An Interview With Joel Seath: Author and Creator of Beauty…

Joel Seath is an author who writes to find the beautiful things in the world and to explore the characters that make life wonderful and sad. I met Joel on my travels and immediately cottoned onto his love for all things literary. We set up and interview and he answered my questions with ease. I found myself sitting back to listen to what he had to say rather than thinking of another question. Easy interviews are rare– but this was one of the easiest.

Joel

Q) So Joel, why did you become an author?

A) It’s a compulsion, a drive, I suppose. When you write you just need to keep on writing.

Q) What does a compulsive drive to write feel like?

A) It often feels like blocking out, locking in, sinking in. You know? Some days it’s a rush. Some days you read and re-read and it’s like you’re looking at something that shines (or might shine) and you want to keep that, show that, have that, always.

Q) Do you ever find it hard to stop yourself from writing? Is it like a daze or a dream you can’t break from?

A) Physically writing (or typing), yes, I suppose. I mean, it can be extremely immersive, as many writers will know. However, that immersion also plays itself out in the day-to-day, pen not in hand, computer not on. Words (or the possibility of them) are everywhere.

Q) Words are your thing as a writer? So what is your favourite word?

A) What an excellent question! A barman asked me what my favourite book was recently (your question reminds me of that): how to pick one? You can tell by the long pause that this has given me cause to think. I can tell you what my most recently learned word is (and, by extension, a current favourite): tenebrous.

Q) Tenebrous? So what does tenebrous mean?

A) It’s to do with the obscure, the dark, as I understand it. This isn’t a reflection of my writing; rather, the word has a sort of rhythmic quality to me.

Q) Well, you have to learn something new everyday! So, lets reflect on your writing. What do you like to write about? Tell me about your writing.

A) In all its forms, long and short, my writing is intended as a means of finding the small gems of this world. There are hidden things in between what we just see on the surface– there are textures and layers to relationships, subtleties, moments. I’m looking for the moments that also linger. There are ‘objects’ of beauty, even in the laments, in many places.

Q) It’s interesting that you write about “beauty,” as everyone’s definition of beauty is so different. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written about? What is “beautiful” to you?

A) Well, beauty is subjective, of course, but I’m sometimes taken aback by how things turn out. It’s unexpected. There are moments that happen which I read time and again because they still have some power over me. In one of my stories, a child’s brief interaction with the narrator takes me in every time; in another piece, it was something I wrote in a female voice because I needed to do this more, I was there with her, as her, in Venice because the words were in that flow state; poetry is a vanity, but there are lines of colour and there are lines that sink me sometimes. Questions such as these are like choosing between children!

Q) If you could write anywhere in the world– where would it be? What landscape would really incite your creativity?

A) On a beach, in the mountains, in a forest, all of these. Specifically, though I’ve done my fair share of overseas travelling, I’d come back to the west of Cornwall. Standing on the cliffs overlooking some of the little unknown coves down there, the sea and the wind in your hair and on your face, that huge sky (it really is huge, like they say in their tourism promotions), makes words just come in for me. The artists there laud it for the light; I just can’t get enough of the energy.

Q) I understand that you’re published so others can enjoy your creative energy. Which of your works are currently available?

A) I’ve got a collection out at the moment (Disintegration and Other Stories). I loosely label this as literary fiction (though that term can be interpreted in many ways). DaOS is out in ebook and print. This collection came together in an odd way: I didn’t realise that there’d been a thread running through some of my writings for a number of years. It was like seeing invisible ink slowly become visible. I’m working on a collection of micro fiction, which will be a first volume (Four Kinds of Wreckage) to be added to. Micro fiction is much misunderstood. Away from fiction, I’m also published in the field of what’s known as ‘playwork’ (a particular way of working with children). I’ve had writings taken on by the national/international playwork publication for the sector, as well as credits with the organisation concerned with psycholudic playwork practice. (Now though, I fear I’m stepping into the jargon of my other calling – though writing is also a big part of this, too).

disintegration

Q) So tell me Joel– why did you want to be interviewed by me?

A) You do a good job of finding writers, Nick. When I became aware of your work I came over to your blog, and yes, I like what I see here. What you’re doing is exactly what writers need– a way of getting their words out there.

Q) Thank you, Joel. One of my stock questions is to ask– if you could be any writer from any time who would it be?

A) As far as writers are concerned, I have a range (as we all do probably): Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jeannette Winterson, Iain Banks, Ian McEwan, Italo Calvino, Jack Kerouac, Neil Gaiman, Adrian Henri. There are others. I wouldn’t want just one small list to define me, though we start somewhere with questions such as these.

Q) Characters are important to you. What makes a good character for you?

A) The unusual wrapped up in the usual. Subtlety people often might not see. The strangely put. Love in odd places, ways; perceptions of this. Someone who aches in some way.

Q) It has often been said that “repeated readability makes a book.” Would you as an author agree with that?

A) Yes, I think I would. Who was it who said that journalism is read once, whilst literature more than this? Something like that. Anyway, it’s the sentiment here that counts. There are books on my shelf that I come back to time and again; there are passages on some pages that just astound me. Kerouac wrote about ‘fields the colour of love and Spanish mysteries’ in On the Road. I come back to that time and again.

Q) You strike me as an intellectual– someone striving for the beautiful things in life. Would you agree with that?

A) I don’t know about intellectual! I certainly am on the search for the beauty of the world though. That’s in words, in moments, in art, in love and lament, in the play of children, in the play of us, in nature.

Q) What would you personally deem as “ugly”?

A) There’s nothing so ugly as not wanting to see, perhaps. Ugliness is also wrapped up in the politics of power, greed, deceit.

Q) Power, greed, deceit are words usually entwined with politics. How do you feel about the political scene in America right now? Are you an Obama follower?

A) For me these words are part of Politics (as in that which a politician is involved in); however, these words are also within the politics of everyone, their relations. Lennon had an angle here! As for Obama, I don’t really get too immersed in Politics anywhere, if I can help it, because politicians bring the media to their door in many ways. That said, when politicians willfully ignore children and their play, this gets me going! Back to Obama, he strikes me as intelligent enough, though of course I’m not in the US and not directly subjected to American policy.

Q) Well, I think we’ll end there Joel. Thank you for a great interview!

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!

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!

“Lisa Doolittle” goes from Stripper to Writer- An Interview with Eve Littlepage

A few days ago I was looking for an interview that really interested me. I had just finished an great interview with Tom Blubaugh and needed something special to continue with. An open call on several Facebook pages brought a huge amount of material. I found myself reading some very interesting interviews with some very interesting people– then I received an email from Eve. I knew this one had to have precedence over all others. Thank you, Eve!

Eve Littlepage hamming it up as Lisa Doolittle c. 1985

Q) Nice to meet you, Eve. So tell me, what’s your latest work?

A) CELESTIAL BODIES IN ORBIT- Memoirs of the Unknown Stripper, about the ten years I worked as striptease dancer ‘Lisa Doolittle.’ I worked in that business in the mid-70s and mid-80s in the suburbs of Boston, Mass.

Q) How are the public taking to your book? I hope they are as interested as I am– the book is a “killer”.

A) I am just launching it to ‘the public,’ so I can’t really say. I had about a dozen people read my manuscript before I went over it a few times with an editor. The responses have been wonderful! Of course, they are friends, or at least acquaintances, but I would hope they weren’t giving false praise and then sending me out into the world to fall flat on my face. One of the best compliments came from my editor. One her third pass through, she said she was still enjoying it, even though she knew the story by heart at that point!

Q) Tell me about your book? What drove you to write a book about your past? You have such an interesting story to tell!

A) It’s hard for me to sum it up in a line or two, because there are many layers to it. It’s life, which doesn’t always follow the same neatly laid-out plot that you find in fiction. There is a definite story arc that develops as I examine the chain of events that lead me into the business. Thinking it a temporary measure to escape an abusive relationship, I ended up getting stuck in it for ten years. It wasn’t all bad. I actually had a love/hate relationship with stripping. I took a rather unconventional approach to exit the business, following my instincts instead of any ‘How to Forge a New Career’ manuals.

The book weaves memories of my days and nights in the clubs with events in my personal life, and illustrates how they played off of each other. So, like life, it has romance, lust, sex, violence, humor, and a few colorful expletives. Also, though metaphysics is not the main focus, my story is sprinkled with references to The I Ching, spiritual epiphanies, ghostly visitations, and my Wiccan/Pagan path.

One thing I took a big chance on was my method of telling the story. I created an author, named Stella Mars, who interviews me to help me write the book. So Stella, her house, parlor, and tape recorder are fictive elements, but the story I am telling her is the true story of the events that happened, and my reflections on them. So far, everyone who has read it says the format works. Some will like it and others may not, but it’s what I needed to do to get the story out.

Q) How do you write? Do you like to listen to music? Do you like silence?

A) I need quiet. Maybe some new-agey instrumental stuff would be okay, but if there are lyrics, I will get distracted. I’ve always been lured by the words, the poetry, in music. I like to have a good block of time, two to three hours, where I know I won’t be interrupted. The first time I sat down to write this book, I stopped after I thought twenty minutes had passed. I was shocked to find it was three hours! That’s when I knew I loved writing. I was in a zone. It’s not always like that, as you other ‘zoners’ know! 

Q) What drives you as a writer?

A) I am at my best when I can be creative. It has manifested many ways in my life, most recently through the medium of writing. I have been writing for years, but just journal entries, a poem here and there, and for business. Stephen King says never to write for the money. Not ever. (Yeah, I know, easy for him.) The need for an income stream, other than my husband’s recession-pelted business and my working-poor level jobs, was my initial boot-in-the-butt. Who knows if this book will be the magic that puts me back in the black, but at least it gives me Hope. And I love Hope. Yet, I get Mr. King’s point. If it felt as laborious and lung-choking as coal mining, I may as well get a pick-axe and start tunneling—at least it would pay right away.

Q) What do you think makes a good book?

A) One that takes me into a different world, and gives me something to reflect on in the process. It needs to have a good balance between description and action–too much or too little of either will bore me. I love when an author can use language in clever ways, turn a phrase that surprises and delights me, but doesn’t get so carried away with style that it takes me out of the story. 

Q) Who is your favourite author?

A) “Besides me?” (she replied with a wry grin). But seriously, what a hard question to answer! So many to choose from. I will name Marion Zimmer Bradley, for her wonderful, magical treatment of the Arthurian Legend. It was brilliant to tell it from the eyes of the women of Camelot, and show them as wielding power and moving events from ‘behind the scenes’. She also knows her stuff about the Old Religion, and thus adds a touch of authenticity when she writes about Magick that I find lacking in the typical portrayals. The Mists of Avalon was one of those rare books that had me aching to find more reading time.

Q) Where can people buy your work? 

A) On Amazon right now, more venues to come. The e-Book is already there. One of the things on today’s ‘to do’ list was to give the print copy one more scan before we put it up for sale. So, within a couple of days it will join the e-Book: 

CELESTIAL BODIES IN ORBIT: Memoirs of the Unknown Stripper (Paperback)

Q) If you could choose to have written one book–which would it have been?

A) Harry Potter. A far cry from Celestial Bodies in Orbit, but it would have been nice to write something the kiddies could read. Not to mention the success it has had. No, we won’t mention that.

Here’s a link to my blog: I have a page for interviews and will add this with a link to your site too!

Thank you for taking the time to interview me, Nick. I wish you great success in your writing career!

No, thank you, Eve! It has been fantastic to work with you and hear about your book. I will certainly be picking a copy up! I think Eve deserves every credit for writing a book that deals with something that so many shy away from. All those girls working in joints and clubs deserve credit. It’s a hard life and I am glad someone has written something positive about it.

You can contact Eve at the following links: eve@evelittlepage.com www.evelittlepage.com

Don’t forget to go out and buy her book right here:  CELESTIAL BODIES IN ORBIT: Memoirs of the Unknown Stripper (UK) CELESTIAL BODIES IN ORBIT: Memoirs of the Unknown Stripper (USA)

Great article from hot selling author Alex Laybourne! Check it out and enjoy it!

Official Site of Alex Laybourne - Author

When George Orwell penned his novel 1984, and created the character of Si; the man who, tells the reader about the Inner Party’s plan to reduce language further and further, issuing reduced dictionaries, eliminating words until there are only the absolute minimum of words remaining with which to communicate, I doubt even Orwell could have imagined how true that would be.

Putting aside the technology of flat screens, CCTV and webcams, all of which can be found within this wonderful work of fiction (?), it is the clear prediction of the destruction of language that strikes me as being the most accurate.

I may be biased because of my nationality, but I think that the English language is the best in the world. It is expressive and can be used to conjure images and scenes far more romantic that even the most dashing of Frenchmen could conceive, and whose poetic…

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