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Scott Lax Blog

Why Cleveland is Ideal for a Novelist

I'm a Cleveland guy. Born in the City of Cleveland itself, raised first in Parma Heights then the Chagrin Valley. As an adult I've lived in the city, as well as a various villages and suburbs of Cleveland.

I've had offers and opportunities to work and live in L.A., New York City and Atlanta, but I always decided against moving permanently, always came back. I've set both my novels in the Cleveland area, produced a feature film about the area, in the area, wrote a produced play that takes place in the Cleveland area; co-created, co-wrote and co-executive produced a TV pilot starring Clevelanders Fred Willard and Martin Mull that we filmed nearly two years ago in downtown Cleveland. I played music full-time here, started businesses here.

Aside from my fiction, I work at a full-time job I really like, and I work with people from all over the world. That's the Cleveland my dad grew up in: filled with immigrants, people who provide fresh ideas and vibrancy. It's still like that. You just have to be open to it.

My wife -- who's from southern California -- and I like it here, want to raise our sons here. I like Manhattan, Chicago, California, New England, the many places, really, including Paris, Oslo and Bergen, Norway and London and Cambridge, England.

But Cleveland and northeast Ohio are in my blood. The area is diverse in people and topography, filled with history and rich with culture. It’s kind of an odd, conflicted place, but the people are unpretentious and that means a lot. As for the weather, it's dramatic and always changing. And I can't stop rooting for the teams, which is a common theme for lifelong Clevelanders.

Fo me, the Cleveland area is a fantastic place in which to set stories, as well as to live.  Read More 
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Larry Brown: A Truly Original Voice

Having finished and submitted the second draft of my novel last week, I again understand Hemingways' quote: "They can't yank a novelist like they can a pitcher. A novelist has to go the full nine, even if it kills him."

Speaking of fiction, and of how hard it is to finish a novel, I'm reading BIG BAD LOVE (re-reading, mostly, as it's a book of short stories) by my late and lamented friend, Larry Brown. Larry was one of the great fiction writers of our time, I think - and a guy who worked very hard to be a writer, and to finish his novels, after being in the marines, then a fireman. His voice was so pure and honest -- not to mention gnarly and shocking, coarse and tender -- that we'll never see or read his like again. There will be other honest voices, of course, but Larry's was something special.

Sometimes I think I learned more from Larry sitting in rocking chairs up at Bread Loaf, sipping Larry's whisky and listening to Johnny Cash, and Larry's hard-won writing wisdom, than I did in any classroom. If you have a chance, pick up some of Larry's work. He was a master, and a real person.

I do have one chapter in my novel, THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED, that's a sort of tribute to Larry and his characters. It's in the voice of a Vietnam veteran who is wheelchair-bound. I thought of Larry when I wrote it. I'm not sure why. He just kind of had that effect on you.  Read More