L. E. Donnell joins us in the Forum today. A talented author, musician, and artist, L. E. is originally from, and I’m pleased to say we were friends long before he moved to the Washington DC suburbs. Today we’re talking to L.E. about the realism and creativity he brings to his stories.
Tim Greaton: Larry, I’ve been fortunate to be among your friends for many years, but I wonder if you could tell our audience a little about yourself.
L.E. Donnell: I could use my standard online answer of 'I like Stuff.' but that might be inappropriate :). I am a dad, musician, husband, writer, artist, and avid wargamer....hmmm...my wife might read this. I need to add the caveat that those aren't in order.
Tim Greaton: I’ve always found it fascinating that you manage to work in three of the major artistic mediums: painting, music, and writing. Could you tell us how you manage to find the time for all of that?
L.E. Donnell: The painting has really taken a back seat for quite a few years. I had to make choices when the kids came along. Music and prose were such a fundamental part of my nature I could not stop either. I enjoyed painting. It did not hold the same seat of power in my heart that the other mediums did.
I usually work in the mornings and late at night with sporadic bursts through the day, for prose. Musically, I work when inspiration hits. I play my songs and still record. A lot of my playing has become showing my oldest boy the 'how' of rock music. He did fire me up enough that I am working on a new album, (he will be on it) and plan to re-release my 1998 album Suntouch (the band name is/was Wonderhead). It will be available through iTunes and Amazon.
Tim Greaton: You tend to have an attraction toward what I think of as gritty and experimental literature. Could you correct or elaborate upon my perception and maybe talk a little about the authors or works that have inspired you?
L.E. Donnell: I grew up fairly hard. It could have been a 12 part mini-series. There were some real vibrant characters in my family and around. I spent time in shady places and I had a lot of traumatic moments. You find a way to deal with it. I was always creative and it became my outlet; catharsis.
Tim Greaton: I know you’ve had a few “wacky” events happen to you over the years. Could you tell us about one of the most memorable ones?
L.E. Donnell: A very shaping moment for me was going through a rear windshield at high rate of speed. I flew 30-50 feet and hit the road. I became aware sitting up on the side of the road. The 'Became Aware' part is significant. That is one of the creepiest things I have ever had happen. When you are drunk or even debilitated by substances that interchange of conscious perception is blunted by said substances. In this experience I came fairly close to death. The short answer is that I decided life was short. I began 'doing' instead of always dreaming.
Tim Greaton: How does your family feel about your writing, and what type of stories would your children really want you to write?
L.E. Donnell: My wife has been very supportive. When I worked in a call center I wrote in composition books (still do actually) and she would type them in after for me. My mother was supportive as well. In high school, I had a former nun for an English Literature class. Being young and stupid, I taunted her with my writing. I wrote a violent, disturbed piece and read it to the class. A girl fled to go to the bathroom and vomit, if she can be believed. I went home and told my mother she could expect a call from the school telling her that I was disturbed and needed therapy. I was correct. She told them that, as a writer, I had evoked exactly the action I wanted. She thought it was funny. My wife does not really like me showing a good deal of my writing to my eldest boy. He is 15 and she does not think he should see some of it. I am of two minds about it. The other boys know I write but have no real perception of it. I write for adults, for me, things I would read.
Tim Greaton: I recently read your new story Junkie Love. Could you tell us about it?
L.E. Donnell: I tried to write a piece that started you mid-stream of a very tense situation where a drug user was being interrogated by his supplier. I wanted a dialogue-heavy piece that showed the head-space.
Tim Greaton: How did you stumble upon the idea of writing a story about drug users, and should I have had security check your pockets before letting you into our virtual studio?
L.E. Donnell: I had a good mentor a number of years ago who shamed me and made me see how stupid I had been in my writing. He did this indirectly. He had liked some of the pieces I had shown him and he made an offhand comment about writers groups. He said that sometimes you find a good one but a lot of times they are filled with “Three Page Guys.”
“Three page guys?” I had a sinking feeling at this point.
“Yeah. You know the ones? They come each week with 3 pages out of their epic new tale. They can tell you all about the story but never get beyond three pages into it.”
I sat there stunned beyond words. I was stupefied. I was that guy. I resolved not to tell him...and didn’t, not for years. I waited until I had some finished work. We had a good laugh then.
OH! The point? This mentor also gave me a spectacular piece of advice. Write what you know until you have your chops. Junkie Love was written 20 some odd years ago. I am not in the same space. I did, however, have a lot of friends and family into the drug scene.
Tim Greaton: You have a series of new stories come on the market recently, and I know you have more coming. How do you think they compare to Junkie Love?
L.E. Donnell: I am...conflicted. I would like to follow Junkie Love up with some more 'real world' stories. I am primarily a writer of sci-fi/fantasy though. It is a tough call. I am working on a transitional piece called End of the Red Line, a sci-fi horror piece with firm ties into the real-ish world. I am hoping it is a good move. I have released one short story double and one short piece since Junkie Love. A Gift of Sorts is real world fiction. The double set Tales of the Enochian is sci-fi/fantasy.
Tim Greaton: Junkie Love takes place in a hotel. Did you have a particular place or type of place in mind when you wrote that scene?
L.E. Donnell: I am pretty sure I was living in Portland Maine at the time. I had spent far too much of my time in Lewiston, a place Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet called “The Mill Town Demon Stare” in his song Zodiac Lung from Spine of God. What do mill towns do when not working? Drink, do drugs, fight and fornicate. As a young lad of indeterminate nature, I had spent too much of my younger life involved in those recreational activities. I spent some time in shady places, as I said earlier. I picked a rundown locale or two from that seedy and grit-filled city and dropped them on top of a hotel scene where things are worn out and patched together. My memories from that city made a very convincing source.
Tim Greaton: I know at least one reader wanted to know more about your main character. Are you planning a sequel to Junkie Love?
L.E. Donnell: This is probably the single greatest surprise to me...in a way. I had written Junkie Love to start in the middle of a desperate situation. It was to carry you to the defining moment and let you, the reader, ponder. It did that. I did not anticipate the zeal in the response of “I want to know!” To this end, I have been working on a follow-up. I know where it goes, which I did not in Junkie Love. I never made the choice for John when I wrote it. I did this time, but now I am just seeing where he takes that choice.
Tim Greaton: Who are three authors that are not huge in the mainstream that you admire and think people should check out and why?
L.E. Donnell: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think people should check out yours, Tim.
Tim Greaton: Thanks for the vote of friendship, Larry, but seriously–
L.E. Donnell: I was being serious. You write tight genre-defiant stories that are filled with impact, and if people don’t believe me they can just look at the reviews you’re stacking up. I don’t think I saw a review under five stars on any of your novels…and it doesn’t surprise me.
Tim Greaton: Thanks for your unbiased opinion, friend Larry J. But maybe we could talk about some other novelists who come to mind?
L.E. Donnell: Trent Zelazny is near the top of my list. I will be honest, his father was one of my faves, which is why I checked him out to see if he had the gift as well. He does but his work is darker than his dad’s…but with all the same power. He read Junkie Love, and I was thrilled when he liked it. Harry Connolly writes fantastic urban fantasy, and he has been building a unique variant to urban fantasy.
Tim Greaton: Just for fun, could you tell us what your perfect future would look like?
L.E. Donnell: Besides a happy and healthy family, I suppose a #1 NY Times bestselling novel, a #1 album on the rock charts, and maybe even my Junkie Love painting (from the cover of the story), hanging at the Smithsonian American Art Museum would work. Of course, I might be willing to settle for two out of threeJ.
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly purchase your books.
My amazon author's page:
My blog/info site for Music/Writing and/or personal rants/raves:
I can be followed on twitter:
Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time with me today, Larry. I often encourage my readers to look into your stories, and I hope more of them will follow your links today.
L.E. Donnell: I appreciate the chance to wax poetic about myself...just kidding...or am I? Thanks for taking the time, Tim. I look forward to this interview being posted and to reading all of them that come out.