I would like to introduce Douglas Carlyle, the winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion.
Douglas please tell us about your book, In Search of the Fuller Brush Man.
The novel is highly biographical, yet “fictionalized.” It has very little to do with the Fuller Brush Man per se. My mother died of cancer in 1987. She kept a journal while she was dying. Her last written words were “Fuller Brush Man”.
The plot centers around Sean Marcum who searches for the meaning of his mother’s last words. She used to teach him all of life’s lessons via riddles, and he is certain this is her swan song she intended for him to decipher. There is a problem. Sean is lousy at riddles and puzzles. His search turns into an obsession that leads him year after year from one dead end to the next.
Add to this Sean’s mid-life crisis, then the death of his first true love, Kim, and Sean is in real trouble. But wait! Kim and Sean remained close all their adult lives, and it turns out she never let go of him. In fact, she penned a novel about their failed relationship. She was extremely close to Sean’s mother, she is a master at riddles, and she knows what Sean’s mother meant by her last words. The answer is contained within her novel.
Is there a message in this story you want readers to grasp?
There is nothing more important than a long-term relationship with a person you love.
Where there any research challenges for this story?
Since it was largely biographical, facts about persons, places, settings were easy. The most difficult part about that is this. I know these persons, places, and settings intimately, yet the reader does not. I have to translate the detail I know so well into meaningful narrative and conversation, yet not go overboard in word count.
What is the most surprising thing you learned in creating your story?
This novel really molded my way of writing. First, I need to have some idea of a plot. Next, I create characters. I have to find images of my characters. Those I select, I put in an album of sorts. I am a visual person, so I have to know hair color, body type, facial hair, bust size, eye color, facial expressions, style of clothing, the type of vehicle they drive, and so forth. All of this is cataloged. After this, I write the conversation. This is what moves the story along. Finally, I develop the narrative that intermingles with the conversation, and pulls the entire novel together. It’s not an exact science, but this is more or less my recipe. When I write in this manner, I can be very productive.
What is your next book project?
It is titled, Vinegarone. The manuscript is complete and my editor has returned it to me for correction. It will be on the market within the next few months, no later than October 1st.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
My editor says I am excellent at conversation. I agree wholeheartedly. My greatest strength after that is modesty.
What do you think contributes to make a writer successful?
There is a distinction between an indie-author like me, and those who are “mainstream” published. I write what I want to write, the way I want to write it. Agents don’t like me because I won’t bow to their rules, set by the major publishers. For example, the sage advice I’ve been given includes, but is not limited to:
a) A first-time novel can be no longer than 80,000 words.
b) Subsequent novels cannot be more than 100,000 words.
c) You can only write in one genre.
d) Take that story you’ve been dying to write, finish it, then put it on a shelf. Nobody wants to hear it.
e) Write what is selling.
f) Don’t write conversation using colloquial speech.
g) Don’t turn your hero into a villain at the end.
Who or what inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always been able to write well. I am an electrical engineer by degree and vocation. I got an “A” in college, freshman rhetoric! I learned a lot from that man.
The catalyst to publish was in some ways selfish, in other ways it my way to deal with sorrow. As I mentioned, my mother passed more than away 20 years prior to publishing this novel. The character “Kim” in my novel is based upon my high school girlfriend who in fact succumbed to breast cancer. She began writing a novel back when we dated 40+ years ago. A few years before her death, she still had yet to finish. It remained unfinished at the time of her death. It helped me heal to write the end of her novel for her within my novel. True, I made it all up, but that worked for me, and it made a hell of a good story.
I had hoped to complete it before she died. Unfortunately, she passed away a six months before I was able to get the book on the market. I dedicated the book to my mother and my old girlfriend.
What is your favorite quote?
I could be trite and pick a short one. Sean and his wife Dixie are arguing. She says,
“Could you obsess over computers or cars or golf or women in lingerie or something half-way normal? No! You obsess over a company everybody over the age of 50 has forgotten, and nobody under 50 has ever frickin’ heard of!”
But, more importantly, I want to stress what I say inside the rear cover. It reads,
My mother died of pancreatic cancer on March 12, 1987. She kept a journal. In it, her last written words really were Fuller Brush Man. As far as I am concerned, I know what she was talking about.
I was fortunate to have had a relationship with a truly wonderful woman during high school and my first years of college. She died of breast cancer on June 30, 2010. Though we parted ways many years ago, I can’t help but think of how she, along with my mother, perhaps unknowingly, helped shape me to be the decent man, father, and husband that I am today. She married a better man than me, and raised a lovely family. Their life together will be a lesson of love in and of itself for all time.
I will never be able to thank these two women enough. And I can never again embrace them. But as a tribute to them, I hope all who read this book come to understand, as I have, the beauty of a long-term relationship.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
a) Write what you want to write. If you chase what you think will sell, your writing will reflect that.
b) Inspiration comes when it comes. Don’t go looking for it.
c) You have to hone your writing skills.
Doug Carlyle grew up in Urbana, Illinois where he graduated from the University of Illinois with, of all things for a novelist, a degree in electrical engineering. After a circuitous journey that took him through 26 glorious years in the semiconductor industry, he began writing great fiction. He also married, raised a family, and relocated to the Central Texas Hill Country.
Never being able to choose just one pastime, today he continues to practice his 30-year long medical ministry as a paramedic, while filling in the gaps in his calendar writing, signing, or selling his books.
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Douglas Carlyle who is the author of In Search of the Fuller Brush Man, one of our medallion honorees at http://www.bragmedallion.com. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, In Search of the Fuller Brush Man merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.
Thank you Douglas and IndieBRAG for the pleasure of this wonderful Interview.