Recently, I met with Merle Temple at his book signing in Tupelo MS. He is one of the most captivating people I have had the privilege to speak with, and I am honored to post his interview here on my site. He is a former Author Rodeo Roundup member and we will sorely miss him this year.
Thank you, Merle, for allowing me to post your interview and images.
MEET MERLE TEMPLE
I came of age in the South in the 50s and 60’s, and write about what I know. Living three or four lives in one lifetime provides ample fodder for a novelist in his old age. The good, the bad, and the tragic of it all pours out on my pages. My time in Washington in the FBI and at Ole Miss, my days as an agent in the first drug wars where I survived death time and again, my journey through the corporate world and the treacherous passages of high level political campaigns, and my experiences with the crushing loss of personal liberty and people dear to me, all fuel my need to write. Within intriguing stories, I want to warn people about the dangers of the world, how easy it to lose yourself and jeopardize the eternal for momentary pleasures in the temporal world.
I live in Tupelo, MS. with my wife, Judy, and we travel around the country signing books and speaking.
Share about your work:
I have written the first two books of a planned trilogy, A Ghostly Shade of Pale and A Rented World. The Redeemed will follow.
Our reviews have been very good, and readers have been generous with their praise and notes to us about the books. We receive emails and Facebook messages from many readers. They write about how the books touched them or took them to places they had never been where they were surprised to discover that the characters were more like old friends than strangers. They say the writing is very descriptive, like reading a movie, and after reading certain passages, they think, “I didn’t know anyone ever felt that way but me.”
Criminal Minds read the draft of Ghostly and called us to Hollywood. We signed for the cast there, interviewed with local TV and radio outlets, and met with producers. Ghostly has been used in public and private secondary schools, and a local college just named it their contemporary novel, and it is now required reading for all English students. I travel around the country to sign and speak. We meet the nicest people, including Morgan Freeman, who I dined with last year, and Ravi Zacharias, the great Christian apologist I had lunch with in Atlanta.
Tell us about your writing style:
I write fiction based on my life’s experiences, novels as literature to endure. What could be worse than writing just another throwaway item in a throwaway world? There is no profanity and explicit intimacy in my books. I hope to use words to edify and encourage. I try to write books that I would not be ashamed for my Mother and my English teacher to see if they were alive. The books are difficult to label. There are so many threads in the books, and because they are drawn from actual events, the plots are not predictable. Some readers say they are like books that were written 80 to 100 years ago. I hope so.
What do you find challenging about the writing life?
Never settling, always being worthy of the great opportunity to tell stories. I want to remember that readers may be moved by my words, for better or worse. I never want to write to the lowest common denominators or resort to purely salacious or titillating language. I strive to make readers think, and try to resist the temptation to take shortcuts when words are difficult to find or the threads in stories run bare. My books come from my experiences, so I always have a ready well to draw from.
If you could write from any place on earth, where would you choose to write from?
There is no place like our home in Tupelo. I also make notes and scribbles for the books while in church, when the Holy Spirit is downloading.
When asked to set goals, what do you see ( for yourself or current WIP) in five years with your writing?
I hope to finish this trilogy and then see what might be next. I am 66, so the day will come, due to age, when I can’t travel as much. I hope to market the eBooks then and find new ways to leverage social media and the internet to speak to book clubs and give virtual interviews. There will always be readers who haven’t found the books.
What are you reading right now?
I finished Unbroken a while back, The End of Reason, and reread some of the Travis McGee novels.
Who is your favorite author?
My favorite Christian writer is Ravi Zacharias, and John D. MacDonald is my favorite mystery writer.
Give a bit of advice for an aspiring author:
Follow your heart, take good advice from people who have no hidden agendas, and avoid those who tell you what you can’t do. Be wary of those who promise the moon, the sun, and the stars in promoting your book. Get a good editor who will tell you what you may not want to hear. Don’t be afraid to fall down, to make mistakes. You will learn more from your mistakes than you will from your triumphs.
If you go with a publisher, make sure they have good distribution. If they don’t, publish your own book and sign directly with a distributor. They can open the doors to the bookstore chains and other opportunities that some publishers can’t or won’t. Keep knocking on doors, even when they won’t let you in at first. Kroger, which rejects 99% of books submitted, finally let me in, and as I said, a local college just made my first book required reading for all English students.
Believe in your product and sell it. Some of the best books ever written have gone unread because of poor marketing. When you are in bookstores and other venues, engage readers and tell them about your books, show them your passion. Adopt the mindset of “I never meet a stranger.”
Writing is a privilege. Few writers achieve wealth and fame. If that’s why you want to be a writer, you are probably going to be disappointed, and you may miss the pure joy of writing the books you want to, not those you write to please someone who tells you what to write for purely commercial reasons. You might miss the treasures along the journey in bookstores, libraries, schools, and churches, those small but great moments when people walk up, clutching your book, and say, “I just love your words.”
More about Merle and his books and speaking/signing events can be found at his website: http://www.merletemple.com