Doug Carlyle is visiting the site today from the great state of Texas, home of the Alamo, the Dallas Cowboys, and ten gallon hats. To be honest, I’m still puzzled about the whole ten gallon thing. Why not eleven gallons? Doug neglected to explain this mystery, but we won’t hold it against him. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here he is.
Hi, Doug. Thanks for stopping by. Why don’t you tell us about your life? Give us a look at the man behind the writing.
I was born and raised in east central Illinois. I lived in a university town. The college, like is often the case, gave the community an eclectic, liberal flavor. Having said that, the metro area was surrounded by a rural, conservative landscape. So, I was confused from the beginning.
I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois. From there I entered a 26-year career making semiconductor devices. I watched the evolution of technology from the mid-70s to what it is today. I can honestly say I have mixed feelings about where technology has taken us as a society. This revolution resulted in people abandoning face-to-face communication for e-mail, texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. People spend too much time in a chair, sitting in front of a laptop or huge television or some other device instead of being outside. I’m sure that I sound like some old man behind a team of horses whining about the Model A. Wait a moment. I’m getting a nosebleed while standing on my soapbox.
The semiconductor industry, if you neglect what I said about its arguably deleterious, long-lasting effects, was a lot of fun. At the end of my techie career, I was responsible for a worldwide project. I spent a lot of time on the road during 1999 to 2003 and I had the good fortune of experiencing work and life in many different locations in and out of the U.S. This was the catalyst for my first book titled, Boundaries.
I tend to agree with your views on the tech revolution and what it’s done to society. One side effect is that most teenagers these days can’t seem to write a single sentence without using non-words like lol, brb, and Lindsay Lohan. None of that stuff is English, in my opinion. Speaking of writing, what started you down that road?
I actually think I have had this talent for some time. I wrote several stories in high school that were recognized by my teachers and submitted to contests. In my freshman year of college, I took a rhetoric class and got an ‘A’. The instructor really knew his stuff and I took it to heart.
When I left the electronics industry, I missed it terribly – especially the travel. I began writing as a way to recapture that part of my life. I blended fantasy, with technology, erotica, romance, and a bit of SF. Then I began developing characters and a plot. Soon I had my novel, Boundaries. I had no plans of publishing it. Then, beta readers said I should run with it. Unfortunately, it is way too long as it stands (220,000 words). I plan to re-craft it into a series or a trilogy if I want to print it. Or, I may simply let it go as an e-book. That is a project for 2012.
Tech and fantasy certainly do blend well. The outer edges of science have a lot in common with magic, I suppose, in that things like quantum physics, dark matter, heck – even how a computer works, are all closed books to most people. You have a book on the market, however, that isn’t at all techy. Tell us about that one.
My current novel that is available for purchase is titled, In Search of the Fuller Brush Man. Here is the description from the back cover:
Sean Marcum is driven to find the meaning of his mother’s swan song. The last words she wrote in her journal were, “Fuller Brush Man”. She always communicated life’s most important lessons via riddles, and he is convinced this is her finale. Sadly, Sean was never good at solving riddles, and his quest turns into an obsession, nearly costing him his marriage, and his life. Sean’s high school sweetheart, Kim, had a special bond with hismother. She was also a master at riddles. The one-time lovers have been married to others for more than 30 years. Kim’s marriage has been picture perfect, Sean’s not so much. Upon Kim’s death from breast cancer, Sean receives a memoir she penned celebrating their failed relationship. Her book, The Road to Monticello, contains the secret to a long, happy relationship for which Sean so desperately searches. It is a lesson all of us should take to heart.
In Search of the Fuller Brush Man is mainstream fiction/family saga. It comes in at 103,000 words, and is 446 pages in trade paperback. The target audience is anyone who is in a relationship with another individual, and wants to remain in that relationship forever. A long-term relationship takes effort on the part of both individuals. It doesn’t just happen. It can survive the worst of ups and downs, but one cannot simply give up.
The book is somewhat biographical in that these were the last words written by my mother.
Other than Boundaries, do you have another book in the creative pipeline?
I am 86,000 words into my next book titled, Vinegarone. It was progressing very well until we experienced a family tragedy in the fall of 2009 that simply took the wind out of me. I’ve expended all my energy since then toward getting In Search of the Fuller Brush Man published and marketed. I know I need to finish my latest novel, and I still plan to have it on the market in the September timeframe this year for the holiday rush.
I’m always curious about what a writer reads. To me, his or her book choices are the literary equivalent of the North Star. They point the way toward who the writer is. Well, at least that’s the theory. I probably need to refine that idea a bit more. Maybe I need to include reading their credit card statements as well. Anyway, what are the top three books that have had the most influence on you as a person and as a writer?
Here is the point where everyone runs screaming for the doors. I hate reading. If you haven’t clicked out of this interview at this point, let me elaborate. When I was in high school during ’69 – ’73, I was forced to read all the classic fiction available. Being an outdoor sort of guy who couldn’t sit still for five minutes, I found reading to be an encumbrance.
Decades later, I began traveling a lot. Before the day when one could plug in a laptop, you needed something to occupy the hours on a plane. I discovered the narrative fiction by Elmer Kelton. Since the setting for all of his works was Texas, and it was so well written, I found myself reading all of his novels. Since then, I have taken a huge liking for Sandra Brown, Kit Frazier, and narrative fiction by Paulette Jiles.
There have been other NYT best-selling authors whose books I have read who have given me great inspiration in that I know that what I write is better than the drivel they publish.
Fighting words! Actually, I agree with you there. The traditional publishers have an amazing, schizophrenic capacity to produce fabulous books, as well as books that are best suited for canary cage liners. In addition to telling the publishing houses to get their act together, do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you want to write. If you chase what you think will sell, your writing will reflect that. I had hoped the agents I have met would be full of sage advice. Here is some of the most infamous advice I was given.
1. “I am not here simply to represent you and your book, I am here to manage your career.” Translation: You write what will sell or neither I, nor the large publishing houses, will touch you.
2. “You know that book you’ve been dying to write because of some enormous event in your life? Write it, put in the closet, and forget about it.” Translation: You write what will sell or neither I, nor the large publishing houses, will touch you.
3. “So you’ve written two novels – one is a family saga, and the other is more science fiction. You need to pick one genre and stick with it.” Translation: You will become a name brand like Cheerios, and will write only successful, formulaic fodder that makes money.
4. “You mean the hero throughout the novel turns out to be the bad guy at the end of the book? Your readers will kill you!” Translation: Do not take risks. The system likes square pegs for square holes.
So, my advice to you is BE YOURSELF!
There is one (former) indie author, K. L. Brady, who has a website http://www.cheapindieauthor.blogspot.com/ . Now, she has a lot of sage advice that I have followed. She has self-published, and has recently been picked up by an agent and publisher. I will point out that it’s worth reading how that has changed her. She used to be able to publish NOW. Instead, she is beholden to the publishers’ typical two-year timetable. If you can live with that, knock yourself out. For me, I want results and I want to see my book in readers’ hands as soon as I think it’s ready.
Regarding the process, you have to hone your writing skills. Go to workshops – lots of them. Plus, how books were written in the past is not how they are written today. Have an idea of what is said in the current Chicago Manual of Style if you don’t want to be chastised by the editorial elite. Little things like one space after a sentence instead of two. Don’t use italics when representing what a person is thinking. I could go on.
Ah, advice. Years ago, when I was young and foolish, I spent quite a lot time trying to get into the music publishing industry. I remember a producer advising me to try a different career. This was right after he told me I had no talent. It was very inspirational advice, as I was immediately inspired to commit a misdemeanor (which I refrained from). Speaking of inspiration, where does yours come from?
As I said, Boundaries was inspired by my lust for adventure that had gone missing from my life. But, I needed a jumpstart. I was at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo a few years ago and I experienced Dippin’ Dots for the first time. Bang! That was the idea I needed to pull the book together.
With Vinegarone, I was drinking wine with my wife and one of her friends and we began examining the cover of the local phone directory. Don’t ask me why we were looking at the phone book in the first place. One of the towns that is serviced by the phone company is Vinegarone. Bang! The setting I for which I was looking.
As for In Search of the Fuller Brush Man, it was really my mother’s last words that provided the basic premise. Then, I found a phrase used by the founder of the Fuller Brush Company. Bang! It all came together.
In conclusion, inspiration comes when it comes. Don’t go looking for it.
Food. I always ask people about food. How can you escape such a tasty subject? In addition to art, I think it’s one of the things that separates Man from the Animals. I don’t see a lot of dogs sitting around discussing the relative merits of beef bones versus canned Alpo. What’s your favorite food?
Dim Sum. It is the ultimate culinary adventure. Food becomes art that you can eat. I absolutely loved all my Dim Sum experiences in Asia. On the other side of the world, I love European breakfast buffets. The meats…the cheeses…the hard-boiled eggs…the breads…to die for!
Doug, I won’t waste my last question on ten gallon hats, so how about something a bit more serious? I guess we all have an impulse to leave our mark, to surpass the bounds of mortality and leave behind some kind of echo or remembrance of ourselves. Are you hoping to somehow achieve that with your writing?
This is what I say on the back cover. “Doug lives in the Texas Hill Country. Against this backdrop of mountains, valleys, live water, and wildlife, he is writing fiction intended to touch all of his readers in a very special way”.
More importantly, I want to leave behind a legacy that I would be proud of. The guy who invented the laptop will be forgotten, as will the Verizon man. But, we will be reading The Old Man and the Sea for generations to come.
Thanks, Doug, for visiting. We wish you the best of luck and success in your writing career.