1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
My friend, the author Joe Lansdale, gets up early every morning and writes. I've tried to do that, and it just doesn't work well for me. I do my best writing late at night. I have a couple of theories to explain it, and I think each has some truth to it. First, especially with the DUTCH CURRIDGE novel, I am dealing with a protagonist who is decidedly a night person, who hangs out in the jazz clubs and bars of early 1950s Fort Worth and sees very little use in an early morning. So, I think, to get into his mindset, I do better in keeping those late night hours when most normal people are home in bed.
The other factor that probably plays into it is the fact that I, myself, am a musician, and over years of playing places from New Orleans to Texas, I conditioned my own creativity toward those late night hours. Even when I am not playing gigs now, my body clock seems to lean that way. One thing that Dutch and I have in common: our days seem to serve best as lead-ups to the nights.
2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I still use paper and pen to write down ideas, to organize thoughts and get things started. But once I sit down and start grinding it out, it's all on the computer. Having said that, I find that the computer gets every bit as unorganized as having various notebooks, loose bits and pieces of paper ever did. The computer makes it so easy to experiment, to cut and paste and do and redo, that I end up with a dozen different files in half a dozen locations, all telling the same story in different ways. So I'm not yet convinced that the computer simplifies anything except for the research side of things.
3: What do you draw inspiration from?
The people around me and the stories they tell. I am very much a southern storyteller. More specifically, a Texas storyteller. DUTCH CURRIDGE could not be set anywhere else. And even though I don't live in Fort Worth, that certain, peculiar Texas mindset holds. I know the characters because I see people like them every day. I grew up with them. They're family, in lots of instances.
And I know the feel and the smell and the way everything is built before I know the characters and the way they think. When I was getting my degree in Creative Writing, my professor, Dr. John McDermott, always pushed the idea of "writing what you know." And I took that to heart and never forgot it. I may not be just like Dutch. Hopefully, I'm not. But I certainly know and understand the guy well enough.
4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?
I try to never let word count enter my mind when I'm writing. If I do, the story becomes too conscious of itself. My goal, when I sit down to write, is to write a scene. I think in terms of scenes, and I don't like to stop before I've completed what I sat down with. I don't always know exactly where the scene is going, in fact I seldom do, so it leaves me enough freedom to get lost in the story for awhile. In a way, it's like fighting a really long heavyweight boxing match. You go in and take it one round at a time. You know when that particular round is over, you get up and take a break, get ready for the bell to ring again. Don't think about winning the match. Take each round as it comes, and then everything falls into line.
5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?
I'm self-published. I was conditioned as a musician to that punk ethos of doing it yourself and not relying on other people to make you what you want to be. Maybe that's the William Blake ethos. But I think people talk a lot about self-actualization and sometimes do very little with it. Again, because of my background in music, I've seen what happened in the recording industry, with the big companies losing power to newer models that put more power in the hands of the musicians as well as the listeners. And the record labels panicked and they are still fighting tooth and nail, but they're on the wrong side of history. And I truly think the publishing world is following suit.
As far as the cover art goes, I had a great situation, because my wife Leela is an excellent photographer, and I knew she could deliver something uniquely appropriate. I didn't want a clichéd cover. You know, the dark rainy alleyway with the neon sign. We went with a contemporary, color photograph depicting Dutch's childhood home, which is a house he obsesses over in the book. And, of course, it's set at an angle to represent his somewhat off-kilter view of things.
6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
I was a writer when I was eight years old. I didn't know about careers then, and I still don't consciously think of it in those terms. I just write and then hope there is somebody out there who will enjoy reading it. I've written songs for almost forty years. I guess it took longer than it should have to get this first novel cranked out.
7: Do you own an ebook reading device?
No, but I will. I'm convinced that it's the future. And, as much as I love to write about the past, I'm not stuck there.
8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?
The authors who made the greatest impression on me were Mark Twain and Flannery O'Connor. I will never reach the level of pure poetry that those two did. They set me on the path early. Amongst contemporary writers, I like Stuart O'Nan, Denis Johnson. And my friend Joe R. Lansdale. I think he's a great model, someone who has been writing for years and who is still getting better.
As far as current reading goes, I'm actually reading a collection of sestinas written by Christine Butterworth-McDermott titled Tales On Tales. I love sestinas. I find that reading and writing other forms like that helps to tune me up for writing things like DUTCH. Something about the restrictive form brings out great creativity. I want to write a collection of stomping gutbucket blues sestinas someday.
9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
I guess they have their place. We've become such a visually-oriented society. Anything that brings attention to written works has to be good. But I'm not a fan of the ones that recreate scenes from the books. I've seen a few that were extremely well done, but I hate being told, or even suggested, what I should be visualizing before I pick up the book. To me, that is part of the author's job.
I have no plans to do anything like that, although I can see the draw it could have for authors, to see their characters come to life. I mean, it's as close as most of us would ever get to having our stories on the silver screen.
10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?
It is named after the first-person protagonist, a real larger-than-life character that I've lived with for several years now. I briefly considered other titles, but this one just chose itself and wouldn't let go. It was so obviously the right title that I could make no argument.
11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
DUTCH CURRIDGE is the first in a planned three-part series, so I am working on the second installment now. I find that the second one starts at an elevated place and continues upward, because of the foundation already being laid. I think the first book ends on a slightly unsettled note, which opens up the story to go in some very unexpected directions. Even I am excited to see where we wind up.
I also juggle a music career, under the names Othy and 2Take Tim, and I am working on a new Othy CD for this fall. I have enough going to keep me out of trouble.