Interview with J. R. Duke

When did you first start writing?
Shortly after I learned how to write. I've had ideas for stories in my head for as long as I can remember and began committing them to paper as soon as I was able, age 3 or so, in written words and often crayon illustrations. First came short stories and then plays, some of which I acted out with childhood friends. I turned every homework assignment at school into a writing project (I even wrote a story for my Algebra class) and my 8th grade English teacher, apparently impressed by my creativity, encouraged me to write a play. So I did. It was called Money Love, in three acts. I wrote it, starred in it, directed it, and produced it using the stage facilities of the school's auditorium, and my teacher invited all the other English classes to come see it. Not bad for age twelve and a half. I continued writing short stories and plays over the years, focusing more on playwriting as time went by. I've always had a play percolating in my mind, usually more than one at the same time (three as I'm writing this), and I've written down outlines and characters so I'd remember them. About a dozen got fully written. I'll be publishing several of those as reading plays shortly.
Do you write in longhand on paper or create directly at the keyboard?
For years, from the beginning of my writing, I did it all in pencil, mostly for two reasons -- I could erase and make corrections and I'm left-handed and tend to smear what I've written in ink with the edge of my hand if I'm writing fast as I usually do (lefties will know what I'm talking about); if a written piece was to become a finished product I would be my own typist. At some point (I think when I switched from a typewriter to a computer word processor) I gradually weaned myself completely off handwriting works to creating as I typed just from notes and that's what I still do now.
What was the inspiration for your book?
I was listening to the radio on the way to work one day, a certain right-wing commentator's show (definitely not my cup of tea, but I sometimes tune in just to find out what the other side is saying), and the famously outspoken host was deliriously crowing about the results of a recent supposedly scientific research study that concluded the percentage of gay people had dramatically dropped to a lower level than what it had previously been estimated to be. I got the impression from his over-the-top enthusiasm about the subject that he sincerely hoped it was a trend that would ultimately see the number go to zero. I'm no scientist, but I was certain it was all bogus, as were many of his other claims, and I remember thinking this guy has got to be the biggest homophobe in the world. And that was how I got the idea for my book.
Are your characters made up or based on someone you know or know about?
A little bit of both. After a lifetime of meeting countless numbers of people it would be unrealistic to say that a character you've invented had nothing in common with any of them. For a couple of my characters it was a name and personality type. There really was a Beaudry who I met when I was in the Navy (I've changed the spelling of the name a little to protect us both). He had one of those looks you don't forget, so cherubic and innocent. He impressed me as being way too young-looking to be a sailor and was so enthusiastic about being one. I have no idea what became of him, which is the way it goes for acquaintances in the military. There really was an Annie too (no need to disguise that name), also someone I met in the Navy; we were fellow students in the same class at the Navy Postgraduate School. We would hang out with other friends in the student lounge between classes and commiserate about the stress of being grad students. She was the brightest of the bunch, aced every test. I have no idea what happened to her either. Luce is a composite of many personalities, the worst of the televangelists and right-wing talk show hosts (is there any best?); no one in particular, all of them in general. Ultra Sheen was based on several black female students I had when I taught high school English for a few years after graduating from college. I can hear them in the way she speaks and see them in the way she acts. Doctor Gillespie is the only exception, a unique character I invented. I liked the name because it has a nice rhythm to it when added to Doctor and, who knows, may have come from a memory of the fictional doctor who was the mentor of Doctor Kildare, but I think that was a coincidence.
Why doesn't the narrator of your book have a name?
He does, of course, it just doesn't come up. Actually, I made sure that it didn't. I wanted to present him more as an everyman so that anyone could identify with him and the journey he makes during his self-discovery. I wanted the story to be more about the other characters and less about him. About all you find out about him is that he's got longish hair, likes living alone and being left alone, and can't hold his liquor. That was enough.
Why did you describe most of your characters as resembling a current celebrity?
For several reasons. The main one is to add to the dreamlike quality of the narrative (I've met several in my dreams over the years). Another, I suppose, is creative laziness (although I should probably not admit to that); it's a form of shorthand allowing me to describe a character in the fewest words necessary, or rather just the names of the famous personalities they physically resemble. Also, it was fun casting the characters for the movie version, if and whenever that happens, giving readers a chance to see on the screen exactly what they had read. How cool would that be! (I hope Dick Cavett takes the part and that I get to meet him, what a genuine thrill that would be.)
What do you consider to be the target audience for your book?
Naturally, in general I hope that anyone and everyone will read my book. Although it's fiction, it's based on truths and common sense and is intended to encourage and inspire all readers to be their true selves regardless of what anyone else thinks or says and in the face of what is incorrectly considered to be the truth by so many others. My book should be of particular interest to members of the LGBTQ community and science fiction fans.
Any sequels planned for your book?
Most definitely -- planned, outlined and titled; actually, a sequel and a threequel which I think is the way it's put now. Most of the characters will return in new situations, in either one or both. Each 'quel' will have a different narrator than the original. They're both on the mental shelf ready to go (be written) and will be dusted off and completed depending on how much insisting I receive. In the meantime, I'll be working on my plays, my main delight.
Published 2016-04-28.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Back At The Ranch
Price: $1.69 USD. Words: 27,770. Language: English. Published: May 29, 2017. Categories: Plays » American / African American
Who says family get-togethers can't be fun? This one's a real hoot! A wife chases after her husband with a shotgun, a girlfriend goes after her boyfriend with a butcher knife, and a woman fueled by alcohol comes on to every member of the opposite sex present.
Meet Me On Lanai
Price: $1.69 USD. Words: 31,220. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2016. Categories: Plays » American / African American
A crazy priestess on the island of Lanai escapes from prison and seeks revenge by performing human sacrifices. In other words, this is a comedy. The potential victims have all been tricked into coming to the island for love, money, and adventure. What follows is a French farce in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with mistaken identities, plot twists galore, and grass huts with slamming doors.
My Lani
Price: $1.69 USD. Words: 30,230. Language: English. Published: October 24, 2016. Categories: Plays » American / African American, Plays » American / African American
We all have regrets. Lani has more than her share including the biggest one, shooting somebody. Unable to face the consequences she hides from the truth, seeks solace in alcohol, and contemplates turning the gun on herself. Her mother will have none of that. Although dead for many years she visits Lani in spirit to help sort out her life and come to grips with her past, present, and future.
Christopher & Joey
Price: $1.69 USD. Words: 38,760. Language: English. Published: August 6, 2016. Categories: Plays » Gay & Lesbian
Christopher & Joey is a play-within-a-play-within-a-play. Actually, it's the title of an adult all-male video that a cast of characters in the play-within-a-play is variously motivated to star in, write the script for, produce and direct, and sabotage from even being made, all in the name of, due to the lack of, and cynically in spite of love. Will love dare to speak its name and conquer all?
Doctor Gillespie's Discovery
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 134,420. Language: English. Published: September 16, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » General
Research scientist Doctor Gillespie has made one of the most momentous discoveries about our existence: that there is a biological basis for sexual orientation, a longtime controversial theory proven by the doctor to be factual, which means we actually are born to be the way we are.