Saturday, 31 January 2009

February's Publication

This month's publication is the debut novel of a fellow Yank, Doug Worgul:

LaVerne Williams is a reformed felon, ex-ballplayer, and owner of Kansas City’s best barbecue joint. Ferguson Glen is an Episcopal priest and faded literary star, lover of God, women and liquor (but not necessarily in that order).

Their lives intersect at LaVerne’s diner – ‘Smoke Meat’, as the regulars call it. There they are joined by a cast of remarkable characters, including LaVerne’s devoted right-hand man, A.B. Clayton; blues legend ‘Mother’ Mary Weaver; and Sammy Merzeti, a young man with a bloody past – and a bloodier future.

Thin Blue Smoke is an epic redemption tale, the story of two men coming to terms with their pasts. It is also a novel about faith, race, storytelling, bourbon, the language of rabbits, and the finer points of barbecue technique.

Heartrending and bitterly funny, it marks the arrival of a vital new voice in American fiction.


Hi, Doug. Tell us a little about your novel, Thin Blue Smoke.

Thin Blue Smoke is set mostly in present-day Kansas City. It's primary themes are love and loss, hope and despair, fathers and sons, God and whiskey, and the blues and barbecue. It's about ordinary people struggling to come to grips with and find meaning in the extraordinary kinds of things that happen to all of us — death, squandered opportunities, broken dreams, unexpected gifts, small graces, second chances, good food, great music, community. It's not a genre novel. Though I suppose it could be forced into the category of literary fiction. It's very much character-driven, with a very slow-rising plot arc. I think it's pretty funny, though it's also pretty sad. My main objective was to get the readers to fall in love with these characters and to care deeply about what happens to them.

How did you and Macmillan New Writing "meet"?

My sister, Jan Ackerson, is also a writer and when I finished Thin Blue Smoke (on Labor Day, 2007), she alerted me to MNW, which she'd learned of on a Web site for writers. I submitted the manuscript via e-mail in October 2007 and heard from Will in late-November. Absolutely and forever changed my life.

What is your typical writing day?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "writing day" for me typical or otherwise. I have a fairly demanding day job and an active family with two young daughters. So finding time to write is difficult. I am sometimes only able to squeeze in a paragraph or two a day. Other times maybe a page or two. But I'm constantly thinking about the story I'm working on, and always making notes. I don't really do drafts, per se. The writing comes out of my head pretty much fully formed and close to finished, so when I do manage to get the words down, there's not a lot of editing that goes on after that.

Can we please have the traditional Four Random Facts?

1. My oldest daughter is a world-class wedding photographer in Los Angeles.

2. My second daughter is a world-class elementary school teacher in Traverse City, Michigan.

3. My third daughter is a world-class student and basketball player in Leawood, Kansas.

4. My fourth daughter is a world-class intellect and comedian, also in Leawood, Kansas.

Very crafty of you to have four daughters; this shows outstanding foresight on your part. Do you have a writing mantra?

No writing mantra. I tried a mantra, but couldn't seem to get the hang it. I'm going to try a manifesto instead.

Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?

My hands cramp up if I try to write too much with pencil and paper, so it's mostly keyboard for me. Though I always have a notebook with me and I do make lots of notes by hand.

Will you share the greatest influences on your writing?

The greatest influences on my writing are probably Frederick Buechner, Jim Harrison, John Irving, and Oscar Hijuelos.

And, the last question: What would you rank as the most ludicous moment in your life?

It's a sad commentary that there haven't been too many ludicrous moments in my life. Ludicrousity is an important in a good life. Arguably, it is quite ludicrous that I am, at age 55, enjoying the publication of my first novel. Ludicrous, also, that it's taken me this long to figure out that this is what I was meant to do -- who I was meant to be.


Thin Blue Smoke will be published on February 6, 2009, and can be found at all good bookstores.

Doug has a new website/blog (which has pushed Ms. Whiteley out of the coveted last-in-the-alphabet position on our sidebar). Drop through and take a gander.

8 comments: Web Admin said...

Congratulations, Doug

Will keep an eye out for the book and post any sightings here.

And thanks muchly to David for posting this...

Unknown said...

Congrats Doug!

Frances Garrood said...

Many congratulations from me, too!

Len Tyler said...

Congratulations, Doug. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Tim Stretton said...

Congrats, Doug. Both the book and your blog look to repay close attention.

Doug Worgul said...

Thank you, all. I wish I were there to celebrate with you, Will, Sophie and the rest.


Ann Weisgarber said...

At last!!!

Doug, enjoy this sweet experience of having a published novel. You might be far away from the bookshops, but you've written about God and whiskey and that's enough to make sales soar.


Brian McGilloway said...

Congratulations Doug - enjoy every minute of it.