[Helping authors promote their books. Being profiled does not necessarily mean I recommend the book.]
Thank you Jinky for this opportunity. I’d like to begin by saying that readers hold the key to any writer’s heart. Readers are our raison d’être, and I am particularly grateful to everyone who has expressed appreciation for my efforts.
Why did you feel you had to tell this story?
The idea of human inequality and how it comes to be has always baffled me, so the foundation for this book was more emotional than cerebral. The narrative for The Clock Of Life began as a short story of about 4,000 words. After being encouraged keep going, I realized I still had a lot more to explore about the three main themes―bigotry and the heroism it took to bring equal rights for Blacks to the forefront, and the fiasco of the Vietnam War and the human tragedy of how our soldiers were treated when they returned home.
Which writer would you consider a mentor?
My mentor is more a community―two communities. As a fledgling writer I worked up the courage to attend the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived, but after spending a full week there, I had found skilled, selfless mentors that taught valuable lessons, and encouraged me along the way. I left with the assurance that I truly am a writer, and have gone back to them many times through the years. My other “mentor” community was my friends and fellow writers in our weekly writers group. They say it takes a village, and in the case of my novel, “they” couldn’t be more right.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
When I had to kill a character I loved.
What is your favorite chapter or part and why?
To tell about my favorite would be a spoiler, so I’ll talk about my other favorite.
I struggled with re-write after re-write of chapter 19, when Jason Lee finds his father’s journal during the time he went to Selma to take part in the Right-to-Vote march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. I had done a good deal of research and the major events were there, but the chapter read more like a history lesson than a personal journal. I realized I didn’t really understand the man, so I worked up a character study. In doing so I hit on his personality. While being kind and compassionate, at the same time he was hot-tempered, impatient, and he was extremely fond of the word douchebag. I uncovered why he felt the way he did about civil rights, and was able to use that later in the book. That freed me up to write the journal entries with his unique voice and persona. I enjoyed it immensely.
Do you have a specific writing style?
In The Clock Of Life, the story flows from the characters, in easy, direct dialog. The rural, southern setting dictates a simple narrative, done with descriptive imagery that allows the reader to color in their own details.
My short stories tend to highlight working class relationships, and quirky characters, in a distinctive voice.
How would you describe your current writing environment?
I write on the computer, in my office. The first and most difficult step is sitting my butt in the chair and giving my writing a higher priority than, oh, everything else. I don’t write in coffee shops, or public places, and I don’t have a musical playlist to write to because I prefer silence. I “see” the scenes in my head, and “hear” the voices during the conversations. For me, outside noise gets in the way of the process.
What are you reading now?
T.C. Boyle’s book, Stories. He has put together a masterful collection of short stories dealing with “love, death, and everything in between.”
Is there any particular writer that influenced you?
Ray Bradbury, Flannary O’Connor, Pat Conroy, Susan Cisneros
From these skilled pros I learned that writing is so much more than telling the story. It’s about being brave in your choices. It’s about being playful, and rhythmic, and hiding your meaning and symbolism in plain sight. For me, these authors transform writing from the craft of storytelling, to fine art.
Do you experience writer’s block? If so, what do you do?
More than a total writers block, I sometimes suffer with the idea that the writing is uninspired. It feels like the “muse” is bored to death and needs some play time. When it happens I know to stop writing and go to the beach, or a museum – someplace inspiring so I can connect with my creativity. Then I return to the work refreshed and productive again.
How did you come up with the title?
The working title of the book was, Fate Carries Its Own Clock. As much as I liked it, I knew it needed to be revised before publication, to something easier to remember. The Clock Of Life is simpler and still stays true to the theme I was after.
Can you tell us about your next book?
Yes. Without giving away too much, the premise was inspired by the time a friend and I found an old diary, and went on a road trip to find the person who wrote it. This novel takes two women cross country. Their names are not Thelma and Louise, but I’m hoping their story will be just as memorable.
Who do you see playing your main characters in a movie?
I’ve been asked this question before, and I always have to laugh because someone once told me that the act of picking which actors should be in the movie version of your novel, before you have a contract, is called Casterbation.
So, I’ve stayed clear of that, and instead think about who I would want to produce it. George? Yes. (We should sign the contract while meeting in the villa on Lake Como.) Ben? Hell, yes. Will and Jada? Of course. Opie? It’s an endearment, Mr. Howard. Wahlberg? Yes, but which one? Hum, deciding this could take some time.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
You're welcome Ms. Klann-Moren. It was good to have you here. You've got a lovely heart and funny bone too! Now, I can't wait to dig into this book ... and looking forward to your upcoming Thelma and Louise-like book. Thank you for your generous time.
In the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, during the 1980's, Jason Lee Rainey struggles to find his way amongst the old, steadfast Southern attitudes about race, while his friendship with a black boy, Samson Johnson, deepens. By way of stories from others, Jason Lee learns about his larger-than-life father, who was killed in Vietnam. He longs to become that sort of man, but doesn't believe he has it in him. In The Clock Of Life he learns lessons from the past, and the realities of inequality. He flourishes with the bond of friendship; endures the pain of senseless death; finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right; and comes to realize he is his father's son. This story explores how two unsettling chapters in American history, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, affect the fate of a family, a town, and two boyhood friends.