I haven’t been writing vignettes for Americano Abroad lately. I’ve been too engulfed in Frank Diego in San Diego, putting the finishing touches on my debut novel over the past few weeks. And if I have to re-format another “page break” or re-insert another “em dash” I might go insane. Editing has been a grueling process to say the least.
But my book is done now, though after two years of working on it, I’m realizing it could be a life-long work in progress. It seems there’s always something that can be changed; some room for improvement. And there will always be questions. On word Choice: ‘Does “comprehend” or “understand” sound better here?’ On punctuation: ‘Should I use a period, comma, or a semi-colon?’ (—Especially difficult if one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, called semicolons “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing”!) Then there are other kinds of judgment calls— and some are easier than others. Example: for the sake of accuracy and detail my editor recommended I substitute the word “underwear” with “panties.” I refused. I didn’t tell her this, but if I ended up writing five more novels without ever once using the word “panties” I’d be fine. In fact, I ‘d be proud. So that was an easy one.
I suppose there will always be questions about the novel’s characters too—especially Frank Diego. He’s the first person narrator and some scenes are based on real experiences of mine. So will readers assume that Frank is really me? I hope not, because there’s some incriminating stuff in there (if it weren’t fictional, that is). Even so, after publishing Lolita (also a first person narrative), didn’t most readers assume that Nabokov was an incestuous, statutory rapist at heart? —That J.D. Salinger was a cynical man stuck in a state of adolescent angst after Catcher in the Rye? Of course there are many differences between these two authors and me. The biggest difference is that they’ve sold millions of books, and I haven’t sold one. In fact, I’ll be ecstatic if more than two dozen people read my novel. So I probably don’t have much to worry about regarding Frank Diego’s character, lawsuits, and other such questions.
The biggest challenge now is that I only have two months to promote and shop my novel around San Diego before I leave to teach English in Eastern Europe this August. That’s when my Americano Abroad writing will-- fittingly-- resume in earnest. Until then, I hope you’re one of the two dozen who read To Be Frank Diego!