Monday, June 29, 2015

A great interview with Carole Nelson Douglas

 from the blog 'Thoughts in Progress' 

> 1. Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?

I always loved to write . . . and draw . . . and act and direct. In grade school I wrote and "produced" plays and created a neighborhood newsletter. I tried writing Hollywood to get a movie made of my favorite book, quick, before I outgrew the role of the 8-year-old girl. In Desert and Wilderness by Noble-winning novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz did become a movie decades later, but in Poland. Was I ahead of my time!

Nowadays, young talent can break out from home computer podcasts and YouTube posts. Then  . . the common wisdom was no one could make a living at any of the arts. So adults were discouraging.

I majored in theater in college anyway, (double major in English Lit ), but on graduation, I was lucky to land a flunky job in the local daily newspaper's advertising department.(An employment agency told me I could be a tutor for the Famous Writers' School, which I thought would constitute fraud on my part and theirs. . . )

I was loved my job, put out a monthly ad newsletter . . . then I saw an unfairly negative theater review. Indignant, and to be fair, I took a lunch hour to see if I could review another play I'd seen on deadline. A friend suggested I show it to the intimidating managing editor. He growled, but bought it instantly for five dollars! He mentored me, and within six months I was the only reporter there hired without a journalism degree.

Fast-forward ten years. I was impacting the glass ceiling daily, my refused story ideas showing up on 60 Minutes six months later. (When Garrison Keillor's first Lake Wobegon book came out I wanted to interview him, but was told he'd "had enough publicity." Eyes rolling.)

When an editor gutted an article I thought was national magazine-level, I enrolled in a YWCA writing course to learn the how-to-submit to national magazines information in a social setting. I was ridiculed for taking a "rinky-dink" class when I had a metropolitan daily newspaper byline. 

I didn't know class members read from projects. Inspired by the creative ideas of these despised "amateurs," I dug out the first chapter of novel I'd started in college to read. 
When I finished, after a long, stunned silence, the instructor, children's author Judy Delton, said, "Get out of this class and finish that novel!" A couple years later Amberleigh sold, thanks to Garson Kanin taking it to his publishers, and became my first New-York published novel of sixty. Thank you Judy and classy classmates. And Garson, forever!

> 2. When you first began to write the Midnight Louie Mystery Series did you envision that you would one day be releasing the 23rd installment?  Now 27th!

I knew Midnight Louie had the right stuff to be a long-running character so I surrounded him with a character-rich human cast: two men; two women; two pro and two amateur detectives. After finishing the ninth book I realized it was "the season ender" and I was writing a three-year ensemble TV show. 

The alphabet title pattern was set only with the third book (B as in Blue Monday), so I'd fearlessly committed to 27 books. There'll be 28. The 27th, Cat in a Zebra Zoot Suit comes out Aug. 25 in print, digital, and audiobook. The final book will be Cat in an Alphabet Endgame in August, 2016. Then there's Louie's new series. Readers have been publicly mourning his alphabetic demise for the past few years. What's a mother of invention to do? 

Louie is to me what Archy, the typing cockroach, was to newspaper columnist Don Marquis, a wry commentator on human foibles, only Louie is also a homage and critique of that American icon, the male noir PI. (Archy's best pal is Meh itabel the alley cat, of course. )

My goal was to create a parallel feline universe that satirizes the human one in both normal life (in abnormal Las Vegas) and in the mystery/crime genre, to provide murder mysteries in each book, and to follow four thirty-something characters coming to terms with issues from their pasts and in the murder cases they solve, such social issues as women in the workplace, domestic abuse, unwed motherhood, birth control (also a cat issue along with homelessness), celibacy and sexual addiction, religious and ethnic hatred, mob-related crime, sex, lies, and trust, etc. etc. Oh, and humor too.
> 3. For someone new to your series, do the books need to be read in order or is each a stand alone book?

Each book's main murder mystery is stand-alone, but the series is richer if you read it all in order because rereaders (and many fans tell me they do that) will discover clues in early books to situations that develop much later. I love characters that grow (or trip themselves) in unexpected ways and I love to wrap mysteries within mysteries. 

One reader called it "the epic Midnight Louie cat mystery series." Continuing character arcs and even unsolved murders abound. I took some flack for that, so halfway through did what TV series do, prefaced books with "Previously in Midnight Louie's Lives and Times" Read ing  from the beginning will be much easier by New Year's, when all the earlier books will be available in ebook. T he series order is listed in my annual newsletter, available in e-mail or snail mail format at, also on the website Louie area.

> 4. How do you go about doing research for your books?

Midnight Louie and his noir detective voice belong in a city with nightlife and chorus girls and crime and entertainment, like Damon Runyon's Depression Broadway tales, another inspiration for Louie's voice, character, and arena of operation. I'd have never visited Las Vegas (honest) if I'd hadn't had to research it for the books since 1985, when it was a sleepy town compared to the massive entertainment mecca of today. I now keep up-to -date with occasional visits and via the Internet. 

So the Vegas background morphs with changes since 1991, while the storyline only covers two or so years. Midnight Louie is a fantasy construct in a bad human behavior world. I reserved the right to be whimsical about time in Louieland, as well as serious about the social issues. I'm very pleased they've remained relevant, especially terrorism (IRA) and Irish girls imprisoned in brutal Magdalene asylums for unwed mothers. When Dame Judi Dench recently filmed the Oscar-nominated Philomena on that topic, I could fold mention of the film right into a long-running character arc and subplot. I'm still the crusading reporter, wanting to inform on social atrocities.

I 've sometimes created fictional Vegas elements that came about later, like the interior lobby canal with gondolas called the "Love Moat" in an early book. First the Luxor, and now the Venice, has one. No royalties for me on that, though. :)

> 5. Is research a fun part of writing or just a part of the process?

I love research. I'm looking for the incredibly fascinating obscure weird fact nobody knows I can work a whole book and mystery around, and they are always there to be found. Cat in a Zebra Zoot Suit has one of those.

> 6. If you could go back and do one thing differently at the beginning of your writing career, 
what would it be?
I've only recently concluded that I moved to the wrong Sunbelt state when leaving Minnesota 30 years ago to write full time. We considered North Carolina and Texas. Publishing is an East Coast-centric industry. With nearby East Coast corridor access , I could have stayed on top of what happened to my books, and a lot of bad, stupid things can happen to books inside publishing houses. My third book was a "sleeper" national Top 25 mixed fiction and nonfiction bestseller in a series on the brink of the New York Times list. Within three years, three editors at two publishing houses managed to ruin the "gift" of momentum. I was forced to change genres to survive, and lucky to do so.

Some things that were "a problem" then have proved advantageous now. I always used my own name, no matter the genre, and blended genres somewhat. Writing an Irene Adler Sherlockian historical novel and aMidnight Louie novel every year challenged the publishers' sales force and booksellers, who had trouble categorizing a literary chameleon differently every six months. I was asked to stop the Adlers for a time, and did for seven years .

Nowadays, they call using the same name "being a brand " and now there are onscreen "shelves" where everything I did and will do is together at long last .

B  moving on when I encountered barriers, I developed more aspects of my writing, with the result that I've written books and stories in pretty much every genre, including "mainstream" and horror.

I've now moved on to self-publishing, although my publisher offered a tempting advance. Now that eBooks give all writers a literary "legacy" for 70 years after their death, I want to get my 62 books so far in order for my own satisfaction. I'm doing all the writing, acting, producing I did as a child within my books and have put out an annual newsletter in print and now also digital since 1995. I'm even "drawing", by designing my own covers. Thanks to all the things that "went wrong" on my publishing path, I have a huge backlist, and a truly silver lining.  

  graphic     graphic


No comments: