Cate: Please welcome my special guest, Douglas Carlton Abrams. Doug, will you please share a short bio with us?
Doug: Thanks, Cate. I was born in New York City, the child of two publishers, so I guess it was inevitable that I would be drawn to books. It was not an easy road, however, because I had dyslexia. I wanted to explore the publishing world—to enter the belly of the beast—so I became a book editor and eventually a literary agent. My goal has always been to work with visionary authors who are trying to create a wiser, healthier, and more just world.
Cate: Tell us about Eye of the Whale and where it's available.
Doug: Eye of the Whale is an eco-thriller about a marine biologist named Elizabeth who must risk everything to decipher the mysterious song of a trapped whale and its implications for human survival. Elizabeth has spent her career trying to crack humpback whale communication, and in particular their song, the most complex in the animal world. When the song changes dramatically and suddenly, she must figure out why and what the meaning of the new sounds might be. She has to crack the code to save the whale, and ultimately she discovers much more.
It is available from bookstores everywhere and from Amazon.
Cate: Sounds like a great read! Readers, you can sample a few chapters here.
At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Doug: I’ve been writing fiction since I was eleven years old. I grew up in a publishing family, so perhaps I was destined to write. I’ve also had the opportunity to work in publishing, so I experienced the Editor’s Life as well as the Writer’s Life. I’ve always wanted to be a novelist, and after twenty-nine years of writing in stolen nights and weekends, I published my first novel. My novel—The Lost Diary of Don Juan—was bought by Atria/Simon & Schuster in a two book deal and was translated—to my amazement—into thirty languages.
Cate: I loved The Lost Diary of Don Juan! I highly recommend it. Can't wait to read The Eye of the Whale.
Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Doug: Both my parents have written non-fiction books.
Cate: Describe your writing in three words.
Doug: It’s hard to describe your own writing; it’s like describing your own face, but I will tell you the words that I hear most often from readers: Enthralling, Moving, Cinematic. I try to write books that appeal to all the sense and to the heart and mind.
Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Doug: Typically I write in the morning, but when the Muse calls, I must answer at any time, day or night.
Cate: How many hours a day do you write?
Doug: It really depends on what stage of a project I’m working. For many years, I could only write in the stolen moments when I wasn’t reading other peoples books, but now I’m able to write in much longer stretches. I still have to run my literary agency, so usually its about four to six hours a day.
Cate: How do you pick the character’s names?
Doug: It’s like looking at a newborn as saying, “You look like an Elizabeth.” I’ve always been daunted by the task of picking names for my children—for a soul and a life. It’s also a responsibility to pick a name for a character.
Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Doug: Story and Character. Creating a story that continually twists and turns and surprises and enthralls, and creating characters that leap off the page and come to life. People tell me they really feel like they know my characters as people. One reader of The Lost Diary of Don Juan said he felt like he could have a beer with the guy. If readers feel they could sit down and have a beer with your characters you are doing something right, especially since my character was from the 16th century character.
Cate: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Doug: Certainly hearing from readers how the book has affected them and their life. Also, I go into a story to find an answer to a question I desperately need to know the answer to. In the Lost Diary, the question was whether we can marry passion and compassion together for a lifetime in one relationship. With Eye of the Whale, the question was whether we can survive as a species and if so what is stronger than greed, fear, or denial. I found an answer that has changed the way I look at my life and that I’m hearing from readers is changing the way they look at theirs.
Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Doug: Absolutely, I get haunted by them. Actually, my first novel woke me up as if someone was shaking me, and it was as if Don Juan was whispering the first draft into my ear. I’d say that my characters literally enter my body and I become them—male, female, whatever.
Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Doug: My favorite recent comment was from someone who came to one of my readings and said, “You have to tell people how fun it is. That damn book kept me up all night.” I loved that.
Cate: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Doug: I love writers from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Michael Crichton. Honestly, I’m not reading anyone now because when I’m involved with a novel, I have eyes only for my own characters. Also, I’m a terribly slow reader, perhaps because of the dyslexia, and so I’m a very impatient reader. If I’m not enthralled and moved and inspired all at the same time I can’t keep reading, so this is what I require of my own novels.
Cate: What's next for you?
Doug: Not sure yet. As I mentioned, all my books come from a question, and I’m not sure what question will compel me so completely that I will have to put sanity, family, and everything aside to write.
Cate: Where can you be found on the web?
Doug: My website is here: www.douglascarltonabrams.com
Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Doug: I’d love to know what novels have changed their lives and what they look for in a novel. In terms of readers of my books, I love to know what they were drawn to most, knowing what people love tells you a great deal about them and it also helps me to know my own writing more deeply.