How Would You Define “Retro” and “Indie”?

My questions for Lori  Hettler, author of The Next Big Book Blog:

I see you say you are interested all things, “retro.”  What do you mean?

I am a product of my generation. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s… my fondest memories include Cabbage Patch Kid dolls (and those god-awful but so cool Garbage Pail Kids stickers!), slinkys, Pogo-balls, French cuffed Z-cavaricci’s , teased out hair, cassette tapes, the Fraggles, Sea Monkeys, and the Rubik’s Cube.  Today’s music cannot touch the stuff that came out of the 80’s – I’m talking about bands like R.E.M., U2, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, New Order, and The Cure.  Movies like The Goonies, Labyrinth, Say Anything, The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me – they are untouchable, they stand the test of time.

Retro according to TNBBC: Stand by Me

I love books that steep themselves in retro-ness – books like High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, Totally Killer by Greg Olear, Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis, Banned for Life by D.R. Haney. Reading books like the ones I’ve just named gives me that “home-coming” feeling, you know?

What does the word “indie” mean to you and why is it important?

In the traditional sense, I believe Indie was coined for independent publishers, small press, and the authors who sign with them. Some indie publishers, like Graywolf Press, are non-profit. Most, like Two Dollar Radio, were (and still are) small start-up operations that have created a niche for themselves. A growing number, like Tiny TOE Press, Artistically Declined, and Curbside Splendor, are being brought to life by the authors themselves – authors who, due to personal choice or lack of interest from already existing publishers, decided to stand behind their work and present it to the masses on their own terms. I think, because of this increase of author-turned-publisher, the lines between indie and self published have blurred. Many self published authors are now referring to themselves as indie authors. And in a certain light, I suppose they can be. They are independent of contracts, and restrictions. They own the rights to their work. They can tour and promote as they wish. But I would say that only applies if they created their own company by which to publish their work.

Indie Press: Cherokee McGhee, publisher of William Torgerson's "Love on the Big Screen"

Indie can also be looked at as a way of life. It’s staying true to yourself, and your writing. It’s hanging in for the long haul. It’s not selling out. Indie publishers and authors are extremely important to the literary community. Because they are not caught under the umbrella of larger corporations and conglomerates, they have full control over which books they publish. They push the limits, they challenge their readers, they can afford to take chances on experimental, edgy fiction. They can offer their authors one-on-one attention. They throw wild and crazy events, and they rely heavily on word of mouth – The indie publishers and authors I have worked with are extremely receptive and welcoming of the support the blogging community gives them. Some of the best novels I have ever read were written by indie authors and published by indie publishers.

Support Indie Bookstores and Publishers: Click here

What was the impulse to start The Next Best Book Club Blog?

I started The Next Best Book Club blog when I realized that my Goodreads group (of the same name) had gotten too large, and my voice within the group had become too small. I needed a larger space, a space of my own – one that I didn’t have to share – to discuss my love of independent literature. I wanted to be able to showcase and highlight not only the books I read, but also the people behind those books, the authors and publishers. I wanted to introduce the world to what they were missing, to the great stories I felt they were overlooking. The blog and Goodreads group overlap by design, but it’s nice to have something that is just me, just my voice, sometimes.

Lori Hettler The Next Best Book Club

Lori Hettler writes The Next Best Book Club Blog

Click Here to Link up with Lori Hettler and the Next Best Book Blog Club

An Elevator Pitch for HORSESHOE

Love on the Big Screen Flannery O'Connor Milledgeville Georgia College and State University

The Theater Pictured on Cover is in Milledgeville, Georgia. Home to Georgia College and Flannery O'Connor

There’s a big difference between what I learned doing an MFA Degree in Creative Writing at a place like Georgia College and what I’ve learned being in New York, reading for a literary agency, and beginning to hang around literary business types here.  Both experiences (my MFA and living here) have worked together to teach me a lot of what I want and need to know.

What I needed right away for life in NYC was an elevator pitch.  In other words, I needed to be able to summarize in one sentence what my book was about.  For Love on the Big Screen, it didn’t take me so long to come up with this:  Love on the Big Screen tells the story of Zuke, a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies.  People usually responded to this line with a laugh and publishing and film reps usually requested to read more after hearing that one sentence.

Love on the Big Screen Flannery O'Connor Milledgeville Georgia College and State University Winamac, Indiana, Horseshoe

Horseshoe will be set in a fictionalized Winamac, Indiana

So here I go again with a new book and a new need for 1 sentence summaries and a short synopsis.  Here’s where I am at:

In the rural town of Horseshoe, where everyone knows everybody else’s business, the lives of its citizens intertwine for thirteen bizarre tales of faith, sin, guilt, and deliverance.  Think:  Flannery O’Connor’s “Misfit” Fiction Meets Pulp Fiction.

Any of that catch your attention?

And here’s the short synopsis:

The little town of Horseshoe becomes the protagonist in this unique novel-in-stories format that bucks against the boundaries of time and asks readers to make the connections to put the story together.  The book initiates in the local grocery store where a churchwoman named Pam Scott delivers judgment on a philandering butcher.  Pam returns home, a place where each night she faces what is either a figment of her imagination or an increasingly terrifying knocker.  In this little town where everyone knows everybody else’s business, the lives of its citizens intertwine for thirteen bizarre tales of faith, sin, guilt, and deliverance.

I wrote both the one-sentence summary and the short synopsis in conversation with the team at Cherokee McGhee.  As I say in class all the time, “Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation.”  Without conversation, I don’t have much to say.  If you’ll look over there to the right of the page, you’ll find all the virtual places where we might chat up reading, writing, and teaching.

Cherokee McGhee, Love on the Big Screen, Horseshoe, William Torgerson, Tarantino, O'Connor, Pulp Fiction, 80s, Lloyd Dobler, Farmer Ted, John Hughes

Cherokee McGhee Press: publisher of Love on the Big Screen and Horseshoe

Why call a book HORSESHOE?

If you know my character “Zuke” from Love on the Big Screen, I wrote that he was from a small town called Horseshoe.  In my mind, Zuke’s hometown is a fictionalized version of Winamac, Indiana.  The word “horseshoe” as the title of my novel-in-stories comes from the way my small hometown of Winamac sits on a horseshoe bend of the Tippecanoe River in North-Central Indiana.   This geographical feature is something you can see for yourself on Google Maps:

William Torgerson, Bill, Torg, Love on the Big Screen, Horseshoe, St. John's University

From Google Maps: See the Horseshoe Bend in the Tippecanoe River?

Winamac is the town where my parents are from and their parents are from before that, and even though I wasn’t born there, it’s the place where I graduated from high school and the place I say I’m from if anyone ever asks.  When people in Winamac say the horseshoe,they mean the road that runs along the outer edge of the town park which is almost pinched into an island by a sharp-hook bend of the river.  I lived in two different houses when I lived in Winamac:  one right on the river where I could look across the water, see the road everyone called the horseshoe, and also the basketball courts.  I was a bad cross-country runner in high school, and practice was often held in the park where we ran in packs and did repeats of the three-quarter mile loop.  The second house I lived in is the house where I placed the character Matthew Walker’s family.  Pam Scott, a woman haunted by the sound of a knocker, lives in the house my grandmother lives in today.

William Torgerson, Bill, Torg, Love on the Big Screen, Horseshoe, St. John's University, winamac, Indiana

The Swinging Bridge in the Winamac Town Park

Upcoming Appearances

Saturday, February 26     Storrs, Connecticut.  Saturday Seminar with the Connecticut Writing Project on Research Writing.

Tuesday, March 1               Kankakee, Illinois.  Reading at Olivet Nazarene University.  7:00

Tuesday, March 8              Logansport, Indiana.  Author Reading at the Nest.  11:00.

Saturday, March 5.           Winamac, Indiana.  Author Reading at the Town Library.  1:00.

Saturday, March 12.         Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Book signing at Firefly Coffee Shop.  10:00.

Saturday, March 26.         Montclair State New Jersey.  New Jersey Council For Teachers of English.  Presentation.

Friday, May 13-15.            Jefferson, Texas.  The Fred McKenzie Storytelling Book Festival

The Impact and Absence of John Hughes > Don’t You Forget About Me : A Documentary B

“Don’t You Forget About Me” is a documentary worth seeing if you’re a product of the eighties, especially a fan of the romantic comedy.  We watched it at my house via Netflix on demand for nothing.  Here’s a little excerpt from the filmmakers blog:

It was never our intention to be in the film. After our first year of making the film and getting nowhere with trying to get the exclusive interview with the ellusive Hughes, we simply gave up. We focused on the people who worked with him or were influenced by him. It’s not just that he hasn’t given “an” interview since 1999. When Time magazine wanted to do an article with him, he said no. When the Biography channel wanted to do an interview with him, he said no. When MTV was giving him an award, he didn’t show up. When his old high school wanted to give him an award, he didn’t accept. When they dug up an idea Hughes wrote down on a napkin in the 80s (Drillbit Taylor)and Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow wanted to meet with him, he said no.

via The Impact and Absence of John Hughes > Don’t You Forget About Me : A Documentary B.

This is a good example of some storytellers pressing on even though there were some roadblocks in the way of this getting out.  It was good to see Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Kevin Smith up there on the screen.

Here’s the trailer

Your favorite Hughes film?