Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Interview With Author Sam Sackett!

Where are you from?
I was born in Redlands, CA, but have moved around a lot over the western half of the country.  I'm living now in Canton, OK, which is an hour southeast of Woodward, an hour southwest of Enid, an hour west of Kingfisher, an hour northeast of Weatherford, an hour northwest of Clinton, and an hour east of the end of the world.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?
Right now I'm a full-time writer, but for reasons of age and health that means I can put in about three hours a day.  The only way that affects my writing is that it makes me more impatient to get to it.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
After I got my master's, I taught for two years at Hastings College in Hastings, NE.  Then I went to UCLA for a doctorate, which took me off the market for three years. With all the class work done and only the dissertation to write, I went to what is now Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS, for 23 years, where I burned out on teaching.  I wrote full time for a year and made some money, but not enough to live on, so I was dean of Salt City Business College in Hutchinson, KS, for a year.  When the college folded, I went to Clinton, OK, to work as a reporter for a weekly newspaper; then I was hired away by an advertising agency in Weatherford, OK.  When the agency went bust, I went to a public relations agency in Oklahoma City.  After two years I was fired for incompetence and ran my own agency in OKC for two years until I was hired by my biggest client, a career management firm, full time. I went from there to another career management firm and then to the OKC office of Bernard Haldane Associates, where I stayed for 12 years until retirement.

Do you have any children? How do you balance family life with your writing life?
I have two sons, but they are both grown.  I am, in fact, a great-grandfather.

How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was in kindergarten and never stopped.

Have you ever been to a writing conference, class, of critique group? How was that experience?
I took creative writing classes in college and also have taught them myself.  Looking back, I'm not convinced that they were useful.

What genre do you prefer to write in?
I am a historical novelist, though I think my books are more like fictional biographies.  I've also written some science fiction.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite, or which characters are your favorites?
I've written or collaborated in 16 published books, both fiction and nonfiction.  I have no favorites.

What inspired you to write your latest book?
The book I'm working on now is Rabbi Yeshua:  The Human Side of Jesus.  What inspired me was Jesus Christ Superstar.  It gave what Jesus did, but it gave no clue as to why he did it, what he thought in his own mind he was trying to accomplish.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I've been working at it off and on since 1976, writing and rewriting and doing research.  I hope to see it published in August or September of this year.

What books have most influenced your life?
I've got to say that the one book that has most influenced my life was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum.  Another very influential one was Becoming a Person, by Carl Rogers.  And I also have to list the books I consider the greatest: The History of Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain; Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes; and The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Oh, and I can't forget The Greek Passion, by Nikos Kazantzakis.

What book are you reading now?
Right now I'm reading American Pastoral, by Philip Roth, and I'm bored stiff with it.  I'm 100 pages into it and I'm wondering when the story is going to start.  I keep going in the hope it will get better.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I haven't read any "new authors."

What are your current projects?
My current project is Rabbi Yeshua.  I think when I get that done I'll quit.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My interest in writing began when my mother bought me my first book, before I was in kindergarten.  I enjoyed that so much that I wanted to do something like that myself.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Particularly challenging?  I write fast, and I find that I have to go back and fill things in that I've left out.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite author is Henry Fielding.  I am attracted to his personality, as revealed in his books, and he looks at life pretty much as I do.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
One thing I have learned is that I get a great idea for starting a book, and I am pretty good at letting the idea work itself out, but then I need a strong ending and have trouble with that.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I'm too old fashioned to be comfortable with e-books, but I think they're fine for the people who like them.  It's better to read an e-book than not to read a book at all.  In general, I'm distrustful of technology; a lot of it is just a fad and doesn't last.  I remember when records were wax disks at 78 rpm, then vinyl disks at 33 and 45 rpm came in, and then there were 8-track tapes and cassettes, and then CD's.  I wonder when somebody will come up with something that makes e-books obsolete.

What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
The future of reading/writing?  I've read too much science fiction to predict the future; I know what science-fiction writers in 1953 thought 2013 would be like, and they were all wrong.

What process did you go through to get your book published?

I'm grateful for the trend toward self-publishing.  I've had too many of my books turned down by publishers who never even read them.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
My advice to other writers: read.  You will find somebody that you'd like to be like.  So try to be that person.  Sooner or later you will find out how you are different from him or her, and from that you will discover who you are.  Once you know who you are, be yourself.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
What I want to say to my readers is what I've said in my books.  In Sweet Betsy from Pike I've told  young women not to trust romantic men; women don't need men to take care of them, they can take care of themselves.  In The Robin Hood Chronicles I've told them what I think Robin Hood was really like.  In Adolf Hitler in Oz I've told readers that goodness and love will always beat out evil and hate and that nobody is so bad that he cannot be redeemed.  Huckleberry Finn Grows Up is full of things I'm telling readers.

If you could live anywhere, where would that be?
If I could live anywhere, I'd live in The Netherlands.  I like the food and the people, and I don't know of a place on earth that values freedom as much as The Netherlands does -- including the U.S.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I don't want any superpower.  Given my age and health, I'd like to have back the powers I had when I was younger.  On second thought, I think I would like the superpower of being able to go back and re-live some parts of my life when I made the wrong decision, but still have the knowledge of where that decision leads so that I could avoid making it again.

For More On Sam Sackett: