WHO ARE THE KINDLE ALL-STARS?
Short conversations throughout November with the stellar talent behind the revolutionary short-story anthology THE KINDLE ALL-STARS PRESENT: RESISTANCE FRONT
Today I’m chatting to Doug Lane. He makes some very good points at the end of the interview. And Doug, ‘The Illustrated Man’ by Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite books. I’ve never got the image of the that man with the rose in the palm of his hand out of my mind.
FS: How did you come to hear about the Kindle All-Stars project?
Doug: El Presidente Bernard posted about the anthology on Harlan Ellison’s website and issued an open invitation to anyone who was interested to submit a story. I’ve had a few stories published here and there over the past few years, and I liked the pitch – especially the charitable aspect of it – and thought it would be worthwhile to send something along for consideration.
FS: What’s your contribution called?
Doug: “Exhuming Harry Truman”
FS: And without giving too much away, what’s it about?
Doug: It’s about an old married couple on an expedition to retrieve the body of a beloved family pet, before the grave can be disturbed by developers.
FS: What was the main inspiration behind it?
Doug: I was driving through the Finger Lakes region of New York one Saturday afternoon, and I was on a country road between towns when I passed an elderly couple walking in the opposite direction on the shoulder. They were dressed very formally – she in a dress, he in a suit – and he had a shovel over his shoulder, and they’re sort of in the middle of nowhere. I went past them and spent the next half hour wondering who they were, where they were going and why. And my Little Voice said, “They’re going to dig up their cat,” and I was off to the races.
FS: Did you write it specifically for the Kindle All-Stars, or was it written prior?
Doug: This story has been kicking around for a while. It started out as a science fiction comedy titled “Exhuming Winston Churchill” which garnered my first ever ‘I hated this’ rejection letter, not to mention its subconscious ripping-off of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary for the cat’s name. A total rewrite later it was earthbound again and more of a straight fiction piece instead of genre. The story I was writing for Kindle All-Stars decided after two drafts that it wanted to be something much longer, so I decided to submit this instead.
FS: Obviously the primary goal behind this anthology is to make some money for disadvantaged and abused children. But secondary to that, it is to promote fresh, new writing talent – the punk rock of literature – and show that Indie writers are out there, dedicated and working hard to produce Class-A work. If people take notice of what you’ve written for this anthology, what do you hope the outcome is of that attention?
Doug: Well, as a writer you always want to get more people reading your work. I’m actively working on stories for magazine and anthology submission, but Kindle All-Stars comes at a time when I’m also developing a web presence to promote myself and market my work independent of the traditional system. My hope is to be positioned for people who say “what else has he written?” to be able to get their hands on more of my work as easily as possible.
FS: How do you write? Are you a plotter? Do you fly by the seat of your pants? When do you write, and where? I write at night, at the dining table, when the kids are in bed and the place is finally peaceful and quiet. And I work everything out on paper before I sit down to write. What have you found works best for you?
Doug: I still do most of my drafting longhand, and really only plot for longer works. If it’s a short trip between Points A and B, I just start writing and let it take me there. I have a three-hour block of time between the paying job and my home life where I can get some momentum. But I grew up doing my homework in front of the television, and it broke me. I need background noise when I write, and more often than not when I’m working on first drafts, I’ll grab a notebook or the laptop and head to a coffee shop, a bar, a restaurant – somewhere something’s going on – and start writing.
FS: How did you find the editing process with Bernard? I found it to be like a smack in the mouth and a pat on the head at the same time, saying “I like this” at one point, to a specific sentence, and then “You need to stay in Active Voice!” the next. I learned a lot, and I think I have a much stronger piece of writing now than I did when I submitted it. What was your personal experience?
Doug: To be honest, I haven’t gotten to work yet with El Presidente. I’m not sure if that means he hasn’t gotten to me yet, or if he’s holding his head in his hands and wondering what he got himself into with the old-people-with-the-shovel story.
FS: Is there anyone in particular who’s contributed to the anthology that you’re excited to be included alongside?
Doug: Oh, Harlan Ellison, without a doubt. I discovered his work when I was 12. He’s one of the writers – alongside Ray Bradbury and Charles Beaumont – who made me want to take the stories out of my head and put them on paper. He started out as an inspiration. We met in the 90s and over time have become friends, and he’s encouraged me as a writer. So having my work alongside his in a project is a real treat for me.
FS: We know that there will be a KAS 2 at some point. Plans are already afoot. Is there a dream name you’d like to see involved in it the next time around? Me personally, getting published in a book that includes a story by Alan Dean Foster is one of those “Wouldn’t it be great if one day…” things that I can now tick off of the list.
Doug: It would be a charge to be in a book with Joe Lansdale. He’s got mad skills as a writer and he can dial that imagination to eleven.
FS: So when you’re not helping to fight evil, what do you get up to in real life?
Doug: By day, I’m a mild-mannered marketing writer for a GPS services firm. In my off-hours when I’m not writing, I like to cook, I bake, I make ice cream – I’ve got a smoker that I’m looking forward to putting through its paces. And I live with my fabulous girlfriend, who’s very supportive of the whole words-on-paper thing.
FS: Are you working on anything now? Anything you’d like everyone to know about?
Doug: I just sold a story to the editors of the Machine of Death anthologies that they loved, but they aren’t sure yet what they’re going to do with it, whether it’ll be in the second anthology or used for something else. I had a story in the first one, titled “Friendly Fire”, so it was great to be selected again from over 1,900 submissions. I’ve got a short story forthcoming in Tales of the Unanticipated, and few other stories in various stages of composition. I’m also working on the first draft of a novel that has its roots in a series of dreams I had while I was growing up, centered around an impossible house and the darkness within. My plan is to get that to my editor by the end of the year.
FS: And to your readers – both potential and existing – is there anything you would like to say? They might be reading this months after Resistance Front has landed, wanting to know more about you. What would you like to say to them?
Doug: Technology is very quickly taking writing in the same direction as music: putting the means of reaching an audience into the hands of the artist. This means the writer that wants to reach a broad audience has a lot more hustling to do. When you find a writer you enjoy, the best thing you can do after buying the book is to suggest it to your friends. Record labels used to encourage disc jockeys to identify the artist when they spun the record. Writers need the same thing, through online reviews, blogs, social media mentions. If you like a story, tell two friends. If you like a book, give a copy as a gift. Not only are you helping writers spread their work, but your promotion helps make a little more time for them to write new work.
FS: Thats it! Time’s up! Hopefully we’ll the chance for a much more in-depth chat at some point in the near future when KAS is out on sale!