Author Interview – L W Montgomery (Promise of Departure Novel)
Debra: Hello wonderful readers, so pleased you joined me today! This is going to be a great interview with L W Montgomery and I am so excited to finally meet him after talking on email for the past few weeks. He is just a really neat guy and I think you will enjoy this edition of Talk Radio with NO Radio!
So, let me tell you a bit about Landon today, oops, he has L W on everything so I don’t know if I was supposed to use his first name, oh well, its out there now! Landon, Landon, Landon! Yep, there it is folks, I am going to be in a silly mood today. Anyway, about this author…where to start, let me look at my notes, ah, this is cool, he was a co-founder of Gearbox Software. Now, I remember having to take away my son’s Brother’s in Arms game and later his Halo game when he would spend too much time gaming and not do his homework and I am thrilled to know who to thank for that now! <laughs>
Aside from his career with Gearbox, Landon has been an avid reader and dreamt of being an author most of his life and isn’t that a common thread for all of us writers? I know we have all had to focus on the realities of needing to pay the bills and set aside our dreams and it’s a wonderful thing when you finally get to write and then publish your first book or whatever your dream is. Landon really pulled that off with a bang with his break out novel Promise of Departure. Oh, I heard a motorcycle pulling up, let me go peek out the window and see if that’s him…no, must be one of my husband’s friends, he’s in the barn working on his bike today and whoever just came up stopped there. So, need to kill a few more minutes then while we wait…I hope you all saw the book review I posted yesterday for Landon’s new book and be sure to check it out on Amazon too, there are a lot of other reviews there as well, he has almost a 5 score on there right now, way to go!
Wait a minute, my husband’s friends all ride Harleys and the bike that pulled up was not a Harley…let’s go mobile and go see who is in the barn, shall we?
<slips shoes on, grabs mobile to keep you readers involved and heads out the double doors…it’s only about 50 feet from the studio and we arrive at the doorway to the barn>
Voices in the barn: …all new clutch gears, primary chain, the works, Man, you rode with it like that?, Yea, we’re lucky I know…
Debra: Hi there! <startles both guys on bended knees engrossed in the open primary case on the side of the ancient Ironhead>
Bob: Hey babe, you missing something?
Landon: <stands quickly, spins and extends a hand, a greasy hand> Hi, I’m L W Montgomery, please to meet you and sorry, I couldn’t help but stop and see what was happening in here, call it compulsive but I love to work on bikes especially, am I late now? <smiles sheepishly>
Bob: Oh bro, you are in big trouble! <snickers>
Debra: <hands Landon a grease rag instead of shaking his hand> Oh stop Bob! He’s not in trouble and yes, you are late now but that’s okay because we are already live, say hello Landon!
Landon: Hello Landon! <speaks into imaginary microphone and smiles sheepishly at Debra, offers nearly clean hand again>
Debra: <offers back the southern belle hand in lieu of shake, Landon smiles> Perfect, I love a good sport! <sticks tongue out at husband, still on bended knee and wrenching away inside the primary case>
Landon: Great to meet you and you Bob, nice bike and I wish I could stay and play while you work on it but I promised to do this interview so….
Bob: <looks up, extends a greasy hand and Landon hands him the grease rag but they shake grease and all, solid and confident like men that share a secret knowledge of great power in two-wheeled machines> Great to meet you too, maybe when you get done you can stay a while before you have to leave? I’ll need a hand getting the new front tire back on if you wouldn’t mind?
Landon: Oh, I’d love to but I don’t want to intrude-
Debra: Hey, what about me? I was going to help you? <in her best child like voice and with bottom lip poking out>
Bob: My snot nosed booger brat, God I love this woman! <is walking them back to the entrance of the barn, grinning ear to ear and wiping grease from his hands, turns to Landon> She loves helping me work on this thing, when we break down I get pissed and she gets all goofy because we get to work on it again, crazy woman! Come on back after your done if you want, I’ll be here for awhile putting this back together! <gives Debra a quick kiss> Don’t worry honey, we’ll take it out later and by our luck you’ll be in here helping me fix something else tomorrow!
Debra: So true! That’s half the fun! So Landon, will join me in the studio and let’s do this interview? The batteries on my imaginary cordless mike are dying. <they are walking towards the studio doors now, Bob is back to work on his beloved Harley>
Landon: <laughs, cuts a sideways glance at Debra> Sounds good, can we go back after though, I didn’t get to see what you have going on under that carport there yet?
Debra: Sure that would be fun actually, I haven’t had much time lately for my baby…that’s my project, Michelle-
Landon: 82 or 83 IROC Z28?! <typical car enthusiast sound of excitement in his voice>
Debra: Yes, uh, 83 with Cross Fire Injection actually, good eye!
Landon: My first hot-rod was a Z28, I wanted a ’69 SS in the worst possible way, but ‘settled’ for a new-model Z28 when I was 18…I’ve had three F-Bodies all told over the years. Not just a motorcycle guy here, bet that surprised you.
Debra: Yes, actually, it’s usually one or the other…I like you! I love my Camaros, this is my fourth…she’s special and haunted, I am writing a short story about it so won’t get into all that just now, plus this is your day anyway. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about you at first…BMW motorcycles? Really? Okay, there’s the Harley girl coming out-
Landon: Oh now, two wheels is what matters isn’t it? Besides, I’m not prejudice because you don’t like BMW motorcycles! <points a finger and smiles big> I kind of have a ‘tearing stuff down and putting it back together’ fetish – cars, bikes, kids toys – it’s all kind of fascinating and pleasing to me to work with my hands in ways not associated with a keyboard/mouse/touchscreen, etc. Did you say haunted?
Debra: I did but you have to wait for the story to come out, it would take me too long to tell you. I am that way about cars and bikes, something about the magic of an engine, the machine, all of the systems producing so much power and movement, don’t much care about tearing anything else apart or fixing it. Won’t you sit down? Can I get you something to drink before we get started, I did grab some Shiners for you? <reaches into a beer cooler and produces two Shiner beer bottles and smiles wickedly while walking back to sitting area>
Landon: How thoughtful, thank you, I’d love one! Your stores have these here?
Debra: No, but you can get anything on the internet, no big deal, thought it would be nice to try one myself on this occasion.
Landon: Very nice Debra, thank you. <offers up the bottle for a clink with Debra’s>
Debra: Hey, my pleasure and now I have had a new experience, this tastes great! I am going to set this down and get this interview started, okay?
Landon: Great! You know, I tend to be a bit shy but you guys really made me feel so comfortable and thank you for that!
Debra: Oh good, now drink up and let’s see what I can get you to say after a couple of those! <laughs>
Landon: Oh I see how it is! Now, I do have to travel back today you know….
Debra: Just kidding, I promise! Seriously, now, interview, our readers are waiting, I will focus now, sorry. Um, so, I finished the book and wrote a review that posted yesterday so it’s all very fresh in my mind right now. My first question for you today is how long did it take for you to write it, take us from the idea to the moment you published and share any quirks about it all that might be funny or interesting to our readers today?
Landon: From the very first spark to the absolute final edit, it was right at two and a half years. I write in a slightly different fashion than most, I think…I will ‘index card’ a story for up to a year or more, accumulating details and thoughts, prose and lines that sometimes make their way into the book verbatim (those middle of the night lines that rip you from the sheets in a panic to jot down before they’re gone), things to research, and so on. Eventually I get to a point where I have what feels like enough to begin writing, and it’s only then that I pack the bike and check out for a while, usually a week or two someplace remote. For example, Promise of Departure was mostly written over the course of several weeks (two at a time, about a year apart) in a small cabin down south in the amazing Texan hill country. I’m able to get out of my own skull in a place like that, where there’s next to nothing to distract you…no phone, no internet, no news…just you and your ghosts. I’d usually get up late in the morning, have a quick bite, have a nice drink or three, and get into the writing with just two promises made to myself: aim for 10 pages/5000 words each day, and don’t edit along the way! I am definitely a fan of the ‘verbal vomit’ approach, with full, in-depth editing to come later, only after the writing is finished. I can get a bit too calculated or structured if I’m editing on the fly…but perhaps more importantly, what I consider to be my best writing comes when I’m not constantly looking in the rear-view mirrors, when I’m focused on the flow and letting things pour out. This works for me because I trust in my OCD-driven editing phase. The last day of writing Promise of Departure, for instance, was the day after Thanksgiving in 2011. With the exception of just a handful of holidays and weekends, I re-wrote/culled/edited almost every single day for the next nine months straight.
Debra: Wow, that is an interesting process. Very personal, thank you for sharing that with us. Talking with so many authors and asking that question, I have learned that everyone has their own unique way of approaching their art. I think too, because it is an art and we are artists, the process tends to be somewhat eccentric and a reflection of the creative monster inside, just my opinion. I’m curious, Landon, are there any parts of being an author that you dislike?
Landon: This is a great question and one that’s simultaneously simple and nearly impossible to answer. For me, and I imagine this might sound odd to those who don’t write, but I sort of dislike the entire process. Everything about it can make you hate or question why you’re even writing in the first place. Let me give you an analogy that’s worked for me the last little bit: we don’t necessarily enjoy a healing wound, or an itch that’s difficult to reach, but when we finally get a chance to scratch at it a little, even though we know we shouldn’t, it’s the best feeling in the world. But that’s the tricky part of the thing – we don’t go around hoping for more things to scratch at (well, most people don’t). 😉
Debra: Great answer! That makes total sense too, you are so right, the process is frustrating and can be brutal on the brain, the emotions, the confidence, etc., it certainly is for me too. What do you think makes a great story?
Landon: For me, a great story forces me to think or feel or connect in ways I’m not always comfortable with – in ways that make me reexamine my own life or how I think about things…often, these are the very things I’ve taken for granted my entire life. This seems like an increasing rarity for me, and when I do discover something that I’m mentally carrying around and chewing over all day (or all night, as is more often the case), I tend to fall head over heels for it. There’s this special thing certain writers can do where the reader feels not only like they’ve just heard a real echo of something they’ve always (perhaps secretly) thought or felt, but that the writer has said this revelatory thing using the exact same words they’d use themselves, as if they’ve heard it finally summed up perfectly for the very first time…where they feel for the first (and maybe only) time that someone else has really felt precisely the same way about something. Great comedians like Carlin, or songwriters like Dylan, have the ability to do this seemingly effortlessly, like they don’t even realize they’re performing magic as they yank the rabbit out of the hat.
Debra: Nice! Which kind of reader do you think will enjoy your book?
Landon: Promise of Departure seems to be resonating with folks who’ve found themselves a little disenfranchised with the life they thought they always wanted, that the dream they’d sketched out for themselves wasn’t all that satisfying when they finally got hold of it. I think people who like emotionally challenging media will enjoy the book. It doesn’t hurt if you’re a motorcycle fan, either.
Debra: I initially fought over who would read this book with my partner and won, of course, because it had a motorcycle in it and well, big interest for me but ultimately that fact was just a perk in a story line that drew me in and piqued my interest on several levels. Certainly, a very wide variety of readers will enjoy this book very much! Why did you choose especially this title? Was it your first choice?
Landon: I was reading Jack London’s ‘The Sea Wolf’ when I just started to take notes for the book many years ago, and I fell in love with a certain passage the moment I read it: “The imprisonment of Wolf Larsen had happened most opportunely, for what must have been the Indian summer of this high latitude was gone, and drizzling stormy weather had set in. We were very comfortable, and the inadequate shears, with the foremast suspended from them, gave a businesslike air to the schooner and a promise of departure.” That phrase, promise of departure, so perfectly captured what I was writing about and feeling that there was never a second title. I was hooked, or stuck, depending on your perspective.
Debra: Oh very interesting and what a great classic! I read a book review on amazon once where the reviewer described the book as a page-turner and had clearly enjoyed the book, and yet only gave it three stars out of five. Have you had any similar experiences with reviews yourself and if so did you take pleasure in the positive comments or frustration from the rating?
Landon: It has indeed happened to me. I was awfully confused by this at first, and a bit dismayed to be honest – the praise simply did not match the star-rating, but as more reviews began showing up on Amazon or Goodreads I had a change of heart – I began to appreciate ANY review whatsoever. That anyone would take time to share their thoughts with the world began to mean quite a bit to me. The whole star-rating thing is pretty interesting really, and it’s amazing just how dramatically it’s changed our consuming habits. A good friend of mine sent me a link to an excellent essay about this very subject a while ago (search for ‘The Age of Excellence’ by @jason at Launch) – a great read for writers and readers.
Debra: By the way, I noticed you have quite a few reviews already and a very nice score on Amazon, for a new author that is outstanding! I will look for that essay, sounds like something that should be in our content on our authorshelpingauthors wordpress blog. Do you already know what you are going to work on next?
Landon: Unfortunately, yes and no. I think most writers tend to develop more ideas for stories than they have time for…usually (and ironically), this happens in the period of time you’re writing or editing something else, when you have the LEAST amount of time for another “Big Thing” to even think about. When I finished Promise of Departure, I had a list of 18 separate stories that all vied for the Next Thing, ranging from simple little single-line descriptions to fleshed-out pages of notes per concept. I think I’ve changed my mind about what I’m working on now/next about three times in the past six months, so I’m either working very hard on several things or nothing in particular!
Debra: Oh that was an eloquent and brilliant way for you to divulge nothing! <laughs and offers up the beer bottle for another click>
Landon: There’s another Big Thing on the way – ‘a novel devoted to motorsport as religion’ is how I’ve been describing it. It’s a very important story to me (and the damn thing just about killed me to not work on it while finishing Promise of Departure – stuff was just tumbling out every single day, which is exactly what you WANT, just not at that particular moment, you know?). But that’s going to be a several-year thing and I need to do a little sketching between Big Things to remain mostly sane. I guess it’s sort of like scribbling in the corner of your blank grocery list first just to make sure the pen still works. I’m working on two short stories at the moment and both are claiming “me first!” daily, though I think ‘Piccolo Peche’ will win this back-seat bickering bout – it’s the diary of a ten-year-old girl who accidently invents a device that stops the world from killing itself…and that’s about all I’m gonna’ say about it for now. 😉
Debra: Oh alright, I won’t dig anymore then, can you blame me? I was hoping for a sequel…I can be happy with just more to read from you though, loved your writing style. Is there a TV series or movie which you think would appeal to a similar audience as your book?
Landon: Thank you, you are too kind. <mock bows in jest of the humbled to a queen, they both laugh, pause to enjoy a couple more swigs from the Shiner bottles> Seriously though, I’ve always had a short list of flicks or television shows that feel like reliable control groups to me – in other words, if you like these, you’re probably going to like the book (and equally, I think, if you absolutely do NOT like these, you probably won’t like the book). In my case, I think anyone who’s watched (and liked) ‘Long Way ‘Round’ and ‘Long Way Down’ with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman would love the book for the motorcycle aspect alone. The book is about much more than just bikes and riding in an unknown land, of course – it is very much a love story at its core – and I think folks who like their emotionally-charged media a little on the heavy side, folks who like John Hillcoat’s amazing adaptation of McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ or Sean Penn’s ‘Into the Wild’ will also really enjoy the book. Joe Carnahan’s ‘The Grey’ is another example, and probably the most aligned in themes/emotional content/etc. – amazing, literary film that was marketed all wrong, I believe. There are multiple stories being told in the movie (and in the original Ian Mackenzie Jeffers’ title ‘Ghost Walker’ upon which the film is based) that most reviewers (and viewers) seemed to gloss right over or outright miss. I’ve watched that movie half a dozen times in the past year and still pick up subtle little clues that make me reexamine what I think of the film. I really do believe it might be the deepest/best film of the last ten years that far too few moviegoers have seen. That’s good story, back to your original question. That movie is still with me, nearly a year after the first viewing. When it continues to live off the page, off the screen – that’s good story.
Debra: If your book was made into a movie and you were asked for input into the soundtrack, are there any songs that would work especially well for any particular scenes?
Landon: This too is a fantastic question. I think most writers would be fibbing if they didn’t admit to envisioning their work on the silver screen at least a few times while they work. I’m no different, honestly, and wrote many scenes in the book with very specific music in mind (Sigur Rós, the amazing Icelandic band, would score the entire flick with their interoperated views of Haitian culture/music). Anyone optioning movie rights for Promise of Departure would very likely roll their eyes at my little conditions, but this would certainly be one of them.
Debra: Never heard of them but I will be signing into my Bing account after you go, rack up some more credits for free stuff while checking them out. Landon, it has been amazing talking to you today, learning more about the artist behind the book and all of that. We are out of time today and must let our readers get back to whatever they were doing when they were gracious enough to take time out to join us today. I have something to do to wrap up here, will you be leaving right away or will you stay a bit?
Landon: I’d love to stay a bit actually, my day is just getting started good since I am more of a night owl and its only 3 in the afternoon, I think I’ll go back to the barn and keep your husband company, give him a hand with that tire, if you really wouldn’t mind?
Debra: Of course, please make yourself comfortable and stay as long as you like, I know he’ll enjoy your company! My son will be home soon, oh, by the way, thanks for the great games that kept me so frustrated chasing him around to do his homework all these years, good job, Landon! <is poking fun and chuckling all the while> We’re going to throw some burgers on the grill when he gets here, I hope you will join us.
Landon: You are most welcome and thanks for helping me pay the bills! <laughs> We’ll see how late it gets, I have a long ride back to consider, ok? A special thank you to all of you reading this, I appreciate your support. <shakes hands, smiling and exits with a skip in his step, heading off to pick up a wrench….>
Debra: Wow, such an eloquent speaker, so personable, great guy…so that’s it for today and I just want to encourage everyone to check out this book, I know you’ll love it, here are some links for you. Gotta go! <stuffs a few bottles of Shiner into a cooler and heads out the door>