Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Interview with satirist and author Douglas Wells

Author Douglas Wells is in the hot seat today. He’s talking with me about his new mystery farce, The Secrets of All Secrets

Douglas Wells was born in Seattle, Washington. His father was an officer in the U.S. Army, and by the time Douglas finished high school he had lived in Hawaii, North Carolina, Texas, Okinawa, South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of South Florida and has taught English and Literature at several colleges.

Douglas has a unique interest in and perspective on the comical and absurd foibles of the human race, which inspires his writing. The imaginative pillar of his novel, The Secrets of All Secrets, released by TouchPoint Press on May 12, 2017, is built on Groucho Marx’s line, “Humor is reason gone mad” and the Roman poet Juvenal’s declaration that “It is difficult not to write satire.”

Douglas is a Professor of English at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida. He is the father of two grown sons, and he lives with his wife and cat in Panama City Beach.

Please tell us about your current release.
The Secrets of All Secrets lampoons government, corporate, and extremist entities, while also casting a satirical eye on “the stuff that dreams are made on.”

I have written some previous works, but I needed to find my own style. What to write, what to write? I asked myself. Just in the nick of time, before I fell into a full-blown existential crisis, before I ended up as a couple of splotches on the drop cloth of life—okay, those are exaggerations—I decided to write something humorous and satirical because everyone knows humor, satire, and irony are my bread and butter, and I’m hip as to which side of my butter is breaded. Based on a thought I had about USB drives, I developed the beginning of a story. Zane, my central character receives a USB device by a mysterious, cloaked figure on a bridge at night. When Zane takes it home and inserts it into his laptop, an unknown entity speaks to him via writing on the screen. The entity tells Zane he has been anointed, so to speak, to seek The Secrets of All Secrets, which will confer upon him unlimited knowledge and power, the confirmation of the meaning of life itself, and we’re not just talking about unveiling the mysteries of how to properly fold a fitted sheet and how to program a TV remote. Out of this nucleus, the entire story flowed.

Other characters came to life: four quirky government agents who hunt Zane and The Secrets after intimidating Zane’s friend Hazim into revealing Zane’s mission. Dali appeared. She has also been given a USB. She and Zane meet up in Florida and combine forces. Quarrelsome with each other at first, a romance slowly blossoms

More characters arrived: a corporate megalomaniac fond of quoting Von Clausewitz’s On War and Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido: The Code of the Samurai, who sends his right hand woman, Magdalene, to pursue The Secrets. She hires Speque, a hit man/tracker, to assist her. They make quite a pair. She’s 6 foot 2. He’s 5 foot 6; naturally, they’re made for each other. Then there are brothers Jonah and Jeptha, crazy, fringe-element, anti-government separatists determined to get The Secrets in order to form a new Amerika—“Amerika with a k,” as Jonah asserts. Off they all go, chasing Zane and Dali pell-mell across the state of Florida. Zane and Dali become the contemporary Everyman and Everywoman, hounded by nefarious, zealous forces. Zane, Dali, and their pursuers encounter an armadillo festival, visit a nudist resort, and hang out with a presumed dead 60s rocker. Pandemonium occurs at each venue, with Zane and Dali one step ahead of everyone until all parties convene for a climactic confrontation over The Secrets.

What are The Secrets? Well, I hope people will read the book and find out.

What inspired you to write this book?
As a college professor, I store my courses and assignments on USB drives. One day it occurred to me that it would be interesting if all knowledge was on one USB, and the question arose: Who would most likely be obsessed with getting it?

Excerpt from The Secrets of All Secrets:

The next morning, Washington awoke first. He threw on some clothes and entered the kitchen area to make some coffee. Once the coffee maker stopped gurgling, he poured a cup, took it to the living area, and sipped while he checked his phone for messages, pleased that there were none. He looked out the windows to assess his whereabouts, but darkness hadn’t lifted. All he could tell was that they were in an RV park. He sat and drank his coffee, relishing the warm black liquid and the solitude until the others staggered in one after the other and poured coffee for themselves. They all joined him in the living area as dawn ascended.
            “So where are we?” he asked Adams.
            “In Tadmor.”
            “This is Tadmor? Tadmor is an RV park?”
            “Tadmor is a resort,” Madison said. “Paradise Pines. The target, or should I say targets, are here.”
            “They’re in a cabin on the other side of the resort,” Adams said.
            “Where did you get the intel?”
            “From the lady at in the registration office. I employed a ruse.”
            “He employed a ruse,” Madison said.
            Washington glowered at him. “Oh, great. It’s infectious, and if any one of you repeat that it’s infectious I’m shipping you back to DC with a termination recommendation.”
            “He’ll ship us back to DC with a termination recommendation,” Adams said.
            Washington stared at Adams, fury flashing from his eyes. “Didn’t you hear what I said?”
            “I did,” Adams retorted. “You said if any of us repeated that it’s infectious you would ship us back to DC. I only repeated the shipping back part. Once again, I was only reinforcing your authority, which I respect.”
            Washington allowed the fury to subside and nodded in reluctant acceptance.
            Jefferson got up and peered out the windows. “Should we go out and reconnoiter the resort? Check that the targets are in their cabin?”
            “Good idea,” Washington said. “You and Madison take a look around and confirm the targets are present.”
            Madison and Jefferson left the RV and began walking toward the cabin area. The sun was up now. As they moved along, two joggers, a man and a woman, overtook them from behind, and as they passed by, they shot Adams and Madison hostile glances. “I know this is a private resort,” Adams said, “but they shouldn’t be doing that.”
            “Jeez,” Madison said. “Someone might report them and they’ll get kicked out. I’m sure it’s against the rules.”
            They made their way over to the cabins and stopped before they reached Cabin seven, spotting Zane’s Explorer out front. “The car is there,” Madison said. “Let’s assume the targets are inside.”
            “Right. We’ll go back, convey the info, and establish a protocol for surveillance.”
            They swung about. A group of a half dozen power-walking women moved towards them.
            “There’s something odd here,” Madison said as the walkers approached.
            When the walkers reached them, one of the women said, “You must’ve just arrived, but you need to read the brochure.”
            “Uh oh,” Adams said after the walkers were far away.
            “What’s wrong?” Madison asked. “Other than joggers and walkers exercising naked.”  
            “See those people doing yoga over there?”
            “Uh huh. Oh.”
            “You don’t think—?”
            “I’m beginning to.”
            “Maybe that’s why the woman said something to us—because we’re wearing clothes.”
            “You mean as they came abreast?”
            Adams halted. “That’s a good one,” he said, laughing.
            Madison waited until Adams stopped laughing. “Damn, though. This means if we’re going to watch the targets, we’re going to have to be naked too.”
            “You mean while we tail them?”
            They laughed together this time.
            “We’d better get back and brief Washington. Plus read the brochure.”
            “Are you kidding me?” Washington asked after Adams and Madison reported. “This is some kind of nudist colony?”
            “Resort,” Adams said.
            “Whatever. Where’s the brochure?”
            Madison picked the brochure up from the driver’s seat where Adams left it and handed it to Washington who set it on the table in the living area and began reading. He read silently for five minutes. The other three exchanged anxious glances. Washington closed the brochure, inhaled a rumbling breath, exhaled, and said. “This is a nudist resort.”
            “Right,” Madison said. “Resort.”
            “Rule number one: clothes are not permitted when guests are outside of their cabins or RVs or trailers. Guests wearing clothes will be asked to return to their cabin or RV and remove them if they wish to participate in resort activities. Refusal to comply will result in the guests being ejected from the resort.”
            “What’s rule number two?” Jefferson asked.
            “Rule number two: guests are required to carry a towel with them for sanitary purposes when sitting on resort furniture.”
            Adams addressed Washington. “What are your orders for us?”
            Washington arose. “We have to stay with the targets, so we’ll have to blend in. I don’t like it any more than you do.”
            “I never said I didn’t like it,” Jefferson said.
            Washington ignored him. “’Rule number three: lewd, harassing, and/or any sexual behavior are not permitted. This includes staring and any unwanted physical contact. Any violations of this policy will result in immediate ejection from the resort.’ Like it or not, when you joined this organization you signed an oath that informed you of the sacrifices you’d have to make. We have to do our jobs, gentlemen.”
            “Well,” Madison said. “It’s going undercover without the cover.”
            Adams gave Madison a glance of solidarity. “It’s a cloak and dagger operation without the cloak or the dagger.”
            Madison and Adams giggled.
            “At least we won’t have to wear those gaudy shirts,” Jefferson added.
            “Enough,” Washington said. “Additionally, you are under strict orders not to experience tumescence. We cannot have undue attention paid to us. You are trained, highly skilled, highly disciplined, veteran operatives. Along with making sacrifices, your oath stipulated you would likely experience physical pain and deprivation. Now is the time to fulfill your oath. Are we agreed?”
            “Excuse me,” Madison broke in. “Our country expects us not to have erections, not even on the first day before we acclimate ourselves to rampant nudity?”
            “America is counting on you not to have an erection, Madison. Once again, are we agreed?”
            “Yes sir,” Jefferson said.
            “Yes sir,” Madison said.
            “We are agreed,” Adams said.
             Eyes rolled once again.
            “Gentlemen,” Washington announced, “take off your clothes.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a satire of political correctness.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As an adolescent, when I wrote sappy poems about being lovesick.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I have a full-time teaching job, which does afford me some time to write, but I accomplish the bulk of my writing in the summer when I’m not teaching. I usually write in the morning, eat a bite of lunch, relax for a bit, take a nap then get up and go back at it until late afternoon. When I’m not writing, I’m daydreaming my story forward.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I type with two fingers--pretty fast and pretty accurately—and I get up and pace a lot.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Actually, I was always dismayed that I would have to grow up. I’m still not sure I’ve made it there yet.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I like to think the kind of novels I (and others) write are needed now more desperately than ever. Our culture is rife with such ideas as post-truth, fake news, and alternative facts. It’s ironic that one of the places we can find truth is in fiction.


Thank you for being here today, Douglas.

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