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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Author Interview with Boyd Lemon:

Hello Boyd. Please tell us something about you, as a writer.

Stuart, I practiced law for more than 40 years with a fair degree of success, rising to national prominence in the legal community in my field, which was legal ethics and lawyer malpractice.  I wrote numerous articles for legal journals and a book titled "Evaluating a Malpractice Case Against a Lawyer."  But until I was 65 I had never written any fiction or narrative non-fiction.  I was inspired to write a short story about a baby turned little girl that I had taken care of for a friend of mine, a writer and an artist.  With her encouragement and the little girl as my inspiration, I wrote a short story that was fiction but inspired by my relationship with the little girl.  That story became the title of a collection of my short stories published in April 2011, "Unexpected Love and Other Stories."  I then met another writer who became my mentor and introduced me to Natalie Goldberg, the internationally known writer and writing teacher ("Writing Down the Bones").  After attending two of Natalie's workshops, she invited me to participate in her series of four intensive weeklong workshops during 2009.  I continued to write short stories and ultimately finished about 18 of them.  By that time, I was hooked on writing. 

I know you write memoir; perhaps you’d give us some insight into your memoir, ‘Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages’, in a few sentences.

After writing all those short stories, I yearned to write something longer.  Originally, I began writing Digging Deep at the suggestion of my mentor, who told me, "There's gold there [in my three failed marriages]."   At the same time my mentor was teaching me how to draw, something I thought I could never do.  I was always the worst drawer in the class in elementary school.  A self-portrait I drew in pencil ended up as the cover image of my Digging Deep.

How did you come to write this particular book?

I finished the first draft of Digging Deep in about six months and asked my mentor to read it.  After sitting at my computer and reading it straight through, she told me I should throw it away and start over, that it just didn't work.  She said I had to understand my role in the destruction of my marriages and that had to be in the memoir.  I had simply written about a series of incidents concerning the issues that arose in each of my marriages.  My mentor was right; that wasn't enough; it was boring.  So I set about intense introspection and psychotherapy.  The writing and introspection was excruciatingly painful emotionally, so I thought I had hit gold.  Surprisingly, though, in the end it was healing, and I achieved a peace that I had not known in my life.  Along the way, I decided to include in the memoir in the present tense some of the writing process that led me to healing, which is interwoven with the crucial incidents in my marriages in the past tense.  I believe that, as this book turned out, it will help others deal with issues in their own relationships in these times when modern couples and individuals are trying to define a new order in relationships, as well as face their own past, as I did in the memoir.

Where can people buy your book?

It is available in print on my website,;; and in the Kindle edition on Soon, it will be available on other internet sites, as well.  And, buyers can order it from their local bookstores.

What qualities does a writer need to be successful?

A powerful desire, almost compulsion, to write; perseverance in writing and in promoting the writing; discipline; luck; and some reasonable skill in the use of the language in which he/she writes.  Notice that I didn't say, imagination or creative ability.  Those qualities help, but I truly believe that anybody who possesses the other characteristics can be a successful writer.

What’s your working method?

I am retired, so I have the luxury of time.  I write every morning from about 7:00 (after coffee) until about 1:00 or so, interrupted by meditation, breakfast and personal hygiene.

What’s the single biggest mistake made by beginner writers?

Not finishing whatever they are working on because they don't exercise the discipline to write regularly, as a matter of habit and practice.  You must set up some type of schedule (however loose it may be), and follow it, no matter what, even if you're sick, depressed, homeless, in pain, or whatever.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important in writing?

Very important.  If you can't write grammatically and spell correctly, you better have the money to pay a good editor and proofreader; grammar and spelling separate the amateur from the professional.  (That is a dangerous thing to say; I hope mine is correct here.)

How much do you revise your MS before sending it off?

My first draft is usually trash, because I write whatever comes into my head.  So, I do a lot of revising.  On the other hand, I could go on forever and never finish a piece, so if I have difficulty in deciding whether something is finished, I place an arbitrary limit on how many drafts I permit myself, usually 10.  Most of the time, however, before I get to 10, I intuitively know when it is the best I can do.

As a writer, to what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?
I don't like the use of genre.  I feel that good writing is good writing, and a good story is a good story, no matter what arbitrary category you put it in.  The only use I see is to define your audience.  For example, I probably would not read a YA novel or a children's book (except to my grandchildren), but even there I am limiting myself by excluding what could be some fine writing.

Many authors see marketing as a bind. What's your opinion on this, and how do you deal with it?

I look upon it as another challenge in the writing process.  It doesn't matter whether I like to do it or not.  It has to be done, if I want people to read my writing, and I do.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from writing?

None.  I write as much as I want to.

What support, if any, do you receive from family and friends, or a writing group?

Personally, I don't get a lot of support from family or friends, but I have found the support of writing groups essential--people who understand what you're going through and can help in times of despair, and, as you know, there are many times of despair in the writing life.

Do you think presentation of the MS is as important as agents and publishers suggest?

Only if you want people to read what you write.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Well, I have only written three books so far.  The first one took six months; the second one (Digging Deep) took three years; the short story collection took four years, but off and on as I was writing the memoir.  So, I don't know.  It depends on the book.  I'm working on a third book, and I think it will take me about a year, but I could be wrong.  We'll see.

Who or what inspires you?

Myself, deep within somewhere.

If there’s a single aspect of writing you find really frustrating, what is it?

Proofreading, but there is an enormous reward when you're done, because then the piece or book is finished.

Is there a particular feature of writing that you really enjoy?

The first two drafts.  The first, because it comes from deep down and I say what comes into my head, the second because it is a great and complex challenge to make all the pieces fit together.

Do you believe writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

Both, but more acquired than natural.

What are you writing now?

A memoir about my non-retirement, and, a new short story or essay here and there.  And sometimes, just writing practice--stuff that will never see the light of day.

Do you have a website or blog readers can visit?

My website I referred to above,, and two blogs, and  I also write a weekly column for an online magazine, called Amigos 805.

Given unlimited resources, where would you do your writing?

I don't have unlimited resources, but if I did, I wouldn't change where I write now, which varies--at home at my desk; in my garden when weather permits; in my favorite coffee shops and on the train when I am on a long train trip.  I wrote half of my first book on AMTRAK train trips between Seattle and Los Angeles; and I wrote some of my memoir on train trips between Boston and Jacksonville, Florida.  Sometimes, I write on a long plane trip, if I don't have the middle seat.

Boyd Lemon

My new books just published (Excerpts on my website, 
· Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages; 
· Unexpected Love and Other Stories

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