When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

In third grade, I wrote my first fiction story. It was an homage (aka rip-off) to Night of the Living Dead. As the zombies were breaking into the barricaded house, I had one of my characters excuse himself to go to the bathroom. He was the only survivor. At the time, I thought I was very clever. I haven’t been able to shake this delusion, so I’ve been writing ever since.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the book. My first and so far only novel (Dead Size) took me 4 fucking years. My latest, a novella, took me less than a year to publish. I’m not a prolific writer. I’m annoyingly meticulous, almost OCD about it. Words harrow me. Yet I live to tell stories. Go figure. I think I need to drink more. 

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I write whenever I have the time and inclination. And I’m inclined to write most of the time, whenever life permits. Mornings, before work. Evenings, after dinner. Middle of the night, during bouts of insomnia. Weekends, during bouts of agoraphobia.

What is your latest release and what's next?

My newest book is Uglyville, a True Crime-inspired Dark Comedy YA novella about a disturbed 15-year-old girl who falls in love-at-first-sight with the neighborhood garbageman and vows to win him at any cost. I adapted the story from an unproduced spec screenplay I wrote a few years ago. Like the Indians' buffalo, no story of mine goes to waste.
Next is TBD. It could be a memoir, a movie, a pop-up book, a popcorn necklace. I like to keep my options open.

Excerpt from UGLYVILLE
by Sawney Hatton

April 24

Today I launched Phase 2 of my plan, which required a more direct approach.
After school I went home and put on my sexy black dress with mother of pearl buttons and a frilled white collar, much like Joan Crawford wore in Grand Hotel. I stuck a yellow daisy from our garden in my updo. I then rode my bicycle all the way to Rick’s. It took almost half an hour to get there but I wasn’t tired at all. I was energized by Love!
I leaned my bike against the building and went to the entrance. I found Rick’s full name — Rick Fahling — on the directory and rang his apartment.
Over the intercom came Rick’s deep voice: “Yeah?”
I cleared my throat and recited the lines I’d rehearsed for him. “Hi Rick. It’s Verona Cassidy, Debi’s daughter. I need to talk to you.”
“OK” he answered. “Wanna come up?”
I said yes and he buzzed me in.
When Rick opened his apartment door my breath caught in my throat. He was wearing jeans and nothing else! His bare chest, ripply muscled, was only a little hairy, just enough to make me want to run my fingers through it. His nipples were dark and hard like candy drops. His tummy was flat, with an inny belly button I wanted to poke. I wondered if he was ticklish.
His hair was damp so I figured he must have just gotten out of the shower. I tried very hard not to imagine myself showering with him. If I had fantasized about that I wouldn’t have been able to speak!
“Hi Verona” he said. “How ya doin?”
“Good” I answered, trying to stare into his alluring blue eyes and not at his awesome godlike body, which really wasn’t much better for my concentration. I felt awkward. And hot.
“Did I come at a bad time?” I asked him. (Of course I didn’t think so!)
“Nope. I just stepped out of the shower. Wanna come in?”
I nodded and entered his sanctuary. It smelled of manly musk and cigarette smoke.
“You sure I’m not imposing?” I said, hoping he would be impressed by how polite and respectful I am.
“Not at all. It’s cool. I’m just gonna put on a shirt. Gimme a sec.”
Rick went to the kitchen counter and took a drag off a cigarette and mashed it out in the ashtray. He then walked into his bedroom, leaving me alone there.
The walls were beige and the floor was a caramel-colored hardwood and the sofa was white with some yellowish stains on it. There was a lot of baseball collectible stuff. He had a TV and a stereo and a large painting of a nude black lady.
I took his crushed cigarette from the ashtray — it touched his lips! — and put it in my purse.
When Rick returned from the bedroom I was looking at the nude painting on the wall, wondering if his taste leaned toward African women. My mom was as pale pink as me so you can imagine I was quite confused.
Rick slinked up beside me, buttoning up a gray flannel shirt. I wanted so badly to latch my hands onto his beefy bicep, climb up him and wrap my legs around his waist and kiss him until my lips went numb!
“That’s the picture from The Shining,” he told me. The one in some man’s brother’s bedroom.
I had no idea what he was talking about but I nodded anyway. My expression though must have given away my ruse.
“Ever see The Shining?” he asked.
“No” I answered.
“Phenomenal movie. You should watch it. I have it on tape. I’ll lend it to you sometime if you wanna see it.”
Sure I said, still not knowing anything about The Shining other than it was a movie. But I figured if he liked movies then we had something in common.
“Ever see Roman Holiday?” I asked him.
Rick shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
I told him Roman Holiday is a classic, that it stars Gregory Peck & Audrey Hepburn, and that it’s really really romantic.
I gazed up at him, into his eyes, and smiled. He looked down at me. I could see my reflection in his pupils. Neither of us said anything, just stared at each other, a million silent affections passing between us. His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. He was so nervous! I knew he wanted me then, but he wouldn’t have me. Not yet.
“So you said you needed to tell me something?”
Yes indeed, I thought, let’s get down to business, why I’m here. “It’s about my mother” I said grimly.
Rick asked me if I wanted to sit down. I sat on the sofa, hoping he would sit next to me but instead he sat on an armchair across from me.
“I was wondering how much my mother told you about herself,” I said.
“A bunch of stuff,” he replied. “Why?”
I said “You seem like a really sweet guy, Rick. And I don’t feel it’s fair of her to keep you in the dark.”
“About what?” he asked.
I told him that ever since my mother left my father, she’s dated lots of men.
Rick says that’s normal.
“I mean” I explained “she’s slept with lots of men. Dozens.” While I was still working from the script in my head, I was telling the truth. Despite my mother’s busy schedule she went on 2 or 3 dates a week average, sometimes not coming home from them until the following morning. It was scandalous behavior.
Rick didn’t appear at all fazed by this so I embellished.
“She has herpes. And she’s HIV positive.”
This information hit Rick hard. His jaw tensed and he winced slightly. I felt a little guilty about hurting him. But I didn’t feel bad about saying it because while I didn’t know for certain if mom had herpes or HIV, she could have them. So it wasn’t an outright fib.
“Really?” Rick asked.
“I knew it” I said, feigning disgust. “She didn’t tell you.”
Rick shook his head.
“My mom has mental problems too,” I said truthfully. “She once tried to cut off this guy’s you-know-what.” That last part I made up to scare him.
Stunned by this revelation, Rick slumped back in his chair, raked his fingers through his beautiful hair, and sighed.
“I don’t know what to say. I really dig your mom.”
“You know, me & my mom are a lot alike,” I said. “Except for the crazy slutty part. You & I could get to know one another better. You can show me that movie with the painting in it. Right now if you want.”
Rick looked at me like I was a cat playing too close to the fish bowl.
“You were the one who wrote me those letters, weren’t you?”
“Yes, that was me” I confessed — healthy relationships are built on honesty. “But I didn’t know you were dating my mother then.”
“I think I know what’s going on here,” he said.
“You do?”
“You’re jealous I’m dating your mom.”
I pshawed. “Jealous? No. She’s just not right for you. You deserve better.” He does!
“And that would be you?” he asked. I am!
I rose from the sofa and pressed my palm to my heart. “From the moment I saw you,” I declared passionately, “I knew we were meant for each other. There’s not a doubt in my mind.” I stepped toward him and took a deep breath.
“I love you Rick.”
He sighed. “No you don’t.”
Oh yes I do, I assured him.
“For one thing you don’t even know me. And for another, you’re like what, 14?”
“15. Almost 16.”
“I’m 35” he said. “More than twice your age.”
“So?” I said. “That’s not a big deal. In some countries, girls as young as 12 marry men as old as 50.”
“Listen to me Verona.” I love how he says my name, a little raspy with thinly veiled hints of desire. “Nothing’s ever gonna happen between us.”
“Give me a chance Rick” I pleaded.
He said no.
Please I said.
“I’m just not interested.” Then he suggested I leave.
I started to explain myself further so he’d understand it was OK to love me.
“I do understand. And if you go now, I won’t tell your mom about this. Though you should be ashamed, making up all that nasty stuff about her.”
“I was just trying to warn you.”
Rick stood up from his chair and loomed over me, so close I could smell the soap on his body, the cigarettes on his breath. We peered deeply into each other’s eyes.
“I think you’re a liar,” he said. “And I don’t want you coming by here ever again. Hear me?”
Rick then steered me to his front door and out of his apartment. He had shut the door on me before I could utter another endearment, another proclamation of my heart’s resolve. No time to even bid him farewell.
But fret not, dear fans, I am not discouraged!
When I was biking home I passed the wedding shop on Merrick Ave. In the window there were 2 mannequins, a bride & a groom. I noticed she was missing a hand and he part of his nose. Yet such flaws don’t prevent people from falling in love with one another, do they? If imperfect people can fall in love so can Rick & me.
Shakespeare once wrote “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
I fear you are under a witch’s spell, my love. But I shall break her curse and then each our rivers may flow into one.

©2015 Sawney Hatton

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