If it's Thursday it must be Guest Author day. Our guest today is the award winning journalist John Wayne Cargile whose new novel The Cry of the Cuckoos is generating a great deal of discussion and excellent reviews.:)
He holds two doctoral degrees in religion and philosophy. He is a retired journalist, and his new novel, The Cry of the Cuckoos, is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobel, Books A Million. Publisher: Eloquent Books, New York. He writes weekly columns for two newspapers in Alabama titled, "Integral Life." John Wayne Cargile is married with three adult children, and five grandchildren.
1. Please tell us a little bit about your book, The Cry of the Cuckoos.
The cuckoo bird is a master of deception, fooling other species in their race to copy their chirping begging call. Donald Drummond and his wife, Anne, chase after the killer of his father, Henry Drummond, but find themselves up against a radical right wing supremacist organization called the Society of Southron Patriots and, like the cuckoo bird, deception is the Society’s mission. The couple unravels a terrorist plot aimed to kill Washington dignitaries at the Super Bowl and delegates at the United Nations. Donald, a retired news reporter, and Anne, a retired school teacher, unfold the mystery leading them on a wild chase from Alabama to Texas. And one of the many murder suspects is Donald’s biological mother, Betty Jo Duke, who he only just met after his father’s death. Donald and Anne are hired as informants by the FBI to unravel the mysterious case and they get a lot more than they bargained for.
Barbara: Wow!!! I'm sorry you ran out of books. Now I'm going to have to go and buy it immediately. What a whirlwind plot.:)
As a former newspaper reporter and FBI clerk, I interviewed the president of a local Neo-Confederate organization many years ago. I visited with him in his home, and I attended several of his meetings. They are right wingers, but they are not terrorists. They follow an ideology much like what you saw at the "Tea Parties" recently. Our government is not the same government intended by the framers of our Constitution. It's not an Obama thing, it's big government, which Orwell described years ago of Big Brother. Donald Drummond and his wife are retired, but with his father's death, the couple is recruited by the FBI and Homeland Security to unravel the death of his father, who is actually murdered by someone. His father was the founder of the Society of Southron Patriots, and for the first few chapters the novel is basically a whodunit with everyone pointing their fingers at one another. There are actually two storylines in the novel: 1) The murder mystery, 2) an identity crisis when Donald, the main character, learns he has a real mother living in Texas, who becomes a suspect in his father's murder. She had a motive. Learning about his real mother sends him into a state of anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Once he realizes his real identity he finds himself on the verge of suicide, and the anger and resentment from his family who have deceived him all 61 years of his life become the themes of deception and forgiveness.
3. When you are starting a new story which do you think of first, the characters or the plot? Why?
The characters first. I frame the characters first and once I've identified their idiosyncrasies, and place the characters in dialogue, the plot begins to evolve. In my novel, Henry Drummond is dead, but through the characters he has touched throughout his life, one can get a good idea of how much one dead man leaves behind in his wake. One reviewer notes I have a good sense of flawed characters. That can be attributed to my background in psychology, philosophy and religion.
4. You mention in your bio that you were a clerk in the FBI for a year. How did this experience help when you were writing this book?
5. Please share with our readers your experiences in trying to get your book published.
I have been a book producer, and worked a year as a regional sales manager for Bantam Books. I am 64 and I know how tough it is to break in with a traditional publisher, especially a new author. I had another book I wrote when I was in my 20's, and I received the usual rejection slips. My age had something to do with going with the publisher I am with now. I guess my mortality intuited it (ha). I simply don't have many years left to write what I need to write, so I found AEG Publishing Group through my agent. It's not for everyone, but I entered a joint venture contract with them where I share 50-50 in publishing and royalties. They have all the services of a traditional publisher, and if you choose you can use them for a price. I am only using one service from them and that is a great PR person who contracts with them. She has an awesome literary resume.
6. Did you need to do a lot of research for The Cry of the Cuckoos? What kinds of research did you do?
Oh, yes, lots of research. I had already written my book, Decoration Day, when the editor said it was too generic. I began to research the cuckoo bird. I found it to be exactly like that of the right wing supremacist group I describe in the book. Without giving too much away, there was a poison from China that the organization purchased on the black market. I had to research it. There was also research done in the medical field since my main character had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. There's qute a bit of medical information in the novel, especially as the main character ends up in a pyschiatric ward.
7. I noticed you have been a newspaper writer for forty years. What made you decide to write a fiction novel? Has your newspaper experience helped or hindered your writing of fiction?
It's been difficult. The first thing I learned was to show not tell. That has been the most difficult. But I grew up in newspaper writing within the New Journalism style, which is the way many journalists worth their mettle write today. I guess it started with Tom Wolfe of the New York Times. Someone said he started the New Journalism with his Esquire Magazine about "The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson." It was a fascinating magazine article and journalists began to copy Wolfe's style. Journalism is akin to novel writing I've learned. If you cannot capture your audience within the first three paragraphs you've lost them for good. The same goes for novel writing. You'll notice, for those who have read an excerpt, that I leave no holds barred with my opening paragraph, using a dream scene. It's an action within an action.
8. Do you have a critique group? What are your thoughts about critique groups?
I belonged to Internet Writers Workshop for a long time. Some of you may be members, but it got to be a little much. You'd post a chapter, and, if you were lucky, someone would jump in with a critique. I wondered some time whether they were just trying to reach their numbers at IWW, or they really cared about what you were writing. I finally gave up on them. I was told by a wise ol' soul, that you can have 10 editors in a room reading your material and you will come out with 13 interpretations. It's best to have one person critique it and use what you find useful and purposeful.
9. Do you have an agent? Do you think new authors need an agent? Why?
I stumbled onto an agency, and it worked out for me. If you want to make it into big-time publishing, you'll need an agent, and it's also a must to join the Writer's Guild. If you just want to publish a book so your family and friends can call you an author, that is a totally different story. But I want my novel to sell, be read, and be popular. A reviewer likened the emotion and plotting of my novel to William Faulkner's books. I was really very flattered. If you can find an agent it will be well worth your while. You want to write, then let others more in the know do some of the sales and marketing for you. I am as aggressive in sales and marketing as I was in the writing of the book. But some people just want to write and let their publisher do all the leg work. That will not happen, believe me! You've got to market your book and take advantage of every opportunity to let people know you are out there with hundreds of thousands of other authors wanting to be recognized. These blog interviews are tremendous opportunities. Becoming a member of the Red River Writers is also beneficial in that you become part of a community of readers and writers whose sole purpose is entertainment and education.
10. Which do you enjoy writing more; your newspaper column or fiction?
11. The Cry of the Cuckoos deals with a murder possibly involved with a right wing fundamentalist group. a) How close to the truth are the events in the book? b) The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that we were in danger from these right wing groups and labeled them terrorist. How do you feel about this?
Well, unfortunately for my right wing supremacist group, Homeland Security would confirm their own report. Homeland Security plays a role in my novel. But in real life, some of the organizations listed as terrorists have been unkindly singled out. Veterans make up many of these right wing organizations, but their intent is not terrorism. It is an ideology. My group still thinks the South was right to go to war with the North and Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. They are against big government, and the recent report by Homeland Security brought many of them out of the closet. There will be a lot more stirring among groups like I describe in my novel. The average citizen will begin to see this ideology and I wouldn't be surprised to see another Civil War in my lifetime. This time it will not be a North-South war, but one where the middle class finally decides they are tired of being taxed to the gills, and they will become a militant group. Right behind them will be the organizations who already have structure. More middle class people will be joining these extremist groups.
12. What is your writing process?