Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the four hundred and twelfth, is of debut novelist Dave Riese. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Born in 1946, Dave Riese grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts, graduating from Arlington High School in 1964. He attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, majoring in English literature. During his junior year, he studied English Literature at Oxford University.
After graduating in 1968, David enlisted in the Air Force one step ahead of his draft board’s invitation to join the army. He married Susan, his high school girlfriend, during leave between tech school and his posting to the Philippines at Clark Air Base. During his final two years in the military, he and his wife lived near Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington D.C.
Discharged from the military in 1972, he attended Boston University on the GI Bill for a Master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism. The following summer he was hired by the University of New Hampshire to script and film videotapes about government social programs for the elderly.
His videotape grant ran out in 1976, but luckily at that time, companies were eager to hire people for their IT departments. With no computer experience, David was hired by Liberty Mutual Insurance to attend their three-month training course. He learned later that the major reason he was hired was his writing and communications background. He has often said, “This goes to show you that an English degree is a valuable asset!”
During his 35 years in information technology, the industry evolved from mainframes to personal computers using the internet. He retired from Massachusetts Financial Services in spring of 2012.
He and his wife moved north of Boston in 1974. Their daughter lives in Ireland with her husband. Their son and his wife are both pediatricians working in Rhode Island. They have four grandchildren.
Since retirement, he spends 3 – 4 hours a day, writing (or marketing), usually in a local coffee shop. Echo from Mount Royal is his first novel.
And now from the author himself:
When I decided to retire in 2012, I sat myself down for a serious talk. “You’ve always thought of yourself as a writer,” I told myself, “but you spend more time thinking about publishing a book than you do sitting down and doing the hard work to write one. Don’t die before giving your dream a real chance.”
Like many others, I didn’t ‘choose’ to be a writer. There’s an urge inside you that compels you to write. I began writing at Bates College in Maine. While studying abroad at Oxford University in England during my junior year, I travelled throughout Europe during term breaks. For my B.A. thesis, I wrote stories, essays and poems based on my travel journals.
Like many young writers, I was ‘bitten’ by the poetry bug in my twenties. I was cured, mercifully, within two years. Three poems were good enough to escape the shredder.
In my mid-twenties, I began writing short stories. An early story, submitted to the University of Massachusetts literary magazine, was not accepted, but the editor wrote a personal note praising the story and encouraging me to continue writing. I have always treasured that ‘rejection.’
While studying for my MBA at Suffolk University in Boston, I entered stories in the university’s annual short story contests and won a couple of cash prizes. I knew I had to keep my day job. In my thirties, I began writing a novel off-and-on over several years. I finally finished the 400-page novel. It hides in a cardboard box under my desk.
How did I come to write Echo from Mount Royal?
Every morning, I had coffee in a café where I read a book to unwind after commuting to my job in Boston. Riva Weiss, an elderly woman who also stopped at the café before work, introduced herself and asked me what I was reading. Over several years, we discussed authors we liked and swapped favorite books. When I told her I was retiring, she asked about my future plans. I said I wanted to write short stories “and maybe a novel.” Riva began telling me several stories about her childhood in Montreal. When I said they would make great short stories, she encouraged me to ‘write them up.’ I jumped at the chance.
Soon after I finished writing two stories which she enjoyed, she beckoned to me as if wanting to tell me a secret. “I know you like dark stories,” she said. “Here’s one I haven’t thought about for sixty years.” For the next half hour, she described the events surrounding her engagement at the age of 18 to a young, wealthy man in Montreal in 1951. I was astounded by her story and couldn’t get it out of my mind. She challenged me to start writing. I also couldn’t wait.
She expected it would be another short story; I envisioned it as a novella. Every week I brought in the latest pages for her to read. After two and a half years, the novel reached over 300 pages. Hefting the pages, Riva laughed. “This weighs more than a short story!”
People often ask me why I didn’t try and get an agent and publish my book the traditional way. I can explain it in one word: reality. I didn’t want to wait several years before holding my book in my hands. Looking for an agent can take a year or more without any guarantee of success. Agents receive thousands of queries a year. Most don’t have the time to take on more than a half dozen new authors a year. And they must absolutely love the book and believe in its potential. Despite having a large publishing company behind them, most authors, especially those with a debut novel, must spend their own time and money planning and implementing a publicity campaign. Most novels have 90 days to make their numbers or disappear from bookstore shelves.
The harsh reality is that most independently published books sell less than 500 e-book and paperback copies. At best I hope to make enough money to earn back my out-of-pocket expenses which I can then use to finance my next book. On the upside, independently publishing means one’s book is never out of print.
My next writing project? Authors are superstitious about discussing their next project. They may discover after six months of writing that the novel or memoir isn’t working and abandon it. Inevitably, when people learn I’m a writer, they’ll ask, “Who’s your agent?” and “When will it be published?” and “Is it about anyone I know?” Inevitably there’s a reference to Stephen King. The writer often underestimates the time it takes to finish the novel. (My book required an extra year.) Having to justify why the book is taking so long to complete can be depressing. These discussions can be depressing.
Nevertheless I often ignore my own advice. I’ve started a fictional memoir based on my parents’ last years when I faced the fact that they would not be with me much longer. Watching them fail both physically and mentally caused me to confront my own mortality as well as my past. The novel will explore how memories change over time to reveal one’s parents in a different light. Of course, I’ll add some juicy family secrets. I hope to show how memories both deceive us and encourage us to reexamine our lives.
And, no, I do not know when it will be finished.
Whenever I tell anyone I’m a writer, they always ask whether they would have heard of me. When I ask them to name some authors, they struggle to get to three.🙂 Thank you for joining me today, David.
You can find more about David and his writing via…
- eBook edition on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RUYQ5N0
- Print edition on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Echo-Mount-Royal-Dave-Riese/dp/1939166578
- Author’s page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dave-Riese/e/B00RXXH104
- Author’s page on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/DaveRiese
- Author’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/Dave.Riese
- Book’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EchoFromMountRoyal?fref=ts
- Book’s Pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/driese1/echo-from-mount-royal
- Author interview: com/127487031
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For anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.
If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.