Welcome to the four hundred and fiftieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with memoirist Patrick Turley. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Patrick. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Patrick: I’m an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran currently living in sunny Jacksonville, Florida, and I’ve always been fascinated by writing. To me it has always felt like a noble art trying to tread water in an era of evaporating attention spans.
Morgen: Nicely put. You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Patrick: “True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read” – Pliny the Elder
Morgen: Memoirs are incredibly popular. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Patrick: “Welcome To Hell: Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp” released July 10th 2012, and I desperately wanted to write under the pseudonym “Samuel Clemens” for my warped sense of humor, but couldn’t press it!
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Patrick: It will be available in eBook format and though I’m still a tangible book reader, eBooks are becoming more and more tempting to me for convenience of travel.
Morgen: They’re winning over a lot of people… myself included. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Patrick: I thought so, but in hindsight, no, I didn’t have any say! I think it’s extremely important and probably just as important that it’s made as outside decision where emotion can be removed from the process.
Morgen: Your cover is direct and non-fussy… ideal, I’d say, for non-fiction. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Patrick: A rotating perspective mystery novel which turns out to be every bit as complicated to successfully pull off as you might imagine.
Morgen: Sounds intriguing. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Patrick: I don’t because I do suffer from writer’s block and I’m rarely satisfied with the results that come from forcing it.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Patrick: While I feel I become a cleaner writer with each passing year, there’s always glaring mistakes with anyone’s work and I’m fortunate to have a woman in my life that is eager to look at my work and lend a fresh pair of eyes and perspective to it.
Morgen: How great is that. I love second opinions as they’ll invariably come up with something I’d never thought of. Do you have to do much research?
Patrick: It depends on the work… one of my fiction projects took years of research!
Morgen: Ouch. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Patrick: I hope not, but due to the industries desire to have a clear-cut audience defined, this may very well be the case for one of my projects.
Morgen: Then maybe you could self-publish it as an eBook. Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Patrick: Pitch for submissions. It keeps me hungry.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Patrick: Countless! And I don’t deal with them too well! Once I finish a project I get a euphoric burst of excitement and pride and then I’m quickly cut down into hating my work by a torrent of rejections.
Morgen: Oh dear. Do you enter any non-fiction competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Patrick: I have not. The rules always seem too strict for me.
Morgen: And sadly have to be obeyed. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Patrick: I do! Claire Gerus (email@example.com) was able to set me up with my publisher in a relatively short amount of time.
Morgen: Excellent. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Patrick: I want to hit the marketing for my book from every angle possible, so I’m very hands-on and involved as much as my time allows.
Morgen: Ah, that’s the thing… marketing has usually been the answer to ‘what’s your least favourite aspect of writing’ because it’s so time-consuming. Now your turn… what’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Patrick: My favorite aspect is the accomplishment and knowing I’ve done something most will never do. My least favorite is the vulnerability associated with exposing and sharing these personal experiences and such a large part of yourself.
Morgen: I guess that’s the hard thing about non-fiction… at least with fiction no-one (unless they know you) will know how much is autobiographical. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Patrick: Read! The more you read the better you become!
Morgen: That’s very true, and I don’t read enough (slap wrist). If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Patrick: I’d take a priest, a rabbi and a minister into a bar so I can finally know what happens.
Morgen: Or an Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman in my case (being in the UK). Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Patrick: “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSYtQy9EqTA
Morgen: I often compare writers to learner drivers; we’ve all been there (if we write) and know how hard it is to ‘pass’. You mentioned that you’re working on a novel, are there any differences or similarities between writing non-fiction and fiction?
Patrick: While the approach to such different subject matters is drastically different, I think creativity and a fresh voice certainly aren’t isolated to fiction or non-fiction.
Morgen: I love that. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, whom would you have as the leading actor/s?
Patrick: Several favorites but giving that away would be being partial to my children.
Morgen: A tough question for sure. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Patrick: Generally I get an idea and try to flesh out a basic concept for it. From there I’ll try to invent the support cast and then form an outline for the general story. Usually once I start writing it, all the preceding steps are changed drastically as the story reinvents itself over and over.
Morgen: As the characters take over… do you have a method for creating yours, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Patrick: Answering questions about them for yourself. What gives them depth and makes them interesting? What kind of quirks, speech, etc can make them stand out and become independent within the story?
Morgen: One of the exercises I set for my writing group is to pick a magazine photo then complete a 17-point profile and it certainly builds a solid foundation in just a few minutes. What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Patrick: First comes more naturally to me and I feel is more engaging to the reader, but with third I can really explore more detail and make the imagery of the scene come to life.
Morgen: It is more popular but I write a monologue every Wednesday for my 5pm Fiction slot and love it. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Patrick: I spend time in the gym trying to stay active and healthy and am nothing shy of obsessed with American football.
Morgen: I’m terrible; I spend far too long tied to my computer (she says jangling the chains) and have a cross-trainer downstairs gathering dust. (note to self: escape more often) Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Patrick: No… I truly feel that the best progress you can make is to read. It will improve the depth of your writing while not altering your voice so you can still bring your perspective to the table with your work. Something that becomes increasingly important every day.
Morgen: (note to self: read more) Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Morgen: They are definitely the ones to be on – really much more means losing chunks of time, which is how you get to read a lot. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Patrick: Trials and rejection, but an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for those with the innovation and fortitude to stick with it and succeed.
Morgen: Absolutely. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Patrick: Please visit http://fallenpatriots.org and help spread awareness to their cause!
Morgen: It’s a great site, and a great cause, and how wonderful to see such healthy donations already, four months ahead of the Greenwich event. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Patrick: What’s your favourite character?
Morgen: Ouch. That’s not fair. OK, I’m very fond of April from April’s Fool (who I revisited recently in Once the love’s gone) and the unnamed protagonist from Feeding the Father but I’ve written three (or is it four?) flash fictions (for Tuesday Tales and 5pm Fiction) featuring a couple, Eddie and Thelma, and I’m really enjoying getting to know more about them (and had some great reactions from readers). Thank you, Patrick.
I then invited Patrick to include an extract of his writing – please note it does contain some swearing…
Drill Instructors Staff Sergeants Kebler and Rand took us out for drill after they had satisfactorily finished humiliating every last “failure” of the Confidence Course. As we marched to the parade deck, I heard a whisper.
It was Riddle. Riddle was a tall, skinny black recruit from Louisiana that McFadden had taken a particular interest in. Like me, and everyone else, he looked ridiculous in his BC glasses. “What?” I whispered back out of the corner of my mouth, desperate to not be caught talking during a march.
“Did a bird shit on my face?”
He whispered slower this time. “Did a bird… shit… on my face?”
I bit on my cheeks to fight to my amusement and shot a quick glance to the right. “No.”
They saw me.
“What is it… Mason?” Rand yelled.
“Recruit Mason requests permission to…”
“This recruit was wondering…”
Rand threw up his arms in an exaggerated display of frustration. “You wonder?! The ‘wonder years’! I wonder how you’d feel if I punched you in the fucking throat!”
Kebler turned around as the beginnings of a smile began to creep across his face and walked away.
Rand looked over the platoon quick. “Holy shit, Bruckner! You’d better straighten out that leg before I kick it in like Joe Theisman!”
I then invited Patrick to include a synopsis of his latest book…
The only existing first-person, insider account of Marine Corps Boot Camp, documenting the good, the bad, the ugly and the hilarious in the making of the Few and the Proud. A microcosm of how the “slacker generation” responded to a nation in need in the shadow of terror, Patrick Turley walked, ran and double-timed through the place and captured it in his forthcoming book “Welcome to Hell! Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp”. From the moment the drill instructor said “Welcome to Hell!” Turley and his fellow recruits felt a sense of foreboding that proved well founded. The author, who endured and survived the foreboding, looks back and captures those anxious times with a sharp line for detail and a smile for the people, DI’s and all, who shared the three and a half months. Former Marine and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright John Patrick Shanley, after reading a draft of Welcome to Hell, put it in complete perspective “It’s great to have gone to Marine Corps boot camp. It’s terrible to be in Marine Corps boot camp. It’s fun to read about Marine Corps boot camp.”
Patrick Turley served for five years with the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq, rose to the rank of Sergeant and separated from service in 2006. He resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his daughter Taylor and having turned his attention to fiction is currently working on a novel.
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