Jordan Duke Interview of Neale Sourna -- Jan 2003 / 1/2003
Interview: Neale Sourna on HOBBLE
[An Adult Novel]--1/2003
by Jordan Duke
© ScriptCleveland 2003
JD: Why'd you write Hobble?
NS: Because I wanted to. [laughs] And because at a point I had
to. I was writing the first draft of what was turning out to be a novel
when I had the image and feelings of a young woman character wander gently
and provocatively into my head, someone quite innocent yet worldly, with
badly damaged but well-tended ankles. I knew she was upset, frustrated but
also that she was in love or falling in love.
And, I had a dream, which I normally try to keep notes on; of my dreams,
noting especially ones that are writer-friendly. This one dream starred
Anthony Hopkins of all people--I dream in movie or television format a lot,
and see famous people in dreamscape; probably because they already have
symbolic meaning--import from their work.
I plainly saw Hopkins and how
people respected yet feared him; the young woman he kept, whom no one helped;
physical trauma; two tall, shocked workmen on Hopkins' wooded lot; blood
from the girl pooled on a car's floor on way to hospital, her anguish, Hopkins'
fear of losing her, and his unrepentant hardness.
Dreams can be so brief or so long and yet so, so multilayered. I realized
that that particular dream and my waking inspiration of the young woman
overlapped, and started thinking (questioning possibilities of direction
and exposition) and making mental notes.
I knew there was a guy; handsome and charming and smart, of course,
someone unlike grumpy and dark-natured Hopkins, yet able to go toe-to-toe
in a highly charged, sexual love triangle with a lead character type as
strong as the real onscreen A. Hopkins.
I was getting a feel for Day's hero
especially when he showed up in my head, telling me his very first scene,
which happened to be the very first scene, first paragraph of the story -- his
running on the beach and literally falling "for" and on her.
So, he's an athlete, or athletic to be more precise, well-cut of body
and mind, someone who'd normally get her attention even if he hadn't physically
fallen on her.
Then, I got a little bogged because eventhough the story was sketching
out well from top to bottom without notes quite smoothly, I realized it
wasn't a short story but a novella [partially wrong there]. I decided to
keep the name Hopkins in homage to the man from QBVII, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS,
REMAINS OF THE DAY, and the lot and cast out for a name for my two younger
The name DAY popped into my head much as the character herself had,
it sounded good but a little oddly questionable; but, I found it in my name
book; Scandinavian, I believe it is, and kept it. It sounded bright and
hopeful but with the possibility of going all wrong in a heartbeat; much
like a sunny day in Midwest US just before a tornado devastates everything
or bypasses you by an inch.
Physically and emotional range, I initially thought of her in the [visual]
framework of actresses like Jasmine Guy, Salli Richardson, or Halle Berry.
One of my nephews [over 18] who proofed for me decided to [mentally]
settle on DARK ANGEL's Jessica Alba to get around the fact that a sexy character
has more than a few markers of my own. [Sexy character and your aunt,
not a good combination.]
And, Benn was easy once I decided he was a strong character, who often
kept things to himself and that outwardly he looked like Benjamin Bratt.
So, I gave him Ben Bratt's genetic background with embellishment, which
locked into my mind the wide range that required for him although at times
he seems to be nearly static but isn't.
Again, it felt right to tag the
character with a similar name, Benjamin being too obvious, so I settled
on the surname of one of my favorite characters in literary romance, Mistress
Eliza Bennet of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which explains the spelling.
It was a lighter, less in your face story as a novella; but, I realized
that some things need explanation or at least it would be nice if Benn would
be more forthcoming and give a little more info about a few things.
more info" and a "little more forthcoming" made the language
more blunt and more male, added a few [only a few] more love/conflict
scenes and dug deeper into each character's psyche and actions and fears,
and made the interrelationships among them tighter, more vicious, and more
of a victory or defeat in the end for each.
Also, in the I-had-to-write vein, someone I love dearly, two someone's
eventually had a harsh 2001 and 2002 mentally [original draft, final
drafts respectively] and especially in 2001, the frustrations and fears
I felt then went into Day and her tenuously fragile mental situation and
her lack of personal, physical freedom.
Also the frustrated, stymied feeling
of dealing with the overly structured, untrusting, imperiously inconsiderate
way some mental professionals treat their "patients."
Day is the heroine and delicate, appearing to be completely powerless,
but is also as tempered as steel, a deadly force to be reckoned with--even
with all sharp objects under lock and key; she's able to make very hard
choices and be able to take responsibility for those choices. Most especially
when they concern Benn.
Hopkins is the villain whom we can find something to love about or
at least sympathize about in his desperation to have, entirely control,
and keep someone he should never have had in the first place. But, he's
completely, unrepentantly unredeemable. A man who knows and owns his own
And, Benn's the hero [not just MY hero, pleasing me, which he also
is; he's definitely his own man].
He's an ambiguity-driven hero, who
keeps things from us, who does things his own way that perhaps we feel is
a stomach turner, but who's asked to take action and delivers, as long as
he too gets what he most wants in the end.
JD: While you were telling the characters' stories, did they surprise
NS: YES! Like when Benn keeps things from us, that quite often meant
me, as well, on a "need to know" basis.
I didn't know the full extent of Benn's professional background until
you do when it's revealed about 75% of the way through. I didn't know the
truth of Day's ankles and who and why such a horrible thing had happened
until she revealed it, or his full background. [Thanks Ann Rice and your
Mayfair Witches for giving me a backbone (inspirationally) on a major
Day / Hopkins plot point.]
I swear writing for fiction isn't as fiction as we'd like to propose,
it's more in the vein of being a psychic medium, of channeling experiences
from people or spirits in another realm, dimension, or some such. You'll
reread a page you wrote just the day or week before and you're amazed by
Sometimes not even truly remembering writing specifically
what is on that page. It's like stumbling upon a letter you believed to
be yours and finding instead that it was your sister's or brother's ...
familiar, but not yours. At a point it can be scary, but now I guess, for
me it's just ... astonishing is a good word. Mind-blowing. Simply very cool.
JD: Have you been writing long?
NS: I've been writing in my head industriously since elementary school
[Roosevelt Elementary in Garfield Heights OH], when I'd alternate
nights of making up scenarios of my favorite film, book, or TV stars interacting
with me [Actionwise, and yes, romantically and sexually--don't tell me
preadolescent kids don't think about romance and sex. It may not be a completed
thought but they're there. Always. Hell, they're learning behavior they're,
hopefully, going to need.]
Also, I've always had a good command of the language. I have a book
report from like third or fourth grade which I found and reread a few years
back. Very mature and still works, not at all the kiddylike I read a
book, it was about, it was very good, etc.
I even remember my first "C" in creative writing was from
about fifth grade. We were to pen about being a Christmas ornament or some
such thing. I didn't want to do "thing". I couldn't imagine "thing".
I wrote about a Christmas cat, a cougar, I'd just read a library book or
two or more about cougars, bobcats, and, oh course, noble and dangerous
"Bagheera" of The Jungle Book rules forever. Big fat "C".
But I wrote what I wanted to and was glad; I'm still glad I did.
Next step, I still didn't exactly "write" on paper for pleasure
or necessity though, except for class, which of course inspires one to never
write, except for those most absolutely necessary times to get the grade.
I'd solidly decided by junior high [Robert H Jamison Jr HS] and high
school [John F Kennedy HS] to be Henry Mancini or Franz Waxman, that
I'd write music, scoring movies and so I took theory and composition in
college [Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland OH and Lake Erie College,
Painesville OH]. There, I got very into live theatre production,
especially in coordinating all the elements as stage manager.
I realize now, at this moment really, that under Jake Rufli,
[Love you, forever, Jake!] we got to participate fully, as new scripts
were torn down and retooled for performance. We got to put together all
the elements of just the right words, voice inflection, body movement, lights,
design, etc, that captures the imagination of an audience.
I still wasn't
writing per se, including totally avoiding until the last any class that
required me to write papers.
Peculiarly, when transferring to Lake Erie I easily aced a 500 word,
write on the spot essay for part of a grammar testing for opting out of
redundant English classes. I got on a role and really didn't want to stop
at the time limit.
Which is a lesson to me that if I can write what I truly want, I find
it hard to stop unless forced to by hunger, sleep, or bathroom sirens.
Eventually, I went to grad school for two semesters [American University
DC, Film and Video] where I got to expand on the technical and creative
knowledge of writing television hour-long format and film scripts. It stuck.
Even after I left, because of lack of tuition; while I absorbed more "life
lessons" I kept writing off and on or studying about it on my own even
if I wasn't writing.
Bought a Smith Corona wordprocessor because I was definitely
going to write, and hardly used it for a year, except to work up a rough
draft of a STAR TREK NEXT GEN episode, not so good, but good idea [similarly
themed to JOHNNY MNEMONIC].
I got pissed off hearing the sexist and violent phrase "rule of thumb" then got my head into working through a QUANTUM LEAP with that
phrase as the theme ["Rule of Thumb" -- much better executed,
than the Trek]. Then, I wrote two script adaptations from an acquaintance's
short stories; adding characters, insightful characterizations, names, action,
etc. [including TOY GUNS ... AND TRUTH (Yes, I love ellipses.)].
I got a second, no third hand Mac and continued to write spec scripts,
including film [PERFECT MISTRESS aka TRIADS bka FRAMES (a New Century Contest Finalist)] and started to pen short stories, especially when
I started getting so many ideas that scripting wasn't feasible for all of
them. I was going to use the shorts as script treatments.
But having decided
that since writing the two major love scenes in PM/T/F, that they had been
quite trying for different author psychological reasons, I began writing
a few shorts with a stronger erotic edge, to see where it'd bother me or
I'd chicken out.
Like "Thelma" in THELMA AND LOUISE I thought, "I've
got a knack for this shit." I was also -- um, between jobs -- aka under-
then unemployed for a several months and got psyched to submit a few to
magazines. I was told nothing or that I was "too literary" -- isn't
that a good thing?
Not for getting paid, I guess.
I moved back home and
continued writing shorts and found that one -- AEGIS [work in progress],
about a Hip Hop undercover cop with a very sexual life that gets out of
control--got out of control. Not a short story at all. A novel. My first
Which was immediately followed by HOBBLE's rough draft. Which was immediately
followed by an even longer third rough draft of a novel explaining another
dream of mine, of just one very short vignette ... of how a man, a general
of great destructive notoriety, who destroyed a woman's people to have her,
how could he ever truly win her back -- ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER [work
I no longer say I don't write novels. Oh, and by the way, I share my
birthday with Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and the old literary pornographer
himself, The Marquis de Sade.
JD: There are some pretty harsh things that pop up in this novel -- HOBBLE;
things that the characters do to each other, private agendas, and the like,
were all those preplanned or interesting luck?
NS: Most of it flowed, with me guiding it, but, like I said, sometimes
these guys come up with stuff that scares me, which usually means it's their
truth, even if it's not my truth, and that if I hold back and pretty it
up, it won't have the proper impact that all our work together had built
I like what Diana Gabaldon [OUTLANDER series] said of readers
asking her why her characters said certain naughty words or did such a thing
or was of some persuasion of one kind or another. It's not that she herself,
in a similar situation, would actually say that foul word or do that heinous
thing but that in writing truthfully for her characters from the Outlander series?
[i.e. in Gabaldon's series]
A young, Oxford educated, European male
of the 1970s, despite being raised by a minister, might still say the "F"
word under stress and duress.
Or that a 1770s early middle-aged, unmarried,
European sadist of a certain social and military rank -- if left alone too
long to play, with his most favorite antagonist/victim -- might do a certain
vile thing or two or three, not because of his sexual orientation but because
of his perverted deviant orientation. You write that a young husband spanks
his wife with a leather belt ... and why.
[Gabaldon and myself] find it
interesting that the spanking [in her book]gets more complaints than
the buggering of a child.
You simply write it, without censoring for -- Is it right? Will it make
me famous? Will it? Will it? Etc. And then there's no writer's block. In
editing, you make certain it sounds and feels like it should for that character,
who is not you or me but themselves.
Hitler isn't Gandhi, who isn't
US Grant, who isn't LL Cool J.
If real people are just who they are, then
characters really must be too. Otherwise it gets really boring.
JD: Is Neale Sourna your real name?
NS: Yes. And no. Not my given birth name but is the name, well, names
given to me. One per night from two separate entities, in two separate dreams
on consecutive nights. Liked them both when I broke down the syllables to
see what each meant. Then realized they were a good name together.
an extra E to give the name a little more sexual ambiguity. I'd toyed with
other writing/business names -- using my own seemed too personal and egocentric.
Neale Sourna really suits me. It's Cleveland-ethnicky, nongender specific,
and who I am ... sometimes.
Neal, Neale [British isles] = chieftain
Sourna [Persia, Iran, Middle East] = warrior aunt
JD: Like doing autographs?
NS: Not really, not yet. I usually like meeting people; but, autographs
are ... odd. Except on a check for me to cash. I suppose autographs are
proof that you met the author, provided someone didn't fake you out and
sign in their stead. But, if I have friends and relatives that don't believe
my stories of meeting someone then maybe there's something wrong with them
But, that's just me.
A Cary Grant or Zane autograph are rare, I rather like that; but, please,
enjoy my work, talk to me for awhile if we meet and let's steer away from
hurting my mitt with writer's cramp. I have a lotta stories yet jostling
my brain and fingertips to get out and down.
JD: What research, if any, did you do for Hobble?
NS: [Inter]Net research about female reproductive castration and reversal
possibilities, checking with a nephew for correct lyrics for the quote from
Depeche Mode and for the correct title for the Dave Matthews Band single
mentioned, and um, I think that's it for formal type research stuff. The
rest came from things I've read and seen and heard over the years and brain
stored in case of conversation or such.
JD: What experiences or expertise make you qualified to write
NS: That I feel for these people, these characters, the good and the
bad. And, as you can see the line between goodness and badness, to me, is
exceedingly fine and mutable. I could hear these people, see their side.
I don't necessarily feel characters are images I myself just make up and
manipulate. I did that a long time ago, or not so long ago, before the flow.
Once you really feel and see them, and let characters do and say what
they need to or want to, despite what you yourself might would do--that
alone makes an author qualified. It's like telling someone what you saw
So many people can't do that without embellishing. You tell them,
"The dog died." And, they're repeating that a white Chihuahua
was beaten to death by a peglegged Italian. Colorful but not the same simple,
singular truth as, "The dog died."
JD: Why is the lead character Benn who he is and why? How'd you
get his voice?
NS: Benn is Benn because he's what Day wanted. She came first, then
Hopkins, then my general hero, who pops to the fore in my mind. From there
our intrepid hero grew and changed, and from giving me the first paragraph
of the book, which established a certain physicality and technical/educational
background for him and clarified that he and not Ms. Day would be telling
I did make a conscious decision of trying to figure out what he looked
like, instead of general generic N Sourna hero and to get a better grasp
of who he was. I didn't want him to be plainly white American, and straight
Black American seemed too something, she was different [and at that time
and not till the end did I know her full background myself] from Hopkins
[there's your white male, British, but, y'know].
Then with the physical qualities, the possible range of emotion Day
was likely to trigger in a man who truly wanted her or loved her, and deciding
to try contemporary, urban Native American, Ben Bratt popped into mind.
He has the physical characteristics that were surfacing, I know his physical
voice and some of his emotional performance range, and his ethnicity with
a little tampering suited me.
I thought to give Bennet
long hair and a beard to cue us about his life being different -- Piñero
with Bratt came out and he was making the rounds in some footage, bearded
and longer haired. [I love those confirmation moments. When I can make
sense of them.]
Once he was in place, and Benn given his name, his narrative voice,
his amorality, his humor and bewildering desires just were. He's a guy I
could get along with and have a conversation with; but, he's not me. That
is so cool. Characters really are kind of like having children. They're
part of you, but not you. The best ones go their own way but take
JD: What's your next project?
NS: Project(s). I was going to work on compiling and buffing up a collection
of erotica short stories I have, first, but my other two novels, AEGIS and
WATCHTOWER, and some other stories, plus marketing my work are keeping me
rotating them to whichever one is bugging me the most and nagging at my
narrative memory, until I have to jot down or key it down for my own sake.
Originally, I'd planned to release one or both of the novels next.
I released HOBBLE first because it was the smallest and most complete. Figured
I learn the book publishing and marketing business with that first. Now,
though, I'll continue working on everything until one of them is finished.
That'll be the next release, most likely. AEGIS probably has more scenes
needed at the moment but I want to do some more actual historical and cultural
research to anchor WATCHTOWER since I'm still figuring whether to release
it as one book or as two with most likely a third or...?
Check the website [www.neale-sourna.com],
though, in the meanwhile, I'll try to add some material to tantalize and
tease and hopefully fulfill your intellectual erotic hunger.
JD: Thank you, Neale.
NS: Your welcome.
My baby, HOBBLE
[An Adult Novel], has won an award_Best of Year in Romantic Erotica by BlackRefer.com.
Yippee and huzzah!!
What a surprise! Thank you so much.
It looks "mahhhvelous," don't you think? Thank you, Dolores
Thornton, thank you, BlackRefer.com,
for this sehr tres cool honor. -- Neale
"Hobble is a story of lust and obsessive sex...I was
so moved...I went back to my (Franklin) dictionary...hobble means to
limp along...to impede...to tie-up, shackle or leash...all of [which] were used
in this steamy story, of sex, incest and betrayal!"--Delores Thornton,
[also posted at www.BlackRefer.com Review for July 2003]
* * *
|HUGE THANKS to all who've
bought and read "Hobble". There're too many of you to thank individually.
Do know that I'm so glad you "get it" and that "Hobble's" found a special
place in your hearts and bookshelves--uh, busy bedrooms.
For those who've said they can't get their copy
back from their friends and family, tell them to BUY THEIR OWN "Hobble"!
We'll make a freshly untouched copy just for them [God, I love POD--Print
On Demand] but that they'll have to give that new pristine one to
you, as a thank you. They can keep the well-worn and slime-covered old
one you loaned them.
Anyway, thanks again, Dear Fans, I'll post new
stuff every now and then, so meanwhile read STEVE and share him for
FREE by email and copier, while I get back to finishing up on the pay
version of STEVE, on LIBIDINOUS 1, and on my next full novel, AEGIS
[excerpts posted this site and in STEVE].
--Neale; April 29, 2004
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