“Is this all of you? I mean, are there others?”
“How many members we have is really not any of your business,” Jimmie retorted.
Chapter 17, page 154, One Light Coming: A Biker’s Story (Book 3 in a series published by Blockhead City Press released on October 1, 2011. Available through bookstores everywhere, Amazon.com, and B&N.com)
Every once in a while people want to know stuff.
They want to feel like they have an understanding of how stuff is done.
In the MC world, there’s a tremendous amount of secrecy; how things are done. Secrecy came from the need to protect your brothers and your family. That old saying from the 2nd World War rings as true today as it did back then: “Loose Lips Sink Ships”
But in fiction it’s different.
Most of us writers love to talk about what we do. I was recently interviewed and the results of that were included on the website of a British publisher who also offers up Biker Fiction to the unsuspecting general public.
Here’s what happened:
In the winter of 2013-14, British writer and publisher, Iain Parke asked several colleagues if they would be willing to be interviewed for a special segment on his website devoted to other writers as a way of promoting independent and off the grid authors. With Mr. Parke being based in the UK and Marc Teatum living just north of Boston, this made timing a bit dicey. So it was arranged to have Marc Teatum meet up with an aspiring reporter for a bit of conversation. The location was a small dive bar just off of Route One North on a cold wintery night just past suppertime. Securing a booth far from the door, as soon as the drinks arrived, it began.
What inspired you to begin writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer or did something, a book you read or a film you saw, get you started?
Writing has always been a part of me. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a journalist. and as a real young kid, I created this local neighborhood newspaper…I had an old manual typewriter and reams of paper and carbon paper, I didn’t know shit about copy machines at that age, I mean I was like 9 or 10 yrs old, and I wrote these really crappy stories about a neighbor’s cat or the fact that the local fire department went up the street a dozen times that week, really mindless stuff….. and then when i got older, like in my early teens, I discovered photography, and then I wanted to be a photo-journalist, you know a real control freak; wanted the glory from both the pictures and the words. But I also came from a family that was always interested in books. One grandmother worked in the Brooklyn Public Library and an uncle worked first for a bookbindery in Brooklyn and then moved to Maine to run a hand book binding business…really heady stuff. Books always filled our house….in every room there was a book case….well, not the dining room, or the kitchen…my mother rarely if ever used a cookbook…but the living room…the den…the sunporch…we always had bookshelves in our rooms when I was growing up. but films were important to me as a writer…and being a photographer for 1000 years before coming back to writing, I see things differently…as a photographer you see things and capture things on film because they make you feel a certain way…the way light streams across an old wooden floor..how someone’s eyes look when they are sad…the rusting of an automobile left out in the back yard for 40 years……as a writer, I take that visual that would make me want to lift my camera and grab that view, and I turn it into words…so that someone on the other end of a phone line could ‘see’ what i am seeing……..and when I do that…and some reader says: ‘oh yeah!..I know exactly what you are saying!”….I’ve succeeded.
Who are your writing influences and just what have they taught you?
Wow…who hasn’t influenced me?…Shakespeare…Toni Morrison…Elmore Leonard…Raymond Chandler…William Faulkner…Chaucer…Sherman Alexie…Chuck Palahniuk…Robert Parker…Sue Grafton …Walter Mosely…Robbie Robertson….John Lennon…Tom Waites…Lyle Lovett…Issac Asimov…David Brin…Dan Rather….Ani Difranco… every book I’ve ever read has taught me something… every word I’ve ever read, every song I’ve ever heard has influenced me….either how craft a story, or share an emotion, express a desire….some have taught me what not to do also…god! how many times I’ve gotten 1/3rd into a book and tossed it across the room thinking ‘what crap! I’ll never write like that!”……you can learn from anything you read, anything you hear…anything you watch…..if you don’t learn…you’re just fuckin dead.
Have you always written biker based books?
I was told, ‘write what you know, write what you live’… and to some extent, if a writer is going to build a story, unless it’s a pure fantasy world, you should write like that…. that’s the only way to make sure the story has meat, has value….but I don’t think of myself as writing biker based books. I write stories that are set in the biker world, for sure, but the foundation of my stories are always relationship/character centered. If a reader can’t identify with a character and what they are going through, then what’s there for them to sink their teeth into? Why should they care. They need to bond with the characters…to care about them…to hurt, to bleed, to breathe, to love along side them…having my current books based in the biker world is my introduction to a segment of the reading population….just like some people like to read about female detectives or news personalities as the protagonist…or a knight…or a doctor or a lawyer….that’s the setting, the background noise, the locale that the story resides in….I just happen to write about the biker world.
Why write about the biker lifestyle?
I guess it goes back to that notion of write what you know about….I’ve been on bikes for nearly 35 years now….been involved in several biker organizations….and the biker lifestyle, as a sub-culture in society is not so different from the rest of society except that it is shrouded in the veil of intrique and secrecy… its violent, for sure..there’s no doubt about it…I know guys that would just as soon get into a fight as some others would jump on the stage and sing Karaoke..but it really is the same…for a segment of the population that talks about the dislike of rules, the 1% world is filled with them….there’s hierarchy in clubs, there’s a pecking order within the sub-culture just as there is in main stream society…there’s pecking order within each club, just like there is in corporate America…no difference….except for the violence and lawlessness….I guess it’s been such a part of me, in one form or another, that when the urge to create came along…I write about what i know..
How do you write? Do you have a routine?
There is no routine…my writing is not my full time job…I work in publishing, but on the content licensing and rights management side now….so I don’t have a time set aside to write every day….it’s really done on a catch-as-catch-can basis….when I have a manuscript in progress, if I have a deadline, then I set aside time to meet those deadlines….having been a professional photographer, someone who was paid to create images for the advertising industry, I am used to creating on a deadline…that’s not a problem for me…the great thing about working with my publisher and my writing partner is that we have this rule: “if it ain’t done right, it ain’t gonna be released”…I’m lucky that I’m not John Grisham or Dan Brown who have contractual obligations to publish X number of books in X period of time…I’ve written chapters while waiting for water to boil, while sitting in the passenger seat going 70mph down the turnpike,..just about anywhere I had the space and the time to do so…I’m not at that point in life yet where I have a writers spot…a certain desk in a certain location that i seclude myself in and pound away…I don’t know if I’d want one either…..
How do you get your ideas?
People give me ideas…I meet someone…talk to them, listen to them, and they feed me with concepts that become zygotes of ideas, little embryos of stories that I then let settle into my mind and then build around them…sometimes I will see something…a couple of bikes parked in front of a tattoo shop…or four riders going down the road or sitting at a traffic light…and I think…”well, maybe they’re going to meet others to do….” and then my imagination takes over. Lots of times I have separate character studies or situations sitting around in my head or on a page..and I think: “Gee that was fun to write, I wonder if it will fit into this new book?” I’ll give you an example. I knew I wanted to stretch my level of comfort and write a book that had a strong female lead…but what the heck do I know about being a woman? and then I met someone who kinda fit what I thought my character would be like…and then, while sitting at a traffic light one day, I saw a woman doing some karate kata practices in a public park…then an hour later I saw her on a bike….boom!….there was the seed of my protagonist….sometimes I’m reading a book, and there’s this great action scene in it, and as I’m reading, I’m thinking I know exactly how its going to come out…but then the writer of that book takes a left, and its not what I thought…boom!…there’s the inspiration for my action scene….ideas come from everywhere….the trick is to realize it, capture them and make them your own….
Do you know how your books are going to end when you start or do they develop as they go?
I absolutely know how it’s going to end…I guess it comes from my years of ad photography production….you have to know where you are going when you start out or you just end up wasting a lot of time wandering around…I believe that’s just as much of the creative process as crafting a paragraph that describes how it feels to try to kick start a ’75 Shovelhead on a cold morning after a night of drinking fighting and loving in wearing boots with no socks on..I always know how a story starts and what it’s middle looks like and how it’s going to end….with my current writing partner, we actually use a spreadsheet to block out synopsis’ of chapters and look at them, review them, move them around…part of this process even has a rating system in terms of action vs relationship evolution…we rate it on a scale of one to ten and plot it out to see how the story rises and falls…how the pace of the story flows…its very important to have an idea where you are going before you start out…..just like any riding…I mean, sometimes I know I want to ride north to enjoy the mountains, I may not know exactly which roads I want to take, but I may know a town I want to ride through again, or which diner to eat in…so I have an idea…I never just pull out of the garage thinking I want to go for a ride and not know where I will end up….the surprise is not in the destination, the joy is in the journey…and I want my writing to be that way too….and I hope it is….
How do you develop your characters? How real do they feel to you?
All my characters are like stew…they’re little bits of people that I’ve met, tossed into a pot and mixed together and then served up to the reader. in some cases the entire character is based on one person, in some cases it’s that stew effect…personality traits, how someone talks, how someone moves, how they hold a glass of beer, or do they drink from the bottle…..I take parts and figure out if that trait works well with the character I created…all characters are pretty well thought out before the majority of the writing is done…it’s almost like what a casting director does for a film…you know…the director says ‘I want a Robert Downy kinda guy, but with a Hugh Grant soulful look, but with a Sherlock Holmes intellegence about him”…my partner and I go over that pretty deeply…sometimes we create these little phoney bios for the character, sometimes right down to what kind of bike would he/she be riding……during one of the drafts of one of our books, I even went to the interwebs and pulled down pictures of what I thought certain characters looked like, what certain locations looked like, what certain bikes looked like, and I had them interspersed throughout the manuscript so that I could look at them as I wrote about them…..that made them a little real, at that time…but then I deleted them for the final editing…if I didn’t get a mental visual on a character or a place or a scenario when i was reading through near the end…neither would the reader…then I’ve failed…….
What else have you written? What is your favorite thing that you have written?
Over the years, I have written tons of press releases, I’ve written marketing material for my businesses, for friends’ businesses, I’ve written and edited art catalogs….but those weren’t creative pieces, they were commercial works….I also have a blog, named after my first book: 1LightComing and it’s on blogspot.com….I contribute to that as often as I can…I like that medium; blogs….you can take it anywhere you want to go..postings can be short or long…about any subject… I have a lot of fun with it…all the entries begin with a snippet from one of my books…then I go into a real life subject that kind of matches what that snippet is about… I’ve experimented with prose and road poetry on it…..I think my most favorite thing on the blog….well, maybe two favorite things…one is where i wrote about trying to make it back to the garage during the first hours of a snow storm, and how that ride was magical…and then the other one deals with when my daughter in law wanted us to give something of ourselves as a birthday present…so I wrote her an entry about riding….that was fun..
How do you divide your time between writing and selling? How much do you enjoy the selling aspects of being a writer?
I do just about the same amount of writing as I do selling…I’m a whore, I’ll go to the opening of a paper bag if it will help promote my books….again, coming from the world of commercial photography, I am used to selling myself….so I always walk around with promotional postcards of my books in my jacket pockets..I’ve walked past rows of bikes parked on the street and slipped one under each seat as i go by, if a car or truck has a Harley-Davidson decal on the back window, a postcard goes under the wiperblade, if a single bike is parked in a supermarket parking lot, it gets one too…no one is safe! I always have at least one copy of both of my books in the saddlebags of my bikes, and in the trunk of my car…you never know who you’re going to run into that might be of some help, promotionally speaking…..I’ve been interviewed on internet radio shows, I’ve been on local access cable shows, I’ve been the ‘celebrity’ on a biker bus trip to NYC, I’ve done book signings at large expos and small rallies…in this new world of publishing, a writer needs to be able to promote himself…major publishers don’t have the money to spend on campaigns anymore except for the big name writers…..
What is your writing ambition and where do you see yourself in 5 – 10 years from now?
My ambition? I guess to be considered… that’s all…I want readers to get to the end of my works and close the cover and smile… be entertained…enjoy the journey I just took them on…..at this point, I’m not trying to change the world..I’m just trying to educate, enlighten and entertain readers….5 years from now? 10 years? hell..I don’t know….I just want to be still riding and writing……