- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I interview an amusing author from North Carolina. He's a man who has certainly not lost his sense-of-humour.
Welcome, David ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I’m David Oakley and I’m a creative director at BooneOakley, an advertising agency in Charlotte, NC. I’ve spent the last 30 years or so coming up with ideas for TV commercials and billboards. There were so many funny things that happened as we created these advertisements, that I decided that I should start writing them down. So that’s how my first book, Why Is Your Name Upside Down? came about. It’s a collection of essays about the crazy wacky business that we call advertising. The book was received well, and a bunch of people encouraged me to write another book. So, I did. But this time, I didn’t write about my work family. I wrote about my family, family. What it’s like to be a dad, a son, a husband. What it’s like to be me. And what’s it’s like for my family to put up with me.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
Storytelling is such a big deal in the South. I grew up listening to my grandma tell stories of growing up as a tobacco sharecropper during the Great Depression. I was fascinated at how much humor there was during such hard times. She always made me laugh and I really like laughing. So, I decided that that was what I wanted to do. The only difference is that I write my stories down. And her stories were better. LOL
3. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Believe it or not, I enjoy the process of writing. Yes, it’s difficult staring at a blank page, but it’s also extremely rewarding when you come up with an idea or a story line that you like and start to create the narrative. And when it all comes together and you know that it’s going to be a funny story, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. Almost as good as sex. But not quite.
4. WHAT WAS IT LIKE MOVING FROM RURAL NORTH CAROLINA TO NEW YORK CITY?
I grew up in North Carolina, so I have a southern accent. When I moved to NYC after college, I wondered if my accent would be a detriment to my success. I thought that folks would make fun of me for sounding like I was from Mayberry. But much to my surprise, I found that was not the case. Yes, New Yorkers still made fun of me. But it was mostly for the boneheaded things that I did. Like dine and dashing from a restaurant wearing softball jersey with my company's name (Young & Rubicam) and my number on it. I would consider that a failure, especially since the owner of the restaurant turned out to be friends with my boss. But my accent... it helped me land Claire, the most beautiful woman in the world. We will be celebrating our 30th anniversary in October.
5. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
As I mentioned before, I work in advertising as a creative director. But before that, I grew up the son of two potters. So, I used to be a potter. Not a very good one, but I could throw a pot.
6. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My new book, Nobody Eats Parsley is 65,000 words long. But only 2% of the words would be considered profanity. Doesn't seem like much to me, but my mom is not happy that there are still over 1300 cuss words in my book.
7. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Right now, I’m working on answering this question. Shit, I’ve put more thought into this question than I put into some of my essays.
8. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Laughter inspires me. When something makes me really laugh or someone around me laugh, I really want to write about what made them laugh.
9. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
The first thing for a new writer is to keep writing. Just keep writing. Then after you have written for about 10 years, suddenly you’re not a new writer anymore.
10. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Yes, I do suffer from writer’s block occasionally. But I have the cure. Writer's block can be easily cured by a trip to the nearest Circle K or Seven-Eleven. All you need to do is buy a lottery scratch-off card. (I recommend the $30 scratch-off.) Bring it back home and place it beside your laptop. Stare at it for a few minutes and write down all the things you're going to buy and the places you will visit, when you win $10 million. Once this writing is done, it's time to scratch. More than likely, you won't win anything, so now you can write about how pissed off you are at yourself for wasting $30, and that you will never ever take advice again from David Oakley. Voila! Writer's block is gone.
11. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I find that I do my best writing very early in the morning just after waking up. My mind is free at that time having not been cluttered by the days noise yet. I also LOVE writing when I’m flying. I refuse to get “In-flight internet” on a plane. It’s really the only place where I’m totally unconnected and I love not being distracted. Sometimes when I fly from Charlotte to Las Vegas, I challenge myself to complete an essay on the 4-hour flight. I tell myself that if I do it, I can party like a rock star when I get to Las Vegas. I probably wrote 6 essays in Nobody Eats Parsley on different trips to way to Vegas. I really need to visit Vegas more often.
12. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My laptop computer. I have tried to just type onto a table or the kitchen counter, but it doesn’t save what you type, so when you wake up in the morning, you don’t have anything, and you have to start over. Definitely my computer is my favorite place to type. Because it magically remembers what I write.
13. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Without a doubt, it’s someone reading what I wrote and getting a laugh out of it.
14. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
David Sedaris is by far my favorite author, first of all because he has a wonderful first name. Seriously, the first time that I read his work, I really wanted to write. He writes about mundane stuff that happens to him every day and he finds so much humor in it. I’d really like to meet him someday just so I could say something stupid and completely embarrass myself.
15. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Your book made me literally laugh out loud several times. That’s really why I write. To tell stories that make people laugh. Doing that makes me very happy.
16. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
“You’re a good writer. But if you want to see great writing, you should read my son’s Facebook posts.” This is a real comment. It actually made me laugh, so I guess it’s not that bad.
17. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Everything that I write about is something that happened in my life. So, the answer is yes.
18. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
My wife, Claire. And weed.
19. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes, I did.
20. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
I don’t know. Sitting at my desk answering 43 questions about myself.
21. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESSERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
First of all, I hate dessert, so being on an island that only had dessert to eat would be a total bummer. I guess I would give the pecan pie and chocolate cake to whoever I was with on the island. Which would probably be Claire, my wife and the coolest person in the world.
22. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Buy my book. You could use a laugh.
23. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I’m a terrible planner. Besides, I think the future makes its own plans.
24. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I’m in every one of my stories. I play the dunce in each one.
25. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Quitting what? Drinking? Smoking? Gambling? Yes, I think about quitting all the time, but what would I have to write about then? But I have never thought about quitting writing.
26. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I really enjoyed writing both of my books. But if I had to choose, I would say my most recent book, Nobody Eats Parsley. It’s all about family and growing up and raising kids in the American South.
27. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
I truly believe that success as a writer has nothing to do with selling a million books. (Says the guy who has never sold anywhere near a million books.) I believe that success is actually doing the writing. Because a lot of people talk about writing a book, but not that many people actually do it.
28. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I don’t know how they should feel, but more than likely, they walk away knowing that they’ll never get those 3 hours that they spent reading my book back.
29. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A ton of thought goes into designing a book cover. I’ve been a creative director at an advertising agency my whole career so I know how important the look and feel of a product is to how much it will sell. It’s true that you can’t judge a book by it’ cover, but if people don’t notice your cover, they’ll never read your book. Your cover must grab people’s attention. The cover is not more important than the contents of your book. But it’s close.
30. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
One of the hardest things for me about writing a book is actually promoting my book. I think that’s a common issue with most authors, but one might think that that wouldn’t be a problem for me.
After all, I’m an advertising guy. I’m always promoting stuff. But it’s different when you’re asked to promote your own writing. It’s not a Bojangles’ Cajun Filet Biscuit commercial. Or the latest Outer Banks TV campaign. It’s a much more personal thing. It’s saying, “Come look at me. Read my stories. Aren’t I funny? Spend your money on me.” Marketing a book is way harder than writing a book.
31. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes they are.
32. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Really outdated web design.
33. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
Me Talk Pretty Someday by David Sedaris. I have read it before, but I read it again last week.
34. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Yes. 4 + 3 = 7. I love math.
Clancy's comment: Thanks for some great answers, David. If we spent some time together, I'm sure that we'd get into a fair bit of trouble. Oh, I hope this is not 'a really outdated website'. Stay safe.