Friday, October 14, 2016

Interview with Emre Gurgen, author of Don Quixote Explained

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Inside the Book:

Don Quixote Explained
Title: Don Quixote Explained
Author: Emre Gurgen
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Genre: Literary Criticism
  Format: Ebook/Paperback

  Don Quixote Explained focuses on seven topics: how Sancho Panza refines into a good governor through a series of jokes that turn earnest; how Cervantes satirizes religious extremism in Don Quixote by taking aim at the Holy Roman Catholic Church; how Don Quixote and Sancho Panza check-and-balance one another’s excesses by having opposite identities; how Cervantes refines Spanish farm girls by transforming Aldonza Lorenzo into Dulcinea; how outlaws like Roque Guinart and Gines Pasamonte can avoid criminality and why; how Cervantes establishes inter-religional harmony by having a Christian translator, on the one hand, and a Muslim narrator, on the other; and lastly, how Cervantes replaces a medieval view of love and marriage―where a woman is a housekeeper, lust-satisfier, and child begetter―with a modern view of equalitarian marriage typified by a joining of desires and a merger of personalities.


The Interview

Question 1 - Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what do you listen to?
To produce strong writing, sometimes I listen to classical music from composers like Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, and Beethoven.  In truth, just hearing classical symphonies from these artistic geniuses unleashes my creative juices, so that I can complete my manuscripts on time. 
Another reason why I listen to classical music when I write is because it does not have distracting words.  Lyric free music, I find, is soothing, not jarring, because they relax my mind, instead of jolting it with words.  Conversely, when people are singing, when they are voicing words, I cannot think clearly, since, typically, singer’s lyrics distract me from writing. 
Other people’s words, I find, draw my focus away from my own internal dialogue, my own inner voice, which I rely on to say what I want to say, to write scenes.  Instead of focusing on my internal voice, I end up listening to what singers sing.  This, to me, is very unsettling.  Thus, if I listen to any music at all when I write, which happens, once in a while, it is always instruments, not words. 
Besides listening to classical music, sometimes, when I am very excited, I listen to Chinese Fung Shui music, to calm down, to quiet my mind, particularly an album called “Calming the Emotions.”  This, I find, restores my psychic writing  balance. 

Question 2 - Do you have any suggestions for upcoming writers?
Persist.  Never give up.  If you want something bad enough, and work at it intelligently enough for long enough, eventually, you will succeed.  You will do what you set out to. 
Also, do not worry about being rejected by book publishers.  It is normal.  Take heart.  It is part of the process.  Many famous authors, like Charles Dickens, for example, or Victor Hugo, for instance, where rejected by publishers. Do not take it personally.  It is okay to be rejected. If you are rejected, find courage.  Keep at it.  Eventually you will find a publisher. And if you cannot, view your first book as practice.  Then write another book.   

If you do face rejection, if you are not signed right away, become your own Guerilla Publicist.  Market your own books.  Sell your own novels.  Then approach publishers, different publishers, again. 
Go guerilla, like I did.  Set-up your own personal author website.  Create a blog with great posts.  Sell your books to independent book sellers.  Rove around the country selling books out of the trunk of your car.  Convince independent book stores to stock your books on consignment.  Develop a platform, like I did, so you are more credible.  So people will listen to you.  Speak wherever and whenever you can about your books (local libraries, professional conferences, wherever).  If you are a staff-writer for a magazine, or newspaper, convince publishers that you have a network in place that will help you get a book review.  Create a meet-up group for writers who want to become authors, just like you, since this could be an invaluable source of moral support, intellectual feedback, and honest criticism for your work.  Post your books on Amazon.  You may be able to get a prestigious endorsement from it like I did. 
After completing some, or all of these activities, you can try again with different literary agents, with different commercial publishing houses.  This time you can tell them that so and so endorsed your book. That such and such independent book stores bought your books and sales where good there.  That your blog gets a lot of traffic, as shown by a high click through rate.  That you have a lecture circuit on writing that provides a forum to promote your book.  Agents and publishers like hearing these things. 
Also, try to show publishing professionals that what you do in life (i.e. your occupation) connects to the topic of your book.  For instance, if you wrote a nonfiction book on the environment, note that you work for the United States Geological Survey.  If you wrote a novel that focuses on the conflict between scientific research and stem cells note that you are a cellular biologist.  Or, if your job, or your career, does not connect to your book, speak about how your life experiences do. Doing so will help convince the literary world that you are a qualified author who promotes what he writes effectively. 

Question 3 - What is it you like to do when you are not reading / writing?
When I am not reading and writing I like to observe people.  If I am eating at a restaurant with friends and family, playing trivia at anonymous meet-ups, singing karaoke at my local watering hole, or hiking with friends in parks, I try to take in and store information about the qualities particular to that experience:  data that may help me write a best-selling novel one day.
I find that a big part of writing is character development and setting up scenes.  To me, practice makes perfect.   So when I am out, I pick people and write about them.  I take what I observe about this person, whether they were sitting across from me on a bus or bumped into me when I was leaving the coffee shop, to develop fictional characters.  Questions I ask myself are:  What is his name?  What does he do?  Where is he going?  Where is he coming from? Is he shy or social? What is going on in his head? I try to cover everything from his family to his inner struggles.  This, I find, tests my creativity.  It helps me develop archetypes for my characters. 
During my social life, I also observe scenes.  All kinds of scenes.  If I am eating out, I ask myself questions.  What does the place looks like?  What type of food does it serve?  How is the food made?  What does it look like?   Who eats there?  Is the cliental sophisticated, or seedy? Upper class?  Middle class? Or lover class?  What evidence is there of this?  Prices?  People’s clothes?  Do they wear nice suits?  Fancy dresses?  Torn jeans?  Soiled, pock-marked, tee shirts?  Are the waiters snooty, cheerful, depressed, or chipper?  Why?  What does this tell me about the place?  What does the ambiance look like?  By coming up with accurate answer to these questions, I store details in my mind that I may need one day to write restaurant scenes accurately. 
Also, during trivia, for instance, I learn what people do, what their educational background is, what state or country they come from, so that I can match a person’s field of expertise, with how they walk, talk, and function, in case I need to base one of my characters on them. 
When speaking to stranger, with thick foreign accents, I make mental notes about their pronunciation.  Tone of voice.  Their inflections.  Do that if I describe their speech patterns in my novels, I do so accurately. 
When I am not writing, then, I record information for my writing. 

Question 4 - Is there an author / authors that have inspired you?
Over the years, the best-selling novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged, writer of The Fountainhead, and founder of the philosophy of objectivism, has profoundly impacted my thinking and writing. Her ideology, which elevates the individual over the collective, rational egoism over altruistic selflessness, and intellectual objectivity over hyper-emotionalism, is compelling, I think.  This is why I tried to weave it into my book Don Quixote Explained. 
Besides honing my ideology, Ayn Rand’s books on the Art of Fiction and Nonfiction have also taught me about:  writing and the subconscious; literature as an art form; how theme and plot relate; what a good climax is; how to develop my plot ability; what good conflict in a story is; how to move the narrative arc forward; the use of my emotions to write; how to develop consistent characters; how to write effective love scenes;  writing about nature and cities vividly; and particular issues of style, like exposition, flashbacks, transitions, metaphors, descriptions, dialogue, slang, and obscenities. 
Furthermore, reading and listening to Ayn Rand taught me how to:  choose an appropriate subject and theme for my novels; judge my reader accurately; tailor a unique message; apply philosophy to my books without preaching it; the art of writing effective outlines; the usefulness of writing a discovery draft; what effective titles for different books are; when, and how, to edit my books; and more.
If it was not for this great woman’s profound insights about writing, life-and-living, I would not be able to write as clearly as I do.  Nor would I feel as happy as I am. Thus, I owe her a debt of gratitude.
Because I deeply admire Ayn Rand for her personal integrity, clear thinking, and indefatigable persistence, I read all of her screen plays, novellas, and novels.  All of her philosophical treatises and ideological works.  Because AR has such a dynamic and persuasive personality, I spent many years learning her philosophy of objectivism and how she incorporates it into her books.  Doing so taught me to write more clearly, speak more effectively, and think more critically, in terms of essentials.  
To me, she is the greatest novelist of all time, the single author who has influenced me the greatest throughout my writing career.  In brief, her analysis of writing, art, and literature is very helpful to me.

Question 5 - As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a literary critic and a fiction author.  For this reason, growing-up, I read classical books from famous authors, from Ayn Rand to Fyodor Dostoevsky to Victor Hugo to Leo Tolstoy, dissecting them to see what a good book consists of.  Sometimes, when I could not understand what an author meant in a particular passage, I would underline words, then look them up later.  This equipped me with a broad mental-dictionary, an extensive conceptual vocabulary that every good writer needs. 
To practice the craft of writing, first, I wrote simple short-stories to learn how to: construct realistic plots; write about believable characters; simulate virtual settings; convey multiple points of view; create conflicts between my characters; develop symbols that echoed my theme. Then, after practicing short stories, I wrote longer novellas, to see if I could sustain a moving story.  Then, once I could write novellas, I wrote full length books, sometimes, as short as 100 pages and sometimes as long as 300 plus pages.  Though, some of my early work was pretty bad, at least it taught me how to develop characters, set scenes, organize my plots, structure my writing into chapters, keep my reader’s interest by using action verbs, clearly describe people, scenes, and the way things work, by using lucid, supporting details. 
This early practice, I found, is one of the main reasons why I am a decent writer now.  And, though, I still have a lot to learn, as most of us do, about the craft of writing, I feel that with my great energy, firm discipline, and tenacious dedication, I will learn soon enough. 

Question 6 - How do you / would you react to a bad review of your book?
If a review of my book was bad, and, I agreed with the criticisms, I would actually be happy, because a bad review would enable me to improve my future books (per the reviewer’s suggestions) so that my next book would merit praise from this person.   
In cases where I think a review is unjust, sometimes I try to convince the appropriate parties that these criticisms are inaccurate. 
If I am upset with a review, I try to cool down, and talk it over with someone neutral, and carefully craft my reply when I am more rational.  Since emotions, such as anger, usually cloud my objective judgement, never, will I fire off a heated response in the spur of the moment. 
In some instances, a review may not warrant my reply.  To make this judgement, questions I ask myself include:  Does this person continually spew negativity on blogs, or in print publications, because they are bitter?  Is the person using bad language?  Is their message clearly weird?  Does the reviewer personally dislike me, or my book, for reasons other than my writing. 
On balance, I try to accept constructive criticism, at face value, even if it is difficult for me to agree with.  Criticism, however, that is not meant to be helpful, but is written from spite, vitriol, or bitterness, does not concern me one iota.  I just ignore it.  Then go about my business, leaving it to others to decide if it has a valid basis, or not.  Usually, people recognize a flawed review when they see it, which reflects negatively on the reviewer, not me or my work.
In sum, if what reviewers say about my work is true, I try to quietly acknowledge it, and produce better writing in the future.  If it is not true, I dismiss it, and move on. 

Meet the Author:
Emre Gurgen, the author of Don Quixote Explained: The Story of an Unconventional Hero, has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Pennsylvania State University. Currently, he lives in Germantown, Maryland, where he is writing a follow-up Don Quixote essay collection and study guide.

Tour Schedule

Tuesday, June 28 - Interviewed at PUYB Virtual Book Club
Wednesday, June 29 - Interviewed at  at I'm Shelf-ish
Thursday, June 30 - Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Monday, July 4 - Interviewed at The Review From Here
Tuesday, July 5 - Guest blogging at My Bookish Pleasure
Wednesday, July 6 - Guest blogging at Voodoo Princess
Thursday, July 7 - Guest blogging at The Literary Nook
Friday, July 8 - Guest blogging at All Inclusive Retort
Monday, July 11 - Guest blogging at A Title Wave
Tuesday, July 12 - Interviewed at The Writer's Life
Friday, July 15 - Guest blogging at As the Page Turns
Monday, July 18 - Guest blogging at A Taste of My Mind
Tuesday, July 19 -  Guest blogging at Write and Take Flight
Wednesday, July 20 - Guest blogging at Harmonious Publicity
Thursday, July 21 - Interviewed  at Bent Over Bookwords
Friday, July 22 - Guest blogging at The Dark Phantom

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