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Find Keeper of the Word at
Keeper of the Word is David McClain’s debut book of short stories, independently published in 2008, and one of the best indie books I’ve had the privilege to read. His stories speak of who he is: spirited, spunky, earthy, and truly original. His writing blog is highly popular and his followers become quickly loyal. It’s easy to see why once you dig into the stories he’s collected in his first book.
I’m honored to be counted among David’s friends and am happy to offer this interview that, as far as I know, is his first.
So, Hello David! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions!
DM: Hi Loraine, and thanks for giving me this opportunity. You are correct, this is the first time getting interviewed for me and I don't mind telling you, I am just a bit nervous. If I stick my foot in my mouth just edit the heck out of me! So go ahead and fire the questions at me lady....I will try my best to make some sense of my answers.
LK: Ah, no need to be nervous. We're all friendly here. ;-) First off, let me post the cover blurb for Keeper of the Word here. I generally review a book before asking the author for an interview and allow him or her to respond, but this time, I’m using the blurb and asking if you have comments about it:
"Reminiscent of cowboy storytelling around the campfire, Keeper of the Word is an eclectic mix of short stories with a wide range of genres. In his first published collection, David McClain uses a charming conversational style that keeps us pulled in to every word, waiting for what we soon learn will come at the end of each story: the “a ha” moment, humorous or thoughtful or eyebrow-raising. Running the gamut from romance to fantasy, from thriller to mainstream, each story has a constant theme – a pondering of life and love well-blended to touch the reader’s hearts."
DM: Well every time I read that blurb, the first thing that goes through my mind is: “They can't be talking about me can they?” Maybe it is because the blurb appears on the first book I ever published, but it always just seems unreal when I see my name in print....on a book....that strangers will buy and read. I always think there must be another David McClain out there doing this stuff.
LK: I know what you mean! David, you consider yourself a Storyteller, as it states in your introduction. What do you think is the biggest difference between a “writer” and a “storyteller”?
DM: This is just my opinion, but to me a writer is someone who is in love with their words. They want to create a word masterpiece that will be admired like the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre. Now don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing....it just isn't me. As a storyteller, I am not so much in love with the words as I am concerned with connecting with the reader. When I write a short story or a novel I tell the tale as if I were telling it to a friend sitting on my front porch, sharing a cold drink on a hot day.
I know you have seen writers out there, some very famous, who use three paragraphs to describe a tree to the readers. Wordy. They use a ton of words to describe the tree. Sometimes this detracts from the story they are trying to tell. As a storyteller, I want you to SEE the tree but not get too caught up in admiring the tree and forget the world of the story I am trying to draw you into. A storyteller wants you, the reader, to be able to slip comfortably into their make believe world and become immersed in the story.
LK: Excellent point. There is a line between showing and showing too much. And as I've read your stories, I know they have a very comfortable feel, as though you're reading it to me. Now, what shall we drink? ;-)
From reading your blog, I know you use bits and pieces of your own life to create stories, such as your growing up years, your current job, and your military background. Do you ever pause and wonder if you’re revealing too much? Do you find it hard at times to write so personally?
DM: Someone once said that writing a book was easy, all you had to do was sit at a typewriter and open a vein. I believe that, and part of “opening a vein” is to pour a large portion of yourself into some of your characters. I have never wondered if I was revealing too much but only that I was being honest with the feelings. For that reason, in some of my stories I have drawn from my own feelings and experiences to flesh out a bad guy in the story. I have always believed that every person has both good and evil within them and both can be used to create characters.
LK: I'm sure that's true, although some of us would have a hard time admitting our villains come from within! If we're honest, where else would they truly come from? I love the "open a vein" line.
Your stories and style remind me quite a bit of Frank Delaney’s Ireland where a storyteller is traveling around the country sharing passed-along stories of Ireland. Both books include touches of humor along with some kind of explanation or moral or come-uppance at the end of each story. It’s a rare style among today’s books. Why do you think that is?
DM: Well first of all I have not read Mr. Delaney's work but it sounds good. I was affected at an early age by the works of a man who in my opinion was the greatest storyteller of all time: O'Henry. I have the complete works of O'Henry on my shelves today and from time to time I will pick up one of the books and read some of his great short stories again. From "The Ransom of Red Chief" to "The Gift of the Magi," all his stories had some sort of moral or twist at the end which would mete out cosmic justice to those who needed it.
Why do we not see more of it in this day and age? Maybe it is because in today's society nobody is to blame for anything. People are no longer interested in taking responsibility for anything they do so they really aren't interested in seeing a character pay for whatever they did wrong in a story.
LK: Good point. So do you have a favorite story in “Keepers of the Word”?
DM: Oh Loraine, that's a tough one. Do you have a favorite child....one you love more than the others? That is the way I feel about my short stories. But, if you insist on making me make a choice....it's a tie. There are two stories that are my favorites of that collection.
1. Mulligan--- As you know, Mulligan is a golf term meaning a “Do-over.” If a golfer hits a bad shot and lands in the rough, he can take a “Mulligan” and take the shot over. In this story all the stars align just right and one dark, snowy night, a man actually gets the opportunity to use a “Mulligan” to make things right in his life.
2. The Last Battle of Arwin Hawken--- This story showcases the fact that a man is never too old to stand up for Justice and take a stand for Honor and the woman he loves.
LK: What genre(s) of books do you normally read and why did you choose to include a variety of genres within this collection?
DM: This one is simple. I chose a variety of genres because I READ a variety of genres. I guess it also helps that I never know what genre one of my stories will fit into until I finish it. The story always has a life of its own and I am sometimes surprised at how one turns out.
LK: Just for fun, if you could choose three songs to take with you to a year-long writing retreat and be limited to only those songs, what would they be and why?
DM: Dang girl, that is another tough one...just three? Well okay, I will give it a try.
1. Music of the Night---From the musical Phantom of the Opera. You sure I can't take this whole CD? This music always helps to sooth my mind and allows the words to flow.
2. The Breaking of the Fellowship---Instrumental done by a Celtic group and from the movie Lord of the Rings.
3. And finally, Like Two Sparrows in a Hurricane by Tanya Tucker. I love bthis song because it reminds me of my wife and how much I love her.
LK: Oh! Music of the Night is one of my all-time faves, also! Very inspirational! I love all your choices, actually. :-)
I have to ask this one: What is your favorite part of writing?
DM: I call it “The Birthing,” that magic moment when the first seed of the story starts to take root in my head. It grows and grows until I am literally forced to sit down at the computer and transfer the words from my head to the screen. I never know, when I start writing a story, how that story will end. Heck, many times a character will die in the story and I am shocked. I had not intended them to die....the story had its own path....I am just there to put it down in words.
LK: Great description of it! That is an incredible feeling. Of course we want to know what you’re working on now. How’s it coming?
DM: I am currently putting the finishing touches on a novel: The Time of the Troubles, that I first wrote back in 1992. After it was finished, I promptly put it in a box under my bed and forgot the thing. I have about four more chapters to edit and then I have to add two or three chapters at the end because I just didn't like the way the original ended. When I wrote this novel I set it in the early 21st century and it deals with an Islamic terrorist attack upon America which ends up causing a breakdown in law and order in the country. Looking back now, this premise seems almost prophetic. I plan on publishing that work within the next four or five months.
As soon as I have that project ready to go, I am going to start a sequel to it. I had not planned on doing a sequel, but after I let my oldest son read the novel, he insisted it was needed.
I am also working on a second book of short stories. I plan on using a number of new stories and a group of stories that I didn't have room for in the first book.
LK: Prophetic indeed. Strange when that happens, isn't it? I look forward to its publication and hope it has a good ending. ;-)
One more quick question: if you could choose one book title to describe your life (title, not contents) what would it be?
DM: Dreams Come True, If You Live Long Enough!
LK: David, thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. Is there anything you would like to add?
DM: I would just like to say “Thank You” again for this opportunity to talk about what I love...writing. I would also like to say to all of your readers: If you are a writer, I don't care what kind of writer you are, or what you like to write, please never lose sight of the prize. No matter how hard it is, no matter what kind of roadblocks you have to overcome, all the effort, all the work is worth it in the end. The first time you hold a book in your hands with YOUR name on it you will know a rush, and a high that nothing else in the world can give you. Whatever money you make is just icing on the cake.
Stay true to that little voice in your head that whispers the story to you and keep pounding those keys...it is well worth it in the end.