March 30, 2008 | Leave a Comment
Dr. Kent Gustavson: Welcome back to “Sound Authors.” On the fourth segment of each show we feature an author of sound and one of the premier guitarists of the world is Pat Donohue.Chet Atkins says about Pat Donohue, “He’s one of the greatest finger pickers in the world today.”And Leo Cottke says, “I first heard him on the radio and got upset. Then I heard him in concert and got more upset. He thinks harmonically, improvises beautifully and writes. If you’re a guitar player, it’s going to haunt you.”And I am a guitar player and it does indeed haunt me. Welcome to the show, Pat Donohue.
Pat Donohue: Hey, how are you doing?
Dr. Kent: Great.
Pat: Very nice of you to have me.
Dr. Kent: Yeah, and your music is so diverse. It goes all the way up from jazz, to folk, to just about anything. How did you get into to doing such an amazing hodgepodge?
Pat: Well, I guess I’ve always just played what I like and so as my taste evolved in music I kind of try to capture different styles that I like to hear because my natural inclination is to try and play it if I like it. So, that’s how it got diverse.
Dr. Kent: And did your jobs get better on the “Prairie Home Companion Show” over the years here?
Pat: Oh, I think so; a little more concise and focused I would say.
Dr. Kent: There’s definitely a great element of comedy in your music. Do you get a hand in those comic songs that Garrison Keillor always dreams up?
Pat: Sometimes we write together. A lot of times he’ll have written the lyrics, or I will. Usually if I’m singing it I’ve written it and if he’s singing it he’s written it and vice versa but sometimes they cross, yeah.
Dr. Kent: Now, your latest album is all solo guitar. We’re not going to play a clip of that on the show today but tell me a little bit about that album.
Pat: It’s just an album that I wanted to have of what it sounds like when I just sit down on a chair in a room and play my guitar. That’s pretty much what it sounds like and if that’s the sort of thing that appeals to you, it’s really great.
Dr. Kent: Do you still get the same kind of joy you did when you were 12 years old first picking up the guitar?
Pat: Yeah. It’s funny you should ask. I was just thinking that the other day and wondering that to myself. But then yes, I do.
Dr. Kent: That’s a wonderful thing. Let’s listen to a little bit, one of the songs you wrote from your “Profile” album. I chose two love songs here. One of them is called “My True Love.” Let’s hear a little bit of that.
Dr. Kent: Well, that’s a beautiful tune. Not only are you a gifted guitar player, you’re a singer as well. Did you ease into that or was it always a marriage?
Pat: No, I always sang even when I was a little kid.
Dr. Kent: What did you start with? Were your folks rockers or were your folks…?
Pat: No, not at all, not at all. But I had an older sister who played guitar and sang and so I used to harmonize with her before my voice changed. [laughs] I was the one with the high voice for a while.
Dr. Kent: Oh yes, I know that very well. I had a soprano until the age 15. Now, we’re interrupting you in a middle of a rehearsal right now. What are you rehearsing for?
Pat: We’re rehearsing for a radio broadcast of Prairie Home Companion”, which will be live tomorrow night on your public radio station.
Dr. Kent: Do you still enjoy it?
Pat: Oh yes, very much, very much. I was just listening in the other room. They’re rehearsing without me and it makes me feel like I should get back there. [laughs]
Dr. Kent: We’re getting you in big trouble here.
Pat: No, I just don’t want to be left out.
Dr. Kent: It’s been a true pleasure. I don’t want to hold you too long. Let me ask you a couple more questions…
Dr. Kent: …about your childhood. Very curious, did you listen to Doc Watson? Did you listen to blues players? What was your…what did you love?
Pat: Yeah, both of those things are true. I started off playing drums when I was about 10 and I was in a rock band in high school playing drums and then learning how to play guitar at the same time as a sideline. Then our guitar player was listening to a lot of, well, blues players and also people like Doc Watson and country, the roots music I guess you could say now.
Dr. Kent: And are you a roots musician?
Pat: I guess I’d say so, yeah.
Dr. Kent: But just about anything. What I love about the show is that anytime you tune in it might be a Blind Blake tune, it might be some finger picking, it might be a soft folk tune. It’s awesome.
Pat: Well, we’re just working on a version of “Police Dog Blues” by Blind Blake just as we were talking here.
Dr. Kent: Do you listen to those records? How do you figure it out?
Pat: Yeah, I’ve listened to all the Blind Blake stuff a lot by now so I kind of know it all but at least how it goes basically. And if I don’t I refer back to it. There are some great CD reissues of old blues players now and it’s much more easy to access that music.
Dr. Kent: Those old 78s?
Dr. Kent: So one more questions for you. Do you have really expensive finger insurance?
Pat: [laughs] No, I probably should.
Dr. Kent: [laughs]
Pat: Get into the digital age…
Dr. Kent: There you go. Well, it’s been a real pleasure. Let’s listen to a little bit of another love song here from the album “Portrait”, it’s a gorgeous album, sorry not portrait, “Profile.”
Dr. Kent: And this song is called “Do you Love Me?” It’s another love song. Thank you so much for being on the show and we’ll listen to you tomorrow night on “Prairie Home Companion.”
Pat: All right, thanks a lot.
March 29, 2008 | Leave a Comment
Dr. Kent: Welcome back to Sound Authors. On the fourth part of each show we feature authors of sound. One of my favorite authors of sound is a man named Doyle Lawson. He has played with just about anybody you can think of in the field of bluegrass. His band is always the best in the business. Welcome to the show.
Doyle: Thank you very much. It’s good to talk to you.
Dr. Kent: Now, tell me a little bit, where are you right now?
Doyle: Well, I am actually in Fredrick, Maryland, on my way down to Bethesda for a concert tonight at the Strathmore Theatre. And then we come back to Fredrick to the Weinberg Theatre tomorrow night.
Dr. Kent: How is the life on the road? How does it treat you?
Doyle: Well, I’ve been doing it for 45 years, and it’s treated me pretty good. [laughs] It all depends on how you take it and how you look at it. If you love to travel, as I do, it doesn’t bother you. If you’re not one that enjoys to travel and being on the road a good deal of the time, then I would suggest that you maybe take up bookkeeping or something like that. [laughs]
Dr. Kent: Your bands are always so incredible. How do you go about choosing the members of your bands?
Doyle: Well, I look for people that will fit the moods of the style of music I play, that can blend in with us and join in their efforts and keep the transition between one musician and another as seamless as possible, and still keep that sound that’s identified as Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.
Dr. Kent: And they can all sing, that’s for sure.
Doyle: Primarily, the first thing I look for is the vocals, their vocal prowess and how they’ll blend with my voice and the other guys in the group at the time. But vocals are the primary thing I look for at first, and then I look at their skills as far as playing whichever instrument that I need to be played.
Dr. Kent: Let’s talk a little bit about your gospel music. I think you do gospel music the best of anybody in the business. Why is it that you have that soul in all of this music? Where does it come from?
Doyle: Well, I grew up in east Tennessee and my father was involved in quartet music. They sang all a cappella. During those days, when I was a child, most churches in and around the east Tennessee, southwestern Virginia area would have a quartet within the church, or a trio of some sort, but a lot of a cappella music.I learned to love gospel music being brought up in church and hearing my father in the quartet he’d sing with. It just left a lasting impact on my life. And I’m quick to tell people that as far as gospel music is concerned, he was my first and biggest influence.
Dr. Kent: Your newest album is called “Help Is On the Way.” There’s a whole bunch of albums that you all have put out. I love that every album is full of gospel music, full of vocal music, full of soul. This newest album, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver “Help Is On the Way,” let’s listen to the title track, “Help Is On the Way.”[music]
Dr. Kent: That song is the title track from “Help Is On the Way,” released in 2008 by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. And that mandolin solo was yours, am I right?
Doyle: Yes, sir, that was me.
Dr. Kent: When did you start playing the mandolin?
Doyle: I started trying to learn to play mandolin when I was about 11 years old. One of the fellows that sang with my dad in the quartet, I discovered he had a little mandolin and asked my dad to see if I could borrow it. He did and I did, and I began to teach myself to play the mandolin.I’m self-taught pretty much, but along the way I had some help from the legendary Jimmy Martin of bluegrass fame, which was actually who I wound up going to work for my first professional job. In February of 1963, I took a job with Jimmy. But I started liking the mandolin when I was about four or five years old.I’ve played a lot of different instruments. The fact is, my first professional job I was a banjo player, but mandolin has always been my first love. And still, above all the things that I play, that’s my favorite and primarily that’s what I play most of the time.
Dr. Kent: The one thing I have heard about Jimmy Martin, who has now left us, but one of the best voices in the history of bluegrass. One thing that I’ve heard about him is that he was a school himself. He taught everybody how to sing, how to play. Didn’t matter if he was better than them at that instrument, but he would tell you if you were doing it right. Is that right?
Doyle: Absolutely, Jimmy was a taskmaster for sure, but he had when it came to his music, he knew exactly what he wanted and settled for nothing less than that. That was, of course, that was my earliest days of professional training.Before that my dad was the same way in the music he sang, even though they didn’t play, they sang; and they were very disciplined with it, as was Jimmy.So, that’s carried with me all these years. I’m much the same way when it comes to my group. When it comes to my music, I have a definite idea about how I want it to be. I tell them; the reason I hire these people is because I know that they can do what it is that I ask.
Dr. Kent: And you have such a different brand of bluegrass, I think. My opinion. One of my favorite albums is called “A School of Bluegrass.” It’s all of your outtakes from over the years.
Doyle: Yeah, that was something that I had. Over the years I would tape rehearsals and sometimes pick up a live show along the way or something like that. I got to looking through all the things that I had stored up. I discovered that pretty much I had rehearsals or some music by just about every formation of the groups down through the years to celebrate my 25 years as a bandleader.So the record company suggested that, since I’ve had so many great musicians come through here and go on and do quite well for themselves, that maybe they would like to call it “A School of Bluegrass,” because I am known as a taskmaster sometimes.But I never asked people to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.
Dr. Kent: And you put out an album a year, at least. How do you do that?
Doyle: Well, you stay after it. There’s an old saying, out of sight, out of mind, and I’ve always tried to stay productive for the people. It’s good for me as a professional musician. It keeps my chops up. Keeps my interest up.I don’t want to slide into that safety zone where I say, “Well, OK, I’ve done this. I’ve done that. I’ve done this. I want to coast awhile.” I don’t believe in coasting. If you are going to be out here doing it, be productive.For two reasons: one, it keeps your talents up to par; and it gives people something fresh to know that Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver are still out there working hard to make sure that they have music that they can enjoy.
Dr. Kent: Now, my last question for you. How do you balance this: In the bluegrass world today, there is such a different group of folks that love the gospel and love the non-gospel music. How do you keep the gospel music alive?
Doyle: Well, you know, it’s something that for me that is more than just doing the music. It’s something that I believe in. My faith is very real and important to me in my walk of life and I believe myself, and show as an example of the way I think people should behave.I love gospel music, as I stated earlier. So I have found that my audience, whether it be an all-gospel concert or a mixture of both… sometimes I may go out at a concert and I start to trying to get a feel for the audience what they are enjoying the most.Sometimes I may do 60 percent bluegrass and 40 percent gospel. Or I may do 60 percent gospel and 40 percent bluegrass. It all depends on what they are really enjoying. If they are really enjoying the gospel music more, I do that. If they are enjoying the secular, I make sure that I do a good amount of gospel, but I kind of leave that up to each audience where we are going as to how much I’m doing of either one.
Dr. Kent: This has been a real honor speaking with Doyle Lawson of Quicksilver. You are a legend. It’s been great chatting with you and your new album is called “Help Is On the Way” from 2008.We’re going to listen to a track, a secular track called “Sadie’s Got Her New Dress On.” Thank you for being on the show.
Doyle: Been my pleasure. Thank you.[music]
Dr. Kent: Thank you for sitting in to Sound Authors. I’m Dr. Kent. I’ve been speaking with Doyle Lawson of Quicksilver. That’s who we are listening to in the background.And with two novelists: Kate Maloy with “Every Last Cuckoo,” Jim Olson with “The Eagle Unchained,” and then a woman who’s an expert on writing, Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Go visit all them on the web. Visit us atsoundauthors.com and we’ll see you soon.
March 29, 2008 | Leave a Comment
Dr. Kent Gustavson: Welcome back to “Sound Authors.” My next guest is Kate Maloy. Her new novel is called “Every Last Cuckoo.” It is published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. It just came out and it is set in Vermont, a favorite place of mine. It is a good pleasure speaking to Kate Malloy. Welcome to the show.
Kate Maloy: Thank you. It is good to be here.
Dr. Kent: Tell me a little bit about “Every Last Cuckoo.”
Kate: OK. “Every Last Cuckoo,” as you said, is set in Vermont. The main character is a 75 year old native Vermonter named Sarah Lucas who, in the course of the novel, suffers a really devastating loss and has to decide how she is going to carry on. She sort of feels that her choices are between lying back and going dark or sitting up and paying attention. She sits up and pays attention.
Dr. Kent: Is this a novel that has personal feelings for you?
Kate: Well, I lived in Vermont when I was writing it. I dearly loved Vermont. My husband and I had to leave for personal reasons and we now live in Oregon, which is a little bit like Vermont. But Sarah herself, although she is modeled on some older women that I have known personally, is not any of those women. She is her own creation.
Dr. Kent: There are so many novels out there right now. Algonquin Press is a wonderful press. How has the book been doing?
Kate: It has been doing actually very well. The official release date was January 22. The book has just gone into its third printing.
Dr. Kent: Oh, wonderful!
Kate: Yeah, yeah. I mean, they are not mega printings, but they are really respectable and really good. Algonquin is just wonderful. I have absolutely loved working with them.
Dr. Kent: So, let us talk a little bit about the book itself. Why did you decide to deal with the topic of an elderly woman and with the sudden death of her husband? I know it is a very thing. It is something we see every day, but why did you choose this topic?
Kate: Well, I chose it partly because it is something that happens to many, many women every year. But really, the main reason I chose it is because I still see older women, women in their 60′s, 70′s, 80′s stereotyped by the larger culture. It is as if people think that an older woman has just arrived on the planet with no history. You know?Instead of looking at these women as people who have developed some skill and strength and wisdom in the course of their lives, they just look at them as frail or silly or negligible in some way. In my experience, it is absolutely not true. There is nobody tougher and nobody more wise than women who have struggled in their lives. And especially if they have raised families and been engaged deeply with the people in their lives. They really become a force to contend with.
Dr. Kent: In Vermont, I went to a college in Vermont, at Middlebury. It is the most beautiful state in the country, I think. Oregon has a good claim, also. But Vermont, the people are so different than people anywhere else. Did you choose a Vermonter for that reason?
Kate: Well, I chose a Vermonter partly because I was in Vermont. Partly because one of the women who is like my character Sarah in spirit, if not in the events of her life, comes from Vermont stock. And also because Vermont has an extreme climate. There is a great deal of, I do not know, challenge to living in Vermont, especially for a lifetime. Weathering the winters. Seeing the amount of poverty in the state, which is really quite a lot and increasing in these days, I am sure.There is just a certain resourcefulness and independence of mind and courage I associate with Vermonters, especially native Vermonters. So yeah, Vermont is important. It is important to Sarah and to the story.
Dr. Kent: What is the process you go about? This book has a whole great cast of characters. What is your process of dreaming up a family? Dreaming up a character? Is this based on people you know? Is it based on people you see walking around shopping malls? How do you do that?
Kate: In this case, although Sarah yes, is based in her attitudes and her courage on women I have known and her husband Charles is probably based on some older men I have known, the rest of her family just kind of arrives. It seemed to me that Sarah needed at least a couple of children, and three seemed better than two.She needed one of them to be somebody she had to really struggle with. Somebody she butted heads with. She needed one to be someone she could always talk to. And another one who maybe they have a history of difficulty and now that has passed and there is a sort of mellowness that has set in. So, I think the characters of her children come from the needs of the story.I would say the same is true for other characters in the book. There is a bunch of people who show up in Sarah’s life after her husband has died. They are all people who need a retreat or refuge or some kind of protection. There have been a few people who have said oh that is ridiculous, no 75 year old woman is going to fill up her house with strangers.And the fact they are not strangers. That is partly a function of Vermont too. One of them is a cousin of somebody she knows and one is her own granddaughter with two of her friends. One is the daughter of a friend. She either knows all of these people or knows where they come from, what their stock is, who their families are. I think that is important too. She is not a foolhardy woman. She is making her choices very carefully.
Dr. Kent: Now, in a world where the last Halloween I remember all of the children in the neighborhood came before 5:00 pm because of the fear of strangers, it is such a frightened society right now. Maybe from all of the television and that. This book is about accepting strangers into a home, the “Every Last Cuckoo.” What does that mean to people?
Kate: Well, I want to respond a little bit to your comment that this is a very frightened society, because I think that is really important in the book. There is hazard all around Sarah. And after Charles dies, she is very, very aware of it and very frightened and has sort of lifelong underground fears to confront and deal with in the course of this novel.Some of that comes from the natural world, which she sees as full of hazard, from the weather to the predators in her woods, accidents that can happen. Somebody falls through the ice into a pond. Someone else nearly freezes to death because her car gets stalled at night on a remote road and it is bitterly, bitterly cold.But there are also echoes of fear from the larger world. People think of Vermont as very safe, which compared to other states it is. But there is a lot of domestic violence in Vermont. There is a lot of personal violence that is bred by poverty and loss of jobs and alcohol and all sorts of things.And then there are a couple of characters in the novel who bring in a sense of danger from the much larger world. There is an Israeli scholar who comes and stays with Sarah. There is news of a murder in Massachusetts that affects her family.So yeah, there is kind of a sense of that throughout the novel. And it is a big challenge for Sarah to learn how not to be afraid when there is so much reason for fear.
Dr. Kent: I know you have written in the past a memoir called A Stone Bridge North, which explores a little bit your Quaker faith.
Kate: Yes, that is right.
Dr. Kent: How does being part of the Friends Church…How does that take place in this novel as well? Is there a little bit of that in here?
Kate: There is some of that in there. There is one character who is a Quaker, who has been a Quaker her whole life. She has doubts, you know as most people who follow any kind of religious faith do from time to time. But mainly the thread from Quakerism has to do with human violence, and whether it is as essential and in the scape of all, as violence in the natural world.I mean, an animal who hunts for its dinner is doing what it was designed and formed to do. But a person who goes to war and kills another person, he does not know and does not have any actual personal quarrel with, is a whole different question. And that is partly why the Israeli character is in there. It is something he has thought about a lot.
Dr. Kent: So, now that you have opened up the political bag of worms a little bit here, what do you think about the political situation?
Kate: The current one?
Dr. Kent: Yes.
Kate: What about it? It is so much.
Dr. Kent: Are you glued to CNN? Or are you more of a newspaper reader?
Kate: I am more of an online reader. I read a lot of stuff online, both from conversations in various forums to reporting on various sites. At the moment, my major concerns are endless war and the threat of further wars. And also the increasingly mean-spirited tone between the Democratic candidates. I do not think it is doing the party any good and I think it is helping Republicans. But that is just my personal take on things.
Kate: One L in Maloy. And this is available at Amazon and book stores all over the place.
Dr. Kent: It is from Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. And her older books are also available. So, go check her out online. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Kate: Thank you ever so much. I have really enjoyed it.
Dr. Kent: My next guest is the legendary bluegrass, father of bluegrass in some ways, Doyle Lawson with a brand of vocal gospel bluegrass that no one else has. Come on back.
March 29, 2008 | Leave a Comment
Dr. Kent Gustavson: Welcome back to Sound Authors. My next guest is James R. Olson, author of “An Eagle Unchained,” a political novel. Welcome to the show.
James R. Olson: Thank you, pleased to be here.
Kent: Tell me a little bit about your newest novel.
James: The “Eagle Unchained” is a political novel. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, but I do believe that our government has gotten out of control, and it’s interfering in every aspects of our lives, that the career politicians have lost touch with the American people and do much of their legislation for the benefit of the special interest groups and lobbyists who donate huge sums of money to their election campaigns. So, I wrote the “Eagle Unchained” as a way of pointing out some of what I believe are common sense solutions that career politicians refuse to address.
Kent: And I know you are giving away your book online.
James: Yes I am. One of the biggest fears of an author of course is obscurity. I believe that the way to get the word around is by word of mouth; and I believe what I’m saying in the “Eagle Unchained” is important enough that we would love to have a lot of people read it, tell other people about. So, if I have to give it away, I’m more than willing to do that.
Kent: You’ve had quite a history of book publishing. Give us a little nutshell of where you’ve come.
James: I published my first back in 1973, “Ulzana,” a historical fiction. It won several awards. That was published through Houghton Mifflin. I became disenchanted with traditional publish and I’ve investigated quite a few avenues since then. I published another historical fiction called “Brother,” two mystery stories, a kind of a series, and one other general fiction. The other general fiction is currently being considered for the Pulitzer. I hope to find out in April how that did.
Kent: You’re newest book “An Eagle Unchained,” it’s a political novel, which is a little bit of a change for you. What was the inspiration for that?
James: Well, again as I said, I’m just kind of disgusted with the way that government has gotten bigger and bigger and become less in touch with the people and it’s interfering with some many aspects of our life – not only the career politicians, but the career bureaucrats. And so, I wanted to just do my part to let people know that there are other options.”An Eagle Unchained” is the story of a man probably most similar to Ross Perot, who ran for president back in the 1970s, a business man rather than a career politician who reaches out to the people instead of going with the support to of the political parties. He starts his own political party.
Kent: The book itself is a novel.
Kent: Does it talk about an ideal government. What’s the premise?
James: Well, as I said, the premise is the man running for president because he also feels that things need to be changed and that the career politicians aren’t addressing the problems. The president of the United States – although we kind of use him as a figure head – really doesn’t cause a lot of the problems, it’s congress. Congress passes the laws, congress spends our money, congress changes the taxes and so on and so forth. You have people in congress that are in there for a career. Thirty, forty years – we’ve got the average age of the senate, for example, is much older than the average age in the country.The major premise of the book is to do something about congress. Something that they’re trying to get done is to have term limits on congressmen that the hero Ted Hale, who is running for president. His main focus is to cut down on these career politicians who are losing touch with the American people.
Kent: If you’re candidate was running for president, do you think he’d do pretty well against the current candidates?
James: I think, if he could do what my man does in the book – get to the people through the young people. Yes, I think he could. The people that are running now – the three major candidates – are all senators. Two of which have been senators for a long time. They are good people. I am not knocking them individually. They have lost touch with the American people. All they are talking about is more government, more government, more spending, and that isn’t the answer. Government is the problem, not the answer.
Kent: What did you think about the candidate Ron Paul?
James: I was impressed with him. I didn’t follow his campaign real well, but, yeah, I was impressed with some of the things that he had to say. Actually, some of the candidates who are not the big guns had more to say. But, none of them, again, were addressing the problem of doing something about congress.
Kent: Tell me a little bit about the plot of the story. How did it open up?
James: It opens up with Ted Hale, the candidate for president who is quite a wealthy business man, gathering together people from his own organization and going to begin his campaign for the presidency because he’s been selected to address the major media in New York for receiving a reward for man of the year. He uses that as a platform to launch his campaign, although he suspects most of the major media is not going to back him. He has spent several years getting ready for this by purchasing his own television networks, newspapers, and radio stations so that he does have a platform to reach the people.
Kent: How does he get through to the young people? Is he a young man?
James: He’s middle-aged. He’s not a young man. He goes to the colleges for their graduations every opportunity that he has and speaks to the young people trying to get them together – probably a lot like John Kennedy did back in the 60s when he was running for president. He had a lot of young people who got enthusiastic about his campaign and went out and did a lot of the leg work for him. He does that in this book – reaches the young people and then he maintains contact with them through Internet hook ups and through with all of his campaign headquarters and he gets the young people out there to talk and to spread the word. There is no substitute for spreading the word because there are a lot of unhappy people in this country.
Kent: What’s your newest project? Are you writing a new one?
James: Oh yeah. Probably, they’re going to take the pen out of my cold dead hand when I die. Right now, I am writing another general fiction book about abused children. I am hoping that’ll also be a good book. I’ve gotten a lot of good response about “An Eagle Unchained” so far although it has only been out since the beginning of this month.
Kent: Wonderful. Who are your target readers? Who are you looking for? Is this a mainstream book?
James: Oh yes. It’s mainstream. I suspect the people who’d be most interested in it are the people who feel frustrated because they’re unhappy with the government. The way things are going and they feel like their vote doesn’t count. This is an opportunity to tell them, “yes it does count.” There are things that can be done. It isn’t going to be easy, but it can be done.
Kent: And this book is available free online. People can read it from the website which is booksbyolson.com. Give me a sound clip about the book for people that are just tuning in.
James: I’m not sure what you mean by sound clip.
Kent: Tell me what the book is about, where to find it, and all that.
James: OK. As I said, the book is a political novel and it’s trying to offer some solutions that the American people can reach at. It’s available throughout the country at any bookstore. The publisher, Erian Press, is offering autographed copies at a discount with free shipping to United States addresses. Their website is erianpress.com. They can also reach that through booksbyolson.com. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble; your favorite bookstore can order it. It’s available through all the wholesale channels. So, it’s got widespread distribution.
Kent: It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you today about your book “An Eagle Unchained.” This is James. R. Olson and his book is available all across the country in hardcover and trade paperback. Thank you for being on the show.
James: Thank you or having me. I’ve enjoyed it.
Kent: The next guest will be Kathleen Maloy with her novel, “Every Last Cuckoo.” Come on back.
March 29, 2008 | Leave a Comment
Dr. Kent: Welcome to Sound Authors. Today is March 28th. It is almost April, the first day of spring. It is a beautiful day outside. Foggy, rainy, but its warm. Four guests on the show today. The last guest, of course, is an author sound, Doyle Lawson. His famous band, Quicksilver, has been around for a long, long time.Then I have three authors on the show. First author is Caroline Howard-Johnson, with her books about writing books. My second guest is Jim Olson with his novel “An Eagle Unchained”. My third guest is another novelist with her book, “Every Last Cuckoo”.Welcome to the show to Caroline Howard-Johnson. She has a long resume with a whole bunch of amazing achievements in the world of writing. Her website is carolynhowardjohnson.redenginepress.com. Welcome to the show.
Caroline Howard-Johnson: Hi. Thanks a lot for having me!
Dr. Kent: And I’m sure you have a bunch of other websites as well.
Caroline: My favorite one is easy. It is howtodoitfrugally.com.
Dr. Kent: howtodoitfrugally.com.
Caroline: Easy to remember.
Dr. Kent: So tell me a little bit about your whole method. You have a couple books out recently. They’re to help authors with what they do.
Caroline: Yep. They do. I certainly hope they do, and it seems that they are from the mail I get. They’re in the How to do it Frugally series of books for writers. They came about because I’m, at heart, a novelist and short story writer and poet. As your author listeners will know, those are the hardest books of all to get people to read, especially if the novel is a literary novel.I fell into all kinds of potholes. I had a publicist background, and I wanted to help writers combat the same problems that I had. I also wanted a text that was really practical for my classes at UCLA. So my first book in the series was “The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t.” The second was just released. It is called “The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward To Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.”
Dr. Kent: Let’s talk a little bit about the first one, “The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t.” Most folks that aren’t in the publishing industry don’t know that a great deal of the books that do get accepted, they go through that whole sieve. They end up being asked to be on a press and all of that, and then they get published, and what happens? It sits on the shelves. Tell us a little bit about that.
Caroline: Exactly. And that’s exactly what happened to my first novel. It is called “This is the Place.” It was published traditionally. I was living the myth two decades ago that my publisher would do it for me. It is set in Salt Lake City. It was published just before the winter Olympics there. I thought it was going to be a big seller, and it just wasn’t doing anything and I didn’t quite understand why.Luckily I did have a publicist’s background, so I just started researching ways that I could get the word out there. Of course, book promotion is a lot different from fashion promotion, which is what I had done before, so I had a heck of a lot to learn.That book is just simply a compilation of all the things I tried, all the resources I found, put very simply and in a light language so that people can read it easily. People who aren’t yet really familiar with the publishing industry.
Dr. Kent: How about the age-old… “This book is going to make it onto Oprah”?
Caroline: Well, I think that you can probably put your energies into a lot better channels if you’re on a limited budget or if you don’t have an awful lot of time. The chances are very, very slim. I never like to be discouraging. If that’s your dream and you’re an author, hey, go for it. But if you’re budgeting your time as well as your money, the net is just open to about any kind of an effort you want to make. So are many radio shows like yours. I think those are the best places.Also speaking and teaching are good ways to get the news about your book out to the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if Oprah chooses one book to feature in, I don’t know, a hundred thousand that are submitted to her every year.
Dr. Kent: What is the connection between your first book, “Frugal Book Promoter” and your second book now, “The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward To Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.” Tell us a little bit about that one.
Caroline: In the meantime, I started editing a lot of people’s books. I found that people were really submitting awful material. Not in terms of editing. Things written… Not necessarily grammatical errors. Not necessarily typos. But they were writing the way they’d been taught to write in high school. Writing has changed since many of us were in high school. Fiction is different from writing a high school essay. So is poetry different from the way it was written in the days of the classics, the poetry that we studied. On and on…I became concerned that that very first line of offense that we authors have, the very first time that we present ourselves to a publisher or an editor or whatever, is really extremely poorly edited. So I wrote “The Frugal Editor.” I consider it almost a marketing book also because that is your first effort. Your first presentation to what I call the gate keepers, the people who can say yes or no to your work.
Dr. Kent: So what is the difference between… I know you’re talking both about what they used to call vanity presses or self-published process, and then you’re also talking about approaching the big ones.
Caroline: Yes. I believe that there’s probably the right place for every book for every book and every author, and no one place is right. In other words, traditional presses like Simon & Schuster, really publishers, are wonderful. If that’s where an author’s heart is, maybe that’s where they should try to go first. They need an agent for that.But there are lots of other ways to publish now. Thank heaven, in the last decade we’ve come a long way. Some books are really better published on a POD press, self-published, or with help. Those are called subsidy publishers. So we’re not at the mercy of an agent or a large publisher anymore. There are all kinds of roots. And some of those other roots are becoming very well respected unlike the Vanity Presses of even the 1950s. Some are far more profitable and some are better suited to say a how-to book, than others.So if people do their homework, they can be published. I just want them to be published properly edited. [laughs]
Dr. Kent: Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of that. How much… in your book you talked about how do I do this?
Caroline: How to get published?
Dr. Kent: Well…
Caroline: That’s the next one in a group of series. [laughs]
Dr. Kent: Well not even how to get published, the editing. How do you break open…?
Caroline: Well, you start off learning to write a terrific query letter because obviously that query letter is what you’re going to be using to approach agents if you do want to be traditionally published as an example. And a query letter is simply a letter asking people to do what you like an agent to represent you. And it must actually ask that question, a lot of people neglect to do that. They’re not used to asking for what they want. They almost intentionally avoid saying “I’d like you to represent me.”Beyond that there’s a format you can find, a pretty good format in “Writers Digest Market”. The front of the book usually has some samples. There are samples of good query letters in both the “Frugal Editor” and the “Frugal Book Promoter”. And from there on you keep using query letters add in tonight until your book is dead and shredded. Because you’re going to continue to use them when you approach contest judges, when you approach editors for feature stories, when you approach radio hosts like you, you need to be able to write a good query letter.
Dr. Kent: Now how about… there’s a whole bunch of presses out there that almost like…I guess they’re sort of preying on unsuspecting first time authors. What do you think about those companies?
Caroline: Well, I think that the looser the publishing industry has become the more scam artists there are. There are also a lot of so-called agents. There are a lot of so-called editors; the “Frugal Editor” tells people how to choose an editor for their book so they don’t run afoul of somebody who has just published one book and poorly and now calls themselves an editor. There’s a lot of that.And we do need to be wary. I guess it’s a capitalist system. It’s that buyer beware system. We need to know what we’re doing. We need to do our homework and there are lots of really good books out there that will help authors, perspective authors, others who want to have a published book do it right.
Dr Kent: That, well, is a fascinating discussion. Can you give me a… can you tell me who your audience is for these? Are you selling to publishers? Are you selling to the authors themselves?
Caroline: That’s a good question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question.
Dr Kent: [laughs]
Caroline: Actually yes, as a good marketer I try to sell to whomever is interested. I sell to publishers. They sometimes buy the book in quantity and then give them to their authors because obviously if their authors know how to promote and know how to edit than that’s going to make their job easier.I sell directly to authors. I sell online at Amazon. I sell to beginning authors. People who have been around a long time still find my book really amazingly helpful because a lot of times they’ve been around a long time and they haven’t picked up the finer points of either promotion or editing. So really, they’re there for authors and publishers and anyone in the publishing industry.
Dr Kent: Wonderful. Well, you have a whole bunch of connections as well. How have you been received by the market? You’ve received the Best Books Award winner…?
Caroline: Yeah, isn’t that exciting? I really believe in awards. I believe it’s an excellent promotion device and it doesn’t have to be a huge award. I’ve been lucky. Both of my frugal books have been named USA Book News, Best Book of the Year, so that’s a prestigious award.But they don’t have to be prestigious awards for an author to use them. Small awards, runners up, finalists, honorable mention, all will help set an author’s book apart from the other ones that are sitting on a bookstore shelf. If there are two books on a similar subject and a book buyer goes in to purchase a book they may not know exactly which book they want and if one has won an award that tells them something. I really believe in going after awards and the “Frugal Book Promoter” has a list of awards and places that authors can go to actually apply for awards.
Dr Kent: I have a question that my producer and I both have. Your name is Howard- Johnson, any relation to the hotel chain?
Caroline: No orange roof here, no, no. Howard was my maiden name and then Johnson is my married name. There’s an interesting story about when I went into journalism when I was very young about how they couldn’t put that whole Howard-Johnson into Caroline, Howard-Johnson is a very long name, into a one-column byline. So I made a hyphen, which made it my real name, and they had to figure out a way so they just ended up using two lines for my byline, which was very sneaky for a young girl of 19 in the 50s. [laughs]
Dr Kent: Very sneaky. Well, this has been wonderful to chat about editing and about publicity. Give us a ten second sound bite about your books and about your website.
Caroline: OK. I’d like everyone to take advantage of the experience spoke of. Experience both practical experience and my past as a publisher and marketer. Read my books before they start on their trek to publishing. If you haven’t read that kind of a book read mine, read John Cramer’s, read Dan Pointer’s, but please do read!And find me at www.howtodoitfrugally.com where you’ll also find lots of resources outside my book.
Dr Kent: Wonderful. Thank you so much for being on the show Caroline Howard-Johnson.
Caroline: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
Dr Kent: And the next guest will be Jim Olsen with his novel “An Eagle” we’ll talk about politics. Come on back!