Blog Interviews

Blog interviews are a good way to learn about an author's perspective on and experience with the writing and publishing process, thoughts about the content of a specific book, and views of their own life.  I have participated in five such interviews, responding to forty-four questions.

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The interview sites are listed below.  In addition, I have selected eight questions and answers to give you a quick look.

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

Bibliophilic Book Blog

Once Upon a Twilight

The Book Connection

You Gotta Read Reviews

Sample from the Blog Interviews

1. How did you come up with the title?

         That's a great question.  Everyone, even the little dog next door, knew that the working title of the manuscript, The Goodbye Miracle, needed changing.  Taking a cue from the cover art, which showed three boys in silhouette sitting on a garage roof looking at a big moon, my wife Dorris proposed Meet Me on the Ridgepole. "What's a ridgepole?" I shouted, rolling on the floor with laughter.  After a brief give and take (and my apology for the floor scene), we decided that maybe "roof" would be a more familiar term.  But Meet Me on the Garage Roof still lacked that umph we were looking for.  Dorris suggested we replace "garage" with a word that had a double meaning, a family's name and also "something else."  Yes, a great strategy, but an hour later we hadn't come up with that magic word.  In desperation I picked up the telephone book and began searching through names.  When I arrived at the "P's", I saw it.  "Paisley!" I announced, "how about that?" "Yes!" we both chimed. "That's it."  Dorris reached for the phone book.  "Actually, the name is Pasley," she said.  But what the heck!  I could never spell anyway!

2. What is this book about?

         Meet Me on the Paisley Roof is a humorous novel, one that lets you really get to know the characters.  The tale is narrated by the 16-year-old Trussell Jones so this is his story.  If I could use an analogy from cooking, there are four ingredients in the story:  SPICY, HOT, SWEET, and MYSTERY.

1. SPICY:  You have three teenage boys full of energy and mischief who like to tease and test one another.  They have a long history of planning adventures and then launching themselves at neighborhood targets, especially at night.

2. HOT:  I mean hot in the sense of conflict and danger.  The boys have difficult family relationships.  For example, Trussell's stepmother, with no parenting skills and nutty to boot, has purchased a .38 revolver to meet the mounting threats in her life including, she thinks, Trussell.

3. SWEET:  Trussell hopes for love with Ellen.  But first, he has to speak to her, which he finally manages after a scare from the seductive Trudy.

4. MYSTERY:  The boys confront problems they haven't encountered before.  What do you do when a motorcycle, with the key intact, appears behind your garage?

         Mix these ingredients in differing amounts to form the different chapters.  Add a little thyme for reading (I apologize) and you have a laugh-out-loud tale of teens seeking adventure and love in the hot summer of 1956.
        
3. What inspired you to write it?

         From my growing-up years in Columbus, three events stand out very vividly.  (1) When I was in the seventh grade and later as a teenager, I was madly in love with a beautiful girl in my school who, I thought, viewed me as a pest. (2) I had wonderful friends with whom I shared many nocturnal adventures, problems in our family lives, and dreams about the future. (3) I studied piano very seriously for a while and adored listening to the Classical and Romantic repertoire, if not on a record player, then in my head.

         The story that I wanted to write comes from this well of feelings about my teenage years:  a seemingly impossible love, friends who love, support, and test one another, and music that would send your soul soaring.  Add to that the teen frustration of having to deal with challenging events without having any experiences to fall back on, emotions so intense, so alive, that I can feel them today, a half-century later.  I wrote Meet Me On The Paisley Roof to share those feelings, expressed humorously, in a fast moving story.

4. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

         The story in Meet Me on the Paisley Roof is about teenage survival, survival in an urban Southern town in the 1950s.  The characters are learning to deal with the "what happens now" phase when childhood is over and the adult world seems no longer able to provide satisfactory answers.  Challenges come from feelings within, which reach new levels of intensity, and demands from the outside.  Here is how I would express the book's theme:  Teens can survive and thrive if they face the challenges directly, learn from their mistakes as well as from wise counselors, and seek their own paths.   This may not be the only theme or the only way to express the theme of the book.  I do think, however, that the major events in the story point in that direction.

5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
 
         The hardest part of writing Meet Me on the Paisley Roof was finding an authentic voice for Trussell Jones, the sixteen-year-old narrator of the story.  I was in my sixties when writing the book and, although I still felt in touch with my emotional life as a teenager, I found it hard to think and speak like one.  It had been a long time!

         My two children, while beyond their own teen years, were especially helpful in keeping me "honest."  They would nudge me with such questions as:  "Would Trussell really say that?"  "No teenager would make that connection!"  "That's not what he would do!"  Or, they would tell me about a similar event that happened in their own lives and exactly what was said.  As a result of this process, along with feedback from others, I became more aware of my own intrusion into Trussell's life and, I hope without sounding too crazy, let him tell the story his way.

6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

         Yes, many things. (1) Find an interesting character and put him/her in Chapter 1. And don't let that character get away.  (2) Character development must be steered by a strong story line.  Otherwise, you are writing a fictional memoir. (3) Visualize a scene and sketch out major thoughts on a large notepad, not as an outline but as a rough map.  (4) Too much narration causes word dams.  Keep the story moving.  (5) Use dialogue to describe your characters. Let the reader "see" your characters through conversation.  (6) The writer offers a dream; the reader constructs the reality.  Don't get in the reader's way. (7) Behind humor and comedy lies the face of sorrow.  Clowns know it best. (8) Don't eat too many Chinese fortune cookies.
 
7. Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?

         As a technical writer for many years, I had developed a workable writing strategy.  Define the goals and select a specific technique for a particular goal.  For example, to guide a person through a procedure, use flowcharts or checklists in the text.  When I decided to write a novel, however, I faced for the first time the challenge of helping the reader find a satisfying emotional experience as they read.  That was an entirely different task.

         For me, the biggest writing challenge I had was making the transition from technical to creative writing.  I must cite the book by Brenda Ueland titled If You Want to Write:  A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.  Her thoughts were really more about the nature of consciousness and creativity than the "act of writing."  The experience of reading this book, more than anything else I did, helped orient me in this new way of writing.

         For Brenda Ueland, creative writing is based on "no thinking," on letting go, and moving, so it seems, into another plane of consciousness.  Writing becomes an act of discovery.  That's my challenge and that's what I try to do.

8.  If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?

         I am delighted to say "No!  Not a thing!"  I wrote and incubated this story off and on over a ten-year period with many twists and turns along the way.  At one point the manuscript soared to 127,000 words, then shrank to 100,000 words.  And during this time I had input from a variety of talented individuals such as Howard Berk, a Hollywood writer and novelist, and Gus Gedatus, my editor, who helped boost the story to a new level.

         In short, I am satisfied with the final version because of its long incubation and development period and the help of many talented people along the way.