Merle Temple Blog

Author Interview

Tell us about this book
Ghostly is fiction, loosely based on my experiences in the 1970s when I was fresh out of Ole Miss.  President Nixon declared a war on drugs and I was one of the first drug agents in the South.  It is an insider look at the what it was really like.

Who did you write this book for?
For those readers who want to go to a place they've never been, but one they’ve always dreamed of, a place where they discover that the inhabitants are not strangers…and for those who know that this is not all there is.

Is there a central message in the book?
Listen to that small, still voice inside, be true to yourself, and don't get lost in the world. All that’s necessary to be lost in this world is turn around once with your eyes closed.

If you could compare this book with any book out there we might already be familiar with, which book would it be and why?
John D. MacDonald’s books are similar in that his characters comment on the world in which they travel and are written in more of a literary style. Some say that Ghostly reminds them of John Grisham’s early work. 

Why is this period of the 1970s so attractive to you as a writer?
There were so many divergent challenges to the nation converging on the same stage. The Vietnam War and its aftermath, the drug culture and the companion counterculture revolt against the status quo, the establishment and the values of previous generations…the civil unrest, marches in the streets, the influx of so much drug money to buy and corrupt government at all levels, President Nixon’s declared war on drugs, the beginnings of centralized power in Washington and the first disconnect and distrust of government….a rich time to draw from as a writer, and one that I was eyewitness to.

How much of your life is on or between the pages of Ghostly?
Ghostly is fiction loosely based on my experiences, but the well from which it was all drawn is my life and those of many friends from those times…our dreams, our triumphs and our failures.

Are you a Southern Gothic writer dealing with your own imperfections?
I would have to plead guilty to examining those times we all have when we wish we had a second chance to undo this or that, to make it better, to be a better person. Writing Ghostly was very cathartic for me, and the book signings have afforded me second chances to say thank you or to say…I’m sorry to people from long, long ago. 
   
What do you hope readers will find in Ghostly?
I hope they will find something new, yet familiar in the crime genre...tenderness amidst the darkness, the tension of monsters all about, a teetering view at the edge of the abyss, and a sudden escape route that is not temporal but Supernatural.
I hope readers of Ghostly will be transported to another time, a time they may not know, but a place where they may round the bend with the central character, Michael Parker, and find themselves.

Why did you choose to write this tale as literature?
I wanted to create something that was not just a momentary diversion, something that used words to paint pictures, words that had their own intrinsic beauty and permanence, the wind behind the sails of Ghostly.

What would book clubs find in Ghostly to recommend to their readers?
A book by a writer that uses words to uplift and edify, not denigrate, a book that respects the reader…entertaining and worth the investment of time and money in the payoff in the end, but one that also offers a glimpse of something real, not phony or manufactured to sell books…a once upon a time tale of a time that is no more.

Does the love story in Ghostly get lost in the recommendations for the crime story?
There is a powerful love story at the heart of Ghostly. With all the wonderful reviews about the big crime novel, I think that, for a while, the love story, which is essential to the tale, did get lost a bit to book buyers who only saw that. That has corrected itself somewhat as people read it and begin to write reviews. The best reviews we receive are from women.

How did Jim Clemente at Criminal Minds come to read and recommend your book?
I knew someone who knew Jim. So, I just contacted him last summer and asked him if he would tell me if it was any good or if I should destroy all copies. Criminal Minds was in production, and he told me that it would take a while to get back to me.  He later wrote to tell me that he had read it and that I was not only a great writer but a great writer of American literature, for that was what Ghostly was, he said, a big crime story as literature.

How is his pitch for Ghostly as a movie coming along?
It’s difficult to say.  I leave that to people like Jim and others who understand that world. Some folks are reading the book and discussions are ongoing…there and with independent producers elsewhere.

How did you find and define your characters?
I didn’t find them…they found me and spoke their own lines through me.

Where do your stories come from?
In author forums, some say their inspiration for their writing comes from a vivid imagination, some say they meditate and find ideas…I just remember.

What about your book is different from the typical novel of today?
Jim Clemente calls it detailed and complex, yet beautifully sinister, immersing the reader in the feeling of absolute reality. I would say within the many threads of the story is a simplicity on the far side of that complexity, one that may be different for each reader…a story that has no profanity, no explicit scenes of intimacy…an original story that echoes what books used to be.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I go back to my places of trial, dig up bones, embrace the love, pain, and loss there and use that emotion to fuel my descriptive writing and capture and create real people…to be believable as a writer.

Who influenced your writing the most?
I always loved John D. MacDonald. His characters commented on the world in which they traveled, as mine do, and he wrote in a very descriptive style…you could see what the characters saw and feel what they felt.  Many readers say the same about Ghostly.
Are your characters pure fiction, or did you draw from people you know?
Some are based on people I knew, some are composites, and some are wholly creations of a writer who knew people just like them.

Are you more of a character artist or a plot-driven writer?
The plot, the arc of the story, is so important, but the characters are what makes it breathe and live…and claim the status and title of…memorable. I wanted to create characters that readers would never forget.

Other than selling your book, what do you hope to accomplish with it?
The best part of writing and marketing Ghostly is meeting new people and introducing them to a story that seems fresh and vital, yet as old as mankind, and one that could be their own.

Who should buy this book?
Anyone who likes a book that leaves them satisfied, yet wanting more, another dose of the dream they’ve just dreamed.

Where can people buy your book?
Ghostly is now available on Amazon.com as a hardback and as an Ebook for Kindle, Itunes and Nook.

 

Writing my First Novel

As I speak to groups now about A Ghostly Shade of Pale, people ask how long it took, what was the hardest thing about writing the novel, and where my inspiration comes from.

It took two to three years, off and on, to write Ghostly.  Many times you want to just give up. You write and rewrite so many times, you are certain now and then that it is no good, perhaps worse than that. You just get sick of it and have to walk away for a while to gain some perspective.  It has to get cold for you to feel the heat of the passion for the story again.

After one journey through the manuscript, I finally realized that it was flat and desperately needed some descriptors.  When I applied those, the flat and lifeless characters began to pop up off the page, and the scenes suddenly bore the fragrance of the flowers the players smelled and the aroma of love, loss, joy, and tragedy.

The hardest thing about writing?  Some say it is getting started, that first word or paragraph. I understand that sentiment, but for me, it was that willingness to go back in time and embrace the pain, to dig up bones and let them produce the emotion that is very hard to fake or simulate.

As far as inspiration, some writers tell me that they are inspired by a vivid imagination.  Others say that they meditate and wait for the ideas and scenes to burst out of their hiding places. Some are inspired by chemical stimulants, and that is not a good thing. As for me, I just remember a rich life, three lives in one full of all of the threads of living--the good, the bad, and the tragic.  Lessons lie dormant still in the dusty old recesses of your mind, threads of pain and purpose woven into blankets of yesterday. In those times of exploration, you not only find material for books, but now and then, you find yourself.

Merle Temple