But the writers who influenced me the most, from the very beginning and still to this day, were the rock n roll poets: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, John and Paul, Mick and Keith, Carole King, Robert Hunter and Bob Weir, Robbie Robertson and all the Band members he took credit from, Pete Townshend, Robert Lamm, Holland-Dozier-Holland from so many Motown songs—what they did with imagery, and brevity, how they could say so much using so few words.
Jeff Arch – 19 May 2021
The Back Flap
At a boarding school in Pennsylvania, a deathbed request from the school’s dean brings three former students back to campus, where secrets and betrayals from the past are brought out into the open—secrets that could have a catastrophic effect on the dean’s eighteen-year-old son.
About the book
What is the book about?
It’s about a deathbed request from a boarding school dean that brings three former students back to the campus to deal with a mess they made almost twenty years ago, because of the impact it could have on his teenage son.
When did you start writing the book?
I got the idea in 1988, wrote it as a screenplay in 1990, shelved it for several years, then started the book version in 1998, and worked on it over the years in between screenplay assignments.
How long did it take you to write it?
It probably took about three-four years, spread out over a much longer time.
Where did you get the idea from?
I went to a school much like the one in the book. One day, seventeen years after I’d left, I drove back up there on a whim, to see if a certain teacher was still there. He was, and he and his wife and I spent the day together. On the drive home, after that visit, the bare bones of the story came to me. I had no idea how or when I was going to write it.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
There was one particular chapter that I easily spent more time trying to get right than the whole rest of the book combined. Maybe twice as much time. No exaggeration.
What came easily?
Dialog always came more naturally to me than all the other elements of writing. Same with Attachments, plus two of the characters in particular were just a joy to write for, and I’m always grateful when that happens.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
Lots of borrowing, lots of mix ‘n matching. But it really only starts out that way, very soon they take on a life of their own and have nothing to do with anything I might have intended for them.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Lots of books influenced me as a reader, but Steinbeck’s East of Eden woke up the writer in me. Decent people trying to stay decent in a world that isn’t, and just the bedrock goodness in the writer’s voice. I would never have had words for it at the time, but whatever it was he was doing, it found a home in me like no author before or since. William Goldman’s No Way to Treat a Lady, if I remember correctly, was almost 100% dialog—and it was great dialog, so that was huge for me. Ann Beattie’s work was one of those ‘Boy I’d like to write like that one day’ experiences, and I’d still like to write like that one day. But the writers who influenced me the most, from the very beginning and still to this day, were the rock n roll poets: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, John and Paul, Mick and Keith, Carole King, Robert Hunter and Bob Weir, Robbie Robertson and all the Band members he took credit from, Pete Townshend, Robert Lamm, Holland-Dozier-Holland from so many Motown songs—what they did with imagery, and brevity, how they could say so much using so few words. It was the rock poets who taught me about imagery, and screenwriters who taught me about dialog. Not the conventional answer, but it’s true.
Do you have a target reader?
One of the early reviews called the book ‘thoughtful,’ and I really liked that. So I guess my ideal reader would be anyone who’d respond to a thoughtfully written book. Not that it’s boring (hopefully)—but nothing explodes, there’s no international intrigue or secret codes, just a contemporary drama with (again, hopefully) some humor in it, where the characters don’t need a villain because they can mess their own lives up just plenty without needing any help.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
For me it’s a blue collar job—it’s coal mining, only with words. But it’s never been one process fits all—you can’t write each project the same way any more than you can raise each kid the same way. But the formula, in its million variations, remains the same: you have to keep your butt in that chair for a very long time, and you (and your family) have to know that when you’re not in the chair, these people are in your head all the same, and all the time. The story for Attachments has been in my head for thirty-two years—no matter what else I was writing at the time, no matter what conversation I happened to be in with someone at any given moment, these characters were in there, living their lives and waiting for me to bring them out. I’m not sure I can say this is a good thing, it’s just the way it is.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I hardly ever outline, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. With Attachments, an outline would have been impossible even if it might have been useful. I know there are writers who plan every single thing out before they write a word, and writers who plan nothing and just wing it the whole way. I’m somewhere in the middle, where I want to know just enough to know where the signposts are, and then leave plenty of room for discovery. With Attachments, I had six main characters who each got their own chapters, and the only thing I knew going in, was that at some point near the end they’d all be in the same hospital waiting room. So with every chapter I would just bring the next character up to the plate and let them figure it out.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
Both. Too much of the first, but after forty-five years of this, I kind of wonder if that will ever change. Ideally you write and then you edit. I’m not sure who has ever achieved this ideal.
Did you hire a professional editor?
No matter what I’m working on, at different stages I’ll ask certain people if they’d read what I have so far and give some feedback. I learn tons that way. Tons. But I’ve been editing my own work for my whole career.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Writing or not, I usually have some form of subliminal music on throughout the day and especially at night. I pick the subject based on what’s going on either with the story or with me that day. Creativity, productivity, reduce stress, self-confidence, there are a hundred subject areas and I’ve probably tried them all.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I’ve been lucky in that every book agent I’ve worked with was someone I met at a writing conference, and we would form a relationship that kept me from having to submit to multiple agents. Every writer I know wishes there was a better way to do this.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
The experiences I’ve had with traditional publishers were not good ones, even when they were interested in the book. I was considering self-publishing when Brooke Warner and SparkPress came along. That was the moment the light went on. I’m thrilled with the relationship and how they go about things there.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
Professionally. Because I’m not a professional at that.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
We have a pretty detailed marketing plan that is just coming up to full speed this month, through BookSparks. I’m really happy with what they’re doing.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
All you can do it write the best book you can. That’s the beginning, middle and end of it. And just keep having faith it’ll find the right home.
Where did you grow up?
Where do you live now?
Southern California and Cape Cod.
What would you like readers to know about you?
That I did every single thing I could think of, to make it worth your while to read this book. And that I hope it stays with you forever.
What are you working on now?
A romantic comedy tv series called Tiny Houses (the Ballad of Amy and Mike). And soon, after an appropriate break, the screen adaptation for Attachments.
End of Interview: