The Man Who Built Boxes and other stories by Frank Tavares is now available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.The book is also featured on Ask David -- a great place to help get the word out about your book. You can read part of an interview with Frank there. Here is some of the rest of what Frank had to say about writing the stories in the book.
• How did you come up with the title?
The title is from one of the stories where the lead character metaphorically and literally puts himself in a box. It seemed the right one for this collection. All of the stories have aspects of characters boxing themselves in.
The title story actually started with a doodle. I was in a meeting, and caught myself repeating doodles of little three-dimensional boxes with different shapes and complexities. I wondered what it would be like to actually build some of these. What if I idled away time actually creating these little, wooden, smooth boxes with perfect edges, and finishes, and hidden hinges? Well, I didn't have the time or talent to do that, so I created a character who did. And I just followed along.
• Why did you choose this cover?
I struggled to explain to Alan Pranke the designer how I thought these stories related to one another. I don't think I was particularly articulate. And I gave him examples of other covers I was attracted to. I even sent him images from a sculptor who worked in wood creating interesting geometrical shapes. Alan presented me with several designs that came at the theme from different directions. One in particular jumped out at me. And several versions later, it evolved into what became the cover.
• What was the hardest part of writing your book?
When I started on this project, I thought, "Hey, how hard can this be? All of the stories are written, and most have been published." I had no idea how many little decisions would have to be made along the way—starting with which stories to include, which to exclude, the order of the stories, how they flowed from one to another. And that was before we even thought about the title, or the font, or the type of visual breaks that would separate sections of the stories. Even the names of the characters had to be reconsidered. I changed some names from their originals because there were similarities among several of the stories. I realized I was fonder of some names than others. It was a real learning experience.
• Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned most from each of the characters. It's an old saw about characters taking an author to places he or she didn't expect. And it's true. In every single one of these stories I was surprised as it unfolded. Yes, of course, in many cases I knew the arc of the tale—how it began and how it would end. But in many others, I just started and tried to keep up.
That's something I really love about writing fiction. I do not know where my characters will lead me. My personal challenge is to be open enough to follow them and trust my own writing. Leo Connellan, the late Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut was one of my mentors. Leo often reminded me that I shouldn't let others opinions influence me while a story was unfolding. I should not change something because I thought a reader might find a character too unfriendly, or threatening, or silly. I needed to just write.
That's taken me a long time to master, and I still don't own it—just to write. But when I think of it like that, it rather strips down the process. When I start to overthink a character's motivation or personality I usually get stuck. After the fact, the secret is re-writing. I can smooth the edges, change the details, fix problems. The most important thing I've learned across all of these stories is to try and trust my own writing.
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