Thursday, August 20, 2015

Advice to My Young Writer Self

I teach in the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Oklahoma City University. At the opening ceremonies of this summer's residency, each faculty member was asked to speak for a couple of minutes on the topic of "What I Would Tell Myself If I Could Go Back in Time" (or something like that). Here's what I came up with, in case my young self happens to have time-traveled into the future and is reading this.

What I Wish I  Could Tell My Younger Self About Being a Writer

(1) It's going to be harder than you think.

(2) It's going to be more fun than you think.

(3) Failure builds character.

(4) Failure also causes permanent damage to your soul.

(5) You can survive more permanent damage to your soul than you think.

(6) Don't spend too much time worrying about stuff that no one else will worry about. No reader ever said, "The characters sucked and the story was trite, but wow I really loved that one sentence on p. 321, so I'll recommend this novel to all my friends."

(7) Don't spend a year (or two) trying to revive a dying novel. Move along, please.

(8) Pay attention to the habits you create. Starve the bad ones, feed the good ones.

(9) Never lie to yourself, unless necessary.

(10) It's often necessary.

(11) Figure out what YOU can write that no one else can write as well as you.

(12) Write that.

(13) Are you still trying to revive that dying novel? Stop it!

(14) If you're tired and don't want to get into a long conversation with the stranger sitting next to you on a plane, don't tell that stranger you're a writer. Tell him or her that you're in sales for a company that manufactures liquid feed supplements for livestock.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Long and Faraway Gone – Coming Soon

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Two and a half weeks until the official release, on Feb. 10, 2015, of my new novel, THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE. Pre-publication trade reviews have been even better than I could have hoped for, with starred reviews from both Kirkus and Booklist.

From Kirkus: As suggested by the noir-ish title and tradition, Berney's novel is most truly a thoughtful exploration of memory and what it means to be a survivor. Elegiac and wistful, it is a lyrical mystery that focuses more on character development than on reaching the "big reveal." The novel smartly avoids being coy; there are answers to private detective Wyatt's case and answers to the mysteries from the past, but they reflect the truth of such moments; in the end, the answers are almost beside the point because the wondering, the questions, never really go away. But both characters do achieve their own kind of closure, and that allows the reader to also feel some comfort of fulfillment. A mystery with a deep, wounded heart. Read it.

From Booklist: Berney’s first two novels (Gutshot Straight, 2011; Whiplash River, 2012) were delightful, Elmore Leonard-style crime novels. This time he’s focused, very insightfully, on love, loss, and memory, and he astutely portrays the immediate and long-term psychological impact of the loss of the most important people in his characters’ young lives. Wyatt, Juli, Genevieve, and Wyatt’s dead coworkers are all fully realized creations that readers won’t soon forget. A genuinely memorable novel of ideas.

You can read a
summary of THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE and an excerpt.