Welcome to the two hundred and eighteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with author of non-fiction, historical, fantasy and short stories Theodore P. Druch. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. Theodore said his friends call him Ted and he’s written some flash fiction for me and we’ve nattered by email so I’m hoping I’m in that category. 🙂
Morgen: Hello, Ted. (Phew, no telling off yet :)) Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Ted: I am presently living in Puerto Vallarta Mexico, after spending ten years travelling around the world with my companion, Maria Ruiz, who is also a writer. Neither of us had ever done much writing before, but we needed to make some money, and figured that writing travel articles would be a good way to go. Wrong!
Morgen: Oh dear.
Ted: Travel articles are a dime a dozen, but we both discovered that we had writing talent and soon branched out into fiction and creative non-fiction. I discovered a real love for writing and have been writing up a storm for the past three years. Luckily, I joined the Puerto Vallarta Writers Group, and their encouragement and help has been an invaluable aid in perfecting my craft.
Morgen: Writing groups are great; I run one and belong to two others (one of which I sometimes run) and I think however established a writer is they should belong to at least one. Is there a genre that you generally write and is there a genre you’ve considered but haven’t written yet?
Ted: Most of my writing so far has been non-fiction, but I have written several short stories, one of which was chosen for our first PVWG anthology, and am now working on my first novel. My bent is more toward the literary, though I have been toying with the idea of writing some crime fiction and thrillers, both of which have a large following.
Morgen: They are. I met three agents at a writers’ conference in the summer and they all wanted more crime. 🙂 And historical. What have you had published to-date?
Ted: Back in the 60s, I lived with Timothy Leary at the center of the psychedelic “revolution” at Millbrook, NY. I’ve written what I call a “true” novel about my time there. It’s a kind of novelized memoir called Timothy Leary and the Mad Men of Millbrook.
Our travels inspired my first book, Footprints on a Small Planet, about three years in a motor home traversing Mexico and Central America, and African Odyssey, a comic memoir about an impromptu trip we had to take in Tanzania and Zambia when a visa glitch made it impossible to return to our apartment in Nairobi, Kenya for a month.
A few years ago I suffered a serious illness that kept me at death’s door for six months, and I’ve written about the experience in The Reaper’s Carol.
Morgen: My favourite of your covers (yep, I’m dark). 🙂 They do say write about what you know and you’ve certainly had some experiences. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?
Ted: It’s hard to say which is my favourite, but I suppose the Millbrook book is closest to my heart.
Morgen: Can you remember where you first saw one of your books in a bookshop or being read by a member of the public??
Ted: Unfortunately, none of them is available in bookshops, but I’m hoping to rectify that in the near future.
Morgen: I’m eBook only so I’m missing out on that too but never say never. 🙂 What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Ted: I suppose that would be the first royalty check that I got from Amazon for $33.95. It’s always a thrill to sell books.
Morgen: I’ve that to look forward to from Smashwords but being based in the UK has its disadvantages with setting up tax information etc. Still, I’m just happy to be selling, even if the money’s going to be sitting there until I work it all out. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Ted: Plenty of rejections, but my first was also a thrill. That meant that I was really a writer. Subsequent rejections not so much, but I always remember that JK Rowling got 40 before she sold the first Harry Potter book.
Morgen: The numbers vary depending on where you read it but I’m sure each publisher / agent is kicking themselves. JK’s editor was at the same writers’ conference and gave a very interesting (and inspiring) talk. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Ted: I suppose you could say that the PVWG anthology was a competition. Thirty-five stories were submitted to thirty-two different readers for anonymous scoring, and mine was one of sixteen stories accepted. I do think they help by forcing you to really do the best work that you can.
Morgen: And, thinking positively, often make you write something new that you still have even if you don’t get anywhere. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Ted: Not yet, but I am hoping to get one soon. I think they are absolutely vital if you want to get published by a major publishing house.
Morgen: I think you’re right and the right thing for authors who want to go that route. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?
Ted: Footprints is available as a trade paperback from Amazon, and they are all available on Kindle and all other readers through Smashwords.com. Once I figured out how to do it, it was quite simple. Smashwords offers an easy guide.
Morgen: It was. I went Smashwords first because their guide was so long (70+ pages) but that’s because it’s so thorough and once you’ve worked out the formatting it’s very easy to use it as a template. I’m holding back on Amazon at the moment because of the hoo-har over their KDP Select terms and conditions (demanding exclusivity for 90 days) but in the meantime I have plenty of writing that needs pre-eBook editing so enough to keep me busy. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Ted: So far, not much. I have a Facebook page, and a blog, but the traffic is light, to say the most. I am very busy with other things right now. I am the chairman for our seventh annual PVWG writer’s conference, and I am planning to have a long workshop on social media, so perhaps I will be able to make better use of it in the future.
Morgen: A lot of interviewees have said that social media consumes their time but the more they do, the more they seem to get back (in part, I’m sure, in sales) – “a necessary evil” has been mentioned more than once. 🙂 Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
Ted: I don’t, but since I am seriously thinking of getting into porn, where the money can still be made, I would probably use a pseudonym for that.
Morgen: Writing or starring? 🙂 If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Ted: Right now I’m working on a novel about a Jewish Family exiled from Spain in 1492 who get involved in a quest to find the lost harp of King David and return it to Jerusalem. My main character is a fortyish physician and Harrison Ford would be perfect for the role, if they could make him look a bit younger. Johnny Depp for the pirate, for sure.
Morgen: I’m pretty sure Johnny Depp could do any role given to him. Shame he can’t clone and do both, although technology these days… Did you choose the covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Ted: I design my own covers. I think they are absolutely important in selling books. A good cover brings looks inside.
Morgen: 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next? Do you manage to write every day?
Ted: King David’s Harp, the novel I mentioned above. I usually try to write every day, but lately I have been so busy with the Writer’s Conference that I have had very little time to do so. I just can’t get up enough concentration with all the other stuff on my mind.
Morgen: It is hard to switch off and write. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it?
Ted: I have no use for it. I find that when I have run out of ideas, I just write anything at all and soon I’m back on track. I do suffer from writer’s fatigue from time to time, and I just take a few days off and go to the beach or something.
Morgen: How lovely. I’m three hours away from the beach which to us in the UK is a major trek but probably popping next door for sugar to you guys in the US. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Ted: I have a real problem with outlines, so I pretty much just run with my ideas, though I do have to have a plot outline in my mind. Since my characters have a tendency to run off on their own anyway, my plots tend to be fluid.
Morgen: They do… I love that about them. 🙂 Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Ted: That’s a tough one. I have always admired Dickens for his marvelous ability to create memorable names that completely delineate his characters. I just go with my instincts and there’s no way I can explain that. I usually create my characters in terms of the story I want to tell and let them tell me what they are like. I think what makes a character believable is well-roundedness. He can’t be all bad or all good.
Morgen: Because that would be unrealistic (and boring). I’m a big fan of short forms of writing, do you write poetry for example?
Ted: I have never tried my hand at poetry, but I love writing short stories. I particularly enjoy the discipline of flash fiction. It really forces you to tell the story without any unnecessary elements.
Morgen: It does and I’ve really enjoyed your stories for my Flash Fiction Fridays page. Despite being just shy of the 1,000-word limit they’re very tight… do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Ted: I edit as I go, usually by the paragraph. I won’t let one go until I’m satisfied, and then I’ll come back to it later and make it even better. I do find that my writing becomes more instinctive, but it never comes out perfect the first time. I doubt that’s possible.
Morgen: One of my Monday nighters can easily spend a week (full-time!) on one story which sounds thorough but she admits to removing a section only to put it back later. I do three or four sweeps and call it a day (then it goes to my writing group and / or editor). Do you have to do much research?
Ted: It depends on the project. For King David’s Harp there’s a ton. Every little detail of fifteenth century life has to be researched, even to what kind of glass was used in the windows, and the historical characters, such as the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, certainly need to be known well.
Morgen: Wow. That is thorough, although if you don’t do it, it’ll be read by someone who happens to be an expert on fifteenth century glass and they’ll pick you up on it. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc., do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Ted: I tend to drown out all extraneous noise when I’m writing so it doesn’t matter. Still, I seem to get the most done late into the night when there are no distractions at all. Often, I won’t get to bed before 4am.
Morgen: Ouch. I’ve hit a few 2ams (and had to get up at 6am for work) but am trying to behave. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Ted: I have never tried second person, I’m not even sure how to go about it, but I’m comfortable with first and third depending upon the story and how I want to present it.
Morgen: I love second. I have a few second person sentence starts on the blog and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-person_narrative is a great page. Some people don’t like it (including editors / publishers) as it can be quite dark but perhaps why I like it. Ooh, actually I have a free second person eShort on Smashwords, that might help… or put you off the viewpoint forever! Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Ted: No. I expect that one day they will all be best-sellers. Of course, I’m 72 now, so I’ll probably be dead by then, but them’s the breaks.
Morgen: Barbara Cartland was writing in her 90s (that’s what I kept reminding me when I started out), plenty of time yet Ted! 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Ted: Writing itself is the best. Having to sell and market it is a total pain. I think the most surprising thing I’ve discovered is my writing “instinct” and its constant improvement from book to book and story to story. Writing, like any craft, is best learned by doing, and the more you do, the better you get.
Morgen: It is. We can get better at anything (in theory) by practice. Has anything surprised you?
Ted: I have also been surprised by my facility at writing fiction. I had always thought that it was beyond me until I actually started doing it. Another surprising thing is how the characters take over the story and help make your job easier.
Morgen: I know! Don’t they. That’s my favourite bit; never knowing what’s going to come out. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Ted: Write, write, rewrite, and rewrite. Above all, don’t get discouraged by rejection. It’s part of the process. As an old Indian friend of mine used to say: “F**k ’em where they breathe.”
Morgen: Eloquently put. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Ted: Just about anything. That isn’t very helpful, is it? I suppose if pushed to the wall, I’d have to say great literary fiction ala Dickens, Melville, etc. Of course, nowadays, anybody who tried to write that kind of stuff, and at such great lengths, would probably not find an audience. I still think that Poe’s short stories are an excellent template to follow.
Morgen: They are, and very dark. I think you and second person could be well-suited. 🙂 If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook?
Ted: I’m a lousy cook, so I’ll pass on that one.
Morgen: You’re not the only one to say that so maybe I should also give “get a caterer in” as an option. 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Ted: Many, but I think the most important one for the survival of modern civilization and humanism would be Thomas Jefferson: “The Tree of Liberty must be watered, from time to time, with the blood of tyrants and patriots”. Whenever I think of Neville Chamberlain, my blood boils. As a Jew, I am singularly aware that without such appeasement, the holocaust would never have happened, nor would any of the horrors that the world has known because of inaction in the face of tyranny. I have no use for “peaceniks”, they tend to live in a fantasy world divorced from the reality of evil.
Morgen: This is where I realise, to my shame, that I should have paid more attention in my history classes at school (it was my worst subject, which is why I don’t write historical). Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Ted: I am very involved in the day-to-day work of keeping our Puerto Vallarta Writers Group relevant and functioning. It has been of enormous help to me, and a community of writers is vital for the development of new authors. I have especially enjoyed moderating a weekly writer’s workshop in which our authors can bring works in progress for critique and evaluation.
Morgen: Two out of three of the groups I’m part of are fortnightly critique and they are invaluable. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Ted: I sleep.
Morgen: Me too! There’s nothing else to life other than writing and sleep, is there? 🙂
Ted: Actually, I love doing graphic work and making videos. I have about 3 or 400 DVDs of our travels, which I have set to music and voice-over narration. I have also done several video / photo essays illustrating my written words, and had enormous fun creating a video trailer for my African Odyssey book.
Morgen: I’ve seen some great trailers and investigating doing them myself is on my 2012 jobs list. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Ted: None that I can think of offhand. When I need some help I just turn to Google.
Morgen: Ah, yes, the wonderful Google (other search engines are available). 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Ted: I am on several, including Linked-in, Goodreads, Book Town, and a few others. I don’t generally find them particularly helpful, but I really like your blog for the range of writers and experience it provides. Keep up the good work.
Morgen: Ah, thank you. It can be tiring (see earlier reference to writing-related:sleep ratio) but I really enjoy it and am grateful to everyone who wants to be involved. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Ted: With the rise of e-publishing, I think the future is very bright, once we figure out how to make the best use of the medium. It’s a work in progress, but I am very optimistic about it. It gives authors who might otherwise go unnoticed a chance for their voices to be heard.
Morgen: It does, I love that. Having grown up with a brother (no sisters) I love technology (and think I only own one things that’s pink; a pastel shirt). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Ted: You can visit my blog. It has links to everything I’ve done. http://selfpublishedandbroke.wordpress.com
Morgen: I have and I sometimes go there just for the home page picture. 🙂 Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Ted: When are you going to start writing yourself?
Morgen: I kind of fell into it by working my way through the college prospectus and after brushing up on the languages and computer skills, oh, and a car maintenance for women day course, next was creative writing in January 2006. After vowing never to return having had my first piece pulled to pieces, I got over it pretty quickly (by the following Monday’s session) and writing’s been steadily getting its hooks in to me ever since. Thank you Ted, lovely to have you back and I look forward to posting your story ‘The Old Barn’ this time next month, and podcasting ‘Confession’ in a couple of weeks. 🙂
Born in Milwaukee, educated at Brandeis and later at the Timothy Leary commune in Millbrook, NY, Theodore P. Druch, Ted to his friends, spent most of his life in trivial pursuits – like making a living. After chucking it all and traveling around the world for ten years like a dandelion seed on the wind, he settled in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He is an active member of the Puerto Vallarta Writer’s Group, and conducts a weekly workshop for serious authors.
In the last two years, Ted has published four full-length non-fiction e-books, and is currently working on his first novel, a historical fantasy of 1492 called King David’s Harp. He fully expects it to be a blockbusting best-seller, filled as it is with pirates, adventurers, corrupt popes and priests, several heroes and heroines, and a search for clues to the hiding place of the harp of King David, the recovery of which might bring about the return of the Messiah.
Ted’s books are available at Amazon for the Kindle and at Smashwords for all other readers. Footprints on a Small Planet is also available as a trade paperback through Amazon. Ted’s blog can be found at http://selfpublishedandbroke.wordpress.com and you can watch his African Odyssey trailer here.
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