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Writing and Publishing Fiction: Victor David Giron on Curbside Splendor

Victor David Giron Curbside Splendor ChicagoVictor David Giron runs Curbside Splendor, an indie publisher based in Chicago. In part one of Joe Wallace’s interview with Giron he asked about writing fiction in general, his book Sophomoric Philosophy, and the struggle a new fiction writer faces when trying to find a voice. In the second part of our discussion, Giron explains his publishing work, and offers some sound advice to aspiring fiction writers.

FZ: Tell us about Curbside Splendor–you obviously see farther than publishing your own work, what’s the challenge of juggling your own PR and marketing with the needs and demands of putting out other people’s material, too.

Victor David Giron: I started Curbside Splendor originally just to publish Sophomoric Philosophy, when I realized one could do such a thing.

Being someone that likes business, I thought it would be neat challenge to try and understand the publishing process. During the process of working with the editor, the designer, a friend that did the artwork for it, I took a liking to publishing and decided to start publishing work by others on the Curbside site.

It also seemed that if publishing the book through Curbside Splendor was going to ever be marginally successfully, I needed to make Curbside a true publisher and not just my own vehicle. I now really enjoy reading submissions, finding ones that fit, and then making them look beautiful and presenting them to other readers. We’re now just releasing our first semi-annual print journal, a collection of short stories and poetry, and are preparing our next release, a chap book of poems by Chicago native Charles Bane Jr.

It’s a challenge, for sure, to juggle marketing the work of others with my own. But I now see myself as just one of many Curbside contributors, and am as, if not more, eager to promote the work of the other contributors, because I genuinely enjoy it. In this sense Curbside has grown much large than being my own project and I plan to continue making it be so.

You see both sides of the publishing world, so an aspiring writer is going to want to know–how does your publishing experience inform your work as an author in terms of making it as a professional fiction writer?

More than anything I’ve learned that you can’t commit to fiction writing unless you absolutely love it and are willing to do it without any guarantee of ever getting paid, let alone financially surviving from it. Even as a small publisher, you publish because it’s something you want to do, period. If you’re willing to do that, and are willing to engage in a collaborative community, there are huge rewards, though perhaps not so much in a monetary sense.

And you have to have a ton of patience, be able to accept rejection, after rejection, after rejection, and be willing to keep trying. That only comes after working on your writing to make it as honest and good as you can, and having confidence in it.

What’s the best advice you were ever given about writing and publishing? And what advice do you have to offer with the shoe on the other foot, so to speak?

When I was working with R.A. Miller on Sophomoric Philosophy, I asked him if I should be concerned with how autobiographical the novel was. I had even contemplated publishing it under a pseudonym. He told me “Dude, 95% of the stuff you read that’s called ‘fiction’ is based on someone’s real life. You either you accept that and move on, or you don’t move forward with the project.”

It then made me think of how so many of the books I’ve loved are autobiographical in nature as well, and it made me feel comfortable with getting behind the book and publishing it. So I guess I’d share that same advice with an aspiring author, to not be afraid and work with your own personal experiences to craft your work. We all have interesting stories to tell, and it’s only natural to hone them and present them in a way that other’s will relate to and enjoy reading.

Don’t force your voice into some genre just because you feel it’s necessary in order to be commercially successfully. Let your literary voice be your own.

Victor David Giron on Writing Fiction (Part One)

Victor David Giron Curbside Splendor ChicagoVictor David Giron runs Curbside Splendor, an indie publisher based in Chicago. The Curbside Splendor mission statement says, “We publish literary fiction and poetry based in contemporary urban (and sometimes sub-urban) settings.  Our goal is to support the independent publishing process and to promote urban-themed writing.”

We caught up with Victor David Giron to ask about writing fiction in general, his book Sophomoric Philosophy, and the struggle a new fiction writer faces when trying to find a voice.

FZ: First, a bit of background–when did you start writing professionally and how did you decide to commit to your first book?

Victor David Giron: I’m a CPA and have worked for professional services firms and corporations since I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1996.  People associate accounting with numbers and spreadsheets, which for the most part is true, except that the field of accounting that I specialize in involves researching accounting rules and writing about how they apply to real life business situations.

So I’ve been writing for my core profession all these years, and in that sense I’ve been writing professionally for a while.  However, I’ve wanted to write a novel for as long I can remember reading them.  During my twenties I experimented with novel ideas, some that progressed a bit, but all that eventually died.  I felt like I was forcing ideas that just were not flowing.  Around my 30th birthday, as a way to pass away time while in hotel rooms on business trips, or stuck at an airport, I began to write memories from high school parties and relationships.  I’ve never been one to keep a journal, so for me this was my first time writing down personal memories.

FZ: Sophomoric Philosophy is pretty complex from a conceptual standpoint. You’ve got a lot going on with culture issues, the war between art and commerce with the main character, plus the entanglements with substances, sex and growing up. What made you decide to go this route?

VDG: Sophomoric Philosophy is about a guy named Alex Lopez that very much like me is an accountant but has always wanted to do something more creative with his life, something more meaningful.   He has a lot of good ideas, instincts, but can’t seem to focus on any one of them, and too easily falls prey to partying, girls, and sex, and therefore never seems to move beyond just the idea phase.

There are glimpses in the novel that perhaps he’s making progress, but you’re never quite sure.  I wanted the novel to be an explosion of all these themes, especially as it’s told in the first person narrative by the character.  I wanted the reader to get a feel of all the tension that comes from being consumed with ideas but not being able to follow through.

But the book is also a celebration of these things, of getting immersed in being in the moment and loving things like music and partying, having a sexual connection with someone, amid the constant stream of information bombardments that modern culture inflicts on us.

I wanted the book it to be as real as possible, and easily relatable to people that don’t necessarily read books or write.  I want the reader to feel as confused and awkward as Alex does.  Based on feedback I think I’ve succeeded.  As a writer, I also like to think that this first novel hits on a lot of topics that I’m interested in pursuing in greater detail with my future work.  For example, my next novel White Hallways will be focused primarily on memory and sibling relationships, along with further pursuing the Mexican-American experience that Sophomoric Philosophy touches on.

FZ:So many new writers try tackling genre fiction and wind up forcing their literary voice into a mold it’s not quite ready or able to fit. Did you have struggles in that department?

VDG: Earlier I mentioned that before Sophomoric Philosophy I had many failed attempts at writing a novel. Most of these were some sort of genre fiction that, especially in hindsight, I found frustrating because my writing sounded like someone I totally couldn’t relate to.  That’s why when I settled in on using my own personal experiences as the basis for the novel, the writing really began to flow because it felt natural and it allowed me to, over time, get better and creative with what I was doing.

One of the things I’m most proud of the book is that the voice is strong, consistent, and comes across exactly how I wanted it to.  I taught myself how to write fiction with Sophomoric Philosophy and when I read over it now I can kind of see how I improved my writing over the course of it.

The three chapters titled “On Being Mexican-American” Parts I, II, and III, were one of the last few I wrote, at the suggestion of my editor to give more emphasis on this theme of struggling with ethnicity, and I think they’re probably the best from a pure writing perspective.

We’ll continue our discussion with Victor David Giron in part two of our interview. You can read the latest fiction and poetry at CurbsideSplendor.com.