That Question Is too Intimate

A friend of mine occasionally asks how my characters are faring. How’s Joel today? she’ll write in an email.

At first her questions took me aback. They felt personal and deeply intimate. But now those questions make me giddy.  Even when I haven’t had much time to write, instead of seeing those questions and feeling guilty because I haven’t had the opportunity to give my characters the attention they deserve, I pause for a moment and think, How IS Joel today?

I just finished my last major read-through of The Crossing.

I take notes as I go, instead of editing as I read. That way I’m able to maintain the novel’s flow in my head; I’m able to tell if sentence follows sentence, paragraph follows paragraph, scene follows scene, seamlessly. When I get to the end I look at my notes, usually a dozen pages of what needs to be changed. But this last time around I had less than one page.

That’s how I know I’m getting close.

From now on I’ll be looking for minor edits, keeping an eye out for stray commas and homophones. I’ll also make sure that the novel’s structure makes sense; in an earlier draft, Joel’s life was measured by James’s semesters. But now I’ve blocked the novel differently, and I want to make sure that works. I added a few moments during my last read-through, too, and I want to make sure they make sense when read against the novel as a whole. After my photography shoot in May, for example, we ended up with some great photos of James (Addison Roush) peeling off his coat to give to Joel (Evan Shaw) on the night of his 25th birthday.  (Look at this photo in dim light, so you can really see what’s going on.) That moment never happened in the original scene. But we ended up with those shots courtesy of Josh Baker and they were so perfect that just yesterday I added it in. I’ll make sure when I read through the novel that the addition wasn’t a mistake.

I don’t think it was.

Then I’ll be ready to work with my designer to get this novel into your hands. We’re already revamping my website in preparation.

Soon you’ll be able to see for yourself how Joel’s doing.

p.s. While you’re waiting, give I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden another look, and in the comments below, tell me what you thought. Did you love it? Did Adam make you crazy? (Oh, you still haven’t read it? Click here to purchase.)

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Delaying Gratification

I promised to tell you more about my photo shoot. But I’ve been holding back.

I could lie, and say that I’ve been keeping those magnificent photos all to myself, but that’s not the truth.

I haven’t looked at them even once.

A few years ago, just before I published I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden, I scrawled one hundred pages’ worth of what will eventually be my third novel. Then I got busy publishing and promoting, and then I went back to The Crossing, which you’ll get to read later this year. Those hundred pages of my third novel I saved on my laptop, and I’ve only looked at them one time since.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about Joel and James and Adam, or what’s happening to them. I think about them all the time. But reading through those pages: that brings me too close. Until I have the time to work on that novel in successive days, there’s no point in opening the document. If I do, if I read those pages again and again for my own gratification, then by the time I can really sit down and work, the words I’ve written might be dead to me.

I’m not willing to take the risk.

I feel the same way about the photographs from my shoot. For more than a week I’ve had an email in my inbox from Amie King, the friend who hooked me up with Josh Baker of AzulOx Photography. The subject line? Top Ten. She’s given me her ten favorite photos from the three hundred Josh took, and she wants to know mine.

But I’ve been delaying gratification.

That shoot was just so fantastic, and the photographs themselves are so enthralling, that I don’t want to treat them lightly. I want to look at them; of course I do. But I want to do so with reverence. I want to lock myself up in the darkness of my closet (which from a metaphorical standpoint I find pretty hysterical), and just let myself go.

At the same time, I don’t want them to lose their glitter. And I know that the more I look at them, the more I lose that moment when everything is so new I’m breathless.

I have more to tell you: about the spring, about the last-minute revisions I’m going to make to my novel because of what Addison and Evan brought to the shoot. About what I have coming for you later this summer.

But I’m going to delay that gratification just a little bit longer.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Twilight

*The photographs in this post are intentionally shadowed and are best enjoyed in dim light.  

In I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden, Adam thinks back on his relationship with Bobby and says,

If I let myself, I could spend my entire life reliving those six years. If I let myself, I could crawl inside and never come out.

I’ve had the same feeling the past few days, as I’ve scrolled through the photos from my shoot last Thursday; I have the same feeling about my work in general. If I let myself, I could crawl inside and never come out.

Sometimes it takes a seriously concerted effort to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Last Thursday a cold front swept through Austin, breaking all kinds of records for the date. But instead of freaking out as I shivered on my deck that afternoon, I couldn’t stop smiling. The scene we were shooting takes place late in October. Of course the universe would deliver up a blustery day to match.

Josh Baker of AzulOx Photography showed up at Zilker Park ready to work. I hadn’t known what to expect; I’d never worked with Josh, and I had no idea how I was going to marry the vision I had in my head with what Josh might be thinking. He hadn’t wanted to read the scene ahead of time; instead he wanted the barest of directions (tunnel under Barton Springs Road, for example), and emotion (desire, guilt, attraction). But I could see from the beginning that he was willing to do whatever it took to get the perfect shot.

What really blew me away, though, was that Josh disappeared into his work the same way I disappear into mine. I could tell by the expression on his face, and the way he was setting up. I could tell by the way he answered my questions, and talked to his assistant, Austin.

Except that we were working on a scene that I had created, so in a way it felt like we were disappearing together.

I stood at the back of the tunnel, Josh sprawled on the ground in front of me, belly down on the tracks. Ahead of us, James (Addison Roush) leaned against the railing. Across from him, Joel (Evan Shaw) lit a cigarette. Josh started shooting (click, click, click) and I couldn’t help myself. Holy shit, I said. Because this scene, the one I’ve had in my head for so many years that Zilker Park has become synonymous with this moment between Joel and James, came alive right before my eyes.

I mentioned in my last post that Evan Shaw, an actor currently studying at David Mamet’s Atlantic Acting School in New York, was a pro from the very beginning. How do you feel about a wig? I wrote to him in an email as we were preparing for the shoot, and he said, I’ll wear whatever you want. Are you going to be too cold? I wrote on Thursday morning, and he wrote back, I’ll keep warm, don’t worry. He was too focused on the character to let himself get preoccupied with anything else, and he took up the role the second he stepped into the tunnel.

Playing opposite him was my own version of a Hail Mary, a friend of a friend of a friend who said he was willing to step in after the actor I had previously booked canceled on me. I actually considered having a third actor on set, just in case Addison couldn’t deliver.

That would have been a bad decision. Addison could not have been any more nonchalant about the role–or any more perfect.

The chemistry between Evan and Addison was so tantalizing, and the photos were so beautiful–Josh stopped every so often so I could see the magic he was conjuring and tell him what I wanted to see next–that I decided to go with a little more light. My original idea was to keep the actors in shadow, because when I read a book I want to use my imagination. And while Addison is very much like James, and Evan is very much like Joel, neither actor looks exactly the way I envision those characters. But when Josh gave Evan and Addison more light this happened.

JenHritz-251-2 copy

Are you in awe yet? I am. Just writing this post I can feel myself sinking deeper into this world.

I have more to share with you, I promise. You’ll want to see some of the shots from the spring. But you’ll have to stay tuned.

Because for now I’m pulling out.

I’m teasing you, I know.

It’s my own little form of foreplay.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

From Fiction to Reality

A friend of mine has been doing some writing lately, conjuring up her past and mining it for meaning. I’ve known Amie for almost ten years, but we didn’t connect that often until she started emailing me with questions. How do I manage my fear that what I’m writing might offend someone? How do I get out of my characters’ heads? What’s the best way to write a compelling sex scene? Her questions were insightful and curious, and I had such fun answering them, almost as much fun as I had reading her work, which is all about music and seduction and sex.

Then Amie emailed to say that a friend of hers, the fabulous photographer Josh Baker, wanted to play around with one of the scenes from my novel, The Crossing, which comes out this summer. So I met with him, and he was just as engaging and focused and creative in person as I might have assumed from seeing his work.

And suddenly I had a photo shoot on my calendar.

Initially I thought I wanted to do something without actors. After all, readers generally like to use their imaginations when they’re envisioning a character, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to a certain “look” before The Crossing is even published. But while Josh was willing to let me try to recreate Joel and James’s living room, I knew that working with models would be so much more provocative for him. And since Josh can create a rain storm on a clear night, I figured I should trust him when he said he could shadow the shots so that the models themselves are a mere suggestion but the chemistry would bleed through.

Of course, for that kind of chemistry I knew I needed some stellar actors. So I started searching.

I looked through a LOT of head shots. But Evan Shaw I kept coming back to. I could see that he was every bit the professional I needed. When he read the scene in question he said he could really sympathize with Joel’s longing and vulnerability. That didn’t surprise me, given the photo he’d sent.

Now I’m gearing up for the shoot itself: a bottle of wine, a corkscrew, a pack of Marlboros. I’m keeping an eye on the weather, which so far looks like it’s going to be a little cool for the date (how perfect, given that the scene actually takes place in October). I’m trying to find out if Evan has a pair of boots, the kind that Joel describes as “heavy Redwings I’ve worn so often that the leather has softened like a kiss” and that Shelton, James’s homophobic fraternity brother, says makes him think Joel’s “plunging toilets or nailing A-frames in his spare time.”

You want to hear how this photo shoot goes? Then you should check back in.

And in the meantime, if there’s a scene from my fiction that you’d love to see re-created, comment below. I just might be able to make it happen.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved