Friday, 12 February 2016

Spotlight on Sweat Street by D.J. Swykert

Last month I spotlighted The Death of Anyone by D.J. Swykert and the author wrote a guest post on Familial DNA, this month he has kindly written another. This time it's about the characterizations and theme in Sweat Street, and how it became a novel.
DJ has a background in law enforcement which allows him to write the police procedural elements in the story authentically.

The Book

Yuki, a beautiful young street girl with a heroin addiction, witnesses homicide detective Jack Delgato murder another police officer and an informant. She runs for her life as Delgato relentlessly pursues the only witness to the killing. Yuki goes into hiding with Ray Little, an ex-convict with a second degree murder conviction in his past, and a strange but affectionate relationship develops between them.

The Author

DJ Swykert is a blue-collar writer from Detroit. He’s worked as a truck driver, dispatcher, logistics analyst, operations manager, and ten years as a 911 operator.

His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Zodiac Review, The Newer York, Coe Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Alpha Wolves, The Death of Anyone, The Pool Boy’s Beatitude, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington and his latest, Sweat Street.

You can find out more about him and his books his Website

Guest Post

Often the lines between reality and fiction are blurred. Most of my fiction begins with a fictionalized characterization of a real person. The plot idea for Sweat Street is loosely based on an unsolved murder in Detroit. A party girl named Sarah Greene was found shot dead in an alley. She had previously attended parties at the mayor’s mansion with the mayor and high ranking officials. Rumors have persisted she was executed by police when she threatened to go to the media about her experiences with the mayor and officials.

After a plot idea, foremost for me in my development of a story is the characterization, finding a character with just enough flaws to be interesting rather than perfect, but likeable.

There are only about a dozen or so essential plots in all of literature, but the anomalies in characters are endless. To me good characters drive the plot as much as the plot drives them. In Sweat Street, Yuki is caught between doing the right thing by helping the police, or running to save herself. This brings her into encounters with criminals, investigators, reporters and ultimately an ex-convict who becomes her protector.

I write a book like you would watch a movie. It’s how I move the story along, chapters being scenes. The end result is me being a director, assembling the chapter-scenes into a coherent story consisting of characters, conflict and resolution.

Once I have a few characters I like I put them into a situation, this creates the conflict. The next step is to frame in my mind how I intend to resolve the conflict. The rest of the writing consists of chapters that point toward the resolution. When I began writing Sweat Street I knew how I wanted it to end. The book reads like watching a film, all the chapters pointing the characters toward the ending. This is something I learned from reading an interview with Elmore Leonard, and it stuck with me.

Sweat Street began with a short story about a hooker who is picked up by a couple of men and ends up beat up and bedraggled in an alley. It was published in a literary magazine in the early 90’s. I always liked the character, who in the short story was called Yolanda. She had a sharp tongue and a good mind, just couldn’t effectively deal with her addiction. Two decades after Yolanda I resurrected the character, renamed her Yuki, and built a story around her based on what happened to Sarah Greene. The poem at the beginning was published in a Stepaway Magazine in the UK a couple of years ago and I used the title of the poem, Sweat Street, as the book title.

Sweat Street

The Blueboys call it Mack Avenue
but we like to call it Sweat Street
because the Blueboys, wearing shields
like to make us sweat. Sweat the
working girls with white teeth smiling
inviting suits and old bar guys to
love them in their secret hideaways.
Sweat the golden boys selling blow
and crack dreams to window shoppers
cruising the old Detroit bricks
in their UAW horse carriages.
Sweat the others; the wine people
the crackheads, the shooters
and juicers that choose to die on
this street that the Blueboys
behind their shields call the Mack
but we know as Sweat Street.

Read the first chapter on D.J. Swykert's website.

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