Welcome to the thirty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with memoirist / non-fiction and short story author Boyd Lemon. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Boyd. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Boyd: After a 40-year career as a nationally recognized attorney in my field (legal ethics and malpractice) and writing a book on my specialty, I was encouraged by a mentor to write fiction. I wrote more than a dozen short stories and recognized a deep calling to re-invent myself as an artist as I neared retirement from the law. Following my heart led me to face a painful past, which became the subject of my memoir. The journey as an artist began in the idyllic coastal town of Ventura, California, then on to the venerable literary, music and art scenes of Boston, and finally to living the dream life of many an artist, a Bohemian year on the Left Bank in Paris, with a final few months in the hills of Tuscany before returning to California. Once I started writing, my passion, combined with years of discipline as a professional, gained the notice of world-renowned writer and teacher, Natalie Goldberg, who invited me to her prestigious year-long workshop for writers in Taos. In a way, my life began at 67.
Morgen: I like that. Mine began then in my late 30s. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Boyd: So far I have written short fiction, personal essays, a little poetry and a memoir. I am currently working on another memoir. I long to write a novel, and I wouldn’t rule out any genre.
Morgen: Me neither, although I’m not sure I could do sci-fi/fantasy justice. What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Boyd: My memoir, Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages (2011); a collection of short stories, Unexpected Love and Other Stories (2011); four short stories in print (2007-2010) and several more on line (2009 and 2010); two personal essays on line (2010); a poem that appears on a calendar (2008); and the book on legal malpractice, Evaluating A Malpractice Case Against A Lawyer (2006). I did no marketing until I finished my memoir. Since then I have done virtually all of it.
Morgen: I’m guessing that the answer to my next question will be “no”, but do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Boyd: No, I don’t, and I don’t think they are vital to an author’s success, but they are helpful to authors who are well-known or who can garner an agent’s interest in his or her work.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Boyd: I think eBooks are the greatest thing that has ever happened to the unknown writer because it is a medium in which work can be published at no or little cost without need for an agent or a publisher. All three of my books are available as eBooks. I can sell them inexpensively that way and still make a small profit. I haven’t had a long enough experience yet to know how it will work out. I read eBooks on my computer for the first time when I lived in Europe in 2010 because it was awkward to carry a bunch of books around on my travels, and I read a lot. I finally bought a Kindle about a month ago. I still enjoy print books, but I also like reading books on my Kindle, especially when I travel.
Morgen: A ‘win win’ situation. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Boyd: A short story that was accepted for publication in a relatively obscure literary magazine was the first. After dozens of rejections, it was a tremendous thrill. And yes, it is still a thrill. Getting these works ready for possible publication seems analogous to giving birth to a baby (though, of course, I haven’t had that experience). The pain is of a different sort, but pain there is; and it seems like a miracle to see it in print.
Morgen: I haven’t had that experience either but I know which I’d rather go through (my dog is sprawled on my lap, like a baby, as I type this). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Boyd: Many, and I learned early on, thankfully even before I received the first, that it is just part of the process. My first one was disappointing, but now I can’t even feel disappointment. The thrill of acceptance is still there though.
Morgen: Very wise. I was a bit like that; disappointment with the first couple but after that I was just pleased that someone was reading my work and if it wasn’t for them, that was fine. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Boyd: Another memoir, this one on something to do with my retirement, but I haven’t settled on a theme. I’m just writing whatever comes into my head right now.
Morgen: Sounds like a good plan to me. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Boyd: I write almost every day. I wrote about 6,000 words one day (and night), but that has only happened once. A few hundred words is typical. Much of it never sees the light of day, however.
Morgen: Even if that’s the case (which would perhaps be a shame), it’s all good practice; honing your craft. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Boyd: I have never suffered from writer’s block. I make sure I write something every day, no matter what. I often write whatever comes into my head, sometimes just looking around the room I am in, or wherever I am, and describing what I see. Usually, when I do that, something more active comes to mind, but not always.
Morgen: And do you plot your stories, Boyd, or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Boyd: I usually have a general idea of a plot, but then I run with it, and it almost always changes as I write, especially with the second draft.
Morgen: I think most people would agree with that (and no doubt later drafts). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Morgen: Ah yes, you did say earlier. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Boyd: Proofreading is my least favourite; the first draft, the really creative part, is my favorite.
Morgen: Again, I think that would be the general consensus. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Boyd: Oh, there is so much. I’ll select two points. Write something every day no matter what, and finish what you start, no matter what. I have observed that the majority of people who start to write something, especially a book length work, never finish it. Maybe it is better to start with shorter works. That is what I did, and it served me well. Writing my memoir as my first work would have been too overwhelming for me.
Morgen: Shorter works (fiction) are my first love. What do you like to read?
Boyd: Memoir, novels, history, personal essays, biography and short stories. I think though that I’m going to expand my horizons into fantasy and horror—just for fun.
Morgen: Some reading this may not class ‘horror’ fun but I’m a former Stephen King (still respect, but don’t read, him) fan so I’m with you. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Boyd: http://www.writersdigest.com. Poets and Writers Magazine. For books, any book on writing by Natalie Goldberg, and On Writing by Stephen King.
Morgen: If I had a pound (or dollar, I’m not fussy) for every time someone mentioned ‘On writing’… In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Boyd: The United States for now, and since that is my native country, I think it helps. I can only write in English. Also, memoir is more popular in the United States than in any other English-speaking country, and that is what I am writing now.
Morgen: It is popular here too (especially misery memoirs) although a lot of ‘celebrities’ have jumped on that bandwagon. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Boyd: I am, and I think they are invaluable for promoting writing, if used properly, but very time consuming. They are also wonderful for receiving support from other writers.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Boyd: The best place is my website, where my books are described and excerpted. Two chapters and an excerpt of another chapter of my memoir, Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages, about my journey to understand my role in the destruction of my three marriages, are on my website. http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com. I also write three blogs, one on travel, http://www.boomertravelblog.com; one on divorce recovery, http://www.DivorceRecoveryResources.com; and one on lawyer’s malpractice, http://www.legalmalpracticeadvice.com. Finally, I write a weekly column for an online magazine, titled Amigos 805, http://www.amigos805.com.
Morgen: And you have time to write? Finally, what has been your biggest surprise about the writing life?
Boyd: How helpful and supportive other writers are and how necessary it is to reach out to other writers and feel that support.
Morgen: Hear, hear. Thank you so much Boyd. All the best with everything from here on.
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