Welcome to the thirty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with autobiographer Paul Brogan. 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, Paul. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Paul: I am in my late 50’s and writing has always occupied a special part in my life. As a child I spent hours writing stories, plays, musicals and adapting favourite books into screenplays. I lived in a small NH City and found that writing took me to all the places I thought I wanted to be.
Morgen: Wow, I’m so green, although I used to read film novels. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Paul: My first published book is a memoir. I have thought about writing a mystery next and possibly tackling some historical fiction.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Paul: My first book, “Was That a Name I Dropped?” was published on April 29, 2011. I am doing about 95% of the marketing for this book because I don’t know of anyone who could sell it as enthusiastically since it is the story of my life.
Morgen: That’s a great way to look at it and really true of every book; only the author can know the meaning behind every word in it. This may not be relevant as we’re talking autobiography, but have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Paul: My new book is in competition for a New Hampshire Literary Award in the area of non-fiction. In high school (my Junior year), I wrote the class play which won.
Morgen: I was rubbish in the school play. I had two (or it might have even been one) lines to remember and wrote them on a piece of paper so I’d not forget them then kept reading it until I had to go on. I have my father’s memory but I have lots of other attributes of his too that I’m very grateful for, so I don’t mind (I just make sure I write the important stuff down). We came second in the play, by the way, but I’m pleased to say not because of me but because it was a period play and one of my schoolmates was wearing a digital watch – just our luck to get an eagle-eyed judge. Talking of which (sort of), do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Paul: I do not have an agent and do not think it is imperative. If you can find an agent who “gets” you and with whom you can establish a real rapport, then I feel it would be beneficial. However, the wrong kind of agent can stifle a writer’s passion and drive, and leave them feeling insecure.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Paul: Personally I do not read e-books. I enjoy having the actual book in my hands and after finishing it, adding it to my library.
Morgen: I’m hearing that a lot.
Paul: That being said, I think it is great technology for those who like it. My book is available as an e-book through Amazon.com.
Morgen: What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Paul: Having “Was That a Name I Dropped?” accepted was, and remains, a thrill whenever I think of it. It felt exactly as I felt as a young child when I would wake up on Christmas morning, creep downstairs and discover the gifts under the tree. I was suddenly a wide-eyed and optimistic child again and I have replayed those moments again and again.
Morgen: Ahh… Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Paul: Not publishers but agents that I pursued with copies of my manuscript. Fortunately by the time this happened I had reached a place in my life where I accepted that one has to deal with “no” and trying to please everyone or achieve world-wide acceptance or kudos is an impossible hurdle that will only leave you frustrated and impact negatively upon your creativity.
Morgen: Absolutely. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Paul: Right now I am busily promoting the book – book signings and readings, interviews, answering the amazing number of letters and e-mails I have received from readers and basking in the moment.
Morgen: Wow, that’s great!
Paul: I hope to start drafting another book in the fall.
Morgen: Then life goes on. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Paul: When writing the book I tried to write at least 5 days a week for at least 4-6 hours each day. I still try to write each day – answering letters and enjoying writing on a different level than when there is a deadline.
Morgen: What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Paul: I think it is very real. It happens. Some days the words, ideas, paragraphs and sentences seem to flow almost unabated. Other days you can’t pull up anything, no matter how hard you try. It’s almost like being Bi-Polar. The highs are the days when you can write and even awake in the middle of the night and start jotting things on the pad you keep on your bedside table. The lows are those days or even weeks, sometimes, when nothing is there. The best way to deal with it is to realize that the dry spell is not forever. It will be gone and you need extreme patience to wait it out. During those dry spells I try to do something else, like play the piano or get on the treadmill or walk on the beach or read someone else’s book.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Paul: I like to jot things down although as I actually write from those notes, I sometimes go off in other directions but enjoy having those ideas written in front of me to refer to.
Morgen: Me too, all the time. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Paul: Many. Way too many to count. I am my own worst critic and will go back and fester over the inadequate way I wrote something years ago.
Morgen: But since then you’ve had lots of practice and are a much better writer. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Paul: My favourite is knowing it’s as good as I can possibly make it at that given moment. My least favourite is finishing the work and letting go. It is gut-wrenching and I feel a genuine and very deep loss and grief that lasts for days and sometimes weeks.
Morgen: If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Paul: That I am not too bad, despite the fact that the Nuns who taught me in grammar school told me to never think I can do anything fairly well because it is one step away from arrogance.
Morgen: Nuns, oh. I went to a part-convent primary school and had a mixture of great and not-so-great but the great outweighed. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Paul: You can do it. Believe in yourself and don’t allow others to color what you feel in your gut.
Morgen: Simple but oh so true, and valuable, thank you. What do you like to read?
Paul: Biographies, mysteries, historical drama and the tabloids.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Paul: I am a member of the NH Writer’s Project (http://www.nhwritersproject.org).
Morgen: In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Paul: I live in the United States in the same small town in which I was raised. Almost everyone knows me or of me, and thus it is not difficult to spread the word here but more challenging outside of my home area.
Morgen: But these days of the internet… Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Paul: No I am not.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Paul: I can be googled and there is a surprising amount of info available – some of it even inaccurate.
Morgen: Yes, I would imagine so.
Paul: I have done more than 60 reviews on amazon.com and they are entertaining. I am also on my publisher’s website, www.aberdeenbay.com.
Morgen: And I found http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4867671.Paul_E_Brogan and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Was-That-Name-I-Dropped/dp/1608300501. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Paul: I hope and pray there will always be writers because the joy of discovering a new writer, even to this day, is one of my greatest thrills. Nothing can take away the sheer unadulterated pleasure of sitting down and reading.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Paul: I love the questions and as I answered them I found myself feeling amazingly content in being able to share my thoughts and feelings about something that truly matters – deep inside.
Morgen: I’m delighted and thank you so much Paul. I’ve really enjoyed reading through and commenting on your answers. I hope our readers do too.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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