it was a cathartic process. All of the characters and relationships are based on experience. I think that's what makes them so authentic.The story was the classic loner who skulks the hills and goes off his nut one day and starts killing. These kind of fellows were rare in their day, but have unfortunately become commonplace in the modern world, which casts doubt on our ability to evolve and improve as a culture.
The story has nearly a dozen sexually explicit scenes which is a departure for a frontier adventure novel. What can you tell us about that?
it didn't start out that way. I first wrote the book in seven days in late August 2003 during an excessive hot spell which put me in mind of my days down south in my youth. it was a straight adventure tale then. it was 65,000 words. I put it aside and came back to it several years later. As I rewrote and expanded the story to over 110,000 words, it became obvious to me that if I was going to be honest about these people, I couldn't do the R rated version and cut the scene just as things started getting a little spicy. The explicit sexuality is necessary to understand these characters.
There's a lot of humor in the sex scenes.
Again, I tried to write the scenes authentically and we all know, when two people are intimate, it doesn't resemble the kind of simple minded pornographic scenes that populate the internet. The reality is kind, cruel, humorous and often embarrassing. I think I captured that. The writers of trash porn aren't willing to go there. i believe I've transcended it.
What do you describe as the focus of the book?
It's a character study and one of the major characters is the miserable little town of Panther Creek, Mississippi. Anyone who's ever lived in a small town will recognize Panther Creek immediately. Whether it's 1896 or 1996, the social stratification of small towns anywhere in America never changes. With the advent of internet, social media and the leveling of society I think that may be disappearing. It may not be long before the sensibilities of Los Angeles and New York are entwined with Podunk. As you can tell from Southern Comfort, I'm not a fan of small towns, but I think losing their identity to the distorted world of 21st Century media will be a great loss.
Who is the catalyst of this book?
At first glance, Babalard Creech, the killer would appear to be. But if you delve deeper, you'll find that Silas Crane, Creech's first victim who exits in chapter one, is truly the catalyst of all the destruction that takes place in the story. He's the typical power baron who runs a small town. His meanness, snobbery and penuriousness are what drive Creech to his rampage as well as having created the nasty prejudice that pervades the town.
That leads to another question, you make liberal use of several much stigmatized racial terms. How do you justify that?
It's authentic to the era. To do otherwise would be false. The African-American characters are not the leading characters in the book, but they have dignity and are integral to the story. I abhor the attempted censorship of Mark Twain for his use of language. To use such terms in the 21st Century would be ignorant. To deny it was part of our history would be stupid. Learn from it and move on.
Getting back to the sexuality of your characters, what can you tell us about them in more detail.
Jake is a true romantic. He believes in love and all of his sex scenes reflect that, though he is human and is given to losing himself in the visceral experience. Ionia has been badly damaged by her childhood and Mayor Blakely's abuse. She's awakened by Jake's love, but isn't above using sex to bind Jake to her. Sam is a bit like Candide. He is the eternal innocent and all the ladies are out to seduce him. Carrie has been warped by her abusive relationship with her husband, the late Mr. Aster. As a result, she's very aggressive and intends to control what happens in the bedroom. Avice is Carrie in training. Blakely is a classic sexual predator. Not a very nice fellow. As to Babalard Creech, you wouldn't want to live inside his head.
How do you approach cover design?
Classic paintings are a wonderful resource. I use freeware Gimp to insert the text and title.
What's your favorite book?
Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove comes to mind immediately. He is an inspiration.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly non-fiction, but when I find a work of fiction I like, I will read and reread it over and over. i think that's how you learn to write, not in a classroom. Check out Irwin Shaw's The Young Lions. It's little remembered today, but it's the quintessential World War Two novel. I can't count the number of times I've read it. Same goes for Frank Herbert's Dune and, of course, Lonesome Dove. Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger is another.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
A Creative Labs ZIIO. It will do Kindle and epub. Unfortunately, they no longer make them.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'm not good at marketing. Most creative people aren't. It's what holds back my books. I depend on the readers to do this for me.
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