What’s In A Name

My entire adult life I have wanted to write a book. But the thing about wanting to write a book is that you REALLY have to want to write a book and that was always the thing that stopped me. I enjoyed the idea of being an author, but didn’t have the drive or discipline to make my desire a reality. However, through the years, I have had several ideas that I thought would make a good novel. Looking back, they were all horrible. They included:

-A society where every new human was born as an old person and aged backwards. (I know this idea sucked thanks to the movie Benjamin Button)

-A religious thriller where the anti-Christ came in the form of a woman. (I think this idea may have formed in my mind during the final days of sleeping in a double bed before my wife and I made the marriage-saving decision to switch to a California King.)

There were others, but they were all so bad I’ve chosen to forget them and let them die in their own misery.

Then, about four years ago, I was struck by an idea that wouldn’t go away. I thought about it constantly-and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Not only was the idea good, but the title was completely obvious, The Square Pegs.

I wrote this title down on a piece of paper and kept it visible on my desk at work to provide the inspiration that someday I was going to write this book. And there it sat for over two years.

Then one day, a mid-life crisis hit. I was sitting at my desk asking, “What do I even do?” This question was born out of my inability to satisfy my two boys with an explanation of what my job actually consists of. I was like Billy Crystal in City Slickers when he goes to his son’s career fair.

So, I dusted off my plans and looked at my idea with fresh eyes. I knew instantly it wouldn’t work.

The original idea was writing a book about four Mormon men, all in their mid- to late-thirties, who were, for very different reasons, single. Single in a culture that reveres marriage.

The four men that would be represented were: a widower, a cocky divorcee, a hen-pecked husband separated from his wife following her affair, and a man who had never married. Over time, these four guys had found each other and formed their own little social club that got together at least once a week. They called themselves The Square Pegs (Just in case there is anyone not seeing the connection, they were square pegs that didn’t fit in the round holes of regular Mormon society.) In my grand scheme, the book would have covered such topics as: depression, infidelity (in all forms), the definition of manliness, homosexuality, plural marriage, dating again with children as part of your package deal, death, and whether the Mormon church really could be all things for all people. It was not going to be a conversion story and not all four of the protagonists would come to the same conclusion.

Pretty quickly, I realized my scope was waaaaayyyyyyy too big. So almost immediately, I settled on one of my characters and made him the focal point. I chose the widower.

I’m not sure why. I suppose my best explanation would be the same as Stephen King’s. He once said something to the effect that he wrote about his nightmares. Well, for me, my worst nightmare would be if my wife were to pass away. So I started there and let the book take shape.

Once that decision was made, then I had to decide how to tell the story. I had been keeping up a family blog for a couple of years. Pretty quickly I realized that my subject was going to be heavy and depressing unless I found a way to infuse it with humor. And that was when it hit me: I need to write this book the way I write my blog. But how do I do that?

What if the widower is just not moving beyond the death of his wife? What if the problem has gotten so bad that he’s been forced to see a psychiatrist? Mormons hate the idea of prayer and faith not solving everything. Wouldn’t having to see a psychiatrist make him even more depressed? He’d probably be so bad off, he’d make a horrible patient.

There it is.

My main character, Todd Landry, is so depressed, he’s been forced to seek psychiatric help from a Jewish psychiatrist his bishop referred him to and it’s killing him. He knows he needs the help, but he is so embarrassed at being there that he won’t allow himself to talk to the doctor. So, as a last ditch effort, the psychiatrist requires Todd to write nightly on a private blog that only the doctor and patient can see. Then, each week they will discuss what Todd writes about.

Seemed like a winner to me. So the book became Todd’s blog entries.

With my new setup, some of the issues I’d wanted to address fell by the wayside. Meanwhile, focusing on a widower opened up several new possibilities that hadn’t existed prior. Before long, one of the four characters from the original idea fell by the wayside, but the other two remained. And through it all, I kept the title intact.

Then, when the day came that I finally finished my first draft, I began to let a select few read my work. That ended up being one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my life. Laying myself out there for criticism, especially since I had ended up putting so much of myself in the main character, was brutal. But mostly the feedback was good. Some changes were needed and were made, but one thing that kept coming up was, “Why do you call it The Square Pegs?” 

Because I was stubborn, I would explain my thought process and usually when I finished, the person I was explaining myself to would look at me skeptically and say something like, “Okay…it’s your book.”

D%@* right it’s my book! And I kept the title all the way through the submission process to different publishers. Finally, that blessed day came and Cedar Fort agreed to publish it. But after I signed the contract, the first communication back was, “The editorial board wasn’t really comfortable with the title. We think we are going to change it. Do you have any suggestions?”

Uh, Yeah…how about The Square Pegs? But in the end, they returned with The Reluctant Blogger, and I have reluctantly accepted that this is a much better title for the book that actually got written.

So there it is. How the book I wanted to write became the book I wrote, and how The Square Pegs became The Reluctant Blogger. And now, come August, we’ll find out what people think of Todd Landry and his blog entries. If you want to sign off now, go for it. Otherwise…

The Plug: If you know someone who may find this story interesting, please invite them to visit this website or to visit my Ryan Rapier, Author page on Facebook. If they become a fan, they will receive notices of blog entries like this one that further describe the process of writing this book and getting published, as well as additional insight into what the book is all about. Thanks again for everyone’s support. 

Look for The Reluctant Blogger, Coming August 2013, from Cedar Fort Inc. 

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4 thoughts on “What’s In A Name”

  1. I am so excited to read your book. Not simply because I know you (and think you are . . . excellent, in so many ways); but, I would love to read a guy’s perspective . . . and honest, funny, guy’s perspective – particularly with my new life status. There are so many things I don’t get about people, because of my Asperger’s and this sounds absolutely fascinating. No joke!

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