Independent Writing from an Independent Mind

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Category Archives: Interview

Writing the Humorous Novel: Q & A with Maclean J Storer

Warning!: This introduction will sound like I am plugging the next author and his book.  Well, in a way I am.  I believe in singing praises when they are due.  But the real purpose of this interview is to give insight into what is behind writing a good humorous novel.  So let’s get started…

Forward O Peasant by Maclean J Storer

Forward O Peasant by Maclean J Storer

I know of very few people who have completed one work and can be called a master at anything.  J.D. Salinger, possibly?  Nonetheless, Maclean J Storer’s debut Forward O Peasant will definitely be a cult classic and underground favorite for years to come.  The book has been getting great reviews in the expatriate community.  But better than that, Forward O Peasant has been receiving tons of word or mouth notice from expatriates residing in Asia, but especially in Southeast Asia, many of whom have been smuggling the book into Vietnam for friends or buying pirated copies in the backpacker areas of Saigon and Bangkok.  I was one of the first to have read this book (or at least I would like to think so) and have been singing its praises to all who want to listen.  That having been said, I know of one German in Cambodia who e-mailed over three hundred of his acquaintances telling them to get hold of Forward O Peasant and read it cover to cover.  As I have personally known the author since 1994 and since I have also tried my hand at writing humor (though in a much different format) I thought it might be good to ask him about what goes into writing humorous fiction.

And here is our conversation:

Gary Dale Cearley: How do you know when what you have written is funny? Where does the feeling come from?

Maclean J Storer: I always had the feeling that to write something funny, I would have to surprise myself. So when I read back over a scene or a chapter and it appeared as though it had been written by a better writer than me, I felt I had probably got it right. I also make a practice of reading my work out loud to myself, and when you do that, there’s no escaping it when you’ve written something dull.

Gary Dale CearleyWhere does your inspiration for writing in this particular genre come from?

Maclean J Storer: This particular book was based on personal experience. All the actions in the book either happened in real life, almost happened, or I was told that they had happened, or I felt that they should have happened. My task as the author was to try to make the four types of action indistinguishable from one another.

Gary Dale CearleyWho is your favorite humorous writer out there today and why?

Maclean J Storer: I like absurdist humor, and I think most of the best practitioners of that art have pretty much hung up their pens — Alan Coren, David Nobbs, Clive James, and the cartoonists Bill Tidy and Glen Baxter. Garrison Keillor is a special favourite of mine, and a fascination — I’ve never read another humorist who can be so funny yet so gentle.

Gary Dale Cearley: Your first book was loosely based on your experiences in living in Vietnam where you lived for several years and I understand you are working on a sequel. After this sequel do you intend to continue writing humor about Vietnam or will you move on to other worlds?

Maclean J Storer: I think two books about Vietnam will probably be enough. There are so many other targets for satire in the modern age, I think it’s time I turned my attention to the wider world.

Gary Dale CearleyWhat have been your harshest criticisms about the book?

Maclean J Storer: I have been accused of political incorrectness and bias, which I take as compliments for a satirist.

Gary Dale CearleyAnd on the other hand, what has been your most positive feedback?

Maclean J Storer: Many people have said that they found the book extremely funny, which is the main thing, and several others said they found it true to life, to the extent that they knew people who were exactly like the characters I had created.

Gary Dale CearleyFrom publishing Forward O Peasant, which was your first novel, what advice can you give to other first timers out there who are looking publish their own first book, which might be a novel or otherwise?

Maclean J Storer: Make your book the best it can possibly be. And that includes mundane things such as thorough proofreading and editing, which in turn means having a third party look at your work, ideally a professional manuscript assessor. It costs a bit, but at least you will get some honest feedback and advice. When you venture forth into the world of agents and publishers, you should use every trick you know, exploit every personal contact, and twist every arm you can. And keep a handkerchief handy for crying into when things don’t work out, as will frequently happen.

Gary Dale Cearley:  What has writing this book taught you about yourself?

Maclean J Storer: That I can successfully complete a substantial and difficult task no matter how many obstacles my self-doubt puts in my way. As some self-development speaker said, “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.”

An Interview with Barbara J. Olexer

Barbara J. Olexer

Barbara J. Olexer

Originally an Oregon native, Maryland based Barbara J. Olexer is a talented writer with a flair for history and for righting the wrongs of the past. Through her own company, Joyous Publishing, she has published books on a broad range of historical and other subjects. She is particularly interested in American society’s past negative relationship the native Americans. She doesn’t feel that this past is fully behind us, pointing to the Leonard Peltier case as a prime example. I am happy to have been given the opportunity to speak with Barbara.

Gary Dale Cearley: Thanks for letting me interview you! I can’t help but notice that much of your work shows a very strong interest in historical subjects. You and I have this in common. Where did this interest come from?

Barbara: My home town is on the bed of a lake that was drained to make homesteads for World War I veterans. As I grew up, I learned that my grandparents’ farm had once been a lake and that the Modoc Indians had been forced off their homeland around the lake. The more I learned about the injustice of the war that the settlers and the U.S. Army waged on this tiny tribe, the more fascinated I became with the history of mankind.

Gary Dale Cearley: Did you know from when you were a little girl that you wanted to write or did you wake up one day and find that there was a project in you that you just had to get out and then it flowed on from there

Barbara: I’ve always known I wanted to write. I remember “writing” letters to my favorite uncle when he was in the navy in World War II and I was three years old. In later years, he told me how much my scribbles meant to him at sea in the Pacific Theatre because, although there were no actual words, he could read the love I sent him. From there I drew comic books with my crayons and then started a school newspaper when I was in 6th grade, progressed to essays, then to screenplays, then to nonfiction and novels.

Gary Dale Cearley: How did you get Joyous Publishing involved in writing contests?

Barbara: It seemed a good and inexpensive way to get some name recognition. It has been good for my business and I’m hoping it will continue to grow. Those who enter find it useful, too.

Gary Dale Cearley: Who judges the writing?

Barbara: I do the preliminary judging and when I’ve winnowed out the ones I don’t find publishable, my husband and a couple of day job co-workers read the possibilities and score them. Our tastes are very different so I feel confident that the judging is as objective as such a subjective process can be.

Gary Dale Cearley: Every non-fiction author choses their subject matter in different ways. How do you chose the topics you write on?

Barbara: My writing reflects my passions. For instance, I feel very keenly that we, as a nation, need to address the on-going injustice inflicted on the tribes. We need to look at the treaties we signed with them and live up to the provisions. We need to acknowledge in our history books that the Indians were not the original aggressors. Obviously, Euro-Americans and the other hyphenated Americans are not going to go away and return the land to the tribes. However, we can honor our treaties and we must.

Gary Dale Cearley: How do you go about the research for your projects?

Barbara: I don’t have the resources to do original research, which is expensive and requires travel and time that I simply am unable to manage. Therefore, my research is limited to what I can find in secondary sources — mostly books that I get from the library. Oddly enough, this was much easier when I lived on a farm in Oregon than it is in Maryland. The Northwest has a system of interlibrary lending that allowed me to get rare books from various states and Canadian provinces and even the Library of Congress. Now it’s difficult to get books even from another Maryland county.

Gary Dale Cearley: What in your background has helped your to write about early American history?

Barbara: Truth is important to me. There is so much nonsense written about American history and so many outright lies that it enrages me. This makes me want to set the record straight.

Gary Dale Cearley: I noticed that Joyous Publishing specializes in large print publishing. How did that come about?

Barbara: It seemed to me that my fiction audience is about my age, which is the first wave of “boomers.” Large print is helpful to many folks in this age bracket.

Gary Dale Cearley: You and I have another thing in common which is the diversity of the subjects that we write about. The first book I published as a non-fiction work about a religious hoax, the second was a book about bawdy Southern humor – almost a joke book in and of itself, and my current project is the life story of a libertarian philosopher and abolitionist in the early 19th century in America. I see you range from writing on historical subject, mysteries and astrology. How do you tie this all in together?

Barbara: It all ties together in my search for truth and my curiosity regarding humankind. I like to read mysteries so it is a natural progression to wish to write them. Astrology is generally lumped in with “New Age,” on the fringe of the paranormal, somewhere between comical and idiotic. However, if one examines it with an open mind, there’s a lot of truth in it. I think every major civilization has an astrological system and they are remarkably similar. I just had a brief reading in the Mayan system and found it very accurate as to my character.

Gary Dale Cearley: I want to thank you for taking the time to be interviewed and answering my questions! But before we go, can you tell us what projects are you currently working on and what can we expect to see from you in the near future?

Barbara: Presidential Education: Prelude to Power is my current project. I’m almost finished with the research and I hope to have it ready to publish by fall this year. Our presidents are remarkable men and the way each was educated is fascinating, not only for what they learned but sometimes for what they didn’t learn. I find it astounding that the Founding Fathers didn’t lay down much at all in the way of necessary characteristics for our presidents. There is no qualifying exam.