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Writing out the old year, writing in the new

On Writing

Writing out the old year, writing in the new

Stephen H. Provost

It's Christmas night, and I'm reflecting back on the past year, thinking about how lucky I am to be a writer. I get to learn about fascinating people and places, and I get to tell their stories to folks who might otherwise never have known them.

Sometimes, if I'm working on a novel, I get to send characters out of my head into a whole new world - the "real" world - and I get to introduce them to some new friends: whoever's kind enough to invite them onto their nightstand, onto their bookshelf and into their hearts.

Other times, when I'm writing nonfiction, I have the privilege of reintroducing readers  to men and women from times past - people they might have forgotten or perhaps never knew. I get to be the voice of the dead, the singer of lost songs, the teller of old tales. 

And this year, I got to do it professionally. After publishing eight works independently over the previous three years, I was fortunate enough to see the release of my first traditionally published book and sign a contract for the release of a second. To say 2015 was a very good year would be an understatement. To achieve, at the age of 52, something that's been a dream since I first set out to write a novel more than three decades ago is immensely satisfying, to say the least, and I'm grateful to each and every one of you who took the time to let me know you enjoyed "Fresno Growing Up."

I have to admit, it's a little strange - but gratifying - to find myself doing book signings and giving library talks about my work. When I first dreamed of becoming an author, I was a teenager with a few friends, a lot of time on my hand and a fertile imagination. These days, as the editor of a small-town newspaper and a published author, I'm something of a public figure, but deep down I'm not that much different than I was as a teen. I suspect a lot of other authors aren't, either. Many of them, like myself, are probably introverts and dreamers who started writing because they'd already begun creating worlds inside their heads - and because the world "out there" can be a little daunting. 

As an introvert, I find it enormously satisfying to find that some people "out there" enjoy the creative results of my reclusive fantasies and historical investigations. It makes me want to write more.

So that's precisely what I intend to do. My lofty goal: to produce more work in the coming years that you'll enjoy just as much as "Fresno Growing Up" - perhaps even more. I'm setting a target  to write two books a year for the rest of my mortal life and trusting my creativity to keep pace with that ambition. 

Next year promises to be just as much fun as 2015 was. I'll be hard at work on fine-tuning my second historical project, a book on the history of Highway 99 in California, which is set for release late in the year, and I've also finished my second novel, for which I'm currently seeking a home.  I like to think of it as a kitten in a basket that I'll place on the doorstep of the perfect publisher, who'll pick it up and make it purr for the masses. Another ambitious goal, to be sure, but who can resist a cute little kitten?

I'm so excited about this project that I've already started working on a sequel (something you're not supposed to do before you sell the first book, but I've spent most of my career as a writer and editor being conventional - I figure it's time to think outside the book jacket for a change). I don't want to give away too much, but the concept behind this series is based on a principle I took from my nonfiction work: the richness of history and the magic behind memory. It's a paranormal novel without any vampires, zombies, werewolves or any of the other standard characters you've seen before. Intriguing? I hope so. I'll just leave it at that.

Beyond that, I've done some preliminary research, writing and photography for another highway book, which will likely receive my full attention once the in-progress sequel is done. 

Beyond that, who knows? For us writers, the discovery's the best part of the journey.