Q & A
10 INTERVIEW QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Click on a question below to read the answer. If you have a question you’d like to see here, contact Larry J. Dunlap.
I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana.
I found music and I found love in Indianapolis. Those are two great influences. I discovered that many of the things I believed were inculcated rather than consciously reached. Indiana in general is very conservative, change is suspicious. I was all about change, and I was all about dreaming. And I failed at most things I tried there. Though I tried to damp down my dreaming it always cropped back up and was a major reason why when I left Indianapolis, I never returned (other than to visit friends and family). That sounds negative, but in most ways I remember Indianapolis fondly, though with a touch of melancholy.
I’ve always written. In school, if I got an essay question I had a decent chance of a good grade even if I’d done poorly in class. I didn’t consider myself a writer, of course, but I began at an early age as the other side of the coin: a hard-core reader. I absorbed Albert Payson Terhune and his dog stories, rapidly working up the rest of the animal kingdom, until my friend John Clair introduced me to science fiction. Paperback books in the mid-1950s fit easily into my school books. Many of my class photos, beginning in grammar school, showed me with a book, and, later, with a textbook hiding my latest science fiction treasure.
I made several abortive attempts in creative writing, even taking a correspondence course while I was still singing with my band, and later attending a creative writing class at a junior college in Southern California.
I first considered myself a writer when I began writing a column for an Orange County lifestyle magazine covering all the night club acts around the Los Angeles area, while I was an associate personal manager with Seymour Heller’s office in Hollywood. I wrote my first business plan in the eighties for a digital television network that became The Games Network, Inc. After that experience, when I found I had such an affinity for technology, I became a technical trainer and soon was designing and writing courses for CompUSA. That led to writing training courses for independent companies like Sprint, and others independently, and then writing technical documents full-time for Fortune 100 companies in Los Angeles.
But I couldn’t really consider myself an author until I began to write Things We Lost in the Night. That’s when I began the process of transforming myself into an author rather than a writer.
This could be a long story so I’ll make sure it isn’t! I’ve led a pretty interesting life, had a lot of ups and downs, professionally and personally. But there was always one constant: the guys I played music with for six years. We’d get together and reminisce, and it was like we were back there again. As I am such a big reader, some of them would ask when I was going to write about our years as Stark Naked and the Car Thieves, especially Mac Brown. Les, our guitar player, told me recently that those six years were so big in our lives that it felt more like sixteen years. But several of the guys felt that they could never speak about those years with anyone but their band brother, because the people in their current lives didn’t know or understand where we’d been, when we’d been, and what we’d seen and experienced. I thought that was unfair and I didn’t want any of us to have to feel that way. I knew I was going to write something when I made the decision to begin writing, and it could have been something else, but I chose to tell this story. In the process it became something more, at least to me, something very personal, an exploration of my coming of age, late as it had been. And it was a journey through a special time and place that I thought would be interesting to other people.
Out of the many, many things that have helped teach me how to become an author has been the hundreds of books I’ve read. There are far too many for me to mention how many have influenced me, but when I began to read memoir authors I began to see specific things. Now I think there are many authors who write fiction but write it as if it were a memoir so I’m going to count them. First among these is Kaui Hart Hemmings, and her wonderful book, The Descendants. She captures the heartbreak between a man and a woman, and managed to convey how awkward and tragically funny we can be in the worst moments of crisis. It was an added plus that it took place on Oahu, in Hawaii. Kiana Davenport and her fierce stories of Hawaiians, most of her characters hapa-Hawaiian, are so heartrending I know she writes from her personal experience. I would point out my first and favorite book of hers, House of Many Gods as a great example. The first real memoirist who influenced me was Cheryl Strayed and her experiences on the Pacific Coast Trail in Wild, that I can nearly see from my writing office window. She made me realize you had to be fearless and free yourself to say the things you feel to write memoir. And then there is Diablo Cody, who has only written one book and is much better known for her screenplay Juno. However to me, I’ll treasure Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, a straight-forward, unvarnished look of what it was like to be a professional stripper with all the moral indignation and tags stripped away. That was a great lesson. I want to mention Mary Karr, as well. I don’t have a lot of memoirists per se who have influenced me, more writers like Marisha Pessl and Dennis Lehane who often write as though they are writing memoir.
I’m readying the first book of TWLitN, Night People, for publishing in June of 2015. By the time that work is done, I’ll immediately jump into the second book, Enchanted in hopes that I can have it ready by September. These two books will complete my approximately six-year Odyssey with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.
Beyond these two books are several paths. One of them is continuing on in the same vein, though not as memoir. It’s been suggested that I write a series of “LARRY IN LA” books, the first one being “LARRY IN HOLLYWOOD.” I can’t say that this is a project but it’s something I’m noodling around with. It would be roughly based on my life following the band but without necessarily including real people. So, it would be fiction based on real life, however that would work out.
As the century turned, I was developing Imperial Wars for the Internet but for all the years that I’d been working on the game I’d built a backstory for Imperial Wars that falls easily into a trilogy. I’ve always loved science fiction, and though this would be more science fantasy, I think it would be a lot of fun to explore the original time when the Imperial Wars exploded a galaxy-wide civilization. The three books are tentatively named, Sister, Brother, Emperor, and I’ve completed several test chapters.
I was pretty certain I’d designed my own cover just the way I wanted it. I’d commissioned a friend to do the cover art. It somehow fell apart right in front of my eyes, and being so close to publish date, I decided to go to an award-winning cover design expert, Damon at Damonza.com. Was I ever glad I did. We’re just now finalizing a cover. I’ll be finalizing the edit from my editor, over the next two weeks–by then the cover design should be complete. We’ll create ARCs and push them out to as many reviewers and fans as we can.
Writing is a harsh mistress. When you get into the zone, time disappears and it’s far too easy to forget everything else, and that includes family, friends, and health. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, and haven’t had an issue where I get away from writing and then have trouble getting back into it. I have trouble walking away from it. Writing is something of a narcotic.
I constantly hear people tell me that they don’t outline. They just build characters and let the characters wander off and tell them a story. This seems irresponsible to me. I think it’s fine to play around with storytelling, but that doesn’t mean it will come out being a worthwhile book. Characters are only part of storytelling. The other elements of writing—narration, exposition, description, plot, etc.—are equally as important. It’s important to have the self-discipline to listen to your characters, but like a director, they look to you to know where they’re actually going. Have the self-discipline to do the research, set out the path, etc., doesn’t mean you can’t change it: after all you’re in charge. You’re like a Dungeon Master in D&D. You owe it to them to know.
I’m going to consider that question to be as an author. I have to say that sharing this book, our story with my friends from the band is the best thing. To see and hear them recognize themselves, for how it makes them think and laugh almost makes it worth the thousands of hours alone living and writing about us. But the best single moment so far was when my childhood friend, who met me in elementary school, a writer himself and a fierce critic, said my words made him drive out to buy a White Castle hamburger.