Writerly Questions with David Wilton

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

Summer is halfway over, but there are still four more weeks of fun in the sun. Whether you are relaxing by the pool or on your porch, what better way to have some quiet time than with a good book? David Wilton suggests the novel he cowrote with Mary Palmer, To Catch a Fish, published by Terpsichore

How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
Three young friends who experience the innocence of youth only to see it shattered now must now face the trials of adulthood.

 How long did it take you to write this book?
That is a book unto itself. I began writing To Catch a Fish and had my first draft completed in early 2004. I knew it was not finished, but work had to be postponed. I managed an insurance claims office and my territory was first hit by Hurricane Ivan which devastated the southern coast of Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. In 2005, my territory again felt the wrath of nature as Hurricane Katrina destroyed both property and lives. These were difficult times. It took me over two weeks to locate all my employees who lived in the path of these storms.

I can’t imagine having to endure such environmental destruction! I’m sorry to hear that you were one of those who did. How long was it before you resumed working on the story? 

In 2008, I started back on the book. I engaged Mary Palmer to edit the manuscript. It was then we decided to blend our talents and collaborate on its completion.  In 2009, To Catch a Fish was awarded second place at the Sandhill Writer’s Conference for fiction, and 2010 marked the publication of the completed book. Our journey has now reached the summit as Musa Publishing agreed to continue our dream by publishing To Catch a Fish.

Congratulations on winning that award! I bet it was much needed good news. In total, how many drafts would you say were there?
Five would be my best guess.  In the first draft, I focus more on the characters. As strange as it sounds I want to know everything I can about them. And with each scene they introduce themselves to me. What draws out their emotions? How do they interact with each other? I then focus on the plot. How do the characters’ imperfections create the issues which lead to the conflict and how do they react to its culmination.

Typewriter, computer/laptop, or pen & paper?
I use a computer although if it could speak, it may have something to say about that. Its nickname is “Jackass,” since I know the mistakes made are not mine, but must be his.

Mine is known as PC, short not for ‘personal computer’ but for ‘possessed contraption’! Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a man cave. It has my computer, my CD of Pavarotti and Bocelli, and a place to rest my merlot. What more can one need?

When I first started writing To Catch a Fish, I had an old computer that only had Word Perfect. I found out that Word Perfect doesn’t like Word, and Word had no appreciation of Word Perfect. Mary Palmer and I had a “great adventure” translating one from the other.

I guess that also answers the question of: What do you drink or eat while you write?
 A glass of merlot and I’m in heaven. I find my characters like it to.

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
It has to be afternoon or evening. Merlot doesn’t have the same bit at six in the morning.

Hmmm, maybe not *grin* Do you listen to any other kind of music while you write?
I love classical music. Pavarotti and Bocelli are my favorite. I write from the heart and can reach the heart through these wonderful singers. I also love the Irish Tenors.

What do you wear when you write in your man cave?
Wait, I have to look in a mirror to see. Oh Lord, do I have to answer? Seriously, I usually write in a warm-up suit, but it isn’t anything that is consistent. My daddy always said, “You can cover up a lot in a good suit.” I guess I can be just as bad (good) in a suit as I can in warm-ups.

It is probably more comfortable to be sitting all day in trackies than a tux!  Do you have any other writing rituals?
Before you finish this interview, you may want to send me to the farm. I pour a glass of merlot, and turn on a CD of Pavarotti or Bocelli.  After the last note of the first song, I begin to write.

How do you plot? Chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis? Do you use detailed outlines?
My writing is character-driven. Nothing about me can be accused of being organized. I write what my heart leads me to write. I know the beginning, the middle and end before I write the first word.  I let the characters fill in the blanks.

How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
I love first person as I’m able to find out more about the character.  It tends to pull out their motive, what makes them tick.

Writing in first-person allows you to step into the main characters shoes a little easier, I imagine.  How do you choose your characters’ names?
I would have to say many ways. I use friends and relatives’ names. Other times I just pull the first name that comes to mind. In one of my manuscript, yet to be published, I chose the name of one character to be Mary Simons. I proceeded to write the great American novel when I began reading the manuscript with much pride.  Suddenly I realized the speaker attribution I was writing was, “Simons said.” Obviously, the last name was changed.

Not exactly the aesthetic you were going  for in a ‘great American novel’… *grin*  Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
I love my wife, Linda, to read the manuscript first. Regardless of how bad it is, she loves it. She’s my inspiration, surely not my critic.

What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I had to share my success with Pavarotti and Bocelli, and a glass of Merlot.

 If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
I would love Cuba Gooding to play the part of Ben Johnson. He could capture his soul.

Now a little bit more about your life, rather than how your book came to life. What is the first book you remember reading?
I loved to walk the three blocks to Maryvale School during the summer where the bookmobile would be parked. I would search through the Hardy Boys. I’m proud to say I read the first, The Tower Treasure. I have read many after that first one.

I think the only Hardy Boys book I read was their Detective Handbook, which made me want to be a private investigator! What book is on your nightstand right now?
Again, you’ll believe I’m ready for the funny farm. Captain Courageous by Rudyard Kiplingrests upon my nightstand. I’ve read the novel many times but it doesn’t get old. Harvey’s growth as a person is heart-warming. He begins a self-centered, spoiled kid who becomes a man through the experiences upon the fishing vessel, We’re Here.

Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
I feel no guilt when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, but after the many times I’ve read it, one begins to wonder. This is my favourite book.

 How do you organize your library/book collection?
As I previously said, nothing I do can be accused of being organized. My wife closes the door to my man cave so no one can see its condition. I’m led by the heart and it tells me what my next adventure will be. Everything I read is an adventure. I try to become a part of the book I read.

Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a story-teller. Whether that can be considered wanting to be a writer, I’ll leave it up to you. I’ve have always wanted to move people by what I write.

I remember a story that appeared on the G.E. Theatre when I was a young child. There was a black man who was a member of a troop of other soldiers in training. He was considered unfit, unworthy of being considered a warrior. The others in his troop decided to play a trick on him. They decided during a training session to drop an unarmed hand-grenade in the middle of the men. The black man yelled to his fellow soldiers, “Run, run, I’ve got it covered,” as he threw his body over the instrument of death. He was willing to give his life for the same men who mocked him. That’s the hero I’d like to be. That’s emotions I’d love my writing to instill.

I saw a movie recently that had a similar scene, it’s amazing how brave soldiers are. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
This is not even close. I would love to have written To Kill a Mockingbird. A native of Mobile, I live about one hundred miles from Monroeville, Alabama, the home town of Harper Lee. As a claims adjuster, my road trips would take me to Monroeville, the site of the courthouse where Tom Robinson was convicted of rape. I loved to walk in and just sit.

I envision Tom Robinson listening to the lies about his involvement. I sat down at the table where Atticus Finch took notes during his defense of Tom.  I would look up in the balcony where Scout and Jem watched the proceedings along with Dill. Yes, that’s where I would want to be and hope for a righteous decision.

If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask/talk about?
As I said in my previous answer, To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book. I would love to talk to Harper Lee. The one question I would ask her would be, “What would have changed, if Tom Robinson had been found not guilty?”

 If you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
This might be harsh, but I would be Boo Radley sinking the knife in Bob Ewell. Forgive me for being a little too honest. I never believe killing is the answer but in this instant, I just don’t know.

Maybe we should keep you away from any knives… *wink* What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
A complement is the best gift a writer can receive. I attached an e-mail I received from one who read To Catch a Fish. It makes the joy of writing even more special.

Hello Mr. Wilton,

You may not remember me, but, on August 9th, I met you at the Windmill in F’hope. Deloris Brown, the tall african-american lady with the curls in her hair. You kept telling me how pretty I was, your comment made my day 🙂 Anyway, I wasn’t there that day to buy a book. I came there to inquiring about Moe’s menu for that day. You presented the book so warmth felt and so passion I had to buy it. You sold me. I’m not much of a reader. And to be honest with you I didn’t think I would have time to read the book. But, when I started reading about the locations and different places I’m was familiar with I couldn’t put the book down. It seemed like, almost every page I turned I was there visualizing the charcters as well as the locations.

I left the book behind one day at work. And my Aunt called asking me where my book was. When I told her I brought it home to finish reading it, she was sadden. She told me she had just started reading it the night before and was already on chapter 7. I promised her that I would return it so she could finish reading it.

This book has touched my heart. And made me decided to read The Help. Thank you so much for your introducation of this amazing book. And thank you so much for giving me the passion for wanting to read more books.

Now, I have 3 questions for you: 1.) When is the moving coming out :)……. 2.) I want the part of Mrs. Johnson…… 3.) Why you didn’t let Davey beat the brakes off of Cushing? He needed a good @$^*%$*^%$ whipping.

This e-mail was so special. One can write with emotions but the important thing is whether the reader feels those same emotions.

I can see why getting letters from people who were touched by your book would be an amazing feeling.  What is the best advice someone could give a writer?
I’m a romantic. You write from the heart and you search for emotions. The one piece of advice I would suggest to another writer is to open up your heart. Leave nothing to chance. Let the reader know not just where you stand but where you stand with conviction.

 What is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
That I cry. I cry when I read a great novel, or hear a great story. I cry for Tom Robinson and for his family. I want to tell him all is better. The sun brightens the morning as the stars light up the night. Life is full of ups and downs. We must cherish each moment and hope each day is better than the last. Then Tom Robinson can rest in peace.

  Previous Interviews: Cordelia Dinsmore, Devin Hodgins, Kaitlin Bevis, Martin Bodenham




Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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