Author Interview With Louis Bourgeois

 

Today we interview Louis Bourgeois, author of The Gar Diaries, about his memoir, poverty, and his friend and mentor, Barry Hannah.

 

Tell us in thirty words or less what The Gar Dairies is about?
Thematically speaking, it’s a fairly simple book about a boy who loses his arm and attempts to re-invent himself through poetry.

Who is the intended audience and why should they read your book?
I wrote the book for fellow outcasts such as myself so they would know they were not completely alone in the world, perhaps, even, not completely hopeless.

The Gar Diaries has been described as brutally honest. Such writing has a tendency to challenge what the reader is comfortable with. Was this a conscious decision, to challenge the reader?
I will have to say the brutality of the book was not a conscious decision on my part.  I was merely recalling the events of my first 30 years of life (and re-feeling the events) as I experienced them.

The Gar Diaries is also beautifully poetic. How has being a poet influenced the style of writing in this book?
Well, the book was intended to be a long prose poem, but, alas, stories began to emerge from the poetry, and the poem was ruined.  All prose is degenerate poetry, and that’s what happened here.

Why did you decide to write The Gar Diaries?
I wanted to see how much I could remember.  It’s as simple as that.

For our European readers who may be unfamiliar with gar fish, can you explain what they are, and why your book is named after them?
The gar fish is perhaps the oldest species of freshwater fish on the North American Continent.  When I was growing up on the bayous and lagoons of South Louisiana, they were an all pervasive presence: I seemed to have developed an early fixation on them judging by their recurrence of garfish in The Gar Diaries.  I think it also serves as a metaphor for that primordial part of ourselves that no matter how hard we try, we just can’t overcome.  For Europeans, I would just say think about a sturgeon and that will give you some sense what a gar is all about.

You published a compilation of essays on the great American writer Barry Hannah by those that knew him – “A Short Ride: Remembering Barry Hannah”. How do you remember him? And how, if at all, did he influence you as a writer?
Barry Hannah was a friend and mentor of mine while I was a graduate student and Instructor of English at the University of Mississippi here in Oxford.  His personality was grand, his writing often potent.  To be brutally honest, he didn’t have much influence on my writing:  he was from the upper bourgeoisie of Dixie Land, I am from the lower strata of that region–we had different agendas to follow.  He could afford to laugh at life, I was too poor, I couldn’t afford to laugh.

What book are you currently reading?
I’ve been reading a great deal of prison literature…prison may be the final frontier of the literary avant-garde.

You’re executive director at VOX Press – can you tell us a little bit about VOX?
I established VOX to give my fellow wayward contemporaries a place to go.  Those of us inherently locked out of trade presses and university presses.

What can we expect from you in the future?
I have some smaller collections of poetry and stories that I’ve been piecing together for sometime now.  I’m also working on assembling my Collected Works.

 

The Gar Diaries is available as an ebook from Amazon US and Amazon UK; or as a paperback from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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Too Much Tweeting. Not Enough Writing.

You love writing. You’ve wanted to be a writer ever since you were handheld through Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ in school. You’d stay up late past bedtime and scribble words you barely knew the meaning of on a notepad. One day you’ll write a book. One day you’ll be a writer.

Some years later, your appetite for writing has been insatiable. You’ve countless pads, pages, and Word documents filled with poems, short stories, abandoned works, and several first chapters. You’ve read – you’ve read a lot. You’ve even read books about writing. You’re slowly learning your trade and have kept everything you’ve written on stapled pages in a shoe box under your bed. You’ve been writing for years now and the shoes that once came in that very box no longer fit you. You keep writing.

The time will come when you want to be read – you want to get published. You’re told that publishers are only interested in authors with a large social media following, with an audience of people waiting to buy their books. So you set up an author Twitter account, probably an author Facebook page, maybe even a blog. You invest hours each day growing your following and having a ‘presence’. You write when you get the time – but life gets in the way, and you mustn’t neglect your social media profiles – so your writing takes a back seat.

Sound familiar? Maybe not. But it does highlight an interesting debate that’s been vocalized recently – do new authors spend too much time on social media? On the one hand some established authors say this is indicative of new writers today – that they are spending too much time on social media and not enough time writing, learning their trade, and developing their voice. On the other hand, new authors hear that publishers won’t even sniff a book from an author who hasn’t invested time in developing a community that will buy their books. So they focus on social media to give themselves the best chance of a publishing deal (sometimes before they’ve even written a book).

From a publishing perspective, the marketing landscape has changed. Selling books is now a team effort between the author and the publisher, so for a financially fruitful partnership, effort needs to come from both sides – writers need to market themselves as well as the publisher. Yet, if a new author isn’t spending enough time writing and developing their trade there won’t be a publishing deal to begin with (or even a book!). Undeniably there seems to be a case of what comes first, the book or the author, especially when it comes to debut novels for new writers.

What’s a new author to do? Well, like many things in life, a balance is needed. Yes, spend time building a community, it’s important, but don’t get caught up in the mindset that time spent online is the same thing or equally as productive to your writing career as actually sitting down, switching off, and writing.

If you’re spending too much time online and are finding it difficult to claw yourself out of the hole with the tip of your fountain pen, try some of the following:

  • Give yourself a word target to reach each day. This is your priority. Only once your word target is hit can you focus on everything else that comes with being a writer these days.
  • Take a writing course to sharpen your skills.
  • Write with pen and paper so you don’t have the temptation to go online when you’ve set aside time to write. If you prefer to write on a computer, turn off your wifi or unplug your router.
  • Read books on writing to give you ideas on how to develop (but don’t let your writing be confined by them – you want to keep your own voice).
  • Read books you love to remind you why you write.
  • Re-read what you’ve written on your current project. It should give you a spark to continue writing, edit, or do better.
  • Do something. Writing comes from experience, so live a little.
  • Become better at social media by researching, reading, and observing to work more efficiently and maximise your time online. Building a community is far more valuable than blindly chasing numbers.

Remember, to be a writer you need to write. Talking about being a writer isn’t enough. While developing a following and building a community as a supplement to your writing is important, it’s not nearly as important as the writing itself. Don’t forget, any publishing house worth its salt would choose great writing over Twitter followers any day.

Being a Superhero Again – Michael LaRocca

Today’s guest post is from acclaimed writer and editor, Michael LaRocca. Look out for ‘The Boatman’s Getting Restless’ and ‘A Modern Epic’, coming soon to Lit Bits as a bonus double bill.

Before you can write a story, you have to be so comfortable with each of your characters that you can slip into his or her skin and become that character, both in your mind and in your heart. Like acting, except that you don’t have to act.

So I’ve spent the past few months being a 6000-year-old gay hermaphrodite space alien.

Well, actually, several of them. Since I was driving and listening to Devo, I was obviously Cronus. Devo and Cronus always go together. Even Blind Homer could see that.

If I’d been on my bicycle I’d have been Hephaestus. I’ll spare you the other Titans for now. Along with an explanation of why I called Hephaestus a Titan.

I was putting some cat food in the car when I heard angry hostile violent shouts. And like Cronus, I just dropped my stuff and rushed over to the scene of the crime, ready to break it up.

Turns out it was some guys watching TV outside the sports bar when Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers’ QB) threw an interception. They were raging at the game, not at each other.

Bye, Cronus. Hello, Michael. What a relief. Fifteen angry youths might be a bit much for me.

Then I remembered that my blistered feet were hurting. I’d forgotten those in the adrenaline. I blistered them trying to hike like Cronus. He’s homeless by choice, so he walks a lot.

My next stop was to walk a dog. Part of my new part-time job. I never followed my own dogs with plastic bags because we lived in the country. (Shout out to Watha and Burgaw.) But in the city, I pick up the poop.

The second poop wasn’t even from my dog. It was much too large. She just had to sniff until I picked it up. It was probably from a very large dog, because we don’t have homeless people in this part of town.

Is that too much information?

I suppose that was my inner Hephaestus picking up the poop. Cronus would’ve just laughed at the shit.

Loki would’ve picked it up, set the bag on fire, and left it on your front porch, but I haven’t been in his skin. Yet.

You can find Michael here:

– http://www.michaelwrites.com

@MichaelEdits

Author Interview with Michael Cameron

MC_author_photo

Today’s post is first in a series of author interviews we’re running. Here we speak with Michael Cameron, author of The Brinkmeyers, about health scares, BBC TV drama, and ghost writing poolside in Florida.

Tell us in thirty words or less what the Brinkmeyers is about?
I wanted to tell a story that would make people laugh and shock them a little. I suppose we have all been a part of a family and to some extent all families have their dysfunctional moments so I took that idea to the absolute… Who am I kidding! I wanted to write a funny book after Billy Christ because that one was so bleeding bleak! (I can’t count words).

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
My kids – because like all kids they don’t understand me.. er… no, I mean all kids don’t understand their parents – not all kids don’t understand me… And so the audience is parents, kids, people who like a love story, people who like comedy – people who are… anyone really.

Tell us about your cover art. Why did you go with that particular image?
The brilliant Deana Riddle (http://www.bookstarter.com/Book-Design.html) who did the BIlly Christ cover and who is a genius at these things, created it. It was the first design she sent me and it was just how I imagined the Brinkmeyers to be.

How important are the names of your characters in your novels?
Vitally important. Names are the hook on which the reader hangs a character’s hat. You know the character from her/his name – I mean, Cedric Jones-Smith will never be a wrestler will he? And Doris Tunner will never adorn the front cover of a Lad’s mag.

Tell us more about Hymie Brinkmeyer – is there any of you in him?
Well he’s fat, he’s over fifty, he has two kids… But apart from that nothing at all.. (It says here.).

Your book has some serious themes running through it, for example, men’s health and infidelity. How did you manage to keep the book funny?
I’ve had two cancer scares, two heart operations, and a variety of other illnesses – none of which were that serious in the end, thank God, but I noticed two things when I was going in and out of hospitals, doctor’s surgeries etc – first of all the more worried you get, the more you find yourself making bad jokes or listening to other people’s bad jokes and quite often it is humour that gets everyone through these tricky times – even the doctors given half a chance will have a laugh or crack a one-liner to relieve the tension. I remember one heart surgeon saying there is only a one in one thousand chance this operation will go wrong – and luckily for you I have done this op nine hundred and ninety nine times before… And the second thing is, that whatever is wrong with you, at some point you will have to drop your trousers and underpants – doesn’t matter – even for my heart they had my trousers down before I could say Atrial Fibrillation! You’ve got to lose all your inhibitions and shed all your modesty and make a joke of it or simply die of embarrassment… There is no dignity in illness and less dignity when you don’t find it funny.

Your book is comprised of a series of fictional blog posts. Were they ever posted online?
Yes. For a while they went on line as ‘real’ blogs. I didn’t think anyone would take them seriously but  I stopped them because we had one or two confused people who became genuinely involved in the characters and one lady in particular who formed a definite… well, an attachment shall we say, to Hymie…

Why is your book different?
You can read it backwards and it still makes sense (…actually that might be a lie).

You’ve done a fair bit of ghost writing, most notably In Harm’s Way, which became a bestseller. What’s easier, writing a non-fiction book about someone else’s life, or a fictional one about people you’ve made up?
Fiction. Fiction. Fiction. Any time fiction. I once ghosted a book about the history of a German factory. If it had been fiction we could have made it interesting!!

Has your dog ever eaten your manuscript?
No but he did eat my underpants – see above.

Where is your favourite place to write?
I wrote a lot of  ‘In Harm’s Way’ in a rented house in Fort Myers, Florida, beside a pool between 5am and 9 am every day for a three weeks while my family lay-in before spending the day on the beach – that was cool. I’d love to do it again.

What book are you reading at the moment?
I used to work in BBC TV drama and recently I got my bug back for moving pictures and I have started making my own short videos. So, believe it or not, right now I am reading a book about video lighting. Actually, if you make videos it’s great – ‘Lighting For Digital Video and Television’ by John Jackman (I know – I’m sad…)

What can we expect from you in the future?
A book (when I get time and inspiration). A short video – (when I finish Lighting For Digital Video and Television by John Jackman).

Before you go, how about an intriguing snippet from your book?
Before you go – where is the cheque to cover that..?

http://michaelcameron.co.uk/
 

The Brinkmeyers is available as a paperback and on Kindle

UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Brinkmeyers-Michael-Cameron/dp/0957319134/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376520427&sr=8-1&keywords=the+brinkmeyers

US – http://www.amazon.com/Brinkmeyers-Michael-Cameron/dp/0957319134/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376520330&sr=1-2&keywords=the+brinkmeyers