Memphis, Tennessee is the home of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Memphis in May, the Beale Street Music Festival, and my very special guest today, Douglas Pratt. It’s good to have a Southern author in our midst. Now, let’s see what Douglas has to say for himself.
“I live in Memphis, Tennessee. Actually, I live in a suburb of Memphis called Arlington. It has all the convenience of Memphis without the rampant gunfire. I am a native born Memphian who loves sweet tea and real BBQ. I have three wonderful children, and I am married to the love of my life. I am 37 years old, and I am just about the luckiest guy in the world.”
Jim: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Douglas: I went to the University of Memphis and attained a degree in journalism. After a few short years in the field of journalism, I found myself working as a bartender rather than a journalist. That spawned about 15 years in the hospitality industry.
Jim: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
Douglas: I am usually scolding myself for not writing. I really spend a great deal of time with my family if I’m not working. I also enjoy being outside and traveling.
Jim: Do you have a day job?
Douglas: Sadly, I do still have a day job. I’m the General Manager for a small spice plant where we make spice blends and sauces.
Jim: When did you start writing, and when did you finish your first book?
Douglas: When I was 10 years old, I decided I wanted to be a writer. My best friend and I wrote a series of short vignettes about a frog named Frisky. In retrospect, most of the stories were blatantly ripped off from comics and movies. I probably should have named his arch enemy something other than Flex Fluthor, Evil Fly Genius.
I wrote my first book, Blood Remembered, in 2001. Well, I finished it in 2001. Between all the starts and stops, rewrites, and revisions, the novel took nearly seven years to write.
Jim: From where do the ideas for your stories come?
Douglas: I have an incredibly active imagination. I often see a small news story or bit of information and start to develop a story in my head.
Jim: Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Douglas: Often times I know where I want the story to go, but the small details of how to get there elude me.
Jim: Do you outline or write “by the seat of your pants”?
Douglas: Both. I like having the general outline, but the details are generally “by the seat of my pants.” In some cases the outline gets chunked out the window because the story takes on its own life.
Jim: What author or book influenced you most in your writing?
Douglas: There are so many. John D. MacDonald’s character of Travis McGee and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser are such amazing creations. I have also always been a fan of the pulp noir fiction of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are among my favorites.
Jim: What challenges did you face in getting your book published?
Douglas: When I first finished Blood Remembered, I attempted to have it published traditionally. I sought out an agent. The only thing I got was enough rejection letters to wallpaper a house. Not one single person ever saw a copy of my manuscript.
Jim: If you had to go back and do it again, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published you’d do differently?
Douglas: I’m sure that if I hadn’t stopped myself, I would continue to revise and rewrite. I wish I had started publishing my work independently earlier.
Jim: How do you market your work? What works best for you?
Douglas: I have found Twitter to be the best marketing resource when used in conjunction with Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media. Creating a network of people who help spread the word of your work to other audiences.
Jim: What was your favorite part of this story to write?
Douglas: I love the action scenes. Who doesn’t? It’s always fun to write the scenes where the character gets down and dirty.
Jim: Do your characters lead you on merry chases, creating new plots or do you have to pull it out of them?
Douglas: Most of the time, my characters have been running on merry chases in my head long before I get to put them onto paper.
Jim: What’s the most amusing thing that happened during the writing of this book?
Douglas: I don’t think it would classify as amusing, however my recent book, Baptism of Blood, has a bit of a back story. In this story, my main character, Max Sawyer, visits his grandparents in Georgia. I began this story (in my head) back in 2008. When I was about halfway through the story, my own grandparents were killed in a car crash. I had a difficult time getting back into the story, however once I realized that I could incorporate a small piece of my own grandparents into Max’s grandparents, it gave me a sense of peace.
Jim: Why this story? What was your inspiration?
Douglas: Max Sawyer was an early invention of mine. He is what I envision Nick Charles or Jay Gatsby would be like. He has a moral compass that was strongly influenced by his father. The thing about Max that makes him easy to write about is his ability to fit into any situation.
Jim: Tell us about your writing environment. Is it messy or neat? Is there a cat on the desk or a dog at your feet? Do you use pen and paper, laptop?
Douglas: I write wherever I happen to be. I usually keep a flash drive with my current project in my pocket so I can write at work or on my laptop. For a long time, I loved pen and paper. As laptops have become lighter and cheaper, I find I use them more. I can sit outside on a nice morning or on the couch with my kids playing around me.
Jim: What about your process? Do you produce consistent daily or weekly word counts or do the words rush out all at once and leave you with a dry spell?
Douglas: Often the words do rush out. I am hit with a flood of words that gush out and fill pages and pages. Then I hit a point where the story is sitting on the edge of a cliff staring across a ravine knowing it has to get to the other side.
Jim: What project are you working on now?
Douglas: I’m working on the third Max Sawyer novel entitled Blood Stained. The story will pick up right after Baptism of Blood. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m hoping with this and the fourth novel to fully develop Max to the point I feel he needs to be.
Jim: What was the toughest criticism you received as an author? What was the best compliment?
Douglas: I’ve been told I rely too much on witty dialogue once. The best compliment is when one reviewer compared me to James Lee Burke. I don’t think she was reading my book, but I’ll take her compliment all the same.
Jim: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Douglas: Write. Write what you want, and write it every day. Don’t worry about whether you are the next Stephen King, Robert Parker, George R.R. Martin, because you aren’t. Write because you have a story that must get onto the paper. I don’t write my stories because I want someone to read them. Each one is a story that I have to tell before it takes over my brain.
Jim: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Douglas: I am grateful to anyone who wants to take the time and the money to read either of my books. I hope that you thoroughly enjoy them, and I look forward to writing more of them.
Jim: Where can we find you on the web?
Douglas: I am on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/MaxSawyerNovels , on Twitter at @Douglas_Pratt, and I can be emailed at email@example.com
Thanks for coming by today, Douglas. We hope to see you on these pages again soon!