are you more of a guest at their dinner party where they share their story with you?

I findthat, in some cases, it’s not so much that I become the characters, it’s more that they are, in some ways, an extension of who I am. Obviously, that’s not always the case. In a short story I wrote a while back, The Execution, I was definitely more removed than I am otherwise because I had no personal experience of the situation that I wrote about, and it made it harder for me to write it. That being said, most of the time, I pour a lot of myself into my characters, and, if I don’t, I close my eyes and yes, let myself become the character. I find that, especially in the stories I’m drawn to write, you can’t be a casual observer, you need to put yourself there, you need to feel like they feel, you need to see the world like they do if you’re going to craft it right. You need to have this vision in your head, understanding who they are because, if you can’t do that, they aren’t going to seem real and you’re going to leave people wanting something more that you just weren’t able to provide, namely that ability to connect with them on even a very basic level. In that sense, I only ever write a story I can on some level know, because the characters either are an extension of me or are capable of making me an extension of them.

Does the The Last Dance readers are enjoying today differ greatly from your first draft or do you find that your stories evolve more in the plotting stage before even beginning to write them?

Plotting? Ummmm…. Oh… that sort of plotting… Sorry, thought you knew too much for a moment…

The first draft was actually vastly different. First because I went back and I had to re-write Alejandra in a lot of ways. I didn’t have a firm enough understanding of her as a person the first go around. She just wasn’t as strong as she needed to be to contrast well enough with James in the ways that she needed to, and, in that sense she was more of a girl than she was a woman. For her to be who she needed to be, she deserved a lot better than that. Second, it was just too much of a fairy tale, and, let’s face it, that isn’t what a love story is, especially not theirs, not if it was going to be real. So I went back and I took chunks of the story out, and re-wrote other parts, still staying true to the original concept but trying to make it stronger, trying to make it more relatable to. For as much as they loved each other, or as much as they longed for each other, there were other feelings, other emotions that needed to be there, hurt, pain, a sense of loss, and they needed to come out a little more than I had originally let them feel. I had to embrace the fact that it wasn’t the same as when they had first met, they weren’t the same and, over those years, a lot in them had changed. Finally, and probably the most notably, it’s a much more linear story. Though it is told with different moments of their future together, flashing back, it doesn’t jump around nearly as much as it once did. It follows a specific track from beginning to end to answer the question of how they ended up together rather than if they would.

What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

I don’t know if I can say to be perfectly honest. I take any advice I get in stride, and try to find the good in it all, realizing that there is something that can be taken from it, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. In a sense it’s a matter of how you end up looking at it. If it can help you then it can, if it doesn’t then store it for later because, who knows, there may come a time when you need it. That’s why I actually keep all the advice given to me, and I go back every now and then to look it over again, seeing what I can take away from it at any given time, realizing not every story is going to be written in the same way, and so there is something I may be able to derive from that advice at that moment.

For those writers who have not yet completed their first novel, what advice would you give them?

Make certain you’re writing the story that you want to write and it’s true to the vision that you have for it. Writing isn’t about selling a book, though it always feels good when you do. Writing is about telling a story that you believe needs to be told, for whatever reason it may be. In that sense, you write because it’s not only what you love to do but because it’s what you see yourself doing and you see your hopes and dreams for that story in it. It’s not just a matter of getting the book out, it’s a matter of putting something out there that you are proud of, that you believe in. In the end it’s about who you are and the kind of writer you want to be more than anything else. If you can do that then you have done something, created something that is worthwhile, and that’s what ultimately matters.

What is one book (besides one of your own) that you think everyone should read?

Hmmm… A Thirty-Something Girl? Oh wait, you’re already interviewing me, I guess I don’t need to suck up.

Seriously, actually it was a terrific book, and I really did love it. That being said, I would probably say Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner. I love that book, it’s the kind that transcends time, telling a story that is so real and palpable. Thomas Supten, in his rise and his fall, is the best and the worst of us in the most basic of ways, establishing his own eventual tragic fate, living by a warped code of honor that he justifies in his own mind but that is nothing more than a betrayal of himself. Though we perhaps aren’t necessarily as blatant or apparent as he is, and the situations are different, written in a different time and place, it’s one of those books that force us to look at our priorities, our morality and the levels we are willing to go to in search of something. His own sense of right and wrong, his own sense of responsibility is limited by his own arrogance and pride, and it’s what ultimately creates the circumstances and the situations for him, and, in that sense, it sort of is a cautionary tale for all of us, told only in the way that Faulkner can. Every time I read it I always seem to draw something new from it.

If you could be interviewed by one famous person (besides me… ha!), who would that be and why?

Honestly? Never gave it much thought. I guess maybe Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. Those two guys just crack me up. I think I could have fun.

Can readers expect more from Wyatt McIntyre in the not too distant future? (Please say yes!)

I certainly hope so. I have a book I am currently finishing, another non-fiction one called, Into the Arena: A Beginners Guide to Political Campaigns, the area where most of my professional experience lies as a former Political Staffer. It will be my second non-fiction work, though, obviously covering vastly different topics than Coping Through Christianity. Outside of that I am in the process of writing my next novel, another love story, this time from a different angle of The Last Dance, telling a story of a man who is suddenly cast between two choices, the life he thought he once wanted, and that pushed him down the road towards the path he is on now when it came crumbling down, or the life that he has at that moment. It’s actually a re-working and a re-writing of a project I had started some time ago, but I am hoping that, as I sit down and do it again time and perspective have given me the opportunity to write something better and more meaningful. Those are the big projects I have going on but there are other ones that are twirling, and swirling through my head all the time, it’s just a matter of actually having the hours in the day to do them.

Where do you see the publishing world 10 years from now?

Well, I’m hoping that, if it doesn’t work out between me and it, that we can still be friends, you know…

Actually I see it more moving towards the Indie market if it keeps going the way that it’s going. One of the misconceptions of Indie writers is that they do it because they can’t make the cut or are just doing it because they have been rejected so many times. The truth is that it’s less about that, and more about believing in the story you’ve written. Don’t get me wrong, I have been rejected by agents, but every rejection I have ever received came with the qualifier that this is just a subjective opinion of one person and another agent may see the project a different way, but they just don’t see the market demand for my book at this moment. Maybe they’re right, maybe there isn’t at that moment, but I am the kind of person who believes in actually letting the market itself decide that, and I think most other Indies are like me. The problem is you need the subjective opinion to get into the door of a major publishing company. I think, with time, more and more aspiring writers, especially those who see how many are only taking new authors by referral of their current clients only, are going to get more and more frustrated by it and utilize the tools at their disposal to put their own work out. Just a bit of a gut feeling but it’s sort of the way things are trending towards even now as major publishers seem to be taking a hit as are traditional book stores and agents. If they don’t evolve the way they need to there is going to be the threat that they will take an even larger one in the future.

Weirdest unknown fact about you (that you are brave enough to share)?

Weirdest fact? Hmmm… Way to make me feel boring with that question, I honestly have to think about it for a minute or two. I don’t know, it’s me so it seems, at least quasi-normal for me, after all. How about this? When I was a kid I was terrified of the MacDonald’s Moon Man, Mac Tonight. I had this reoccurring nightmare that the moon would become his head and he would float down with his piano and try to kill me.

Any other updates from the wonderful world of Wyatt?

Well I’m putting out the actual paperback copy of The Last Dance out in the next week or so, just putting the final touches on it to make sure that it is just right, so you can watch for that. If you check out my website or follow me on Twitter I usually update pretty often, especially when I am excited about a new project, or have something new out, including poems or short stories you can find on my page. Usually my followers there know before me about what’s going on with me, something, you know, about posting before I am fully caffeinated. At any rate that’s about it, but a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon. So I hope you keep watching!

~~

Connect with Wyatt on his websiteFacebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Read my review of The Last Dance HERE

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9 Comments

  1. Great interview! I was thrilled when I saw Wyatt’s hat pop up at the top of my subscription e-mail. I wholeheartedly agree that all advice is worth listening to and remembering, even if it’s not applicable or immediately useful at the given time. Let the shipwrecks of others be your sea-marks, as they say – the experience of others is always a useful guide and you never know when something might become relevant for you. Great advice, Wyatt.

    • Thanks Nick. You know, the thing is even the most negative can be a positive if you know what to look for in it and never let be personal to you. The way I try to look at it is that, even if someone hates my book or my style, they want to see me as a better writer, though, on first read, it may not seem like it. It’s just a matter of knowing where your strengths and weaknesses are and being able to pick out the tidbits you need to help make you better because someone else’s experience is a differing perspective you perhaps never considered.

  2. Really enjoyed getting to know more about your writing life, Wyatt. You have a unique style and a gift for description. I think it’s easier to write more and cut, than to not write enough. After all, that’s what editors are for.

    As for the unknown weird fact about you — you could never be boring, though I must admit that’s a mighty odd fear. You should write about it. ;)

    eden

    • Thanks Eden. You know, I’m all about making sure there is a lot to cut in editing… after all you have to keep those editors on their toes, otherwise they just slack off. As for that weird fact about me, I’ll keep that in mind, but my goodness that guy creeps me out still. There is a MacDonald’s around here with a statue of him on hanging from the ceiling. I do not go into that store… *shudder*

    • You are far too kind Dannie but I do try, I’m with you too, I am more about the negative sometimes than the positive because, let’s face it, it gives you something to work with, looking at your critics and striving to do more to make fans out of them. You can live and learn a lot if you realize everything can be a positive depending on how you look at it.

  3. Pingback: A Short Thank You and An Update | Wyatt McIntyre Online

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