How it all began.
You know from my Welcome page that I got a late start on my writing career–if I can call it that. When I published my memoirs, The View From the Rigging, in 2016 and my novel, It’s My Turn, later in 2019, I presented readings for book clubs, service organizations, book stores, and regional libraries. I enjoyed the informal discussions and the always interesting Q & A sessions that followed. Questions were content specific as well as behind the scenes how-do-I-write questions.
Q. I know your daughter encouraged you to write down your Coast Guard stories for the grandchildren. How did that come about?
ANS. Kimberly and her friend, Dr. Nancy McCabe were “gymnastic moms” chaperoning a fund-raising car wash in a shopping mall. When I stopped to contribute, they talked me into taking Nancy’s upcoming class in memoir writing. It sounded interesting, and I did want to do it sometime for Kimberly and the kids. The timing was right. So, at age 76, I gave new meaning to Dr. McCabe’s “senior seminar.” My goal was to put together a nice three-ring notebook of stories for the kids.
Q. It obviously did not stop there.
ANS. No. I had fun in the class. I was surprised with the young students’ interest in my stories. They encouraged me to submit one to Baily’s Beads, the school literary journal. It was published. I was hooked. Baily’s published four more “chapters” as I kept working on the book.
Q. How long did all this take.
ANS. After the memoir class, I embarked on a nearly six-year journey of self-study. I kept writing for Baily’s Beads, bought a significant library of writing books, subscribed to two writing magazines, followed author blogs and websites, and started a writing workshop. I was into it! After I published my memoirs, I was so intrigued and involved with creative non-fiction style, I wanted to take on a novel. That was a three-year effort.
Q. Will you share a list of the study material you found most helpful?
ANS. I plan to. When I get it together, you will find it under the “writing” menu on this site.
Q. Do you have any advice for others who may think they are too old to start writing?
ANS. Absolutely! Stop thinking that way! Don’t be intimated by the effort. Don’t start writing a book––write one story, then another, one at a time. You’ll know when you’ve got a book. I found this Mark Twain quote inspirational and offered it for others in the frontispiece of View From the Rigging.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
By the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor,
Catch the trade winds in your sails.”
I recently met with a book group to discuss my novel, “It’s My Turn.” They had questions.
Q. Inquiring minds wonder––how does a retired Captain choose “women’s fiction” as the genre for his first novel.
Ans. I didn’t really. I had a good story I wanted to share that happened to be about a woman. I discovered that Publishers have long lists of narrowly defined genres’; mystery, sci-fi, romance, coming of age, historical fiction, etc. They expect authors know what kind of book they’re writing, by genre. A little research placed my story in genre “women’s fiction.” There’s an official definition, but I define that as a story with a woman as the star and her changes and emotional development are the subject. It’s about women’s empowerment. There’s not much option. Maybe Contemporary Romance, but that’s still a little vague.
Q. It’s not actually about cross-dressing, then is it?
Ans. That’s right. I didn’t want it to be. Arvid’s cross-dressing was one of several sources of marital conflict. That’s another publisher’s rule:There must be conflict. I felt it might make my book stand out from the run-of-the-mill cliched conflicts; husband runs around, wife has an affair with the pool boy, husband commits a crime, etc.
Q. I love your character of Alice, was she a part of your story right from the start?
Ans. No. I think a lot of authors create a side-kick character for the same reason I did. It makes it easier to let the reader get into the head of Erika. It avoids too much telling vs. showing. A few conversations on “pie day” at the diner let Alice unload on Erika and force her to respond. I wanted to use good dialog to “show” what Erika thought and not just “tell” the reader. By giving Alice a no-holds-barred personality, it was easy for her to probe Erika’s mind with questions and comments.
Q. Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about who you read. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ans. Well, certainly John Grisham’s books take up a lot of footage on my bookshelves. James Patterson was more of a favorite when he wrote by himself—his co-authored novels—not so much. A real favorite is Pat Conroy. I love his southern stories. “South of Broad” and “The Water is Wide.” In my younger days, Somerset Maugham and A. J. Cronin were favorites. I still re-visit them occasionally. I’m rereading Cronin’s “The Green Years” right now. I love history novels and Ken Follett and David McCullough have no equals as far as I’m concerned. Although, Beryl Markham’s “West with the Night” is a beautifully written book. Speaking of her book, Hemingway told Fitzgerald that “She writes circles around us.”
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