Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rene Mullen, I hope you remember me when you're famous.

I adore meeting interesting people, and I especially enjoy meeting interesting people in interesting ways. Rene and I first encountered each other online, and when we realized that we both lived in Albuquerque and belonged to SouthWest Writers, it seemed obvious that we ought to get to know each other in person. We did, and I could tell right away that I liked him, which was a relief because the cyberworld can be a strange and mysterious place. 

He's articulate. He's funny. And he has a twinkle in his eye, especially when discussing query letters. He loves writing query letters, that much is clear.  He was gracious enough to agree to talk with us about his writing. Take note, everyone, I have a feeling that we'll be seeing much more of Rene, most likely on the NY Times Bestseller List. Let's listen to what he has to say before he gets too busy with fame and fortune to talk with us. Here he is and here is his story:

My name is Rene Mullen.
Pronounced “Rainy.” 

I write contemporary fiction with dark shades of horror and what is usually considered “women’s literature” (though I hate the term). What is contemporary fiction? Anything that takes place in the here and now, speculative or otherwise. Though my stories rarely give you time or place, the technologies hint at today’s world. Women’s literature? Well, by that most mean “Written by women” or “Strong female protagonist.” What they really mean is, “This is a man’s world, women writers and strong female characters need not apply.” Yes, I’m a male feminist. But enough about that. Who am I? And how do I get down and dirty with my writing?

I grew up in a tiny rural Connecticut town of less than 500 people. Unlike most from small town America, when I left, the car never turned around. I moved to Colorado where I went to college, met my wife because of a pair of boots, and took up writing fiction and short self-help non-fiction. But graduate school in Wisconsin had different ideas for me and I stopped writing anything but school papers for four years.

Two years ago, I picked up writing again with memoir and fictional short stories. Feeling I had novels trapped inside, and finding NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I started writing novels in 2010. Since then I’ve completed three manuscripts. One of which is polished and is out in the ether seeking a willing and gullible agent.

Most writers will probably tell you about how they love writing or love to share their work and speak about the romanticism of the craft. For me, though, creativity has been an arduous uphill road filled with many demons and hurdles. Two hurdles in particular come to mind.

First is the Internal Editor, or as I call it, the internal Dark Passenger (a shout out to Jeff Lindsay’s “Dexter” books). Many writers, or wannabe writers, I meet say they have to wait for their muse to come knocking at the door. And even then, they have to wait until they can find time in their busy lives between children, spouses, work, chores, school, and all other walks of life before they can actually sit down and type out their stories.

I don’t wait for my muse, and I don’t wait for life to slow down for me. Instead, I’ve told my muse on countless occasions, “I’m going to sit down and type out some pages. Your company is welcomed and encouraged, but not necessary.” She usually joins reluctantly once I’ve started typing words down onto the screen. But if I wait for her to be ready, nothing would ever get done. Likewise, I work full-time, am part of three different critique groups, two committees, am a professional CASA volunteer, have a spouse, and I sleep and manage way too many hours of Netflix.

Writing is my passion. I find time to do it. Twenty minutes during my lunch hour, an hour after work. Right after dinner. Right before bed. Any time I can find. I’m either writing or reading.

The best part about this tactic of not waiting for my muse is that I both produce more, and, oddly enough, my muse comes along more often. She wakes me up in the middle of the night. She joins me for those short lunch breaks (though not as often as I’d like her to).

The second hurdle I face in my writing creativity is one that has shown itself quite recently. Stories I’ve written in the past were shadows of what they were meant to be. They were never the full story hidden inside me. Why? I worried people would read them and think, “Jeez, what’s wrong with this guy?” Stephen King may have embraced his creepy side, but I haven’t.Then I realized something. I was writing to entertain people, first and foremost, when I should have been writing for myself by remaining true to the craft and the story.

Since I’ve let go, my stories have become more vivid and lifelike. I get compliments constantly from my critique groups, and they can be some of my toughest critics.

This opening up of myself comes as both catharsis and a burden. Cathartic in that some of the plots and character development I paint are based in the reality of dark past experiences. I work with adults with developmental disabilities and children in the foster system. I’ve seen terrible things. I’ve seen the very best humanity has to offer. I also have my own sordid history. By turning some of those experiences into fictitious stories, they leave my subconscious like it just received a good back massage.

On the other hand, there is a burden that comes with this outpouring of emotion that I had not anticipated. Sure, my critique buddies love my work and truly feel for my characters. For this, I’m grateful and excited. But writing some of my recent dark scenes have left me nervous about writing. Just when I thought I’ve gone as far into the macabre as my creative mind will let me, my muse takes me by the hand and guides me further into the cave. I feel like a masseuse at the end of the day. I’ve managed to relieve the world of all that tension, but have, in turn, sucked in all that tension into my own body. It’s physically draining.

But that tells me that I’m where I need to be. Because, as it was explained to me a long time ago, knowledge (and creativity) is not a flower you pick, but a mountain you climb. The soreness in my bones is a sign that I’m pushing my own limits. And I can’t think of many artists who remain household names that didn’t push their limits to near breaking points. Stephen King embraced his macabre side claiming he writes what scares him. Hemingway needed alcohol to push through his tough writing. As a new artist and writer, I’m still soul searching. 

Currently, my polished novel seeking an agent is about a History professor struggling with her new-found identity. As the only person who knows Sign Language that is struck with a mysterious illness that robs people of speech, Dr. Helen Collins becomes the voice for the voiceless. Infected also gain urges for raw flesh. Zombies, yes. But this story shows how zombies are not always the monsters. Sometimes those who fear the unknown are far more dangerous and monstrous.

My second manuscript (not yet ready for the public) is about a young man who moves away from home for a new job in the big city as a social worker. But one of his clients is not who he seems. After that client goes missing, Kidd goes in search of the man known only as John Birmingham. At the same time, Kidd struggles with his own dark past and a mother who only points out his shortcomings but uses him as a crutch as well as for other personal gains.


Rene Mullen, I hope you remember me when you're famous. Thank you for articulating your struggles so well.  Reading your piece was just a little bit creepy, because the struggles you mention are all too familiar to me. Best wishes to you as you continue down that hurdle-filled road. Keep us posted on your progress.

Please visit Rene at his website. You'll find links there to hook up with him at other social media venues as well. 

The art in this post is the exquisite work of Daniel Sprick. If you enjoyed it, you may click here or on any of the images to  satisfy your yearning for more art. 

As always, feel free to visit Ink & Alchemy or More Ink. We're taking over the world one creative project at a time, which might take a while.

1 comment:

  1. was this a real or fictional person? how can you tell on the internet what is real and what is imaginary? thank you.


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