Indie Author Interview with Stephen Douglass - Author of the Historical Crime Fiction The Bridge to Caracas.
For Stephen Douglass, writing was an accident. When his friends in Muskoka and Florida became aware of the story of his incredible life in the Canadian oil business, they encouraged him to commit it to writing. They insisted it was a story that must be told. Reluctantly, he did, and after more than twenty years the story of AN ENDLESS AND CONFLICTED LOVE, A MAN WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE AND NEARLY LOST HIS LIFE DOING IT, and ONE OF THE LARGEST AND MOST AUDACIOUS THEFTS IN CANADIAN HISTORY, was finally made public.
Stephen has entitled his book: The Bridge to Caracas, for reasons that will quickly be obvious to readers.
Interview with Stephen Douglass
|Author Stephen Douglass|
Stephen Douglass: Truthfully, very little, until I wrote The King Trilogy, my only claim to writing fame was when I one a prize in university for a long essay on “The Flight of Birds.”
Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
My favorite authors are: John Grisham, Stieg Larsson, and Ken Follett. Here are the reasons:
The story of how John Grisham emerged from obscurity to writing fame is particularly impressive to me. His first book, “A Time to Kill,” went nowhere. It was rejected by all of the big publishing houses, and a large number of others. Then he wrote “The Firm,” which went viral and launched his meteoric rise to writing fame.
Stieg Larsson’s story also impressed me, because he did what I recently did: he wrote an entire trilogy, “The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy,” then had it published. His trilogy went viral.
Mine, “The King Trilogy,” (self-published in June, 2013), has yet to be discovered. I hope I live long enough to see what happens to it.
Ken Follett, in my humble opinion, is the king of fiction, for both quality of writing and research. I have read all of his books, but my favorite is his latest, “Winter of The World.”
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
When in Florida in the early nineties, I was given a manuscript by Frank Cashen, the former General Manager of The New York Mets, and now a member of The Baseball Hall of Fame. He told me that Nelson Doubleday, the Mets‘ owner and publishing mogul, had asked him to evaluate it. I was stunned and honored that the great Frank Cashen was interested in my opinion, on anything. I read the manuscript, then told Frank Cashen that I loved it, so much that I thought it should be made into a movie.
The title of the manuscript, written by Steven Pressfield, is, “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” Alas, my name didn’t appear in the movie credits, but it was then than I knew I wanted to be a writer.
"I do all of my writing longhand, with no process or routine."
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
I do all of my writing longhand, with no process or routine. My career in the oil business was all about process and routine. When I disappeared into obscurity I wanted to get as far away from process and routine as I could.
What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
There really isn’t any aspect of writing that is difficult for me. I enjoy it. It has given me more pleasure than almost anything I’ve ever done in my life. If you had asked me about the marketing component of the equation, I would tell you that I find it very difficult, like entering an endless hall of mirrors and attempting to find a way out. Currently, you can find me somewhere in the hall.
Steve, please tell us a little about your Book 'The Bridge to Caracas.’
The idea for “The Bridge to Caracas” evolved out of an extremely painful business experience. The “bridge” in the novel is actually The Peace Bridge, spanning the Niagara River and joining Canada to The United States. It was the fulcrum of the incredible scam perpetrated by the novel’s antagonist, Jim Servito. The source of my painful business was, (I gave him a fictitious name), Jim Servito, the nicest crook I ever knew.
After spending the first eleven years of my working career with big oil, I left to form a partnership with an individual who shared a similar interest. The business involved purchasing pieces of commercial real estate in Southern Ontario, Canada, and constructing independent retail gasoline outlets on them. For a number of years the partnership was extremely successful. Everything changed when my partner’s wife committed suicide. I could go on to describe the changes, but suffice to say that the net result was that we split the assets of the partnership and went our separate ways.
I continued alone as an independent gasoline retailer and land owner, and in so doing, experienced all of the fears and trepidations outlined in my blog, “INDIE RETIREMENT” http://sdouglass.blogspot.ca/2012/02/indie-retirement.html?showComment=1361107991249.
For most of the ensuing years my business flourished. There were times when the business was so good, I needed to pinch myself. There were also times when the business was so bad, I struggled to retain my sanity. The extremely painful experience, to which I referred earlier, occurred during one of those bad times.
The major integrated oil companies, with whom my company was competing for retail gasoline customers, had decided to reduce the share of market enjoyed by the independents. They did so by posting brutally competitive retail prices, so competitive that they were below their wholesale refinery gate prices offered to independents. Their strategy was effective, so effective that the more gasoline I sold, the more money I lost. The specter of bankruptcy loomed large.
Just when the situation appeared its bleakest, the fairy godfather, Jim Servito, materialized. Through a friend in the industry I met the man who was to become the protagonist in “The Bridge to Caracas.” The fairy godfather offered me a gasoline price that would not only save my business, it was about to make it very prosperous. I had reason to doubt the legitimacy of his offering, but facing the abyss of financial ruin, I was in no mood to quibble. For so long as his invoices stated “Tax Included,” I was prepared to continue purchasing gasoline from Servito’s company.
The business relationship with “Jim Servito” was profitable and wonderful until one dark Friday. On that pivotal day I received a telephone call from a senior official of C.S.I.S., Canada’s Security Intelligence Service. The official asked if my company was doing business with “Jim Servito.” I confirmed that it was. In a meeting with that official on the following Monday, he advised me that “Jim Servito” was a person of extreme interest, that he had been stealing amounts of money from the Canadian and U.S. governments, that “would make the New York State Lottery look like a Sunday school collection.” He went on to say that “Servito’s” loot, in the area code of $325,000,000, was in a Cayman Island bank, and flown there by “Servito” in his private Cessna. The official was delighted to inform me that as a result of their investigation of me, the four agents accompanying him were not armed. He gave me a wry smile and said, “You don’t even have a parking ticket.”
That experience is my inspiration for writing “The Bridge to Caracas.”
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
What inspired you to write the book?
Fast forward to 1991. Following the sale of my business, my wife, Ann and I retired into obscurity. We sold our house in Burlington, Ontario, and built a cottage on Lake Rosseau, a resort area two hours north of Toronto. Our plan was to spend our summers on Lake Rosseau and our winters at our home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Simultaneously, we placed our number three son, Jaime, the only one of the three still on the payroll, in boarding school.
That summer, while having dinner with new Muskoka neighbors, and drinking far too much wine, we exchanged career stories. Faced with the opportunity to extend the evening and drink more much needed wine, I extended my story, but saved the “Jim Servito” episode to the end. When I finally told it, our new neighbors nearly choked on their wine. Amazed, they insisted that I commit the story to writing, that it should be told, that it was a piece of Canadian history.
That was my real inspiration for writing “The Bridge to Caracas.”
I started writing in Florida that winter. I wrote the whole story in longhand, then self-published it, twenty years later. The second edition of “The Bridge to Caracas”, along with “The Tainted Trust” and “Kerri’s War”, Volumes two and three of The King Trilogy, was self-published in June of 2013, less than two months ago.
Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
I see the target audience for “The Bridge to Caracas” and its two sequels as the people who bought and read the books written by my favorite authors: Grisham, Larsson, and Follett. There is also a romance component of all three books which might appeal to readers of books by: Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel, and Nora Roberts.
All three books are currently listed on Amazon.
How would you describe the success of your book so far? (Sales, Awards, Reviews)
“The Bridge to Caracas” has been enormously successful. It has won no prizes, no contests, no awards, and very close to no recognition. It is easily within a million downloads to making it to the big time. I am grateful, however, that three thousand copies of the book were downloaded during my FREE campaign on July 6 and 7. I am also grateful to the thirteen individuals who have been kind enough to review the book. If readers have half as much fun reading “The Bridge to Caracas” , and its sequels, as I did writing them, they will be rewarded.
How long did it take it to write the book?
As I mentioned earlier, it took twenty years to complete the first edition, then two more years to publish the second edition. In fairness to me, I was writing “The Tainted Trust”
and “Kerri’s War”, simultaneously. In retrospect, if I hadn’t spent so much time playing horrifying golf, I would have finished the books sooner.
Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
"[...] the importance of of having your book properly formatted."
How smooth went the self-publishing process? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
I give five stars to Amazon. I have never talked to anyone at Amazon, but if and when when I do, I will congratulate the company. For a properly formatted book, their system is flawless. It’s like painting by numbers. I can’t stress enough the importance of of having your book properly formatted. I used Michael Campbell, http://mcwriting.com/MC/eBooks_ePubs.html, then saw my books, in all their glory, on my ipad.
"I took the picture myself and was arrested by Homeland Security [...]"
Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
For better or worse, I didn’t hire an editor. Instead I had all of the people listed in the acknowledgements for “The Bridge to Caracas” read and vet the manuscript. This took place over a period of twenty-two years.
I did the cover design myself, again breaking the rules. I wanted a picture of The Peace Bridge on my cover and was so determined to do that, I took the picture myself and was arrested by Homeland Security when I attempted to photograph the bridge from the top.
Fortunately, when I produced my passport and told them my story they took me back to the top of the bridge in their luxury golf cart.
"Study the style of the great authors and make notes. Then write a good story."
Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
Read, read, and read. Study the style of the great authors and make notes. Then write a good story. Ultimately it is the story that counts. In my opinion, the days of making it to the top of the charts with nothing but a whizzy cover design and a fortune in advertising are numbered. Finally, never give up. Sooner or later, you will get lucky.
Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
Continuing on as an Indie author is one of my highest priorities. I succeeded is an Indie gasoline retailer, in competition with the deepest pockets in the industry. I would love to do it as an Indie author.
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
I have a friend who owned two Blockbuster outlets in Vancouver, British Columbia. He laughed when I predicted that physical movie disc rental would soon be a thing of the past. He is no longer laughing.
Another friend sold Encyclopedia Britannica during his university summers to make enough money to pay for his tuition. I smile when I remember him dressing in a suit every day, packing his samples in his car, then going from door to door, trying to sell one set at time. That was then. Now we can sell books without getting dressed or knocking on doors.
In spite of the tend suggested by the examples I’ve given, and many others, I believe book stores will continue to exist five to ten years from now. I predict they will morph into something resembling expensive lounges, offering far more amenities than they do today, even places for writers to write in solitude.
" The deeper I drill into book promotion, the more I realize that that activity is a full-time job."
Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
As I mentioned earlier, I am retired and living in obscurity, but I do spend a great deal of my time writing and promoting The King Trilogy on the social media platforms. The deeper I drill into book promotion, the more I realize that that activity is a full-time job. It is both challenging and rewarding. The combination of writing and promoting has given me more pleasure than almost anything I did in my working life.
How can readers connect with you?
I welcome contact with readers. I also wish to thank Indie Author News for the opportunity to spend this quality time with you.
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Thank you very much for the Interview, Stephen.
About the Book The Bridge to Caracas
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
- "Steve Douglass has produced a slick novel about the greasy underworld of the oil and gas industry during the 70's. It is a terrific read and leaves one wondering where the fiction ends and the truth begins about this turbulent time in the history of the industry in North American. I recommend the book to anyone looking to be entertained on a beach or curled up by the winter fire.[...] " - BAI - Review
Links to the Book
Link to Stephen Douglass's Books on Amazon
Link to the eBook The Bridge to Caracas with Excerpt on Amazon