Hello, Marilyn. Thanks for having me for this interview. It’s been a long journey. I always wanted to write: school paper, creative writing classes at college, things like that. But it wasn’t until I retired that I tried my hand at writing a novel, which was quite a different experience from short story and non-fiction writing.
How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ?
I find that for me, setting aside a time to write is essential. Otherwise, I just don’t get it done. So, I have my morning coffee, ride the bike a little, glance at the paper and then write for a couple of hours. If I stick to that schedule, I’ll get the job done.
What did you find most difficult about the writing and publishing process? What was the easiest?
Taking the easiest first, it’s the ideas and the next scene or chapter. I can visualize those and they sound so good in my head. Putting them down on paper so that they’re remotely what I had in my mind is the hard part. And the characters take on their own lives as I write, so what I start out to do and what I end up with are often quite different.
Where did the idea for your Donnie Ray Cuinn book series come from? Was it conceived as a series or did that idea come after writing the first book?
The story of a young grad student who gets embroiled in Texas politics came from a real incident. A couple of students made the news by attacking an important Texas politician and were called on the carpet for their effrontery. I spent several years on the first book and never thought it would be a series. But when I got to the end of Hero, I already knew the beginning of the second book and the rest flowed from there.
How about the inspiration for the main character of Donnie? Do any of your characters reflect a bit of you?
Oddly enough, I had a friend, a girl, in high school, whose family background was similar in many ways to Donnie’s. I used it shamelessly and she didn’t seem to mind.
Ridley Pearson said that every fiction writer is somewhat of a schizophrenic and able to have two or three or five voices in his head. In writing we try to get those voices down on paper, so to that extent, every character has a bit of me in there somewhere. They’re usually amalgams of people I imagine, people I’ve known and people I’ve read about.
I am curious why you skipped setting your second book in Mexico where Donnie was headed at the end of book one - instead just referring that time in flashbacks - and why you decided to totally change his career from scholar to lawyer?
I don’t know Mexico and I do know Austin and the Texas Panhandle. The change in Donnie’s career reflects his own change from a happy-go-lucky slacker to an embittered, guilty, sardonic person. He knows he cannot go back to Austin because of memories of Cecilia, and by chance he stumbles across the worst law school in Texas; he sees an advertisement in the Houston airport. Law school occupies his mind and gives him a career completely removed from his dead wife, as does moving to Velda in the Panhandle. Of course, the fact that I’m a lawyer and spent time up in the Panhandle probably had something to do with it.
Do you have any new books in the planning or writing stages? Will there be more books in this series?
I have one more Donnie Ray book in mind, where he will meet his other family, the son of the man who abandoned his mother in Hero. I’m also working on a fictional account of my mother and her six sisters and their lives coming of age in Texas during World War II.
What would you most like reader to know about you?
I play the cello, I love University of Texas football and I bake very good bread.