Julie Bozza on the blog today talking about her novel, The Definitive Albert J Sterne. Enjoy! ~B.
Brandon kindly asked me if I’d care to write something about my novel The Definitive Albert J Sterne, and I was very pleased to accept. But then it took me weeks to decide what to write. Inevitably, though, there was only one answer to that. A (mostly discreet) baring of my heart and soul was called for, because that was what was involved in writing Albert. My bared heart and soul.
Maybe all first novels are like that. Albert isn’t autobiographical in any literal sense. But that’s me, in words on the page, in all my essentials.
The me at the time was 29 years old, a married public servant with a mortgage, living just outside Australia’s capital city Canberra. Well, at least we had that small detail in common, I suppose: Albert lived just outside the United States’ capital city Washington.
He was brilliant at what he did, but had no social graces. At all. I like to think I had one or two – graces, that is. I wasn’t brilliant. He was barely tolerated, while I hope I was at least liked… He would think me rather pathetic for even thinking that. I love him dearly.
He was a forensics expert working with the FBI. I was obsessed with serial killer thrillers, and ultimately decided I’d try to write this, a gay version of Silence of the Lambs. I read everything I could lay my hands on – which wasn’t quite as wide a field of research then as it would be now. Still, there were so many non–fiction books about serial killers! And I tried to get it all right, including the police procedure – without going to the extent of asking to attend an autopsy… I was (and mostly still am) incredibly squeamish. I have no idea whether I would have been allowed to, or just dismissed as a weirdo.
The first full version of Albert took me about two years to write. Towards the end of that, my husband kindly agreed to me taking my long service leave on half pay, so that was six months off, almost half of which we spent travelling and the rest of which I spent writing.
The best part about that time was actually visiting places in the United States where the book was set, including Seattle, Denver, New York – where we stayed with a friend in Albert’s original home of Brooklyn – and New Orleans. I was actually writing the first chapter set in New Orleans while we were there, and soaking up the local details such as the uneven sidewalks (due to the high water table) and the street kids with amazingly coloured hair (sorry I had my serial killer be so awful to you).
Eventually, once Albert was done, the obsession dwindled away. I distinctly remember the time when I stumbled over yet another serial killer tome, and my instinctive thought was, “No… I’ve done my time in hell already.” Which was a complete one–eighty after years of it all being, well, rather a thrill. If you know what I mean.
While it was with me, though… the whole thing went deep. And I wrote something that (if I dare say so myself) had not only height and breadth but depth. I can’t even explain why, or point you to a particular passage as proof. Only that Albert is my most substantial novel to date – and sometimes I wonder if I will ever quite equal it.
I think I write much better these days, and I know I write just as honestly. I am now writing romances into which I pour all my hard–earned ‘wisdom’ about life and love and human beans. I am not careful about what I will or won’t share with my readers. I don’t try to protect myself and my ideas. The only thing I’m aware of that has changed is that I’m not so much into the angst these days. And yet. Somehow Albert has a depth to it that I’ve never achieved since, and know I couldn’t manufacture.
It’s a quandary. But all I can do, I think, is to keep writing, keep trying, and remain open to the possibilities. And if it turns out that overall my first book was my best, well. One of them has to be!
Julie’s blog: http://juliebozza.com/
Julie Bozza is an English-Australian hybrid who is madly in love with Colin Morgan and John Keats. Fuelled by espresso, calmed by knitting, and unreasonably excited by photography… she is the author of Butterfly Hunter, The Definitive Albert J Sterne, and other m-m romance novels published by Manifold Press.