Thursday, July 18, 2013

Author Insides - Kevin R. Doyle

Kevin R. Doyle is a native Midwesterner. For the last sixteen years, he has worked as a teacher at the high school and community college level. He currently teaches high school English and speech at a rural school in Missouri.

Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University. He worked his way through college in a candy store, about the same time he began attempting to write short stories. He had his first story published way back in the late eighties in a small Southern publication called Starsong.

Ten years ago, he moved to Columbia, Missouri, only intending to be there for about four years before moving on. He had no idea how much he would fall in love with the area. During the summers, though, he gets as far away as he can, usually to somewhere along the Gulf Coast.

His novella, One Helluva Gig, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I first started dabbling with it when I was around nineteen years old. I’d always enjoyed reading, but as a kid hadn’t really thought much about writing. I do remember one time when I was about eleven and I first read "The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke. When I got to the end of that extremely short story, I thought at the time how cool it would be to be able to create something with such impact.

Why do you write?
I really don’t have a clear answer for that. It sounds kind of corny to say "because it’s what I do," but that comes close to being the truth. It’s simply something that’s been a part of me for a long time, and as of now I don’t see it going away any time soon.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?
Heck, no. When I first started this, in my late teens and early twenties, I naturally figured that at some point, say around twenty-five, I’d be famous and rich. It too a couple of years to realize that the fantasy that most people have comes along very rarely in the real world. When I was around twenty-nine, I pretty much gave up on that kind of dream and began to look around for a real career. A few years later, I accidentally ended up in teaching and figured that the best I’d ever do, as was true for several years, was managing to publish one or two short stories a year.

What was the inspiration for Helluva Gig?
It’s kind of hard to believe, but the basic idea came to me while I was watching a late night rerun of an old Married with Children episode. It was one of the earlier ones, back when it was at least partially realistic, and involved Peggy finding a sweat stain shaped like Elvis on one of Al’s shirts. That got me to thinking about Elvis impersonators, and the way people try to hold on to their celebrity icons even after they pass, and the story came from there.

Have you ever worked for a tabloid paper?
No. The closest I’ve come was a couple of years serving as the advisor to a student newspaper at a small community college. And I didn’t do a very good job of that.

If you were to write a tabloid story, what would it be about?
UFO’s because it’s so easy to get people to believe in them.

What sort of music are you into?
Mainly soft rock, what used to be called adult contemporary, and oldies, from the sixties and seventies. I’m also a big fan of a syndicated radio program called Hearts of Space.

Which celebrity would you like to see impersonate him/herself?
That’s a tough one. I would say, going back to the classic TV of the seventies, either Carroll O’Connor or Henry Winkler, mainly because they played such broadly-defined characters.

What musician would you most like to interview?
Without a doubt, the main crush of my youth: Olivia Newton John.

What do you think makes a good story?
If I knew that, I’d probably be able to produce more of them. For one, things have to be as realistic as possible. The various elements of a story should, even in something fantastic, hew as closely as possible to reality. In other words, the characters have to act and speak the way that people act and speak. One of the biggest things that turns me off from a story is when the dialogue isn’t realistic. If characters aren’t speaking the way people really speak, I can’t finish the story.

And if you’re doing horror, as most of my shorter work is, for Heaven’s sake don’t show us everything. Give us something to imagine and figure out.

What's your favorite genre to read?
It depends on the format. For short stories, I prefer horror or dark fantasy. For novels, I’m more into suspense. I still read a lot of the old paperback men’s adventure series that I collected as a kid, and now and then I go on an Edgar Rice Burroughs tear for a few years, but I can’t really tolerate any of his imitators. And really stretching it back some, I’m still trying to add to my collection of the old Doc Savage paperbacks.

Who is your favorite author?
If I had to pick one single favorite, and it would be tough, I’d probably go with Don Pendleton. When I was younger, I couldn’t get enough of his Executioner books, but when he stopped writing them I kind of lost interest.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
"The Star" for sure. That’s an almost perfect example of the precisely-written short story. Because most of what I do is in the short story field, anyone who can write a subtle, get-under-your-skin tale ranks right up there for me.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Although it’s not what people consider "great literature," I’d have to go back to Pendleton’s early Executioner books, up to number thirty-nine when new writers took them over. As a young teenager, and a rather weakly, awkward one at that, Pendleton’s books provided basic lessons about how a man’s supposed to act, not in physical terms but morally and intellectually. Then again, for anyone at all interested in language, Leslie Charteris’s Saint stories and books test how many pages you can get through without grabbing a dictionary.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Basically just all around. It took me a while to develop the knack, but if you go through the day with eyes and ears wide open, you can find inspiration anywhere. As just two examples, driving through Iowa several years back I saw an old wall, the last remnant of a barn, standing in a field. That inspired my short story, "Visage," which got me my first Featured Story slot in a magazine (The Edge: Tales of Suspense). One time I stumbled upon this old, quaint inn in a coastal town in Texas, which eventually led to a piece called "The Dead Spot." So, lame as it sounds, inspiration is everywhere. You’ve just got to open yourself up to it.

What does your family think of your writing?
It’s better now. Way back when, the idea was met with about equal shades of disgruntlement and skepticism. Nowadays, possibly because I’m actually making some progress, things have become more accepted. The biggest problem I’ve had over the years is the constant comments about my writing "Stephen King stuff" when I’ve never done anything even remotely along his line.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
It depends on the time of the year. During the school year I have a full-time job at a high school and usually teach college courses at night. So basically, I just try to do a page or two a day, but sometimes don’t even get that much done. If I have a slow weekend in terms of grading or lesson prep, I may be able to crank out eight or ten pages. But when school’s in session, it’s basically whenever I get a few free moments.

During the summer, I have a much more regular schedule, usually working in the afternoon or early evening. This last summer, with the severe drought and heat, I would usually get up early, do an hour of so of walking or hiking and close to an hour in the swimming pool, then end up in front of the computer by nine thirty or so, refreshed and energized. Some days, if I focused enough, I could sometimes get a good ten pages done. Unfortunately, that whole time I was in the revision stage of my current project, so it wasn’t really that exciting.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Not really. I basically just sit down when I can and go to it.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Continuity. Lately, I’ve been working on longer works, primarily novels, and I find it kind of difficult to keep timelines straight. I’m not a very organized person, you should see my apartment or my desk at work, and I tend to just start typing and gush stuff out. Then I have to go back and spend a lot of time making sure that dates, ages and time spans all match up. For example, in "One Helluva Gig" the project editor caught that at one place I have a character’s age about ten years off from what it was in the rest of the story. I’m trying to get better at this, trying to train myself to work off outlines and notes, but it’s not in my nature so I’m finding it rather difficult.

What are your current projects?
I’ve been spending most of this year trying to hammer out a suspense novel that involves political advertising and a serial killer. I’m currently about a third of the way through what I hope to be the final draft, and hope to have it done by the end of December.

I also have an idea bouncing around in my head for a short horror piece concerning the drought that the Midwest has gone through this year and hope to have a few days soon to pound out at least the first draft of that. And a few weeks ago, while driving along the Mississippi River, again heavily impacted by the drought this summer, I had a great title pop into my head. I think it will work for a new novelette, but I don’t have even the beginning of the story, just what I consider an awesome title.

What are you planning for future projects?
I’ve had a dearth of short stories lately, mainly because so many have been published in the last year or so (a rare event to be sure) and really need to get a handful of new ones generated. And if "Helluva Gig" does well, I’d like to tackle a few new novelettes. I have some notes generated for a novelette, or novella I’m not quite sure which, set in Hollywood of the late thirties and concerning a B-list actor who seemingly returns from the dead.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
In the most general terms, the oldest cliché still holds true. Don’t plan on doing this for a living. My first short story was published over twenty years ago, and if I had to live off my writing I’d be hungry and homeless within a week. Often acquaintances will say to me "well, yeah. But what about (insert name of rich and famous author)." At which point I smile and ask them to name a second one, which they usually can’t. Mainly because rich and famous authors are just too freakin’ rare. I had two short stories out in September, one an original and one a reprint, and between the two of them I could possibly afford to treat myself to a decent dinner. But just myself. I couldn’t bring a date along.

When it comes to short stories, which is still my main area of interest, I’d have to say not to ignore the "for-the-love" markets. Just because they don’t pay (as the majority of short fiction markets don’t), doesn’t mean that they don’t have standards. Over the years, I got tons of help and advice, plus more rejections than I could keep track of, from editors of markets, both print and online, that didn’t pay anything to publish my stories. And in the last few years several of those pieces that originally appeared "for-the-love" have been accepted and reprinted by semi-professional mags. I still haven’t made a lot off them, but I have made some, hence allowing me to eat out from time to time.

Where else can we find your work?
Because I’ve been so tied up with the current mystery novel, 2012 has been a rather soft year in terms of new publications. At least, compared to the two previous years when things really began popping. Compared to most of the time I’ve been involved in this, 2012 has been phenomenal.

Currently, I’ve got what I think is a rather neat story recently released by Allegory. It’s called "Eighty Feet Deep" and can be found through December at After that, it will be in their archives. Also this fall, what I personally consider to be one of my most unsettling stories ever, and definitely probably the hardest I’ve ever written (mainly because I had to keep walking away from it because it was creeping me out too much) has been reprinted after being originally available online about five years ago. It’s called "The Old Dogs" and appears in the current issue of Cover of Darkness.

Also, my one and only ever attempt at poetry "Nocturnal Retribution," was reprinted in the summer issue of Illumen.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sarah-Jane LeHoux resides in Southern Ontario with her husband, and her ever growing horde of Machiavellian cats. For more information, please visit

Her young adult novella, MY SANCTUARY, is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed creating stories. I am a natural introvert, and as a child, I’d spend hours reading and day dreaming. As I grew older, I took up a pen in place of my dolls, and would write little stories that I’d read out in class, much to the chagrin of my teachers. However, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I began to write in earnest, and only after finishing my first novel, Thief, did I realize that I wanted to make my writing more than a hobby.

Why do you write?
I write to express everything I’m not able to express in real life. As I’ve mentioned, I’m an introvert. I have a difficult time in social situations, and keep a lot of things bottled up inside. I write as an outlet, as a way to work through various issues, both current and from my childhood. Or to be blunt, I write to shut up all the voices in my head.

What was the inspiration for My Sanctuary?
The inspiration for My Sanctuary, like most of my work, was a dream. I have no idea what that dream was now, but I remember it happened on a Saturday night. lingered from my dream was a sense of loneliness and depression, and the next morning, I began to research orphanages. I read true life accounts from a man who had been in and out of orphanages all his young life, and I felt that same sense of loneliness. I realized that I wanted to tell the story of a female orphan. It wasn’t long after I started work on My Sanctuary, that I realized it went beyond the orphanage, that it was, at its heart, a coming of age story.

What sort of research did you do for the project?
I was raised Catholic, so it seemed only natural to have the Church be the back drop of my story, considering the issues the story raised. I relied on my memories and childhood beliefs to flesh out the details. I also did a good deal of internet research on the 1950’s, the time in which the story is set, in order to make the dialogue as realistic as possible.

Do you see yourself in your work?
I don’t see myself, per say, but I do see aspects of myself. I am a survivor of childhood abuse, so I drew on that to help me create not only Dot, but the other children and even the adults as well. Each character has some piece of me in them, be it sadness or anger, hope or despair, victim or abuser.

What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story is one that is more concerned with character development than plot. Just look at Hollywood movies as proof. All the explosions and car chases and special effects in the world don’t leave the indelible mark that a truly well-rounded, well developed character does.

What's your favorite genre to read?
Horror is my genre of choice, judging by the number of horror titles I have on my book shelf. But if I go by what books I reread until the spines break and the pages rip, it’d have to be historical fiction, particularly women’s historical fiction.

I also read a lot of non-fiction books about mythology and folklore.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Again, it’s hard to pick a favourite. I don’t really pay much attention to who the author is when I pick out a book to read.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
I think it is the non-fiction I read that influences me the most as a writer. They make me want to explore different themes, and not just rehash the same old stories I grew up with in my culture. They also help me to understand universal truths, such as love and death, which helps me create realistic motivation and character arcs.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
This is going to sound kind of silly. I don’t even remember what the name of it was. When I was in grade school, we read a story about a young girl collecting water for her family. She finds a small glass bead on the river bank, and picks it up. She then saves a woman from a crocodile attack. When she gets home, the first thing she does is tell her mother about the bead.

I remember my teacher telling me that, even though a crocodile attack sounds terrifying and fantastical to us, it was of little significance to the girl because it was a part of her daily life. The bead held more importance to the girl because it was something out of the ordinary.

It was that story, and that teacher’s explanation, that made me think about my life, and realize that my way of living was not the way other people lived. I think it was the beginning of my understanding that I was not the centre of the universe.

I wish I knew the name of the story and of the author who wrote it because I’d love to read it again.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from my dreams. I have, for as long as I can remember, had very vivid dreams. I also experience sleep paralyses on a regular basis. This is when the mind is awake but the body is still asleep. It can create some pretty intense hallucinations, and is what many scientists believe is behind many ghostly encounters and astral projection.

I’ll either have a great that I remember in great detail from beginning to end, or I’ll have a dream that leaves me with an emotional response to a few fleeting images. Of course, when I wake, these dreams are at the forefront of my thoughts. I go over them, try to interpret them, expand upon them, and suddenly want to write them down in the form of a story.

Usually, a story will start with one dream, but then be expanded upon with numerous other dreams by the time it’s finished. It never ceases to amaze me how all these dreams, sometimes months apart, can join together to create one cohesive tale.

What does your family think of your writing? My husband is very supportive of my writing. He’s the first person I show a new story to when it’s finished, and he’s gotten used to it when I start talking about my characters as if they’re real people. I don’t think I’d have accomplished as much as I have if it weren’t for his encouragement.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I have a very physically and emotionally demanding day job--I work at a veterinary hospital—so my biggest challenge is not only finding time to write, but finding energy to write. I try to write at least five days a week, but I only write for as long as I feel up to it. It’s very important for me not to try to force a schedule on my writing. Although it is work, I don’t want it to become a chore. Sometimes I can write for hours on end. Other times, I’ll write five lines and call it quits for the day. This means that I don’t get a story done as quickly as some other authors are able to, but it does mean that I keep my sanity.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
Not really. I don’t want to become dependant on any one thing to write, so I don’t have any rituals associated with my writing. I’d say the only thing that is a must is music. I need it both as background noise to drown out neighbors and traffic, and also to help get me in the right frame of mind. If I’m writing a sad scene, I’ll put on a play list of sad songs to help set the mood. Sometimes, one song in particular is key to helping me finish a scene, so I’ll play it on repeat until the job is done. Thank goodness for headphones, or I’d drive my husband mad.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing is a solitary activity, by nature, and sometimes it’s hard to keep going without feedback from others. I want to make sure I’m doing a good job and that I’m on the right track, but I also can’t stand the idea of anyone reading it until it’s finished.

I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, and if I can’t get a scene right on the first try, it leads to much moaning and groaning about how much I suck. Never mind the fact that I know it’s a work in progress and that there’s a little thing called editing. I can’t go further with the story until I make each section as good as I can. This causes a lot of delays, and I end up obliterating all the deadlines I set for myself.

What are your current projects?
Currently, I’m editing Masquerade, the third novel in the Sevy series. The publisher, Mundania Press, hopes to have it ready for release in the near future. I’m also working on the first draft of a comedic fantasy called Red Rover.

What are you planning for future projects?
I currently have a list of fourteen story ideas that I’d like to someday write. I’ve made mini-synopses of each and ranked them based on how complete the ideas are and which ones I think will take priority. Once I’m finished with Red Rover, I’ll choose my next project based on this list. Any other plot bunnies that hop my way in the meantime will go onto the list and be ignored for the time being so that I concentrate on my story at a time.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write a lot. Most of what you write will be garbage, but some of it will be gold. Get used to reviewing your work with a critical, objective eye. Learn how to separate yourself emotionally from your work so that you can see its flaws and correct them instead of defend them.

Research the industry, and learn the steps involved in getting a story published. Be polite and professional in all your correspondences.

And most of all, keep your chin up. This is a rough job, from start to finish. You will get your feelings hurt and your ego will take a beating. Develop a tough skin and believe in yourself.

Where else can we find your work?
My novels, THIEF and SHADES OF WAR, are available at a variety of book retailers, including Amazon, Chapters, and Barnes and Nobles. Please visit my website for links to purchase either the paper back or e-book versions. Also on my website, you’ll find links to a list of published short stories and flash fiction I’ve written that are free for you to read and hopefully enjoy. J