Jerry Ketchins lives for one day every year: Labor Day. This day will test his mettle as he’s a man fast approaching the edge of his own sanity; however, he will soon find himself with his toes hanging over the precipice separating light from darkness. It’s not clear to Jerry now, but a simple incident on the road will determine his fate… forever. Have you ever had something precious taken from you by circumstances, unexpected situations, or careless or uncaring people? Who hasn’t had something over which they secretly obsessed? Sometimes, a good BBQ can kill you.
P.K. Vandcast has generously set aside some time to discuss writing and it’s inspiration, books and of course death by barbecue. P.K., where did the idea of the man who only lives for a single day a year originate?
The idea came to me when I was cut off while driving one day and as soon as I was, the same car that cut me off was chased by another vehicle, and the driver in that chasing vehicle was raging. I assumed that he had been cut off by the same drive that cut me off.
Was your experience of road rage the main driver, pun intended, of this work?
Absolutely. Who hasn’t been cut off on the road in the U.S.A.? And as far as road rage goes, although I haven’t raged with the anger that the protagonist does, I know that I’ve been bothered by the lack of courtesy exhibited by other drivers.
How did each of the players within this story including the protagonist come to life?
These characters were actually developed years ago from a story I set aside as being too melodramatic.
Do you have a favourite out of the melodramatists that you would go out on the town with?
Jerry, the protagonist, is a passionate, likeable guy who’s having a bad day. Would I trust him with my daughter? No, but I’d go and have a beer with him. I think there’s a little Jerry in all of us.
Does having a little bit of Jerry in you make you want to spent a bit more time with his character? Or any other characters in the story for that matter?
Not for this story. The payoff at the end would have suffered and the story’s pace would have slowed to tedium.
So you’re pretty strong with editing out any elements of your book that compromise the rhythm?
Absolutely. I get ideas all the time. If I cannot incorporate a theme into the premise, however, the idea remains just that and is set aside.
Is research apart of the fuel that you use to land on new ideas?
For this story, I didn’t really have to do any research. All the elements were already there or researched from earlier projects.
Since the basic elements were already in your possession, did it take you a long time to write this story?
My entire life. Whether it’s a series, a novel, novella, short story, flash fiction or poem, my entire life goes into every page.
Interesting, I think you might be the first author that doesn’t separate out their story into a distinct time period. As you don’t seem to view your writing projects individually per say, what rewards did you find from working on this story?
Like everything I write, it allowed me to get a little bit better than I was the day before. If I’m not improving in the craft of writing, I don’t see the sense of continuing.
What steps did you employ day by day, or in time generally to make sure that you are continuing to improve your craft?
Once I get an idea, I mull it over, sometimes for weeks or months until I have my basic premise (I’ve got several projects going at the same time). Then I outline. After the initial outline, I get the cast of characters together. Then it’s time for a break or I work on something else so that when I come back I can consider a different perspective (or several different perspectives). I don’t change the outline at this point (and it will change eventually – it always does), because before I even write the first line of any project, I write my ending. I know, I know. Stephen King will spend weeks, even months on his hook… and I suppose I do that as well, but my hook, my opener only comes when I know how my story ends. The way I look at it is, I don’t know how to start or what path to take unless I know where I’m going (military training perhaps).
So, I suppose I do put a lot of time into my opening hook; however, it only comes as a result of the premise and my ending. Once I’ve got the ending. I just type and hit my outline points. Then it’s rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until I either publish the thing, set it aside and finish it whenever, or throw the whole thing away and start from scratch.
Are you someone that likes editing?
I used to hate editing, however, after writing for awhile, I found its challenge quite satisfying. Good writing is rewriting. It’s a vital part of my regular process.
You mentioned Stephen King, are there any other authors that you like to read that you think have good writing styles?
I like Elmore Leonard in his simplicity. I like Mario Puzo in his thorough understanding of his topic. I like Kurt Vonnegut for his sense of humor.
All solid choices there. As you’ve now been writing for a while, have you garnered any tips that you think other authors could benefit from?
To write right, live right. Read daily, write daily, but most importantly, live daily. Don’t get so wrapped up in what you write that you miss out on time spent with those whom you love and who love you.
I think that people do get too wrapped up in things so much these days, it’s always good to have a reminder to unravel yourself. But when people are in author mode, do you think there are any straight forward ways to improve their attempt at self-publishing?
Re-read and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite that sucker until it shines brighter than a diamond in a goat’s backside; then get some beta readers to read it for you for errata you’ve missed.
*Laughs* Always a good tip to check that spelling! Are you currently checking spelling for any of the other projects that you are currently working on?
I have several projects in the works. One is the third installment of the Jonas Cane, U.S. Marshal western horror series. It’s titled BORDERLAND. I’ve also writing short stories for a few magazines and anthologies.
And as I can’t help myself let’s have a few silly questions to round of the interview. Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
I used to be able to but I’m a senior citizen now and my neighbors find it undignified.
If you’ve still got the strength do it! If you can’t rattle the opinions of others what’s the fun in getting older? If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
Didn’t God already do that when he created the platypus?
Very true. Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
I think they’re both cool. Aren’t dinosaurs just dragons renamed in the nineteenth century?
I’ve never thought of it like that, they could very well be. What is your favourite word?
What was your favourite book as a child?
John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN.
What are you currently reading?
I’m re-reading Puzo’s THE GODFATHER. I’m also reading one of Elmore Leonard’s early westerns, THE LAW AT RANDADO. I’m also reading some historical fiction.
What is your favourite quote from another author?
“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” ? Mark Twain
*Laughs*, That really does seem to apply to much of the world that I see at the moment. If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
My wife’s heart daily.
Awww, good answer :). Can you curl your tongue?
No, but I iron it daily to keep it from getting wrinkled.
Good to hear that you are keeping up your oral health. Wrinkly tongues are not cool. What is your favourite quote?
My favorite quote comes from my old pappy. He was a rodeo clown and he said, “Exciting is when you’ve got a Brahma’s attention and finding your shoe’s unlaced.”
*Laughs*. What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
It’s a Chinese name from the Yunnan province that I can’t pronounce very well and I know I can’t spell.
And something you probably can spell, who is your favourite literary character?
There are so many that I like for different reasons. If I’d have to pick one, the first name that pops to mind is Elmore Leonard’s Bob Valdez of VALDEZ IS COMING.
How did you feel when you got your first book review?
Excited and lucky because the review happened to be a good one. I realize that someone could have read my work that didn’t like it. My first review could have been a bad one. My books are certainly not for everyone.
Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
Thomas Berger’s LITTLE BIG MAN.
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Breathe abundantly; exercise moderately; indulge sparingly; love unconditionally; see the world through a child’s eyes.
I like those kernels of wisdom very much and may borrow it from you. Before we get to our final question of today, I’d like to know if there’s anything you think I’ve missed asking you in today’s chat?
I have all kinds of questions about women, American politics and life in general… none of which I think I’d like to tackle at this point in my life.
*Laughs*. I might be able to answer some tips on women, but life in general in particular anything on the current state of American politics is well and truly out of my league! I think we should leave those questions to the ages, but I will let you to create a bit more intrigue to interest readers to pick up this book, by leaving us with your favourite quote or statement from your book.
With great care and strength mustered from an ancient place, where the twilight meets the morning, he gathered the corners of the blue fabric and pulled Patricia’s body from the trunk.
That does not sound good at all for Patricia. P.K., thanks for joining me again today and I wish you the best of luck with your new writing projects and the promotion of ‘Labor Day’.
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