Author Interviews

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Author interview with Ana Paula Seixlack (revisited)


Back in March 2013, I interviewed author Ana Paula Seixlack for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet and novelist Ana Paula Seixlack. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Ana. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
AnaAna: Hi Morgen, I’m a Brazilian writer. I live in South Brazil, I’m 26 years old and I started to write when I was 5.  I was at pre-school and quickly learned how to read and write.  Back then I was reading a lot of children's book and children's poetry from the library school that I took the chance to start writing my own stuff. I was in love with rhyming and I thought I was really good at it.  I used to write down in a paper all the time and then I got my grandpa’s old writing machine to type down the final version. I put them all together in a little book of my own. Parents and teacher liked it a lot. I can't say the same about my colleges. Most of then haven’t even learned how to read and write yet.
As I was growing I used to handwrite and illustrate some other little books as well or type them in the machine. The computer came about when I was around 10, but in Brazil it also took a little while before we had internet on it or understand how to use programs like Word and anything else. After all I guess the learning process wasn't so automatic like it is to children nowadays.
Morgen: Do you generally write rhyming or free verse?
Ana: Normally I prefer to rhyme. It seems to me that you are on the right way when you can find the perfect rhyming word. Not saying you can't get the same result with a free verse poem. It’s just that it’s more difficult to realize when you have accomplished it. That's how it works for me.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
The Next SunsetAna: Well, I wrote the book Don't back down from that wave. There are only surf poems. Then I wrote The Next Sunset last year. There are short stories and poems mixed. And I also wrote the book A chuva o parque as flores e outras coisas, It's in Portuguese, as you can see and it's a collection of short stories and chronicles. All three of them for I-Proclaim publisher. I always write under my own name. I have two novels on the way, but they are in Portuguese.
Morgen: Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Ana: That’s a really hard question. My poetry has a different style from my prose. I wouldn’t know how to compare my poetry with some other poets, because it’s just like... we tend to read and be inspired by people we admire, but that doesn’t mean you are able or crave to follow his or her style.
For example, I like the musicians who dare to write poetry apart from their songs.
Bob Dylan would be my first choice, for sure. His book Tarantula is great -- tho it’s not an easy reading and we’ll never know how much of the fact that he is Bob Dylan can influence his fans to like or understand his poetry. I also like Dylan Thomas, the poet, but obviously Dylan, the singer/songwriter got me there... He also led me at one point to the Beatniks, like Ginsberg, Kerouac and Cassidy.
Another musician that I also like to save a time for reading his poetry is Art Garfunkel. Not to be the one who puts Paul aside, I do love his lyrics, but there's just something pure and honest about Garfunkel that just can’t be neglected. I don't think I ever captured the feeling of wandering around the world reading another poet than I ever got reading Arthur's magical paths.
Talking about non-musicians poets, I can name Lord Byron and Robert Frost as favorites. But I can’t compare anyone of them to my writing style. I kind of focused in the surf thematic to write down my poetry and I don’t think I have read anyone exploring this peculiarity. On the other hand, I was totally inspired by the surf music and scene from the 60's. I have always tried to catch this 'fun in the sun- beach-surf-hot rod' atmosphere into my writing. Tho some other different elements came along as well in order to add more variety to my work.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Ana: Mostly I only had rejections. Even in my dreams. But well, life is so full lately that I don’t have the time to bother. Never did actually.
I don’t write as much as I should, and I’m aware of that, plus I don’t submit much stuff as well. I’m always late on deadlines.  I’m that kind of person that is always the last one to find out about something… you must know the type.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Ana: I do, but so far I have only tried Brazilian competitions, which demands Portuguese language, so it wouldn’t be very useful to recommend any of those in here...  Unless you speak Portuguese, do you? It would be helpful for those who are planning to visit our country during the next World Cup or the next Olympic Games…
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
???????????Ana: Yes, in eBook and in Paperback too, at the I-Proclaim bookstore. I’m not all that involved, to be honest. I show to some friends, they buy it and pretty much that’s it. I give a lot away too.
Morgen: What / who do you read? And is it via eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Ana: I'm way too old-fashioned for a lot of things. Books are definitely one of them. I only read via paper. I sometimes try to read eBooks but it doesn’t work for me all that well. I soon get tired and start to skip parts of the reading to finish it faster and go find something else to do on the computer. That doesn’t happen when I’m reading on the paper.
I like to read so many people.  I will start with Hemingway, of course. I know it’s a bit cliché, but I did enjoy his writing even before I knew it was a cliché. I found his book The sun also rises at an old books store for like 2 bucks when I was a teenager. When I read it I liked so much like I never had liked other book before. I really got into the story and wanted to wander around the fiesta in Spain and see the bullfight, even when I clearly knew that I hated such thing and the way they treated the bulls. But even then, I wanted to be there to defend Cohn, to drink my head off. Back then I thought I was the only one who knew or liked that author, but when I run after more of his work, I discovered he was not just anyone, he was Hemingway. But I still love him. No hard feelings.
Same thing with Fitzgerald. My grandparents had an old The great Gatsby edition on their coffee table and for my whole life I saw that book standing there next to a Brazilian novel that I don’t recall the name. When I was at high school I decided to read it in a very boring day and loved it. When I tried to find more about Fitzgerald, I learned he was popular too. And Hemingway’s friend... life never cease to amaze.
Later on, I discovered Mark Twain, Oscar Wild, Alan Poe, Hawthorne, Melville Jack London Faulkner, and many others.
But can we talk about the not so classic others for a while?
I mean something not that obvious as Hem and Fitz? I do like Tobias Wolf. I know I’m not totally running away from those jazz era guys roots, but he has some really interesting novels.  And there’s this great writer Bob Greene – not the one who writes about health food, but the author of When we get to surf city. This one is pretty much autobiographic, in spite I think I can easily recognize some fantasy that he threw into the story claiming them to be real… I read a lot of his primary literature too and he has a very particular way to tell whatever he wants us to know of.
Morgen: Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Ana: No really, but sometimes I think I should. Perhaps I could use a little help from them…
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Ana: Not everyday! I have already tried to set this kind of routine, but I'm not very disciplined to keep it. Sometimes I wonder 'I bet Stephen King is writing right now' because he writes so many bibles, and sometimes even more than one at a time, so it gets pretty obvious, if you have all that many pages you have a lot of work to do. There's no other way to go.
But, about the writer's block I think it’s a natural thing for all of us. Normally it happens when you open your computer or when you get a piece of paper and  think 'writing time' or 'I really need to come up with a very original short story or poem for a contest and I have only one day left to do that'. The best ideas come out of nowhere when you are not ready for them. Most of the times you have no paper or pen next to you or you are doing something you can’t interrupt.  Also when you are about to sleep and think about something cool but decides to write it down only next morning swearing you will still remember about it. Common mistake!
I particularly don’t take pleasure in having to deal with writer’s block myself, but I must confess that I love seeing people suffering from it. Wonder boys with Michael Douglas used to be one of my favorite movies. I really enjoy this kind of plot.
Morgen: Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?
Ana: Maybe because is rare to find public for this specific kind of reading. Young people when they do it, it’s not for their own pleasure but because they need to, for school or anything else. It’s not a regular routine to search for poetry and read it for hobby. Although some people do that, you can find so many things for free if you know where to look that it doesn’t appeal to be a good deal for them to pay for it.
Morgen: Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Ana: Read a lot, write even more and always have a thesaurus near by. Sometimes you are so involved with your writing that you won’t even need it, but mostly it is very useful.   And read your piece out loud, it’s important to hear how the words sound together.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing of your poems or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Dont back downAna: A lot of editing! Especially because now I only write poems in English and once that’s not my first language I don’t have the same facility as a native speaker. I always have to re-read many times before I think it’s done. Even when I swear it’s done if I keep looking I bet I can still find a grammar mistake or something like that. So it’s almost like a never-ending job.
Maybe in my language I wouldn’t have to edit all that much, but I stopped with Portuguese poems when I was still a child. I guess that’s because now I like better the way English language sounds. Perhaps one day I'll get back to that, but before that happens I still have to focus on the challenges of a second language.
I always loved English and wanted to be able to write in his language as well. When I was around 12 I started the process and I'm still developing my learning.  First of all I used to translate songs from Dylan, Simon e Garfunkel, Beach Boys and many other groups and singers from the 60's. Some friends of mine used to do the same with Backstreet boys and Spice Girls lyrics. I Think I got some advantage on them, because my songwriters were -- and many will agree -- way more complex. Then I started to watch movies and sitcoms without the Portuguese subtitles. At the same time, when I was about 15 my sister moved to a big city to work as a model, and she lived near a huge old book store. Every time I went there we used to by horror books in that place: Ira Levin, Peter Straub, Frank De Felita, Lovecraft, Anne Rice and of course a lot of Stephen King. He’s my favorite of this gender. I truly love his books and the movies based on his books and the ones he wrote for TV. His stories can be catchier and way more likeable.
Morgen: I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Ana: They tend to vary according to how the two first lines go… They sort of guide the rest of the poem. But if I have a precise size in my mind I tend to manipulate the words in order to keep it the way I want it. Other times I just let it flow and then I see how it turned out. But what can I say? It really depends on the poem.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Ana: Yes! A lot! But for me, that’s one of the best parts.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Ana: Yes. When I was a teenager, about 14, 15 years old, out of the blue I came up with the idea of writing movie scripts. I called a friend of mine and asked if she wanted to write with me. None of us had ever thought about it until that day, but luckily after putting a minimum of thought about it she said yes. For the next three years we used to get together from Monday to Sunday to write, eat and joke around. We bought Syd Field’s book and really got into the script world. And that was it. When we finished our second script, we placed them both somewhere, never sent any of them to a soul and finally we procrastinated our third one until the day we went to different universities, everything changed and our partnership was forever ruined.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Ana: I have a feeling that we live in a solitary world. But I like to spend a time alone with my writing. And even more if I’m writing a novel or short story. I can laugh with my characters and their situations, I can also curse them and so one.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Ana: Ernest Hemingway. For sure! I wouldn’t care so much about the food -- or maybe now those Bob Greene’s cooking books would be interesting... although the booze would be my main concern if I had Hemingway coming over for dinner. The second guest would be Jack Nicholson so he could entertain us, and the last one, Mozart. I was going to say Bob Dylan, but he’s so moody and I already have Papa Hem with this characteristics.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Ana: The world is a bad place, a terrible place to live, but I don’t wanna die – from Marmalade.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Ana: Studying, that has occupying a great amount of my time. Work and when I have a spare time I like watching movies and TV series, reading and I’m very fond of shooting short movies with friends and playing around with Windows Movie Maker. But just for kicks.
Morgen: Where can we find out more about you and writing?
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Ana: Yes! Have you ever had a huge rejection that you still think about it?
Morgen: I've been really lucky and only had 28/29, 11 of those from agents for my chick lit novel (which went on to have two publisher offers which weren't right for me so I turned down and self-published). The very first creative writing workshop was tough. The tutor (crime writer Sally Spedding, who I'm still in close contact with) pulled apart a piece I'd read out (and rightly so, it was rhyming poetry which didn't scan, although I'm still fond of it). Driving home I didn't want to go back but within a day or two, I thought, "alright, I'll write something better" so I did (a short story), went back and it must have had a better reception (perhaps only mildly pulled apart) because I'm still writing them. So not a huge rejection but it nearly stopped me writing and that was have been HUGE! :) Thank you, Ana. It's great chatting with you today.
I then invited Ana to include one of her poems and she said…
I like this one because I wrote it especially for Mike Love of the Beach Boys and in the first time I met him in 2008 I took the chance to give it to him.  He read it to my camera. It was so cool.
Uncle Sam will take a fine vacation,
You’ll be able to catch him in the next station.
Taking a bus straight down to the beach,
The best waves he’s trying to reach.
Settled on the northern shore,
Franklin got there days before.
He was too tired of writing a letter,
That moment a surfari sounded better.
George Washington refused himself,
A third time in an oval office with a shelf.
He called Lincoln for a walk in the sand,
A night in the theater his friend wouldn’t stand.
These fellows wanted a country of their own,
A new place to feel as home.
Because without America to stay,
There would be no Beach Boys surfin’ USA.
***
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
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Author interview with Tom Kidd (revisited)


Back in March 2013, I interviewed author Tom Kidd for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author and songwriter Tom Kidd. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Tom. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Tom & Darrell New Year's EveTom: I am a journalist by trade and training. For more than 25 years, I’ve been covering the entertainment industry for Music Connection Magazine in Los Angeles where my work still appears under the name Tom Kidd. MC was my first writing assignment. The short story is that, as I was preparing to promote my first record “Kidd Solo” my manager asked me to write a guest commentary, a feature the magazine no longer runs. Word got back to me that they liked my writing style and I was asked to write more. Little by little my performing career ground to a halt but my writing career took off. During the Eighties I ended up making quite a good living writing for both regional and national magazines. The Internet has changed all that. Writing assignments that once paid in three figures now don’t pay at all.
Morgen: Jules Renard is quoted as saying, “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money” and it’s true. I’m often approached by online writers who want to write for me for free just to get a website link publicised. I accepted for a while because they were writing about writing but then a few asked for their links to be removed because Google are cracking down on that ‘compliance’ so I’ve stopped accepting content from anyone other than ‘genuine’ authors. It’s a shame because I’m now missing some potentially good content but I do feel better about it. You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Tom: Given my journalistic background, non-fiction was something of a no-brainer. The original idea was to simply tell the story of my husband Darrell’s life living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The book quickly became something else entirely. My training forced me to try to prove whatever points Darrell’s memories brought up. That led me to look at DID as the public and psychiatric community understood it during the years he was growing up. A chance encounter – actually a mistake on my part – unearthed someone he had been told was deceased. Bertha Merriman let it be known that Darrell’s father wasn’t his father at all. The book’s third story line is our adventure in Arkansas and Tennessee as we tried to unravel what really happened.
Morgen: I’ve not heard of DID. I live in the UK and it’s not something I’ve come across in the news or on TV so it is great that you’re highlighting it. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Tom: This is our first book. However, as Tom Kidd I’ve been published in the afore-mentioned Music Connection, Frontiers, Advocate and all manner of entertainment publications both print and online.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
Tom: The short answer is control. So many people have controlled Darrell’s life that he remains adamant that no details be changed in the telling. My background also had its effect. As a publicist I have worked promoting many books over the years and have found out much to my surprise that traditional publishers really don’t seem to do much promotion. They can get books into the big chains but do very little to help get the books back out. Considering there is only one major chain left here in the U.S. – Barnes & Noble – I figured I could handle that one myself.
Morgen: We only really have Waterstones in the UK. We had Borders until recently but that went just before it did in the U.S. Is your book available as an eBook?
Tom: Ours is definitely available as an eBook. If that is how kids these days are getting their information, then that’s the way we need to go.
Morgen: It does seem to be. Did you have choose the title / cover of your book? How important do you think they are?
Tom: The title of “Which One Am I?” changed four times during the writing process. Strangely, with the help of my editor Erika Compton we ended up settling on the title that Darrell had wanted in the first place. The title I favoured was “From Off,” but that proved too regional for the mass market.
I learned early on that today’s readers aren’t interested enough to dig deeply behind the little foreshadowings and vague comments I favour. With most of the U.S. reading at an Eighth Grade level, you have to rub their noses in it. The final title is a big part of it.
WhichOneAmI Cover JPEGThe cover I designed myself and that goes back to my having worked with a record company. As vinyl gave way to CDs, artwork shrunk. We had determined at the label that what jumped out at people browsing CDs in a store was the color yellow. The background we used for the cover was simply to take advantage of that knowledge. Also, the big vase on the cover was a last minute addition driven by the size of icons at Amazon. The back cover with all the faces was originally the front cover but we determined that the face shots would be invisible and hence ineffective when shrunk to icon size.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Tom: This book is about Darrell. The next book will be about me. I am beginning research on the subject of gifted adults that is those of us who were determined in high school to be in the upper 4% of intelligence. Much has been written about helping gifted adolescents but very little has been published that would help adults. It will be another psychological / historical / personal mesh similar to what we did with “Which One Am I?” The working title is “Too Smart for our Own Good.”
Morgen: :) I like that. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Tom: Everybody suffers from writer’s block so writing every day is impossible. I find that when I get too worked up and stressed out about what awaits me on my desk that the best thing to do is to go and do something unrelated that gives me a sense of accomplishment. I bake a lot of cookies.
Morgen: Nice. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Tom: I do lots and lots and lots of editing. Then I get frustrated and ask someone else to take a look. It’s really possible to get too much into your own head and the result is confusion. My Achilles’ Heel is writing sentences without set up. For some reason, I tend to think everyone else knows what I’m thinking. Without the clarity of my editors Kathy Jones and Erika Compton plus all the people who read early drafts for me I am sure this book would have made sense to no one but me.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Tom: In a non-fiction work, research is key. That was the principle reason we returned to the South. Somehow we had to find out the truth we weren’t being told. To be fair, Darrell grew up on the Mississippi flood plain where tornadoes, floods and fires are frighteningly common. As it turns out, so is lying. The only way to get as close to the truth as we did was to go to the South and read the non-verbal cues. Another reason we went was to try to uncover paperwork that we had been told was long destroyed. Due to the way the trip turned out, we were unable to visit the libraries, newspaper offices and various legal offices we needed to see.
Morgen: What a shame. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Tom: If I don’t have a home for a piece as well as a marketing plan I don’t create it.
Morgen: A good philosophy. Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Tom: I have pitched for submissions but find pitching is a lot like applying for a job. The entity may have posted an opening, but that is nothing more than a formality. They always already have someone in mind. My journalism is all on commission.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Tom: Rejection is part of the process. Writers have to keep in mind that the principal function at any book publisher or agent’s office is the same as at any record label: They are there to say no. “Which One Am I?” did get shopped and rejected. Knowing that this is never going to be a best seller because it is too complicated for those reading on an Eighth Grade level, we took those rejections in stride. I can never compete with a Danielle Steele or Bill O’Reilly and neither would I want to.
Morgen: I had to Wikipedia Bill O’Reilly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_O'Reilly_(political_commentator) but then I don’t follow politics. Do you enter any non-fiction competitions?
Tom: Not yet but I plan to.
Morgen: Let me know how you get on… maybe you could do me a guest blog piece on your experience. Do you have an agent?
Tom: I do not have an agent. Being a very hands-on kind of guy I never hire anyone else to do something I can probably do myself.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Tom: We are doing all of the marketing ourselves. It’s a bit difficult living as hand-to-mouth as we do, but it is certainly possible. The trick is not to try and do everything at once as much as I’d like to. We keep in mind that books have a much longer shelf life than do music releases. “Which One Am I?” isn’t designed to fall out of fashion or fit with current events. We have all the time in the world.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Tom: I love all of it although I do with the money would come in a bit quicker. The biggest surprise for me was that I had to tell every aspect of what I was trying to say. Having grown up on the classics I originally believed I could imply references and readers would either understand or look them up. It was both surprising and disappointing to find that today’s readers will do neither.
Morgen: Even though we have the internet. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Tom: Just do it. No one else is going to do it for you.
Morgen: I like that. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Tom: Authors Joan Didion, Truman Capote and Mark Twain. In keeping with the book’s theme, I’d likely prepare my oven-fried chicken, sweet potatoes and whatever green vegetable was in season. For dessert, I make a killer apple crumble.
Morgen: Nice. If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Tom: It would be the first day Darrell and I woke up in San Francisco. I had brought him Frosted Flakes and coffee. He was so appreciative and had such a beautiful smile on his face that I decided right then and there that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Nothing has changed.
Morgen: Ahh, bless. So you do have that day over and over. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Tom: “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” – Lily Tomlin
Morgen: <laughs> She’s great. Do you write fiction?
Tom: Fiction doesn’t interest me much. Non-fiction is much more of a challenge because real life seldom makes for either good comedy or tragedy. To be able to make non-fiction fit the parameters of what people expect is very rewarding.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite aspect of your book, and if it were to be made into a film, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Tom: We have been negotiating a documentary about “Which One Am I?” since its inception. My favourite “character” in “Which One Am I?” has to be Billy, the 2-year-old who dominates Darrell’s personalities. Actually, I’m partial to all the little ones he has inside: Billy, Jimmie (age 4), Robbie (the 10-year-old musician), and Dot (the gregarious 10-year-old who considers me his Daddy.)
Morgen: :) Do you plot your writing or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Tom: There is really no way to plot real life. We had no idea where this book was taking us when we started and I think that’s reflected in the telling. To plot would have been impossible anyway. Every time we talked with someone new who had known Darrell or unearthed another scrap of official information we’d be hit with a horrible surprise that ultimately would change everything we’d already written.
Morgen: Apart from it being based on real life, what do you think makes your book believable?
Tom: We hope, really hope, that people will identify with Darrell and to some extent with the people inside. Because those inside him represent different things, we can only give so much. Some are people he’s been, others people he wanted to be. Some based themselves on people he knew, others on people he wished he’d known. Some are pure emotion.
Considering that today’s psychiatrists don’t believe in DID itself, our big goal was to make sure that readers would.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Tom: Third person is the easiest because it requires no emotional commitment from the author. That is how most of “Which One Am I?” is told though the nature of Darrell’s and my life together ultimately forced the narrative into the first person at its end. First person I found very difficult for a number of reasons. The natural tendency is to want to begin every sentence with “I.” This makes for a very repetitive reading experience and so I wanted to avoid it. The chapter “Tom” was especially difficult because telling the story of what I was feeling in the moment there in the recording studio in the Ozarks forced me to confront my own emotions and self-perceptions. Rarely am I that selfish.
As a song-writer, I have used the second person myriad times. That style is always tricky because the writer has to make assumptions about what the reader will and will not feel or is and is not willing to experience. When I use it, my trick is to write most of the lyric in third person and save a startling admission along the lines of “This was you” for the end.
Morgen: Songwriter… ooh, I’d love a guest blog on that… and maybe an interview sometime on that topic… although I don’t have a questionnaire for that genre but could create one :) Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Tom: I teach when I can get an assignment. California State University Long Beach, where I got my journalism degree and where I was invited back to lecture right afterwards, is supposedly considering have me return next semester depending on whether they can stem their falling enrolment. For a long time I also taught at various adult schools in the area though today they mostly want unpaid volunteers making them worth neither my time nor gasoline.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Tom: I take care of Darrell and our puppy Tigger. I clean. I cook – a lot.
Morgen: I love the name of your dog. I should have called mine that because he bounces a lot when someone comes to the door. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Tom: My tendency has always been to look at what others are doing and then do the opposite. It also seems to me that most of the writing resources out there are geared to those wanting to write for the best seller list. I find this approach short-sighted. I’m building a career.
Morgen: Me too. :) Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Tom: Without mentioning any names, I do belong to several forums and networking sites. They are becoming increasingly frustrating. My background in the music business may be coloring my perception of this, but please bear with me. When I dig a little deeper into the comments, everyone on these sites wants the same thing: to be an overnight sensation. No one wants to promote themselves. No one wants to do anything but write another book while the one before it languishes on their desktop. Like teenaged musicians who have made their first demo tape in their garage, they are expecting a book agent to come knocking on their door and make them an overnight sensation. This is not going to happen.
From the boards I learn what they are doing – or failing to do – and then do the opposite.
Morgen: Authors doing nothing else but touting their books do get swiftly de-followed… and then wonder why. It should never be more than 10% of the conversation, which is why my interviews (etc) are always more about the author than the book. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Tom: The future can be bright if the writer learns how to use the tools available to promote themselves. Right now, people take their news from (in order) TV, Internet, radio and newspapers. That may change and the writer has to be able to keep up. If keeping up proves impossible, the writer needs to hire someone who does know about what’s happening today.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Tom: The book is at www.WhichOneAmI.net. To keep up with my journalism, the best source is www.MusicConnection.com. The Film TV Theater column is mine.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Tom: Good Lord, Morgen! If this doesn’t cover everything I don’t know what else I could add.
Morgen: <laughs> I’m fairly thoroughm aren’t I? Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Tom: No, but I do want to thank you for offering this valuable outlet.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. Thank you for joining me today, and my regards to Darrell and Tigger.
I then invited Tom to include an extract of his writing…
It was a shame what Carolyn did to that man. It was bad enough that she went and fooled around on R.D., but then she listened to Bertha Merriman and named that baby of hers after that no good James Darrell Jackson! What would people say? They would think R.D. was less than a man, that’s what they’d say. That is, if they ever found out the truth. R.D. wasn’t about to let anybody know, not while he was alive and sure not while that boy was still breathing.
As far as anybody knew – as far as he knew – James Darrell Williams was the youngest of five. The Williams family always called him James, a name he came to detest as it was usually followed by an accusation of something he was supposed to have done.  After he got big enough and far enough away from his tormentors, he’d always call himself Darrell.
Years would pass before anybody would tell him who his father was. At the time of Darrell’s birth, R.D. was making what living he could working odd jobs for his good friend and next door neighbor Gene Merriman.  Only a teen himself, R.D. worked in the rice fields until Gene took him under his wing and taught him to drive a bulldozer. Until her accident, Darrell’s mother Carolyn worked in one of the small town’s factories making shirts.
The Williams were barely adults when they got together. Richard Williams, who always called himself R.D., was just 17. That’s him in the photos on Darrell’s bookcase, all sinew and swagger. With his father’s farm fanning out behind him, the dark-haired youth stares down the camera, daring it to show that he wouldn’t be the world’s best husband and father if given half the chance. He is every inch the proud young man.
Off his shoulder is Carolyn. She was just 14 when they hooked up, not nearly as self-assured as R.D., but still trying to portray the proper lady in a pleated skirt fashionable for its place if not its time. Change her hair from brown to blond and she’d look just like she did the day she died.
And a synopsis…
There are at least 16 personalities inside James Darrell Williams. But who is he really? And why? “Which One Am I?” is a singular story about universal truths, horrors and grace. Setting their work apart from other memoirs, the authors explore the nature of family and how Darrell – and all of us -- are shaped by culture, history and geography. After two years of research, Darrell and his partner Thomas Smith dug deeply into family secrets, Southern culture and Darrell’s own psyche to explore portrayals of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in popular culture and the psychiatric community, linking them with the events that made Darrell the man he is.
***
After spending more than 20 years as a journalist, publicist and educator, something told Thomas Smith it was time for a change. Though he searched for something to keep himself busy in my middle years, it seemed like doors in the professional world were closed. In 2008, when Tom met James Darrell Williams in a Long Beach bar, he immediately knew this kind and thoughtful man would have an effect on his personal life. There was no way of knowing that Darrell would change Tom’s professional life as well. Darrell wanted someone to tell his life story, about what it was really like growing up with multiple personalities. As a music reporter, Tom was unfazed, having become used to people changing personalities immediately after they left the stage. As Tom & Darrell came to better know each other, Tom realized what Darrell had experienced growing up with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was a story the rest of the world needed to hear. Tom & Darrell live peacefully with all the ‘kids’ inside Darrell and a Miniature Pinscher, Tigger, in Long Beach, California.
***
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the main blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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