Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Meet K.M. Douglas, author of 'In the Place Where There Is No Darkness'

What was the inspiration behind this book?
This book was actually the first attempt at writing a book that I have been contemplating for almost twenty years now- my magnum opus, if you will. But of course, you can’t just start your writing career with your magnum opus, you have to build up to it. I let this manuscript sit for two years because I knew it was not the book I had originally set out to write, and the ending was not what I wanted it to be. Then I picked it up and read it and saw that there was a lot about it that I enjoyed, so I re-wrote the last third of the book and heavily edited the first third to create the book you’re reading today.

My inspiration, though, was that writing has always been my passion, and writing a novel has always been a dream of mine. One day I decided that it was time to live that dream. The ideas in the book are inspired by what I think are some of the most important topics in America today: war, how we treat our veterans, how we discuss controversial topics, and self-reliance. I wanted to write a book that a teenager could read and say later in life: “That book made me look at the world differently.”
How much do you have in common with Derrion?
The anger, certainly. I don’t think I did enough in this book to address the issue of anger, though that says more about myself than my character. I think that will be something that I am able to address little by little in future books, and eventually will overcome completely here in the real world.

I think that Derrion seeing himself as an outsider is also something that I share with him, especially from the perspective of when I was a high school student. I certainly can relate to that. There are definitely aspects of myself in all of the characters.
Which character spoke to you the most during the writing process?
The teacher, Mr. Bertrand, was the character that most interested me. As the book progressed, I knew I wanted to go deeper into who he was and why he was the way he was. I did not want him to be the stereotypical authority figure- I wanted him to have a depth that I think I achieved with him that really adds to the story. There is symbolism that accompanies Mr. Bertrand that I think is one of the most powerful aspects of the book.
Will we ever see these characters again?
If this book really took off I would consider writing an extension of this book that centered around Alaya, Derrion’s girlfriend, and took place in an alternate reality from this first book. I think that would be interesting and could easily stand on its own.
On what other projects are you currently working?
I am almost finished with the first draft of a historical fiction novel set in the 1860’s entitled, Take Me Away. It takes the character Flora from Henry James’ Turn of the Screw and shows her journey as an adult, overcoming the emotional trauma that she experienced as a child. Louisa May Alcott appears as a character and the civil war plays a major role in the plot. It is a lot of fun to write and is written in a much different voice than No Darkness, though it still shares the same overall voice.
Please tell us about your other publications.
In the Place Where There is No Darkness is my first novel, and Take Me Away will be my second. I have other ideas for novels, but will not begin work on any of them until the second book is at least in the final editing phase. You can always check in on my website, to see what I’m up to. As for what is out now, I also have a book of poems that is available exclusively for Kindle. It is called Cities of Blood and was written just before the beginning of the Iraq war. It deals mainly with my ideas about war and control and liberation. I have always thought that in order to change the world around us, we must first be willing to change the world within us. That is an ancient message that still resonates today.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I have always been a writer. It has always been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember, all the way back to elementary school. One funny thing I remember about high school is that at lunch I would write poems for my friend’s English assignments in exchange for them letting me copy their math homework. They thought writing a poem was impossible and I thought it was easy and fun. I have thousands of pages of poems and short stories. They all helped me develop the style that I have now.
What was one of the first things you ever wrote?
I remember writing a story in the backseat of our car while we were on vacation. I must have been seven or eight years old. I remember it because it was kind of a horror story, where there was a party and the house itself killed off the people one by one or small groups at a time. I remember one was the floor opened up and the people fell into a tank of sharks. But the real reason I remember this story was because of the feeling of guilt I had that I was killing off people with the names of my family members. I tried not to use the names of anyone I knew, but there were so many characters that I could not think of anymore names, so I started using the names of my family and that freaked me out. I remember feeling not only guilty about killing them off, but afraid that if my parents found the story, they would think there was something wrong with me, that I was lashing out at my family. That story may have gone unfinished, and certainly was destroyed. I know a lot more names now, so I don’t think I’ll ever have that problem again.
What is some of the best writing advice you ever received?
Keep writing. I was fortunate to have friends and family who encouraged me to follow my dream. I never had anyone tell me I couldn’t do it. Of course I was picky with who I shared my writing with, but still, they all told me the same thing- keep writing. And I have. And I will.
I just spent five days in Seattle, visiting my sister. It's an amazing area. You live not too far away, in Rainier. What are some of your favorite things about living out West?
I have been to every US state besides Alaska and Hawaii and Washington State is the only one where I felt completely at home. I came for a three week mountaineering trip in the Cascades fifteen years ago and never left. I love the giant mountains on the horizon- we can see Mt. Rainier from our backyard and it is absolute magic. I love the rain forests and the ferns and the old growth trees. I’ve sat in a tree over a thousand years old- Unbelievable. It is so beautiful out here- and the summers are, for me, the perfect temperature.

The other great thing about where I live is the people, the mind state, especially in the cities. I’m proud to say that I was able to vote to legalize same sex marriage in our state. That was a huge moment and I really feel that I was a part of history. I know some people don’t support that, even out here (most of the votes came from Seattle), but you have to open your eyes and admit that you are judging someone. You might say the bible is against homosexuality, but it is also against judging others, so you better find a way to balance the two. I think it’s funny how many people are against gay marriage until they find out that someone they love unconditionally is gay. We all have learning to do in this life, and the lessons come differently for all of us.
You grew up in NE Ohio and went to The Ohio State University. I grew up in NW Ohio and am a Michigan fan. Can we agree to disagree? :-D
Absolutely. I sold my tickets to the Ohio State - Michigan game each year and probably spent the day writing.
Do you miss anything about Ohio?
I miss my family, being together for birthdays and holidays. It’s not the same when they pass the phone around the room on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m actually going back this January for my grandma’s 85th birthday party. That was one of my presents for her, to be there so she did not have to miss me. While I’m there, I’ll also be speaking to an A.P. Government class at Mentor High School, the actual school where In the Place Where There is No Darkness is set. I’m looking forward to hearing the student’s perspective on the book.
What is something that readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I once had a job working as a phone psychic. So, if in the early 2000’s you called one of those late night 900 numbers, you may have been talking to me.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It is important to me to let your readers know that I am donating a portion of each sale of the book to the Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit that donates homes for family members of injured veterans to stay in so that they can be with their wounded soldier at their time of greatest need. The quotes on the front and back cover of my book are both from combat veterans and it is important to me to let our members of the military know that they are supported even after they come home, especially after they come home, because for some of them, that is when the real war begins.
Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you.

The year is 2019. The Watchers maintain a state of constant surveillance: guns are outlawed, media is censored, and unmanned drones patrol the skies.

Derrion Parsing is a high school senior and the son of an ex-Army Ranger. Unlike his classmates, he has access to information from the time before the Invisible War, when the government shut down the Internet, reformatting into a propaganda tool. When Derrion attempts to use this information as part of a school project, he awakens to his worst nightmare.

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K. M. Douglas grew up in Northeast Ohio and studied creative writing at The Ohio State University. He lives in Rainier, Washington with his wife, cat and two dogs. In the Place Where There is No Darkness is his first novel.

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