Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Welcome Guest Author John Wayne Cargile

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.:)

Here is a bit about the life of this unusual author:

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, 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.

Also, he told me his father was a big John Wayne fan and he was named after him.:) Actually that was the first question I asked him when we met.:) My own husband is a big John Wayne fan too!

Here is the interview:

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.:)

2. How did you get the idea for the plot of this book?
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.

Barbara: You keep talking about this mother and this is another reason I need to read your book.:)

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?
Tremendously. When I was a junior in college I went to work as an FBI clerk in Birmingham, Alabama. The FBI agent, who recruited me as a meat clerk with A&P Tea Company, was the head agent in charge of the KKK. My one year at the Bureau was spent studying KKK files. Also, at the same time Martin Luther King, Jr, had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Our office was thrown into the mix since James Earl Ray purchased the gun in Birmingham, Naturally, I got to read all the FBI reports about the assassination. I got a sense of how the FBI worked, and once thought about joining them once I graduated from college, but I was recruited as a newpaper reporter while taking a creative writing class taught by the City Editor of The Birmingham News. His thoughts were if I was with the FBI then I could be of help as a cub police reporter. I was more adept, however, at writing features about people. I love writing about other people. All of the awards I received were about people. Every person has a story to tell about themselves, and I like to pull it out of them.

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.

Barbara: Yes, I agree that Red River Writers has been a big plus for both authors and bloggers who are writers. It's a great way for all kinds of writers to network. After all I write YA and have hosted authors from various genres. This is all thanks to April Robins who started it. Kudos to April!

10. Which do you enjoy writing more; your newspaper column or fiction?
I love both. My newspaper column is about living an Integral Life in Mind-Body-Spirit. I have incorporated my philosophy into the novel in certain instances, but it is not flagrantly realized. One reviewer captured my philosophy in his review. He said I was using it as my platform, but it is not a preachy sort of thing. It's just there for the taking. I also write features for the newspapers, and I love that part about as much as anything. I like writing about people.

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.

Barbara: This is a subject to which I could probably devote an entire blog. I'd love to have you come back and discuss this at a later time.:)

12. What is your writing process?
That's hard to put a finger on. I sit down with my characters and talk to them. I put them together in my mind, sometimes I'll put ideas into a special folder on my computer. If, say, one of my characters has a histrionic personality disorder, I try to find other characters in real life and in fiction who match that personality and I watch them grow into their role. One of my characters has this personality disorder, and it is what some psychiatrists say was Scarlett O'Hara's in "Gone With The Wind." I've studied her personality for quite some time, and I am thinking about writing a sequel with the main character being a Scarlett O' Hara type, but maybe with some redeeming qualities.

13. Will you be doing any book signings? Do you have a schedule for our readers?
I am doing local signings right now. My PR person is setting up a regional schedule. I have set up the local ones. A weekly newspaper is doing a full page spread on me this week. It involves an interview much like this one, a review, and a press release along with a value added incentive for those who buy my novel. I am offering an eBook valued at $9.95 of My Metaphysical Musings, newspaper columns I have written on Integral Life the past three years. It is only offered at my website, however. The publisher doesn't know I am doing this, and wouldn't care. You won't be able to get the eBook except at my website. An autograph copy of the book is only available at my website. Only those who come to an autograph signing will be able to get a handwritten autograph. and I will be signing books at Arts Night in Northport, Alabama on May 7th. I will also be in Homewood, Alabama on June 13th for an autograph signing. So catch a plane and come on down. You might want to watch out for Homeland Security, however, because if you were at a "Tea Party," chances are you are a terrorist (ha)!

Barbara: Well, I didn't attend any of those "Tea Parties" because my political philosophy is nowhere near that of the people you mentioned. Though I understand how they feel, they are not looking at the facts. Taxes will be going down for the middle class. I think everyone should be concentrating on the credit card companies.:)

Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your life and your writing. Now here is the special treat I mentioned earlier in the week. John is giving away the same e-Book he gives to those who buy his book to the winner of the drawing here. All you need to do to be eligible to win is to leave a question or comment here for John Wayne Cargile. This has been such a great interview I have a lot of questions myself.:)


  1. Barbara: Well, I didn't attend any of those "Tea Parties" because my political philosophy is nowhere near that of the people you mentioned. Though I understand how they feel, they are not looking at the facts. Taxes will be going down for the middle class. I think everyone should be concentrating on the credit card companies.:)

    John: Homeland Security wants to single out groups who are anti-abortionists and right wing extremists. The Catholic Church is anti-abortion. Does the Catholic Church then become tagged as a terrorist threat? What about the American Legion, The VFW and The American Family Association. Most of the members are right wingers. The Civil War I spoke about might be one which involves right wingers versus left wingers. Just a thought!

  2. Hi,

    Thank you for an interesting conversation.

    Good luck with your book and keep writing.

  3. John,
    Right wingers vs. left wingers would be a more likely scenario.:) You are right about the other organizations. We will have to see about that and I hope that doesn't happen.:)

    Either way, thank you for answering and hope you can be here to continue to answer comments and questions. I appreciate your taking the time to spend with us.:)

  4. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for stopping by. You are now enrolled in the drawing!

  5. I feel like the King of the Hill today with the interview on your blog. My local newspaper ran a full page spread about me, the book, an interview through Joan Baratta, and the eBook I am offering as an added bonus when readers buy the novel. I'll send it to you if you want to read it. It is in pdf.file. Let me know. You can't get that kind of advertising just any where!

  6. Congratulations John!!
    Please send it. I will post parts of it for you as a follow up if you like.:)

  7. Hi,

    Great interview, great read!

    On the agent question: Nowadays, most of the publishing houses won't even consider unsolicited submissions...leaving us with little choice but to find an agent!


  8. Hi Harvey,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree that it's very hard to get seen, but they do sometimes find people from the slush pile.:) It isn't easy in this economy. You've got to keep trying.:)

    What do you think John?

  9. Barbara, this sounds like a very interesting book. Since I help my husband prepare taxes, I was too busy to attend a "Tea Party." As an American, one must learn to respect the rights of others.

    As for taxes, there was a wonderful science fiction book written about people who spent their lives paying off their income taxes!

    I might be caught in the middle of Mr. Cargile's new Civil War as I don't know if I am on the left or right wing. I do have two credit cards which have been used many so I could write a check at the stores. We use a check card for most purchases, though my husband does not always remember to write done what he has spent.

  10. rae,
    Thanks for the comments. The Cry of the Cuckoos is not really about this, but it's interesting that we've gotten onto this discussion. I am really looking forward to reading John's book too!

  11. Thank you John and Barbara for your kind words about me and Red River Writers. The FaceBook group is successful because of active group members like yourselves.

    John, your book sounds simply wonderful. We still have an active KKK in Ft Worth but it is pretty small, thank goodness.

    A right wing versus and left wing Civil War, that makes sense. Why not mix in the essence of a Class War while you are at it?

    John, thanks so much for sharing.

    April Robins

  12. April,
    Thank you for stopping here.:) It's wonderful that you could. I was only saying the truth about you and Red River Writers.:)

    I know that there were KKK's in upstate New York, but I'm not sure if they are still there now. You are right about a class war being more the case. I think so too. You can't give people things and then take them away without a struggle. Unfortunately, this tax thing is not the best battle for them. I'm still thinking it will be the credit card companies. We'll see, though. Isn't this a great discussion, though?:)

  13. I had a few moments, so I thought I would drop in. Barbara, you said you had some questions for me. Fire away! I see that you purchased my book. Thank you so much. I can't wait to read your review.

  14. If you pop back in, John, I did have one question. Do you know if there are any KKK's still functioning in New York State?

  15. I am a big John Wayne fan, so love your name. And what a great interview. Your book sounds awesome. I'm adding it to my TBR list.


  16. Very interesting interview. The plot sounds both complex and unusual. I myself would probably be most interested in the psychological changes in the main character.

    My question fro JWC:
    You say: “Our government is not the same government intended by the framers of our Constitution.”

    Don’t you think times have changed and doesn’t America today face challenges the framers of the constitution did not anticipate? Should consitutions, like all else in life, not change – gradually – over time?

  17. Beverly,
    Thank you for the great comment! John Wayne will be back tomorrow. He asked me to let you know that he is thrilled to be here and will answer your comments and questions tomorrow.:)

    How great that you are going to get the book! I confess that I haven't read it either and now I'm going to have to add it to my list. I am also going to check out your blog.:)

  18. Pomposh,
    Glad to see you here! As I mentioned, John Wayne will be back tomorrow and answer the question, but if I may I'll try to answer from my point of view.

    I agree that America has changed, but through all of our changes we have adapted and so has our Constitution. We have added amendments so the Constitution can stretch to aid the government we have had. The frame of the Constitution is strong and I think that it will never need to be changed. We believe in a government with checks and balances. Each branch of the government can be checked by the other. So no branch gets too strong.

    With Bush our executive branch got much too strong. Now we need to go back to a balanced government and follow the law. That is what has kept us strong.:)

    I'm sure that John Wayne will have his own answer for you too.:)

  19. Pamposh:
    My question fro JWC:
    You say: “Our government is not the same government intended by the framers of our Constitution.”

    Don’t you think times have changed and doesn’t America today face challenges the framers of the constitution did not anticipate? Should consitutions, like all else in life, not change – gradually – over time?

    John: Yes, times have changed, but if you read Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto," you'll see that our country is headed toward a more socialistic government. Even communism has changed and, maybe for the good. I don't know. But, the two-party system we have isn't working. It needs a good, solid third-party to rear its head. Sometimes I do not think our government lives in a real world, at least, not in the real world in which most of us live. The framers of the Constitution had great vision, and it's time to return to those basic tenets.

  20. To Barbara,
    The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama keeps track of KKK activities throughout the USA. I would have to look at their site to see if the KKK is present in upper NY. The SPLC recently won in court a lawsuit against the KKK Wizard of Kentucky. You might want to Google Southern Poverty Law Center and see if they have their flags in NY. We still have KKK activity in Alabama, but some of the groups I know about have changed their names i.e. The League of the South. They have changed their sheets for business suits. I know the president of The League of the South. Very smart man. He taught history at the University of Alabama and an all-black college in Tuscaloosa. He was fired for some of his radical ideas.

  21. If you read The Cry of the Cuckoos you will see a model radical right wing organization whose intention it to kill dignitaries at the Super Bowl in Washington, DC, and United Nations. This is a stretch for the real organization, The League of the South. They wouldn't be so extreme. They cater to an ideology which a lot of Southerners cater to -- decentralized government. I once belonged to The League of the South and attended meetings. I have visited the president of the league in his home when he lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The league is now headquartered in northern Alabama, and they are going strong. I also have a group called The Society of Southern Scots, but it was set up as heritage site for Scotsman in the South, especially for April which is Scots-Irish Heritage Month. The group in my book takes a little from each group and blends it into a radical right wing supremacist organization.

  22. Barbara,
    I checked the map on Southern Poverty Law Center's website. There are 24 groups in NY that are tagged as hate groups. Some are black separatist, white nationalist, Neo-Nazis and various other hate groups. As a former FBI clerk in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights March led by Martin Luther King, Jr., I saw upclose and personal history right before my eyes. King was assassinated while I was at the FBI and I was privvy to the reports by FBI agents. You'll find the main character in my book, Donald Drummond, to be a big believer in King.

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. To Rae,
    Don't worry about tags. I am this or I am that. Sometimes I am a right winger and sometimes I am a left winger. I hate being tagged as anything. I'm neither a Demoncrat nor a Republican. I vote my conscience for the man. I didn't vote for Obama after his ordeal with Joe The Plumber. That may have been a setup, but what spilled out of Obama's mouth in his dialogue with Joe made me sick to my stomach. He wants to spread the wealth around. No longer are we a Capitalist society, but moving ever closer to Socialism. It's not my idea for America.

  25. John Wayne,
    Thank you so much for coming back and answering the comments and questions we've had. I am surprised that there are still so many of those right wing groups in NY and thank you for looking that up for me.

    I hope you were only a part of that right wing group to do research. Some people might have been put off by that.:)

    Before the Civil War a third party elected a president, Abraham Lincoln. It might have to come to this, but I hope that it doesn't result in the same conclusion.:)

    I don't think that either political party wants to go to the very extreme, because they will lose the voters in the middle. Therefore they gear their rhetoric to the middle of their party. Not all Democrats are thrilled with Obama, but he is so much better than anything we could have had from the Republicans. I thought that exchange with Joe the Plumber was ridiculous and taken the wrong way. You should go back and reread this discussion.

    Will you be around tomorrow to answer any comments? Let me know.

  26. Barbara, first of all great interview...maybe you should interview me sometime!

    To the author: I appreciate the journey you have been on, specifically having been a writer and following the different beats you have been on could only enhance the experience of writing your current work. Kudos to you for making your dream a reality. You articulated your dreams for yourself, and I believe you will realize them. Having been a member of the Air Force for 20 years...I also appreciate what you shared about the possibility of another civil war in our lifetime. Not that this is a desired state, but seeing this as the perfect storm of events that could cause such an event.

    It saddens me that we clearly have become a nation of haves and have nots...and the divide is widening.

    Much success to you and your work.


  27. Marilyn,

    Glad you could leave a comment.

    Thank you.:) I would love to interview you. Do you have a book or story published? Let me know.

    That's quite a lot of time to be in the military.:)

  28. Barbara,
    John Wayne,
    Thank you so much for coming back and answering the comments and questions we've had. I am surprised that there are still so many of those right wing groups in NY and thank you for looking that up for me.

    I hope you were only a part of that right wing group to do research. Some people might have been put off by that.:)

    John: Like one of the characters in my book says, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer."

  29. I forgot to mention it, but after I wrote The Cry of the Cuckoos a friend suggested I read Jim Marrs book, The Rise of the Fourth Reich.
    Marrs contends secret societies threaten to take over America.
    "National Socialism never died, but rather its hideous philosophy is alive and active in modern America. Unfortunately, most people cannot understand the shadowy links between fascism and corporate power, the military and our elected leaders." That is a blurb from his book.
    I found his book intriguing, and wondered to myself if I had hit the nail on the head. When the Homeland Security report came out it just energized my book's theme. My PR director and I are discussing how to get on Fox & Friends, a conservative news cable and discuss the book and what the Homeland Security report means. I know Janet Napolitano has apologized. but many are looking for her to be fired. The report was on her watch.


Visit the Home of the Fightin’ Bookworms!
Visit the National Gallery of Writing
Shop Indie Bookstores



Discover Writing