Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father's Day (Or How My Father Was Like Stephen King)

By Andy Straka

I’ve loved reading all the posts this month about “Living with a Creative Lunatic.”  From the poignant to the hilarious.   There must be something cathartic about coming clean regarding our selfish eccentricities and at times downright strange behavior as writers.

This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  My wife and kids spoiled me with a pile of handmade cards, a new basketball hoop, and a new coffee mug (pictured). I didn’t get any writing done, but I had a fantastic day, and it got me to thinking.  

To me every day is Father’s Day. No, really.  What more can a father ask for than to be surrounded by his family each day and still be able to pursue the work that he enjoys?

It takes a superhero wife and special children to put up with a husband and father who manages to mysteriously disappear for long stretches of time to pound away on his computer.  It takes mountains of paper, gallons of hot liquids, bottled water, and diet soda, and mega-quadruple miga-gigabytes of computer power.  It takes being awakened in the middle of the night by someone clumping down the stairs or dropping exhausted into bed only to fall instantly asleep.  It takes putting up with forgotten phone messages, yard work left undone, books and papers and other paraphernalia left piled around the house.  It also takes the patience of Job to listen to someone constantly scheming about new characters, titles, and story ideas while pursuing a craft that leads to uncertain financial rewards.  

Despite all of the above and more, my wife somehow continues to love me. She has even cobbled together an inventive yet stable family, where storytellers like her husband aren’t seen as alien creatures sprouting mutant heads and toes.  Will any of our six children eventually become creative lunatics like their old man?

The folks over at AbeBooks have compiled a fascinating list of father/son writers that may shed a little light.  Pretty amazing when you read about the likes of Alexandre Dumas, H.G. Wells, and even Stephen King and his son Joe Hill (a/k/a Joseph Hillstrom King).

Andrew H. Straka
My father may not have been a writer or achieved as much as Stephen King, but I’m sure, like Joe Hill, I caught the creative lunatic bug, at least in part, from my Dad.  Andrew H. Straka was an engineering genius who built his own company from the ground up.  One of the first manufacturers to get into plastics (Remember that quote from the movie The Graduate about plastics?), he often seemed to have this impish grin on his face because he, too, loved the creative process.  He also loved flight and once purchased a single seat, mini-helicopter kit including detailed plans for building his own personal airship, before my mother talked him out of the idea.  My father’s untimely death left our family with a gaping emotional hole and not much in the way of material wealth, but his creative spirit was his everlasting gift to me. So here's a heavenly salute to you, Dad.

Maybe this creative lunatic thing is genetic after all.  Or maybe it’s contagious. Maybe there’s a little creative lunatic in us all.

I don’t know what each of my children will wind up doing, but I can almost hear two of the older ones talking now.

“Where’s Dad?”

“Off writing again.”

Just as it should be—at least until it’s time to come read stories and be Big Daddy.

Happy Father’s Day.  Again.

Publisher's Weekly has featured Andy Straka as one of a new crop of "rising stars in crime fiction." His books include A WITNESS ABOVE (Anthony, Agatha, and Shamus Award finalist), A KILLING SKY (Anthony Award Finalist), COLD QUARRY (Shamus Award Winner), KITTY HITTER (called a "great read" by Library Journal), RECORD OF WRONGS (hailed by Mystery Scene magazine as "a first-rate thriller"), FLIGHTFALL (a soon-to-be-released novella), and a new thriller, THE BLUE HALLELUJAH, coming later this summer.

Andy has worked as a book editor, movie production accommodation agent, commercial building owner and consulting vice president for a large specialty physician’s practice, surgical implant and pharmaceutical sales representative, college textbook sales and manuscript acquisition representative, web offset press paper jogger, laborer on a city road crew, summer recreation youth director, camp counselor, youth basketball coach, assistant parts manager at an auto dealership, assistant manager at a McDonalds restaurant, and even been registered as a private investigator. (Not to mention a longstanding stint as a stay-at-home Dad to six, which makes neurosurgery look like tiddlywinks.)  
Also a licensed falconer and co-founder of the popular Crime Wave at the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, Andy is a native of upstate New York and a graduate of Williams College where, as co-captain of the basketball team, he "double-majored" in English and the crossover dribble.  He lives with his family in Virginia. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


Kathleen Yasas said...

Creative lunatics...are we creative because we're lunatics, or lunatics because we're creative? A forever unanswered question. Lovely post, Andy.

Kathleen Yasas, blogger
The Squeaky Pen

Andy said...

You are only called a creative lunatic until you become a breakout bestseller. Then you graduate to eccentric.
Thanks, Kathleen.

Anonymous said...

wow. nice post.... loved it! r u a literary agent? by the way, i would think that fathers day is like no other for writers, isnt it? u write, right?

xpac said...

nice post

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