Interview with Author, Joe English

I admire a writer who, for his first  novel, writes a saga of 500+ pages. A Place Called Schugara is such a book and took Joe thirty years to write. (Review coming later.)  I love Joe’s answer:  What can one do?  Submit! “  That’s what all of us writers have to do, willingly or not.  I think my readers will really enjoy this unique interview. 


Q.  Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?   Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.  

 JE.   I write at my desk, on my laptop.  Nothing sexy.  I have my desk positioned so that it faces a wall, not a window.    

Q.  Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)  

JE.   Other than the manacles I place on my wrists and the chains I lash on my feet, nothing. 

Q.  Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know? 

JE.   I worked on A PLACE CALLED SCHUGARA for 30 years, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.   People kept reading—to the last word, so I kept at it.  After 1,100 + rejections from agents and publishers, a courageous woman, Amanda Rotach Lamkin, owner of Line by Lion Publishing (Louisville, Kentucky), a small, independent (not vanity/subsidy/participation) press sent me a contract. 

 Q.  Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write? 

JE.   Preferably mornings.   The first draft—30 years ago—took a year and a half.  With incredibly few exceptions, I woke at 3 a.m. and wrote to 6 a.m., spending the rest of the day in a daze as my mind was not on my job but on the goings-on in my story, the characters, the  dilemmas. 

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JE.  Force yourself to sit at your desk, your laptop, your writing surface.  Stare at the page.   Scribble some words.   Erase.  Scribble others.   Sooner or later, generally later, the pump will be primed.   When you are not at your desk, carry a small notebook to write down inspirations/thoughts/observations/ideas/phrases.  

Q.  Where/when do you first discover your characters?  

 JE  For the most part (Luigi Pirandello), they discover me.  “Here I am,” each says.  “You must tell my story.”  At the onset of A PLACE CALLED SCHUGARA, I had no idea that a character by the name of Albert Sidney McNab, would insist on being so prominent.   What can one do?  Submit! 

Q. What first inspired you to write?    

JE.  The most important rule of writing is having something to say.  I have felt for many years that our overstressed, capitalistic, materialist culture is life-deadening.  What would it be like to chuck it all?   To disappear?  To start over?  So I came up with an “everyman” figure, Travers Landeman (name intended to suggest his trapped life), who is trapped in a loveless marriage, is harassed by government bureaucrats, whose business is failing, who fakes his own death on “Mabouhey,” an unknown Caribbean island.   Will he get away with it? 

Q. Being a new fiction writer, how did it happen that your first effort was an ambitious 500+ saga?  
A.  The story is all.  The writer becomes captive to his/her characters, who rule.  I had no idea whatsoever that SCHUGARA would turn into such a saga.  But there you have it and here it is.  I have read and reread SCHUGARA, at least 75 times in the past two years, with a view towards paring it down.   Here and there I was able to jettison a word, phrase, or paragraph.   But, for better, I hope, the story is what the story is.  To amputate solely for the sake of brevity would be as sinful as fluffing for the sake of heft. 

Q. What came first to you?  The Characters or the Situation?   

JE.   The situation.   Then, one by one, the characters arrived. 

Don’t Miss Part Two of this Interview November 16th
To purchase A Place Called Schugara
MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and in early 2019  Patrick Canning.
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