The World of Publishing According to Dana: Nick Wale Interviews Graphic Artist Dana Black

Dana Black came to me through a friend of mine called Bob Satterfield. Now, I know Bob because we both have this dream. Bob is a dreamer who makes his dreams come true. So am I. So when Bob mentioned this talented graphic artist from NY– I was interested. When Bob said that Dana would make a good interview– I was hooked. So, thanks to Bob Satterfield we now have an interview with Dana Black to read! I think you will all enjoy this one..

Dana Black

Q) Dana, let me start by asking you one simple question: Who are you?

A) I’m a left-handed New York-born Virgo artist with aspirations to write and create new comics and new art that inspires others to tell stories.That’s what I want most out of my art– to inspire others to write and draw, to tell the stories itching in their minds. I’m a guy with tons of stories just leaping out of my skull so it’s all I can do to filter them, boil them down to their simplest terms and then find a format to tell them all.

Q) How do you control all that creativity? How do you stop ideas from bouncing around all day? Surely, it’s enough to drive you insane?

A) Well, I’m well past the point of insane *laughs* so I do my best to scribble them down on any paper I can find, whether it’s visual ideas, dialogue or plot points. It gets to be a lot of work, but I have a pretty good memory that works well with the flood. The ideas seem to come in spurts of creativity, so when one page is filled with ideas it goes into that specific pile and let me tell you, there’s about a dozen or so piles being compiled for all of the things I want to do.

I’m not the most organized cat on the block but all the notes seem to make it into the piles they’re supposed to. If I write or draw two different projects on the same sheet, I’ll cut it out and make sure it goes where it’s meant to go- or better yet, I’ll find a way to make sure that idea gets utilized in something else entirely.

Q) Do you work in a day job or do you just live off your creativity?

A) Right now I’ve given up the day job thing so that I can have the freedom to write and draw to my little heart’s content. It’s a huge risk– just to up and leave the comfort and security of your bread-and-butter job– but it was doing this that gave me a new focus for creating. Having no safety net is a peculiar way of making sure you get to do what you want to.

Q) How are you finding life without a net so far?

A) While I sometimes think it was a mistake to let go so soon, I’m quite happy being able to create my own hours, work on the projects I want to and draw for pleasure for the most part.

The food isn’t piled on my plate and other sacrifices are made, but who needs a social life when you can invent new friends on paper who are probably a lot more interesting? I get to now say I’m living my dream. In the day job, I could never say that, let alone think it.

It’s a freedom and a struggle but it’s so worth it to me.

Q) Do you feel that following your heart is important? Creativity is more important than the commercial nature of the modern world?

A) I sure do. There’s no doubt about it for me, especially loving art and stories the way I do and having always wanted to make a life for myself doing both. I’m forty now and since I was five I was sure I wanted to make a career at telling stories and doing artwork. It would be nice if I could pull off a solid paycheck like my last job, sure, but it was deadening work and non-creative and took up so much of my time and energy that drawing after work was a struggle.

It’s been my dream to draw and write for a living and now, slowly but surely, I get to do just that and I have nothing in my way or holding me back, most especially I don’t have anyone stifling my creativity or telling me “Don’t draw here,” or  “You can’t do that now.”

Q) Do you have dependents or do you live alone?

A) I’m a single dude with no kids, no pets, no one depending on me for anything. I’ve tried to tell relationship partners in the past that this is my great love; that I’m married to art, but they couldn’t understand it. Now I don’t have to worry about explaining why I do what I do or having either the relationship or the art get in the way of the other.

I don’t have to worry about waking up at 3am to draw or write and bothering anyone or having them feel neglected. While I miss companionship, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make because the sole purpose is to make ME happy.

Q) Tell me about your writing process. How do you like to write?

A) Writing for me starts with a rough idea in my head and I start by scribbling a grocery list of all the things that would make a story interesting to me. I’ll start with Stunts, actually–visual ideas of what type of action sequences would be compelling– then I glue this onto a 3 Act Structure and start breaking it down into an outline from start to finish, creating the Spine of the story. From there I start writing dialogue, something I feel really comfortable with. Then I tighten the outline, get very specific, add things, toss out others until I have an outline that really works. Meanwhile, on the margins of all pages, there’s visual ideas, character designs, vehicles, props, sigils, etc…that all directly relate to what I’ve just written. I had a friend recently tell me it was like deciphering code but it really all fits together well once I have the major plot points hammered out.

It’s drawing and writing simultaneously, basically. I write stories with pictures.

Q) What would you deem as your strongest quality?

A) Beyond being a pretty capable artist, I have a contagious love for Comics Storytelling and I want everyone to recognize them for the art form they are. It’s my passion and I often get all teary eyed when talking about how much I love this graphic world.

Dana!

Q) How did you get your first break in the world of graphics?

A) Right now I’m working on a one shot called REDEYE which is my love letter to comics and in it are all of the things that floor me about comics and stories. From the danger and romance, to the humor and the horror. Comics have it all and I plan on showing them off as much as I possibly can.

I’d been drawing since I was five and won local awards and such for years but it was going to Comic Conventions where I met my idols that things started to happen. At a New York Convention in 1994 I met a Comics Artist or two who decided to take me under their wing and give me a shot at drawing professionally. The relationships fizzled but I never lost my love or interest in it. I dabbled in Music for years until a close writer friend offered me the opportunity to do covers for his novels. Once people started seeing what I could do and once I started building confidence in my work, more work followed.

I did covers, pinups, trading cards, art direction and even script supervising and now I’m doing my best to utilize all of these into projects that I’ve created myself or am doing with other writers.

Q) So what’s the plan? To create graphic novels and sell them to publishers?

A) Yeah, that’s the plan basically. Create stuff that comes from my brain and see who’ll publish what I’ve done or work with writers who have a set deal. I have no interest in working in mainstream comics, so books like Batman, X-Men etc… are not books you’re likely to see me work on. There is only one character in mainstream comics that I have any real love for and a writer friend and I are going to work out my plot for that and see if it gets a green light. If it doesn’t, even with the writer’s reputation, we have a back up plan to make it our own property and do it independently.

Q) Are you looking for investors?

A) No, not at this point. With REDEYE, we’re considering releasing it digitally to cut down on the risk factor but we have a few companies who I’m sure would find this property quite nice.

I think once people see the work finished, companies will hopefully line up to publish it.

Q) I would guess you have connections within the industry?

A) Yeah, there’s a bundle of gentlemen who like my work enough to take a chance on some of my ideas. After the first few projects are published, I see myself working on larger projects with more commitment and I think I have a few connections willing to come along for the ride.

Q) So you went into the wilderness knowing you would be published?

A) Yes, I had the confidence and the art to back it up plus that utter desperation of “Well, there’s no more Day Job”.

Q) You sounds like a natural risk taker, then.

A) I have to contain the laughter and my friends and family reading this would all agree that Yes, I’m a Natural Born Risk Taker. Or a Natural Born Idiot, either one. Take your pick. *laughs*

Q) How do you feel about a life without risks?

A) Well, I’ve worked the day jobs, I’ve done the stuff expected of me and it’s really no fun– there’s no passion and I’m a person that has to LOVE it to do it. I find taking no risks boring and dull and I’m anything but. I have friends who sit at their desks, watch the clock, collect a paycheck, go home and kiss their dogs. That is not the life for me.

But I do like dogs. Very much.

Q)  What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

A) Self-publishing is something I have mixed feelings about. One, it means that I can tell the stories I want to tell unconstrained by editorial or publishers wants. Two, it means I don’t have the goods to make it and get my stories published.

Even more personal projects can find a publisher, but inferior art and story cannot and should not.

Q) Do you believe, as many do, that self-publishing has flooded the market?

Yes, there’s a boom of self-publishers. Any Joe Shmoe with a little bit of money can release a project and it crowds the racks with inferior product.

But can that Joe Shmoe produce a good book with interesting stories and top notch art? Usually not, which is why they self-publish.

Let’s face it, the industry is mired in inferior product, and it’s not just the self-publishers but they seem most responsible for it. Sometimes having that freedom to self-publish does not guarantee a worthwhile book.

It’s the obligation of an artist and writer to do their best work.

Q) So the statement “Everyone has a book inside of them,” should perhaps be “Everyone has a book inside of them– but the majority should stay inside of them.” Would you agree with that?

A) No, I can’t agree with that as much as I want to. I’d be happy not seeing many books I’ve seen . I would say draw and write the BEST book you can, then write it and draw it again and if it’s not the BEST book you can put out- stop and find something else to do. I want to see quality products, the best books, the best stories, the best art– art and stories that pump me up and not leave me cold– and that’s my goal. I want people to be blown away, not because they’re supposed to be, but because they are.

People are not being their own worst critics and that’s why we have so much trash on the stands. “Hey, Bob, here’s a good idea.” No, it has to be GREAT.

Q) What made you say yes to an interview with me?

A) Well, we have a mutual friend Bob Satterfield who approached me about it and with his recommendation and your quality of interviews. I said “Why Not?” It sounded like fun and it has been. I wanted to continue taking a risk to get a little bit of me out there and to express my love for the graphic medium and didn’t know if I’d get the chance again any time soon. Also, I felt it important for an artist to be heard.

Q) Well, Dana thank you for stopping by. It’s been a pleasure interviewing you!

A) Nick, you’re very welcome and I have to thank you for the opportunity and it’s been a real joy to have spoken to you at length.

DanaLook out for the wonderful work of Dana Black! It may soon be at your local comic store!

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I Want to Tell You a Story: Nick Wale Meets Gary Hayes

Author Gary Hayes came to me on Sunday and told me he was finally ready for an interview. I was ready, he was ready and my proofreader was ready. We started chatting and soon I could see that this was going to be one great interview. This week, I decided to make Novel Ideas better. I needed an interview for the “Hot Picks” page and who better than a talented author like Gary Hayes? Let Gary tell his story to you!

gary Hayes

Q) Great to meet you Gary– so how did you get mixed up in this crazy world of writing?

A) I’ve been writing for about 30 years, all my life really, but I took several years off to pursue a Music degree and a Martial Arts career. Yeah, I know, doesn’t seem compatible, but you’d be surprised at the similarities.

Q) Could you tell me about the similarities? I’m sure readers would love to know how it feels to connect all of those arts. This may be a pioneering thought– martial arts and writing together!

A) I’m a pianist/keyboard player, and much of what you do in practice is getting your fingers to obey your mind. Lots of repetition, techniques, strengthening the muscles, etc. Then in performance, it’s all about flowing with the music, reading the other performers, adjusting to what they are doing.

In Martial Arts, it’s exactly the same. A good fighter is like a good musician. Preparation by learning techniques and strengthening the necessary muscles. Then learning to read your opponent, anticipating his moves, going with the flow of the fight.

Many things learned in one discipline translates easily to the other, if you look at it right.

Q) Do you believe good writing skills take time to learn– like the skills used in martial arts or those used by musicians?

A) Absolutely. Although some people are born storytellers, the mechanics of writing is a learned thing. And the better one understands how to express certain ideas and feelings, the better the story flows.

I’m still learning about commas. Nasty little buggers.

Q) Talking about commas, do you use a proofreader? Do you use an editor? Do you agree that writers should use professional help?

A) Personally, I need all the help I can get. I’m in a professional writers group called Dark River Writers. Each person in the group has published professionally. Some, like Brad Strickland, have sold many, many books and stories. Brad is also an English professor at North Georgia College. Everyone in the group has read my stuff and made numerous corrections. I’m still fighting typos though. Even after repeated readings by professionals they just keep sneaking in.

Q) I have the same problem. I always use an editor for these interviews. Nothing worse than a badly written interview, eh? Can you tell me about your latest book? What is it called?

A) My most recent novel, out just this week, is Beneath Castle Walls, Book 4 in my serialized novel Sleag’s Quest. It’s an epic fantasy with what I hope are some interesting differences from typical fantasy stories.

Q) Interesting title! What is “Sleag’s Quest” about?

A) Sleag, the greatest warrior in the world, is forced to rescue his wife and son from an evil wizard who has taken over her kingdom. He assembles a band of colorful characters, a stable boy, an innkeeper, a powerful witch and her equally powerful teenage daughter, and a master swordsman who all agree to help him on his rescue quest. Things get complicated very quickly.

Q) Do you believe that “Sleags Quest” is your best work so far?

A) Yeah, and getting better with every typo. Ha. I started it about ten years ago and the more I live with it, the more I see interesting things to bring out. It’s like the Star Trek movie Wrath of Kahn at the end when Spock says, “Remember.” That was not in the original script and just sort of a throw away Nemoy came up with. Then it becomes a whole ‘nother movie.

I keep finding things like that in Sleag all the time that make the book oh so much richer. I love it when things from early on all come together at the end.

Q) Tell me about your writing process. How do you write? Do you like music in the background? What helps you get into the writer’s groove?

A) I’m a seat-of-my-pants writer. I don’t like doing an outline, although I’ve found that my first draft is actually a very long outline. Music, yeah, got to have music. But nothing with lyrics, too distracting. I like to hear the words in my head and often speak them aloud. Rhythm and flow is so important to my writing. I don’t like clunky sentences. But after 30 years of writing, all it takes to get me in the groove is sitting down and hitting those keys.

Q) Tell me about your personal publishing experience. What turned you onto the Kindle Direct Program?

A) Well, this is my first published book. It runs about 225,000 words. Agents and editors I contacted all said it was too big to take a chance on. One agent actually said books that big intimidated him. This surprised me because most fantasy books are real door-stoppers. So, after years of shopping it around I decided to serialize it and go with Amazon’s Kindle Direct program.

So far, I am very pleased. It’s selling better than I expected, and I still have two more books to go in the series. So, yeah, I’m very proud of Sleag’s Quest. I think I’ve got some really great covers, too. It’s the kind of book I would love to read.

Q) So what tempted you to come over and get interviewed by me? Did you see my previous work?

A) Yes. I’ve read several interviews. And of course I get your Facebook posts. I’ve always believed that books are the best, most fun, most interesting, most rewarding things anyone can buy. Everyone should be excited about books. Everyone should do all they can to help other writers. I used to work for Waldenbooks (15 years) and I loved turning people on to new writers and having them come back and buy more of the same. So, I really appreciate what you do. It’s a joy, pure joy to read about new writers.

Q) Talking of loving books! Who are your own favourite authors?

A) Long, long list all over the map. Starting with Dickens, Shakespeare, Jack London, Vern and Wells, and moving on to Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, Niven, Norse, Norton, Tolkien, of course, C.S. Lewis, and on and on. More recent: Scott Card, Rothfuss, and especially Scott Lynch. Lies of Locke Lamora is the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time. Oh, and let’s not forget Bradbury!

Q) So how do you feel about writing? Is it a creative need for you? Is it a way to make extra money? What drives you as a writer?

A) Definitely a need. Money is always nice. I’ve made more this past year than any other, mostly on short stories. By the way, I’ve got a Steampunk story coming out in Clockwork Fairytales from Tor in June. It’s a novella, and I’ve very proud of it. I’ve always loved reading, and to be able to write my own stories is wonderful.

Q) What do you personally think about paying for interviews on blogs? Recently, even I have come under fire for being paid to do this. Do you believe interviews should be free?

A) Everybody needs to make a living. When I was in college, I took a piano pedagogy class. It was all about teaching piano. The big thing, the first thing they emphasized was, “Your friends will want you to teach them how to play for free. Do not do it. They will not appreciate what you teach them and they will not practice.” If you worked for a big magazine and got paid for doing interviews it would be different. Somebody has to pay for your time and experience. That’s life. Nothing is free. Live your life and help others as much as you can. Nobody writes for free, at least nobody successful.

Q) What does it feel like to be a published author? Has it changed you in anyway?

A) It’s pretty great to go to a bookstore and see your book, or an anthology with your story, sitting on the shelf. And right now, having a thousand people reading my books is frankly unbelievable. I think it would have been better if it had all happened when I was much younger and could have enjoyed it like in a movie. But, hey, I’ll take it any way I can get it.

Still, it’s always about the next book or story, isn’t it? No matter how great the feeling is now at this moment, I still have so much more to write. Let me tell you a story. . . .

Check out the Sleag’s Quest series below!

returnofthewarrior - Copynegerasbog - Copy

lyndyschoice - Copybeheathcastlewalls

Stuart Yates is Back! Nick Wale Heralds the Return of Stuart Yates

This will be my third interview with Stuart Yates–a writer’s writer and a man who seems to have endless ideas for books. I was impressed with our last interview. Stuart is a writer and he writes almost every day. It matters not if he has sales, and over our conversations I have realised how wonderful it must be to just write for the joy of writing. When you see a guy like Stuart who has sometimes sold only one or two copies of a book, you wonder why he keeps doing it? He has his fans and he has a deep love for his work. He might be writing for a select audience, but those people sit up and love his work. That is the best part of anything– knowing that your work is appreciated by someone. I present to you my third outing with Stuart Yates.

Stuart Yates

Q) Tell me, have you enjoyed our interviews so far?

A) Yes, very much so.

Q) How many interviews have you done over your writing career?

A) About writing? Quite a few, but yours have been my favourites.

Q) You had an accident on your bike recently, right? Tell me what happened!

A) Ah…well…it was raining, very hard, and it hadn’t rained for a while, so the road was very slippery. I just lost control. Simple as that.

Q) How long till you recover?

A) Well…not sure. Perhaps a week. I’ve torn the ligaments in my arm, busted up both knees. Very painful, but I’m okay. Nothing is broken! My arm is in a sling, so it is hard to do very much at all, really.

Q) Have you managed to fit some writing time in?

A) Well, funnily enough, I had a sudden spurt of inspiration! So, yes, I’ve managed it, but very slowly with one finger of my right hand. My left one is incapacitated. I’m working on a new thriller, which is coming along very nicely. Once I start thinking of scenarios, it is difficult to stop.

Q) You’re a creative powerhouse!

A) A creative powerhouse? Well…when an idea takes hold, it does tend to take over.

Q) Tell me more about your latest thriller.

A) This one is set in the near future, when the world is massively over-populated. The sea-levels are rising and the politicians decide to take somewhat drastic action.

Q) What do they do?

A) They create a smoke screen– they get a real duffer of a policeman to investigate a murder, so that the world will focus in on that. Meanwhile, they put together an elaborate plan to end everybody’s problems. It’s a simple fact that in a generation the population of the planet will be 10 billion people and we cannot sustain those numbers! That’s the thread of the story. It’s not nice, and it has no happy ending– but it is good fun!

Q) How has the world changed since you started writing?

A) In so many ways! I used to type on an old Olivetti portable, using masses of correction fluid and carbon paper. I longed to be like Dashiel Hammett, writing well into the night! Then, of course, you send it away with return postage and wait for half a lifetime for it to be returned. Not like today, of course! Everything is so much faster! [The writing process is] still tinged with frustration and disappointment though. That much hasn’t changed! The rejection slips still mount up, only this time they are in the form of e-mails.

Q) How often do you get rejected?

A) A lot! I have written what I think is a wonderful story, and it has gone to maybe thirty agents, all of whom have rejected it. A publisher liked it, read it all, but decided not to go ahead because my hero was too weak. Poor man. So now my latest manuscript is with Harper Collins and some agents in the States. We will see.

Q) Have you been rejected by Harper Collins before?

A) Yes!!! Years and years ago, when you could submit directly to them. Nowadays, they won’t look at you without an agent, but late last year they threw open their doors to ‘open submissions’. They received 4500 of them!!! Mine hasn’t been rejected YET…

Q) What is so important about a signing with Harper Collins?

A) Because they are HUGE!!! They assign an editor to you, do the marketing, publicity, arrange interviews (wink wink) and press-releases. They are a major international publishing house and are fully equipped to take you forward in your career. When the opportunity came to submit, I simply had to. I had made some changes after the feedback from the publisher who had rejected me, so I feel it’s a better product. It is the first part of a trilogy. I’ve already written the second, and the third is planned.

Q) What would you deem a hit?

A) A hit? For me? Anything over ten copies sold makes me happy. I just got my royalty cheque for Burnt Offerings. I made a whopping five pounds!

Q) You’ve had a book that didn’t sell even one copy?

A) Yes!!! Of course. Death’s Dark Design has sold NIL and my trilogy of animal tales set on Alderney have sold NIL. Now I find that Interlopers From Hell, which I expected to do better, hasn’t sold a single copy. Do I care? Not really. You write for the love of it. Not for the royalty checks or the fame. I don’t worry! I am a published author and that’s what counts.

Q) How do you cope with such a lack of success?

A) How do I cope? What a question. I have a wonderful capacity to simply shut out bad vibes, bad news, setbacks, etc., unless, of course, they are personal. I simply just get on with the next one. What more can you do? They have been edited professionally, they are well produced, the covers are good… AND, the stories are good, too. So, I simply carry on.

Q) Do you ever get fan mail?

A) What is fan mail? I have had some lovely comments from people, yes. Some people have done reviews on my books, people I don’t know, and that is tremendous. I have seen people make comments about my blogs. Nobody then goes and buys a book. Well, not enough to make any kind of difference. I keep telling myself ‘this is the one’ after I have finished a book. So far, it isn’t!!! Still, what does it matter? I’ve thought about opening up a little Bed and Breakfast in northern France or working in a museum, telling visitors about the exhibits– anything to keep me going artistically. I could put some of my books on the counter.

I remember once I was at a fair here in Spain. I had a little stall with my books on and I was giving away bookmarks–really cool they were– however, they didn’t have my face on them, which is always a good selling point. I handed one to some guy and he looked at it and said, ‘No, I’m not interested.’ I smiled, ‘But you do read, don’t you, sir? You could use that, it’s absolutely free.’ ‘No’, he said, and gave it me back. I was so downhearted. I haven’t been there since– I’ve even tried to give my books away at work! Nobody wants them. Maybe three or four of the forty-odd staff have read my books, and they have all liked them. Two of them wrote stonking (that means “good” for the American readers) reviews on Amazon.

One girl loved the book I gave to her, and she wanted to read more, so she has. Another good friend has helped me with editing. She’s a brilliant teacher, and literacy is her strong point. But another I had to virtually beg to read it. It was FREE for crying out loud. She just looked at me and shook her head.

Q) Tell me Stuart, do you know that your work is good?

A) Yes, I know my work is good, even though I rarely admit to that. I’m naturally very modest. I hate putting myself forward, that is why I find all this marketing and promotion business so difficult!

People find that extraordinary when they find out about my background in acting. But, like I try to tell them, that was not ME up there on that stage. That was a character. Being ME is extremely difficult.

Q) Tell me about your acting career.

A) Well, I sort of stumbled into it really. I was unemployed – AGAIN – and went on a government sponsored scheme as a youth-worker in a local rep theatre. Wow, the people I met there. So talented! Outstanding musicians and actors. I had a great time. We used to go around local special schools and put on plays for the kids. It was brilliant. I used to help out in the theatre in the evenings and got into acting properly that way. I went down to London for an audition and I got in !!!

I’ve always wanted to be an actor, perhaps for longer than I’ve wanted to be a writer. I started up my own theatre group with some friends. We won lots of competitions. I was voted best actor twice in one of the most prestigious acting competitions on Merseyside. Then I went to university, and did Drama as part of my degree. All of that taught me a lot about good dialogue pacing, tension, all of that. It was a great time in my life and I still keep in touch with some of my old friends.

Q) So your acting indirectly shaped your writing?

A) Definitely! I was always very intuitive as an actor, and I am as a writer. I just go with it, I don’t think about it too much. Sometimes, thinking gets in the way. I’m like that as a teacher, too. I can’t be doing with following plans, even though in my writing I do have a very loose plan but, it is a plan that develops as the story unfolds.

Q) How would you describe your writing?

A) Pacey, spicey, with lots of twists

Q) Do you enjoy writing sex scenes?

A) Wow!!! Dear me…er…well…Mm, what do I say to that? Yes, in short! As long as they have place in the story, why not?

Q) Has writing sex scenes made you a better lover?

A) Er…mm…they’ve certainly made me more thoughtful. The research is great !!! I don’t want you to get the wrong idea! Hey, James Bond wouldn’t be who is is without all that spice!!! I don’t write erotica…just a little sprinkling of good, wholesome fun ! And besides, writing about vicious gangsters who blow people’s legs off hasn’t made me a better killer! I deal with story-making which is fiction and fantasy. None of it is real. Although I have met some pretty gruesome characters and they populate the pages of my books quite a lot!

Q) So what was the last great book you read?

A) The last ‘great’ book I read…I re-read Of Mice and Men just before Christmas, and it blew me away as usual. That is what I would class a ‘great’ book! The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas left me feeling dazed by its brilliance. I read that a few months ago and No Country for Old Men. Now there was a book and a half. Wow. I was in awe of that. I’ve read lots of others, but none that I would term ‘great’. At the moment, I’m reading about William II as part of the research for a historical novel I’ll be getting down to in the summer

Q) What’s this new historical novel called?

A) My book has a working title of ‘Arrow From the Mist’ or something like that, but that might change.

Q) What’s the historical book about?

A) William II was killed in a hunting ‘accident’ in the New Forest in 1100. He had become separated from the main group. He was found dead, with an arrow sticking out of him. The arrow belonged to a knight called Walter Tyrel who promptly disappeared. Henry, William’s brother, quickly seized the throne…and here’s the interesting bit! He never ordered any investigation into his brother’s death; Tyrel was allowed to leave the country, and his family were awarded top jobs in the government so, was it an accident, or was he murdered on the orders of his brother? It’s a real mystery, that will never be solved. BUT, my story puts a nice little twist on it because it wasn’t Tyrel OR Henry…it was somebody else…or maybe two people… or three… who knows!!! You’ll have to read it and see! I just can’t wait to start it!

With our interview over, I left Stuart to his work. He loves his work and it shows through with every ounce of his being. I think you will discover him one day. Perhaps today? You will go and pick up a Stuart G. Yates novel and read until you are satisfied. Stuart will be satisfied, too– he will have gained another new reader. Adios till we meet again!

Stu YatesSee my other inerviews with Mr Yates here and here!

Don Keith– Putting His Own Spin on the World of Publishing

What can I say about Don Keith that hasn’t already been said a million times? Best-selling author, blogger, radio disc jockey, happy guy who just loves his work. I had been looking forward to this one for a long time. I met him through my travels and I knew he would make a great interview for “Novel Ideas.” Sometimes you just have an itch that tells you who would come across well. Don made me itch like crazy (in a good way!) When we first met, he spent time advising me about interviews and approaching authors. In a world full of huge egos, it was refreshing to meet a genuine great guy such as Mr Keith. I present the man who writes best-sellers to you now in my own golden spotlight.

don keith

Q) Hi, Don! Let me start by asking you to tell me how you got into writing?

A) I’ve wanted to tell stories on paper since I was a kid and published my own short stories for people in my neighborhood. All six of them! But I was working with a company that produced software for broadcasters and ad agencies and that put me on the road with a laptop computer. In hotel rooms at night, I could either watch TV, hang out in the bar downstairs, or finally start that novel that was rattling around in my head. I chose the novel. I used some chicanery to get in touch with a literary agent who promptly turned down the novel, but he said I could write and to submit anything else I produced to him. I did–another novel–which he promptly rejected, but urged me to keep trying. The third novel was sold in two days to St. Martins’ Press and I have kept writing since, 26 published works later!

Q) What happened to those first two novels? Did you get them published in the end?

A) The first still languishes on a floppy disk somewhere and, honestly, it is pretty bad. The second one became my second published novel, Wizard of the Wind, after I took what I learned from the editing process of the first one, The Forever Season, and did a major re-write. Lesson learned. Be honest when you go back and look at what you have written. Get input from trusted sources. If you see what you did is not very good, move on. But if there is still something there with which you can work, mold it and shape it and see if you can make it better.

wizard of wind

Q) So your experience would suggest that being turned down is remedied by trying again. Would you agree with that?

A) I admit it is never easy when someone tells you that your baby is ugly, but you must be honest with yourself first. On the other hand, wonderful manuscripts are rejected every day by agents and publishers for reasons not often understood by the writer. If you are confident your work is valued, has a potential readership, and can make money for a publishing house, keep pitching. And work on the next book while you do. An author may have the next Harry Potter franchise or To Kill a Mockingbird, but if an agent does not have a relationship with an editor/publisher who is looking for that kind of material, he or she will be reluctant to represent the work. An agent who sends material to an editor blindly or without knowing if that editor is interested in seeing such material will not be an agent long!

Q) So what happened when you finally got published? It is oft said that a book can turn you into a millionaire overnight. Did you earn a fortune overnight?

A) Everlasting fame and wealth! Not hardly. First, if a writer is writing to get rich, he or she is in for a real disappointment. If one is able to make a living writing books, wonderful, but the odds are stacked against it. Write to tell a story, introduce readers to interesting characters, and affect them emotionally. Then, if you are fortunate enough to make money at it, wonderful! As you can imagine, I get many questions like this from would-be authors, so I have a section on my web site at http://www.donkeith.com that deals with this very subject. Just click on the “On Writing” tab. I’ve also expanded that section and published it as an ebook called “Writing to be Published…and Read.”

Q) I’ve read “Writing to be Published” and enjoyed it immensely. You come across as a really friendly guy. Do you try to help all young writers who come to you for help?

A) As much as I can. I had some very kind and patient authors give me hope and advice early on and I like to pay it forward. I do get a little perturbed with those who want the book to write itself, or who want to take an idea or some characters, dash out some words, and try to sell it and let an editor “fix” it. Writing is work. Stories have to be told. Life has to be breathed into characters. If a person is lazy or is looking for shortcuts, sorry. There are none, unless you are famous or write pornography, or both.

Q) I totally agree that you have to put back what you take and learn the trade. It’s a trade that takes time to master or at least partially master. Can you tell me what Wizard of the Wind is about?

A) That book has just been republished, by the way, after being out of print for a while. It tells the story of a young man who is fascinated by the magic of radio broadcasting and the new music he hears on the radio in the 1950s. He accidentally becomes a disk jockey and rides the growth of radio’s second “golden age” to the top, eventually building his own broadcasting empire, but through greed, he loses sight of the magic of the medium that first captured his imagination and almost loses it all, along with those he loves the most. It is a metaphor for what has happened in radio broadcasting here in the US in the past thirty years, told by someone who has been there. I worked in radio for twenty-two years, then in marketing and advertising for the next twenty-five.

Q) You were a disc jockey? Coming from the South you must have spun a whole load of Elvis discs in your time.

A) Yes, and Otis Redding, Hank Williams, Allman Brothers, Beatles, Stones…lots and lots of discs. I have actually co-written a series of novellas with Elvis’s first cousin, Edie Hand. And had the pleasure of doing country-music radio from a station on Music Row in Nashville. I had guests on my show from Barbara Mandrell to Ronnie Milsap, Marty Robbins to the Oak Ridge Boys. But I’m name-dropping! I was just as thrilled to do a book with Captain William Anderson, who took the submarine USS Nautilus to the North Pole in 1958. And another couple of novels with a former sub skipper who helped develop SEAL operational tactics…and one of those will soon be a major motion picture. The director is the same fellow who directed Denzel Washington in his Academy Award-winning role in “Training Day.” See, I can drop some names!

Q) Did you ever spend time any of those country singers?

A) I met and interviewed most of them. I had dinner with Reba McEntire and she sang me a verse and a chorus of a song she had recorded that day. It became her first number one song. Ronnie Milsap brought over a tape of a song he had just cut and asked if I would play it on the radio so they could see how it sounded over the air. I did. It was “Record of the Year” that year. Barbara Mandrell called me at 6:30 the morning after she was named “Entertainer of the Year” and we did an interview while she put on her makeup.

Q) What was it like working with Marty Robbins?

A) Marty showed up that evening with a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers, and we enjoyed while doing the interview. Afterwards, he asked if I minded dropping him off at his bus. They were leaving for a tour. It was on that tour that he suffered the heart attack that eventually took him from us. “El Paso” is one of the great story-songs of all time and would have made a great novel or western movie.

Q) I agree about Marty Robins. “Gunfighter Songs and Trail Ballads” was always one of my favourite records. How about Jerry Lee Lewis? Did he ever turn up on your travels?

A) No, but I put him in Wizard of the Wind in a key scene. I wanted to represent the anarchy of rock and roll and how it was so powerful in reaching to the very soul of young people during that time. He was the perfect symbol.

Q) Jerry is certainly something else. How about Johnny Cash? Did you ever meet him?

A) Yes. His brother-in-law worked for me at the radio station. So did Hank Williams’s step-daughter and Hank Williams Jr.’s step-sister. In fact, when I first moved to Nashville, I lived for a while in Hank Williams’s home. The radio station’s owner had bought the mansion, complete with a wrought-iron fence around the pool that featured the musical notes to “Your Cheatin’ Heart” to the bullet holes Hank had put in the living room ceiling while inebriated. But there I go, dropping names again.

Q) I’m a huge Hank Williams fan. When I was nine or ten, my math tutor had every Hank recording. The LPs, EP’s– everything! I love everything he recorded. What’s your favourite Hank song?

A) Hank was one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. Listen to the lyrics of “I’m so Lonesome I Could Die.” Can’t believe I swam in his pool and visited the studio where he recorded many of his songs.

Q) Don, what’s your latest release called?

A) There are actually THREE new ones. Final Bearing is the submarine thriller co-written with Commander George Wallace, and the book that will be a major motion picture, hopefully in early 2014. The second is Undersea Warrior, the true story of one of the most innovative and controversial submarine commanders of WWII, Dudley “Mush” Morton, which is approaching bestseller status and is now a featured selection of The History Book Club and The Military Book Club. Third is The Spin, a novel I wrote a while back and have now published myself. It is so unique and, unlike most other books these days that have not gotten much interest from the major houses, I’ve offered it myself on all bookselling sites. It tells the story of a man at such a low point in his life that he decides to make one last, desperate gamble–putting everything he has left on one spin of the roulette wheel at a Las Vegas casino. When word gets out about what he is going to do, thousands of others join his quest, and that foolish risk becomes so much more to so many. It’s funny, tragic, moving and, I hope, inspirational. As I did with my novels, sometimes we have to step outside our comfort zones, take some risks, and listen to our hearts instead of our heads.

Q) I really want to read The Spin. It sounds like a great read. How are people reacting to it?

A) Wonderful reader reviews so far. I’m just beginning to promote it, and that is what is so difficult for so many authors. That’s why someone like you is a godsend because you can make others aware of books that may not come from the major publishers. I’ve been fortunate enough to be published by the biggest–St. Martins’, Tor/Forge, Penguin, Thomas Nelson–and want to continue to do so, but there are other options now, too, with Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, PubIt, and others. The publishing world is evolving at the speed of light!

the spin

Q) Well, I am happy to plug your books, Don! That’s my job! Where can people get The Spin?

A) You can visit my web site: http://www.donkeith.com, or simply search for me on Amazon.com and visit my author page there. I write books on subjects that I enjoy reading about. I can only hope there are enough people out there with similar interests to enable me to continue doing so. I have myriad stories to tell and a million characters I’d like to introduce you to.

Q) Anytime you’d like another interview I’m happy to do so!

A) You let me talk and expose my ego. What else could an interviewee ask?

Follow Don’s work through his author’s page on Facebook.

How did Don strike me? He struck me as a man who enjoys communicating, whether on the pages of his books or over a flaky internet connection, his warmth shines through. I will be interviewing him again. I’m sure of that. I just hope we have more time next time we meet. Adios, Don! It was a fun way to spend an hour!

Boyd Lemon Makes Sweet Lemonade– An Interview With Nick Wale

The truth is a state of mind. Boyd Lemon has been interviewed many times before and I could have just asked the same stale old questions about his life. I knew I had to do something different and I had to ask questions that would give you an insight into the man. So, who is Boyd Lemon? Well, there are several Boyd Lemons. The first is the nationally recognised lawyer who lived the excessive lifestyle of the seventies to its fullest. The second is the writer, the man who sits in a coffee shop, tapping away at a new manuscript, deep in thought. The third is a family man who adores his children and grandchildren. The fourth Boyd is one who paints and paints until his heart is content. The fifth is the world traveller who has been to lands far flung around the world. Boyd is as multi-faceted as any human being can be. I tried to ask the questions that would give me the answers to the questions his biography asked me.

 

As a writer, Boyd has written a biography called “Digging Deep” that tells a revealing tale about the failure of his three marriages. Additionally, he has written travel memoirs and short stories. He is currently working on a fiction book. The interview happened as follows:

Boyd L

Q) Hi, Boyd, I’m pleased to meet you. So why did you become an author? With such an illustrious career as a lawyer behind you, what drove you to become a writer?

A) I never felt fulfilled as a lawyer, despite forty years of practicing law–sad but true–so I knew I had to retire as soon as I was financially able. I really wanted to do something fulfilling, but I didn’t know what that could be. Then, when I was sixty-five, a publisher asked me to write a law book on the subject of malpractice by attorneys. I wrote that book, and it was published in 2006. I enjoyed the writing and publication process, but I knew I wanted to write something outside of legal topics. A writer friend of mine suggested I try writing short fiction. I told her that I didn’t think I had any creative ability, and she said, “Baloney, everyone has creative ability; it is just a matter of developing it.” So I took a stab at it and wrote a short story, and then another one and another one, and so on. Eventually, I was hooked on writing. I knew what I had to do in retirement.

Q) So you write to fulfil yourself and to live your dream. Do sales matter to you? Do you worry about the next royalty check?

A) I invested my savings and cut back on my lifestyle so that I had enough income, along with Social Security, to live the modest way that I wanted. I learned that I didn’t need a big house, a fancy car, etc. So I am in the envious position of not needing to earn a living from writing. I love that I can write whatever I want without regard to whether it will bring in a paycheck. The only reason I care at all about sales is that I do want people to read what I write and hopefully benefit from it in some way, so I have to sell books.
boyd

Q) Of all your books, the one that stood out to me loudest was “Digging Deep.” I thought it took great courage to analyse yourself in that way. What was the writing experience like? You must have learnt so much about yourself.

A) Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages is still the book that has meant the most to me. To try to understand my role in the destruction of my three marriages was excruciatingly painful emotionally. I learned a lot of things about myself that I did not particularly like. However, in the end it was tremendously healing. I had no idea how damaging it was to hold all that in under the surface. The process of writing the book brought me a peace that I had not known, and, I believe, has helped people understand themselves and their spouses or ex-spouses or partners better. I am not the only one that had the faults and human frailties that I uncovered about myself.

Q) How have readers taken to that book?

A) I have had a lot of varied reactions. Many people have told me that it helped them understand things about their own relationships that they were not aware of. Some people chastised me for disclosing private information about my ex-wives, especially acquaintances who knew one or more of my ex-wives. I received a lot of compliments for having the courage to open up and expose myself and my human weaknesses and issues. Virtually all people praised the quality and depth of my writing, except for one guy who, when I had a special promotion of the e-book for a limited time for 99 cents, wrote on Barnes and Noble that it wasn’t worth 99 cents. Oh well. Fortunately, he was in the small minority.

Q) You can’t please everyone in this world. So changing the tempo, tell me about your book “Eat, Walk, Write: An American Senior’s Year of Adventure in Paris and Tuscany.” You sound like a guy who loves culture and travel.

Eat-Walk-Write

A) Travel is my second passion, something I have known for many years, but was not able to pursue (except for business trips) until I retired. By 2010 I had been to Paris twice for short periods, and I loved the art, history and architecture there, as well as the café culture. People actually talk to each other in Paris–endlessly, it seems. So I decided to move to Paris, originally, I thought for two years. I ended up staying a year, and I lived in a working class neighborhood away from the tourist areas, although I visited the tourists areas. There were challenges, to say the least– the primary one being the language. I did not speak a word of French when I got there, and I found it a very difficult language for a seventy year-old to learn. Dealing with the French bureaucracy as a resident alien was also difficult, was finding an apartment, opening a bank account, etc. But all of that was superseded by the magic and glory that is Paris. it was the experience of a lifetime. I kept a journal daily, and when I got home to California, I decided to turn it into a book. I miss Paris.

Q) If you could live anywhere in the world, would you choose Paris?

A) That is a tough question. My answer is, no, but I can’t think of any single place that I would want to live indefinitely. That is probably why in the past six years I have lived in California, Boston, Paris and now rural southeast Georgia.

Q) Tell me about Boyd Lemon the man. What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies, interests, etc.

A) Well, we have covered some of it. I love to travel, and not just to far away places. I enjoy St. Augustine, Florida, which is about an hour and a half drive from my home. Next month I’ll spend a few days in Savannah, Georgia, about the same distance in the other direction. I love to explore new places, learn about the history of different areas of the this country and the world. For example, I learned that St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S., settled in 1540. I love good food and wine, and I emphasize that it doesn’t have to be expensive food. There are some places around here that serve amazing catfish and hush puppies. I am a fanatic baseball fan and always have been, a long suffering Dodger fan. Last summer my best friend and I took an eleven stadium baseball tour across the country starting in Anaheim, California and ending in Atlanta, Georgia. We saw eleven major league baseball games in sixteen days. I also love and am close to my four children and four grandchildren.

Q) Would be right to describe you as a family man, then?

A) I think so, despite the fact that I didn’t make a success of my marriages. I have always been close to my children, especially as they became teenagers and adults and had the freedom to make their own choices.

Q) So how do you write? What is the writing process for you? Do you write in silence? With music? Long periods of writing? How does Boyd Lemon write?

A) I write some almost every day, although it can vary from a half hour to six hours–generally around three, I would say. I find that I write best and most enjoyably if I vary the places where I write. Sometimes I write at my desk at home, but I also write in cafés, parks when the weather allows, libraries occasionally, planes and trains. I do not need silence, as long as something interesting to me is not going on, like a baseball game on TV. I do not play music while I write, because I like to be listening to music when it is playing, and I can’t write and listen at the same time. But I can write in a crowded, noisy café and just tune out the noise. The main thing is that I need to vary the place. I can’t just stay holed up at home for a long time, day after day. I have been known to get on a train, ride it for a few hours, stop and turn around and ride it back home.

Q) You strike me as a jazz fan, Boyd. Am I right?

A) Ha! Yes, jazz, folk and classical, even a little blue grass when I’m in the mood.

Q) I knew it! I grew up with bluegrass– Bill Monroe should be known better.

A) Oh, yes, absolutely. Around “these parts,” as they say here in Georgia, he is.

Q) The closest the English really get to country music is some of the Elvis stuff and Slim Whitman.

A) Yes, I am not very familiar with English music, except, of course, the pop from the ’60s and ’70’s and the later punk, etc. One of my favorite country singers is an unknown that I just happened to meet. She is from Denmark– Jessica Lynne.

Q) I will check her out! Anyway, I digress– you write fiction, too, am I right? Tell me about your fiction work.

A) So far the only fiction I have written is short, and I have published a book of ten of my short stories, and a small book of five. Several have been published in small literary magazines. My short stories tend to be about relationships, family and otherwise, and the conflicts that occur, as well as the challenges that life brings to us all. After a few short stories, I really wanted to write a novel, but felt that I wasn’t ready yet, so that is when I wrote Digging Deep. But now I am ready, and I just started on a novel two weeks ago. I’m having a lot of fun with it so far. I love writing the first draft; it is so thrilling to just let it flow, let my imagination run wild. The comes the editing process, which as it moves along gets more and more tedious. I hate proofreading, but it has to be done.

games-boyd-lemon-paperback-cover-art

Q) You do the whole process yourself? Most writers use proofreaders and editors. I’m surprised you go through the pain.

A) I use editors and proofreaders, too. I think it is a necessity to have a polished product, but I want it to be the absolute best I can make it before I submit it to somebody else, because I think that gives the work the best chance of being something worthwhile. Why should I submit something less than my best to somebody else?

Q) I agree, that’s a very responsible attitude. I must admit, Boyd, you have won a new fan here. So tell me, who are your favourite authors?

A) Oh, that is really a difficult one. There are so many. I will name a few, but understand I am leaving out many. Hemingway, McMurtry, Marilynne Robinson, Wally Lamb, Tolstoy, John Irving, Stephen King, James Baldwin, Austin, Vivian Gornick, to name a few. And I’m showing my provincialism. Most are Americans. I should have included the Brit, Franzen. He is wonderful.

Q) If you had to pick one of your books for a reader who didn’t know your work, which would it be?

A) Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages, unless a reader just has no interest in the subject matter of marriage and divorce. Then, Eat, Walk, Write. Of course, the Retirement book is directed toward a specific audience, people who are near or in retirement.

Q) Any last words you’d like to say before we wrap up?

A) Well, first thank you for an interesting interview. I really enjoyed it, and you asked more than just the standard questions. And I want to say to readers that my greatest reward as a writer is that the reader is learning something helpful to him or her from my books. That is what I have in mind when I am going through the writing process. Finally, for other writers: I know it is a struggle, and it is highly unlikely that you will become rich and famous, but keep at it; just grab that pen and notebook or computer, and sit down and write every chance that you get. It is a noble undertaking, in my opinion. We, as human beings, are the only species who can write.

Boyd Lemon

So what do I think of Mr Boyd Lemon? Well I think he is a genuine and decent man who has uncovered much truth about himself and exposed it to the world. He loves his new careers and his family and as Mr James Fant said to me the other day, “Love’s alright. Isn’t it?” Yes, I would say it is.

Links to Boyd Lemon:

Check out Boyds Amazon Author Page for more information regarding his work.

For excerpts, reviews, interviews and information about all of Boyds books see the official website here.

Boyd Lemon on Facebook

Boyd Lemon Facebook Fan Page

Follow Boyd onTwitter

Email Boyd directly at: Boyd (@) BoydLemon-Writer.com

Playwright Jerry Rabushka Spills the Beans About His New Book

Jerry Rabushka is another of those guys I came across quite by accident. I was looking for new people to interview, as always. I saw a posting from him about his new book Star Bryan. What did I do next? I messaged him, of course, and asked him over to “Novel Ideas” for an interview with yours truly. Little did I know that Jerry is a well read and received playwright who has worked on numerous articles for his own magazines “The Paint Dealer” and “The Paint Contractor”. Then, I discovered that Jerry is also an accomplished musician with his own band. So what did we talk about? Cast your eyes downwards to see all revealed.

A Portrait of Jerry by Brett Steen

Jerry- Courtesy of Brett Steen

Q) Nice to meet you, Jerry. So tell me a bit about yourself.

A) Well, let’s see… I’m 52, I live in St. Louis, MO, and always have. In “real life,” I’m a magazine editor. I’ve written lots of plays, a few novels, I’m a pianist, composer/songwriter, etc. I have lots of published plays that are put on all over USA and sometimes abroad. Anything else?

Q) What’s the name of your magazine?

A) We have two, The Paint Dealer and The Paint Contractor. They are both trade magazines– one for independent paint retailers and one for professional painters. I’ve been at this job for twenty years

Q) You’re a talented guy. Would you agree with that statement?

A) Well, I like to think so.

Q) What would you name as your greatest achievement?

A) I don’t know, I was just thinking about that. I tend to be an overachiever. I think getting this book published was pretty cool, plus perhaps creating a body of over one hundred plays adds up to something useful.

Q) Can you name some of your best known plays? Some have stretched over the ocean to make it to the UK, right?

A) I think my most produced are “Lotto Date,” “Seeking Asylum” and “Jack, The Beanstalk, and Social Services.” I wrote a play called “Cinderella and the Birkenstocks” that was put on in Falkirk, Scotland by the Big Bad Wolf Children’s theater, it looks like it was quite a show! They usually do Disney type plays so I was honored to be in that mix

Q) Have you ever travelled to the UK?

A) Nope… but I’ve been to 49 states and a few provinces in Canada.

Q) Detroit?

A) Not in a while, but yep– well, the Metro area, I guess.

Q) Do you think Detroit deserves its reputation as the most dangerous city in the USA?

A) Well, I know it has lots of problems, but then again, St. Louis is usually rated #3 [most dangerous city] and I live here, and it all depends where you go. I’m sure there’s parts of both cities you’d want to avoid and parts that are really nice. There is a sense that Detroit needs to “start over.”

Q) It’s been said that the police are slowly turning the tide and cleaning the city up– would you place credence in that statement?

A) just from what I’ve read, yep. A lot of cities in the Midwest have declined and there’s a move to bring back central cities rather than expand any farther out

Q) Allentown, PA is another example of a declining city. Have you visited?

A) Nope, but just yesterday I heard a step-relative was planning a wedding there. Because of my job, I would visit paint stores all over America, so I’ve been to big and small cities and there’s cool things about both. I guess it’s natural that certain cities grow and others shrink, and every place can’t be at its zenith at once.

Q)Would you say, as a writer, you are at your zenith right now?

A) Hee hee.. Actually, I think I am much improved. I’m finding a new style lately. I like to think that in creative things like writing and music, that people get better as they get older due to the experience of doing it, and just having lived longer and knowing more things.

Q) So if you could give one piece of advice to your twenty year-old self, what would it be?

A) “Be patient” plus look for support and advice from people who are more experienced because you don’t know it all. Sometimes people will do more to discourage you than anything, and you need to be strong enough to believe in yourself and tell them to shove off.

Q) Have you ever felt as though you weren’t making enough progress with your written work?

A) There was a time I wrote a LOT of plays quickly, and I felt they were suffering in quality, so I stopped for a bit just to kind of recoup. I was lucky in that I found a publisher who really likes my plays and has encouraged me to write a lot. Yep, I guess I’m frustrated sometimes. I wish i was a “bigger name” than I am. I guess a lot of us do.

Q) So how did you start writing? What starting that ball rolling?

A) I used to write little stories even when I was six years old– just always did it. Once, I showed a short story to an English teacher, and she suggested it could be a play, and while I’d written a few plays at that time, that kind of got me more into playwriting, too.

I wrote a novel at seventeen; I guess that was my first “big thing” and I’m thinking of rewriting it now.

Q) Have you looked back and thought, “Yeah, I can make this better” or do you just like tinkering with work?

A) Sometimes you look at old stuff and go “eeewww why did I ever think that was any good?” With that particular novel I think there’s a lot of good in it, but it needs to have some better overall writing. The trick is, can I keep the same perspective thirty-five years later?

However, I think you need to write a lot that might not be so good, and just learn the craft so it’s not wasted time at all.

Q) So your advice to a young writer unsure of their work would be…?

A) Keep writing, plus perhaps find someone who is supportive and not cruel. No one needs to hear “this sucks” so much as “here’s how you might improve this.”

Also, read… I’ve been reading some classic novels and I can see how every sentence is constructed with care and thought, not just slapped together, and why these people are considered masters.

Green Fence

From a production of Green Fence – one of Jerry’s plays

Q) I imagine before you agreed to this interview you checked out my work. What did you think? Did a particular interview help you decide to be interviewed by me?

A) It was that it looked professional, and I didn’t feel I’d have anything to fear about being part of something half-assed. I interview people all the time for work, and I like to pride myself on getting their points of view across, which is why they’ll talk to me repeatedly.

Q) I agree– I try to get that feel into my work. I want my readers to know you as a writer. I must admit it’s a great thing for me working with a pro like yourself.

A) Aww, thanks. I feel lucky I make a living as a writer even if it’s about paint mostly, it’s still writing. Yay!

Q) Same here, we’ve all got to eat!

A) Yep… I like to eat. Too much sometimes, but who doesn’t like a good pancake?

Q) Do you guys have pancake day in the States?

A) Not that I know of, but we should. Besides, every day is pancake day.

I wrote a play where pancakes featured prominently.

Q) You did? What was it called? I need to read that one!

A) It’s “Woof! The Road Show” about a couple guys taking a “gay romance” play on the road. There’s a scene about “I love your pancakes almost as much as I love you.”

Q) I’d love to see it. Would you say your plays and books touch upon taboo subjects?

A) Many of them do, yep. I can run the gamut from clean enough for grandma to dirty enough for your other grandma.

Q) (laughs) That brings me to your latest novel. What’s it called and could you tell my readers what it’s about?

A) It’s called “Star Bryan,” which is the name of the main character. In the tradition of books like “Moll Flanders” and “Joseph Andrews” I thought it was a cool title. Essentially, Star leaves a bad relationship and spends the book trying to “find himself,” dealing with ex-boyfriends, current boyfriend, and other hangers on… plus coming to terms that his family might not be as loving and supportive as he used to think.

It’s hard to put 236 pages into a sentence, but there’s a good synopsis on the publishers website.

For me, Star’s problem is he tries to solve everyone else’s problems, and creates more for himself as well as the people he tries to “fix.”

Q) He’s a good guy essentially?

A) He’s a good guy who makes mistakes and has a problem saying “no” when sexual opportunity comes his way and he should run the other way.

Q) I understand your book deals with the black gay scene, correct? How have people taken to your work so far?

A) Yep… almost all the characters are black. Not sure I’d say it’s about “a scene” but perhaps so. The folks who have read it seemed to like it, they like the characters in it, particularly Star’s sister Arielle. People who aren’t black and gay are enjoying it, too; it’s not like you have to BE the character to like the book.

Q) Exactly, Jerry. So, do you believe this could be a groundbreaking book?

A) Well, I’d like to think so. I know there aren’t a ton of books about this particular topic but there are a lot if you look for them. I think what I’m good at is translating a “gay experience” to real life so that anyone can be comfy reading it. However, on the other hand, I‘ve never really seen a book quite like this but since I read older writing, that would make sense.

Q) I’ve read excerpts from this book. Would you agree with me that the book is suitable for the general readers out there? It’s not specialised.

A) I think so. There’s not a lot of “inside jokes” or anything. I think anyone can relate to the idea of just trying to put your life back together and trying to figure out “who you are.” Actually, to me, one of the cool parts of the book is the whole family dynamic in how he related to mom, dad, sis, etc.

Q) Do you think the whole “gay” stigma has become much reduced in recent years?

A) totally. Not everywhere, but I think it’s less unique. When I started writing gay characters in the ’80s, it was a way bigger deal than it is now. Since I’m gay, it’s where my heart is in writing about someone, as far as I can “feel” him. I think for me, character is more important than plot, though obviously you need a good story or no one will care.

Q) You know, Jerry, I spent much of my teenage life around a guy who was gay and it really taught me a lot about life itself. Being gay was shunned in the small village I grew up in, yet this guy was almost like a father to me. I have never in my life understood why anyone would choose to be “homophobic.”

A) I think it’s taught, obviously, plus people who don’t have a problem with gay people are afraid to say so, because others will just scorn and ostracize them.

Q) Yes, I found that in school quite a bit. People found out my mother’s best friend was “gay” and suddenly people would ignore me or whatever. I think it’s important that we have books like yours to get people out of their small minds and learn to be open-minded and accepting.

A) Well, yep, it should be obvious that gay people are “just like everyone else” but it’s not, because so many people educated their community that we are horrible and perverted, etc. It makes gay folks feel like they are, if that’s all they hear. In the book, I tried to avoid a lot of that but, of course, Star has to deal with problems of prejudice, both in and out of his family.

Q) Do you think it’s important for young gay people to be open and to stand up and say “Yes, I’m gay. Get over yourselves, haters!”

A) More or less, yep. Though if coming out would endanger your life, then perhaps you should wait for better circumstances. But on the whole, you shouldn’t make being gay “your problem.”

Q) I’ve got to tell you, Jerry, I like your book a lot. When will it be available to buy?

A) Thanks, very much! It’s available now online, at Amazon and from the publisher directly at Rebel Satori Press.

Q) Thanks, Jerry. I’ve really enjoyed this interview and I hope your book is a huge success!

I left this interview knowing that this would be an interesting article. Sometimes guys you just have to send a random email to a random person to find a gem. This was certainly a gem.

star bryanLinks for Jerry Rabushka:

Many of his plays are available at:
Get a copy of the wonderful Star Bryan novel here: UK  USA
Check out Jerry’s band The Ragged Blade Band through these links!

Irving Unleashed… A Revealing Conversation with Terry Irving

The last time I met with Mr Terry Irving we spent a lot of time talking about his career. This time I had a lot of mail from people asking to know more about the man. Let me take you to a cold winter evening in 2012. Terry was busy– but anxious to get the interview started. The tape rolls as follows…

 

terry Irving 3I’mm Baa-aack. All ready to do an interview with you, Nick.

Q) Hey Terry–ready to start?

A) Sure– oddly enough, I have another interview scheduled with IPTV Magazine – don’t know why.

Q) Okay, so let me ask you– did you enjoy the first interview we conducted?

A) I LOVED it– oh have we started?

(I knew from this start that Terry was in a good mood– jovial and Terry Irving go well together.)

Q) Yes, but I’ll keep that in– just for my ego.

A) Well, then let’s forge on into the verbal wilderness.

Q) I loved it, too– so what should we talk about?

A) How about my effing book (to use Terry Prachett’s words)?

(I was bent over doubled up laughing by this point.)

Q) Your effing book? Fine– so what do you like about your effing book?

A) I have a new review blurb: “An action-packed, entertaining, and thought-provoking story appropriate for a wide audience.” Of course, it’s from the editor at Createspace, and I would suspect they don’t usually tell their authors that their novel is the worst thing they’ve read since Terry Southern’s last effort.

Q) You can’t trust an editor or journalist, Terry. Hasn’t working with me told you that?

A) No, but I’ve never trusted you.

Q) Why? (I said, falling for the joke.)

A) In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Trust but Verify”, or as Jimmy Carter said when he landed in Poland, “I would like to have carnal love with all of you.” That last was a translator’s error.

Q) Well, I’m glad you verify my work– if you didn’t I’d be worried! Seriously, so how many people do you have working on your book? What do they do? Do you have a team?

A) In full disclosure, in the other book I’m currently writing – The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment – I have a long section on the depression that affects the unemployed. To test out my theories on the subject, I woke up at 3am worrying about, well, everything. Then, I was too tired to write and too awake to sleep, so I wasted a couple of hours worrying about the unfixable.

To make a long story slightly less boring, my head feels like it’s filled with bees and I have the attention span and the vocabulary of a newborneinfant. I want the reading public to know this and protest your inhumane practices. PAYING THE BILLS worries me the most. Now, this is an interesting little chat-up between old boffins, but we should get to the meat of the matter and talk about the bloody book. Is it boffins or Gaffers?

Q) I prefer broke-ass writers.

A) Mates?

Q) Mates!

A) Onwards

Q) To victory

A) Ask a question about the book.

Q) So, about your book, Courier, Terry– how do you feel about it? Would you buy it?

A) I never set out to write Great Literature. I wanted a book that would be sitting in a bookstore at an airport and you would pick it up and go, “Hmmm. Looks okay. Should get me through the flight to LA.” It became a bit more complex than that, but basically I managed to stay away from complex ideas and literary merit.

Q) Is it all about telling a tale then? All about entertaining people?

A) I think so. Or at least that’s generally the sort of book I read. Sometimes I’m amazed when I realize that I’ve read all these serious tomes about War and Politics and the War of the Roses and whatever because I never intend to.I want to be Lee Child. That guy has what appears to be an effortless ability to force the reader – not force, entice would be better – to read on and on. I know it’s not just luck but a lot of hard work, but that’s what I’d like to be able to do. Write so that the reader forgets it’s a book so that afterwards, they simply remember the scene or the action and aren’t really sure if it was a book, a tv show or a movie.

Q) Of course, you see your book as a movie too, right?

A) Yes, my background is writing for television so the pictures are always in my mind as I write. The characters are usually talking in the background as well so it can get pretty complex in there. One of the areas I see as a weakness is that I have a fairly blunt style of writing – again from the stripped language of TV news where every word has to earn its place into a script – and I don’t put in enough descriptive sentences. I had my character crash off his motorcycle and scrape along the pavement for about a paragraph. Dennis LeHane has his guy go through a windshield and the description goes on for two pages. AND it’s brilliant.

Q) How about Stephen King? Does he grab you as an author?

A) Stephen King. Does anyone like Stephen King? Stephen King and Terry Goodkind should be placed in a box and separated from the rest of the world. Oh, along with Robert Jordan.

Q) I take it you don’t share the opinion that they are literary greats?

A) No. they are fairly smart hacks who just write endless pages of endless copy with no point, no beauty and no reason for existence. Not that I’m being critical, mind you. I once bought a Stephen Kingbook on tape to keep me awake on a straight-through drive to Florida, and I ended up smashing it on the ground somewhere in mid-Georgia. Later, I read that he had based the entire 20 book series on the line “To the Black Tower, Childe Harold rode.” Sadly, King is also very smart and inventive and, I suppose, scary and lots of people like him so I’m not going to be too critical. Those who like him love him, and if they read the books then that’s great!

Q) Who would you call a great writer?

A) Great writer? Dashiel Hammett, Edgar Allen Poe, Lord Dunsany, H.P. Lovecraft who invented the Chulthu Mythos, Tolkien– writers who created entire new areas of literature. Tolkien’s world was a brilliant invention that took almost nothing from previous writers. No one has done it better since. ‘Continental Op’ is one of the best books ever. Hammett invents the entire private eye, noire, entirely American theme of the lone man with a code of honour.

Q) How about Chandler? Great writer?

A) Chandler? A good writer – not a great one. I mean, you can only have so many Great Writers or you start to debase the currency. I’m happy if I can find an OK writer to read. Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Jules Verne, those are some of the better writers.

Q) (John) Steinbeck?

A) Steinbeck? Ehh. Yes, he was great but … everyone knows that already and Dos Passos was a lot more fun. Pynchon was great until he began to write in code.

Q) Who would you call the worst writer you’ve read?

A) The worst writer. You mean, besides a significant number of the authors I see online these days? I would have to say Terry Goodkind, otherwise. Derivative, uninteresting, lousy descriptions, unreal conversations – of course, I made all these decisions from reading about 20 pages of one book. My other pet hatred are the writers who sell off their worlds to other writers– usually without warning you. They should be given a sound thrashing and sent to bed with out rice pudding.

Q) So you don’t much care for the self-published author?

A) I really don’t know enough about the entire self-publishing world. That was one of my ponderings last night. I know there are some real dogs out there but that’s probably true in any field. I suspect that there are some excellent authors in the self-pub area but I also suspect that the big publishing houses are watching and picking off the ones that don’t suck. My problem is that I really don’t understand this new paradigm of publishing at all. I can’t understand “books” that run 17 pages. That’s a menu at a restaurant, not a book. I don’t understand why mass paperbacks are a minimum of 80,000 words but anything over 60,000 is considered too big in the self-pub business, and I really don’t understand how to make any money here.

Q) I think you are meant to be published by a house. I’m not sure why you aren’t, but I believe something isn’t being done right.

A) I think big publishers are terrified of the changes and are only accepting the big authors and books with vampires and zombies – preferably both. I wanted to be picked up by a major publishing house – heck, I had friends at three of them! But it hasn’t happened and I’m just egotistical enough to believe it’s not because Courier is a terrible book.

Q) Terry, you have just dared a publishing house to take your book. Calling them out!

A) First off, it was ever thus. I was reading one author – a huge seller – who said that his first book was sent to over 200 editors. JK Rowling, the same. Plus, where book editors used to have a certain leeway to pick a book that was out of the mainstream but they thought had a little something – today, any choice goes to a central publishing committee and you have to defend your choice. Gah! I’d pick vampires, too.

Q) Would I be right to say you’re angry with the lack of vision within the publishing industry then?

A) “Lack of vision”? Nah, I’ve been in television buddy. I’ve seen “lack of vision” on its home ground, where it was born and raised. It’s the realities of the market and the changes in technology. I imagine people in publishing are terrified. All the rules have changed. I mean, people do interviews with bloggers for Pete’s sake, instead of good, reliable radio shows.

Q) Does it worry you that your book might get lost in a sea of loser novels?

A) It worries me that my book could get lost in a sea of good novels. I’ve written a very personal novel – based on my own experiences – and set in a world that few people really know– Television News in the 1970’s. Young people have no clue what I’m talking about and there simply weren’t that many of us working in the industry at the time (which made it really really fun – young people could take a chance and do just about anything).

Q) Do you find it difficult to adapt to the new way of things?

A) Seriously, no. My job in television – and certainly for 8 years at Nightline – was to take a very complex subject that I knew nothing about. Research it, understand it and then break it down to its essentials so I could explain it to a mass audience. Learning about self-publishing and 99 percent e-books and i-books and whatever; is really just a version of the same thing. I left a cushy job at ABC News in 1993 and, after cold-calling a dozen people, went to Los Angeles and wrote a CD-ROM interactive History of the World. I picked up non-linear editing, was VP at a startup where we were going to have online video classes for businesses and where we did the outline, and Tada Industries in Calcutta did the programming overnight on this weird “Internet” thingie.

Q) Did it pay off?

A) Nope.

Q) You like taking chances?

A) I have consistently been far enough ahead of the technology curve that there was neither the audience nor the content to support my efforts. It was fun though. It’s not as much about taking chances as being willing to try doing something new. I’d never written a film script before I wrote one, I’d never watched streaming media before I became VP of a streaming media company.

Q) How about your successes? What would you class as your achievements?

A) My achievements? Well, if you’re honest with yourself, you really don’t do much of lasting importance in TV. However, I did have a significant role in two cases where the show I did made a difference in real life. One was the first time we went to South Africa in 1985 and Apartheid was in its last full-bore application before the whites gave up. We put (Arch) Bishop Desmond Tutu on the air side by side with Foreign MinisterPik Botha. It was literally the first time that South Africans had seen an educated, erudite black man disagree with a powerful white man in public.

The other was a show that I’d been trying to do for several years on “Heavy Urban Rescue”. That’s what you do afteranincident like the World Trade Towers, like the Mexico City earthquake, or like Katrina in New Orleans. The US government was fielding rescue teams that knew how to handle these situations, but they were being run out of the State Department and couldn’t be sent to domestic events. When a department store in a small town simply pancaked down on a couple of hundred people, I pushed the show and we pointed out that an efficient rescue and relief administration wasn’t a matter of cost but accumulated knowledge. If you’re a local mayor, you’re not going to put resources into UHR, you’re just going to hope it doesn’t happen, but it always happens several times a year in a nation. I was told that the day after the show ran, there was a high-level meeting at the White House and they proceeded to completely revamp FEMA along those lines. Sadly, eventhough that was done by the administration of the first George Bush, it was specifically dismantled by George W. Bush – with the results you saw in New Orleans.

Q) Would you say you’re in an angry mood today?

A) Nope. Just passionate. It’s just that the changes to destroy FEMA were done specifically to ensure that people did not expect any help from their government. It was ideological and stupid.

Q) So tell me, you have friends in the publishing industry– what do they think about Courier?

A) My friends in the publishing business went running like scared bunnies when I asked for the favor. My agent, Dean Krystek is a good guy. I specifically wrote him and asked that he continue as my agent even as I did the self-publishing route and we would work out some sort of arrangement. I like having professionals on my side – lawyers, accountants, agents. It enables you go up against the big guys. Nick, you’re doing well as a little guy against the big guns – talk about someone with drive and ambition.

Q) Thank you, Terry– I try my best.

A) I just want to understand this bloody new business. I can write a 17 page “book” a day – seriously. I was looking at all these e-books and i-books and they’re all 70 pages long. That would take about a week.

Q) Well. looks like we’ve come to the end of this interview. You have another to get to right? Any last words of advice?

A) You only need to speak 10 things in any language to be a journalist. Hello, Goodbye, Thank You, Yes, No, Go straight, Turn left, Turn Right, and “don’t kill me, I’m a journalist”.

With that, Terry Irving was whisked off to meet another writer and greet another new audience. I was left with one of the best interviews anyone could ask for. Courier is soon to be banging on your door and it’s only a matter of time before Mr Terry Irving is back in front of you as a fitting– not a fixture. Nick Wale needs a drink after this interview– sure as hell tired me out! All you writers who need an agent– Dean Krystek is the guy to find!

If you want to know more about Mr. Irving, find Terry’s first interview here.