Interview with Henri Duffy

How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I do this in a couple of different ways. I'm quite frugal and often latch on to free books. I have been very pleasantly surprised at the quality of many free books. I also go into bookstores, I have never really lost the love of browsing a bookstore, and look at what might be interesting. I then look for those books at electronic outlets. I'm also very fortunate to have many friends who also like to read and get some wonderful recommendations from them.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like to walk the dog, go fishing, read, spend time with my wife, and putter about the yard. Fortunately, we have a small dog so he isn't very interested in walks over 30 minutes. I live very near the ocean, I can see it from our home, and we like to go fishing when the weather is nice. I like to read a wide variety of materials--sci-fi, mysteries, and a range of non-fiction, mostly history and biographies. I also like to garden and keep the yard looking nice; it gets me outside in the sunshine. I am very happy to be able to do all of these in the company of my wife.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I was a junior in college and I wrote it for a class I was taking. No, the class was not creative writing, but it was an English class. It was about a man looking for something and he was having great difficutly finding it. In his reflections about his search, compasses came to life for him (the type of compass used to measure distance and arc, not direction), cigarettes burned his fingers, and he waxed rhapsodically about toilet paper. Like I said I was a junior in college. The story was never published although my classmates said they liked it. I also received an 'A' for the class.
What is your writing process?
I generally come up with an idea or theme and let that rattle around in my head for some time. After I get that somewhat solidified, I create a mental outline with a few specific scenes. Because my work life was so varied I like to see if I can incorporate the theme and outline into something I 've done before-not a very specific incident, but more of a meta-environment. I find that it is easier for me to fictionalize places and events than try to create a completely new environment. When I get to a point where I'm somewhat comfortable and see how things might fit together I create a very basic outline on paper and then start to write. Because I'm often dealing with a theme, the outline must be flexible because how I'm addressing the theme evolves with the characters. I use fictionaized places and events that I may have been involved in, but I don't model characters after people I know. After I complete a draft I let it sit for several weeks then re-read and revise. After that first revision I ask a friend to proof read for 'sensibility', grammar, and overall impression. Then I get down to serious and meticulous revisions. I'm very fortunate to have friends who like to read and volunteer their time proofing.
How do you approach cover design?
I want the cover to be eye catching and tell the potential reader something about the book. The author of one manual about creating covers wrote that "if you took the title and your name off the cover would the reader still know what the book was about?". I think that is exceptional advice, although difficult to follow in all cases.

In trying to follow that advice I look for things that can relate the essence of the book to the projected audience. I'm getting ready to publish a book of sea stories and that cover has some things from my experience in the navy; photos, items from uniforms, and things I picked up around the world. Others who have been in the service will quickly identify with the items shown on the cover. People who haven't been in the service will quickly see that the book is about something nautical.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
In no particular order:

Once and Eagle by Anton Mirer. This book depicts the life of a soldier who enlisted for the Spanish-American War, stayed in after the war, became an officer and later served in World War I. He remained in garrison between the wars and became a general during World War II. Mirer depicts the horror of war; how men deal with issues of courage, truth, and honor; and the excrutiating routine and political savvy required in a peacetime military. This is a very well written book, readable for the non-military person, and its ability to portray military life in different eras resonated with me.

The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes. I read this as a graduate student at university. I wish I could write this well. This is a history of the founding and colonization of Australia. This is not the history you came to fear and loathe in high school and college. Hughes writes as if he is in a conversation with you, and he's an engaging conversationalist. This is one of those very rare history books that is very difficult to put down.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I read a good deal of sci-fi, and this one is at the top of my list. Scalzi wraps a space opera of sorts around the question of destiny or free choice. An entertaining approach to a significant philosophical question. The story is good and the writing lively. This is the lead book in a series.

The Martian by Andrew Wier. Another great story. One thing that really stood out for me in reading this book is that the hero is not superman or woman. Just a relatively smart person who was able to transfer concepts about various things, connect the dots, and survive. The author also addresses issues of truth and loyalty in writing about those who did and did not know the hero was still alive on Mars.

I'm going to fudge on the fifth (plead the fifth?) because it is difficult for me to cut off at five favorites. I found the recent biography of Benjamin Franklin, "Benjamin Franklin: The First American", an excellent read. The three volume biography of Winston Churchill was also excellent. I like almost anything by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child--the Agent Pendergast series and the Gideon Crew series are both very entertaining. I enjoy the Janet Evanovich novels featuring Stephanie Plum. All the characters are great and seem real and not all that fictitious.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read a wide variety of things. I like sci-fi from space operas to more philosophical works. I also read some fantasy, but prefer those works to address other things, such as good v. evil and the like, rather than be just how fantastic can you make your world and characters (although that has its place in writing). I read a good many mysteries as well. I have a couple of graduate degrees and often feel the need to read some history, economics, and political science work as well. Good biographies are always on my list.
Describe your desk
Short answer--A mess. But it's a minimalist mess. Coffee cup, computer, clock, note pad with pens, printer, phone, and scads of paper strewn about. We're in the midst of moving and combining multiple houses into a single household so my desk should remain minimalist, but a little less messy in a couple of months. I also prefer my desk to face a wall rather than a window. I can place items about the topic I'm writing about on the wall. The window will distract me if it's a nice day outside.
When did you first start writing?
I have written for decades, although not for indie publication. My previous jobs have required that I write for technical and legislative audiences and I have always wanted to write for a more general audience. My earlier work related writing was about policy, fiscal issues, and organizational trsnsformation for boards of directors; reviews of processes and budgets for legislatures; and other very fact driven and formatted bodies. While I enjoyed the research there was little room for creativity in these products.

After I retired I started to write more of what I wanted in a style more suited to the general public.

While I found my other writing satisfying, particularly when my recommendations were heeded, I find my current efforts even more satisfying. Now, if I write something and other people read it and like it I am very pleased. But even if people decide not to read it, I have put my thoughts and ideas out there for public review and eventually someone will look at it. I'm okay with that outcome as well. The additonal freedom of writing for a wider audence has rekindled my desire to write.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I recently retired from my second career and decided it was time to do something for me, and to do something so that I wouldn't drive my wife crazy. I have the time and the subjects to write about since I have retired.

I really started with my first post-retirement job (I know that's oxymoronic) as an admin assistant. That experience of being on the other side of the desk, not being the boss so to speak, prompted me to a small book about working effecitvely with your admin assistant. I realized that I did some of the things my new boss was doing to me and after speaking with some friends, found that we all did some of those things without realizing it. Those friends prompted me to write something.

That was a fun and rewarding experience. From there I started working on some other projects that I always told myself I'd get to one day; a series of sea stories (if any of you have been in the navy these don't start with 'once upon a time') and some novels that I'm in the process of writing now.

I would probably never have gone down this road unless I had the experience as a admin assistant rather than a boss.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I get to try something new, test new ideas, go to new places, and do different things. I have to admit I did not feel this way just prior to retiring from my more formal work. I had a very stressful job that involved regulating the behavior of specific people at certain times of year. No one likes to be regulated so stress was always present.

Now I feel I have much greater latitude in my life. I don't look a sitting at a key board for a few hours a day as work, I see it as a way for me to be creative and hopefully entertain some people. I have the time and ability to try different things. I used to make my own beer, but stopped for lack of time. I'm brewing again. Both my dog and I are in better health since we get to walk more. Every day now has the potential for something new or something enjoyable.

I get to write about something each day and, not being pressed for time, I get to throw out an effort that doesn't work out. For those efforts that show promise I get to continue with them and let them evolve. Who wouldn't want to get out of bed?
Published 2017-08-20.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Biologic Imperative Frank Pooler #2
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 74,820. Language: English. Published: June 24, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
Retired college president Frank Pooler sees snow shoveling as his new fitness routine when his phone rings and he is offered a temporary assignment to lead a small college in Hawaii. Palm trees, warm weather, the beach; what could be better for a few winter months? But a variety of personalities, circumstances, and a grisly murder all conspire to turn paradise into something far less idyllic.
Athletic Supporter: Frank Pooler #1
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 101,630. Language: English. Published: December 8, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy
After his wife passed away unexpectedly college president Frank Pooler went into retirement leading a solitary life. Two phone calls changed that life style abruptly. He becomes the interim president for a small chaotic college. Pooler finds himself immersed in several conflicts including the investigation into his predecessor's death. His actions in those conflicts bring unexpected outcomes.
Sea Stories: Definitely Not Fairy Tales
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 61,940. Language: English. Published: June 9, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Everyone knows the old adage of military life, hours and hours of unadulterated boredom sandwiched between seconds of sheer terror. Not everyone knows of the more humorous side of military life as described in the nautical expression "Sea Stories". This collection details a humorous career seen through the eyes of an innocent officer.
How to Work Successfully with Your Administrative Assistant: What Every Executive Should Know
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 18,990. Language: English. Published: April 19, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Office management, Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Business administration
Working with an administrative assistant can be frustrating, successful, bewildering, and mutually beneficial for everyone involved. “How to Work Successfully with Your Administrative Assistant” provides a wealth of ‘how to’ information to enable you and your assistant to work well together and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that all too often occur.