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Interview with Brian L. Doe, Author of The Grace Note

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Brian L. Doe was born in Ogdensburg, New York, and grew up on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. From a young age, he recognized his passion for the written word and committed himself to the pursuit of writing. He is currently an English teacher in Upstate New York where he lives with his wife and children. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in writing from St. Lawrence University, and a Master’s Degree in secondary education from the State University of New York at Potsdam College.

Mr. Doe is also an amateur violinist who works with John R. Lindsey, concertmaster of the Orchestra of Northern New York, at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, New York. He has been associated with the musical world in a number of capacities for years and has been involved in public performances ranging from concert presentations to musicals.

Brian L. Doe’s first novel, Barley and Gold, was published in 2001 and again in 2008. In addition, he is co-author of the trilogy, Waking God, with Philip Harris. His newest release, The Grace Note, was published in November 2008 by All Things That Matter Press.
More about the author, his writing, and music can be found at his official website, www.inkslingernotes.com.

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Brian. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?

I am a multi-published author. My first book, Barley & Gold was published in 2001 and again in 2008. I am also co-author of the Waking God Trilogy with Philip Harris. My newest book, The Grace Note, was published in November of 2008.

What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

The title of my very first book was Barley & Gold. I began writing it as a freshman in college while working at the university library. A song on the radio gave me an idea, and I wrote the last chapter first. Over the course of the next ten years, I finally finished the manuscript.

For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I was rejected by 38 agencies alone before one agency decided to represent me. With representation, I was then rejected by every major publisher that the work was presented to.

How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

Although I was continually assured by my agent that the rejections did not mean that my writing was worthless, it still stung me a little each time. I did have the opportunity to read what many of the major publishing houses had to say about my work, and it was not all bad. Perhaps the worse phrase to read or hear again and again when trying to get published is that your book “just isn’t right for us at this time.” I eventually came to realize, however, that my writing was worth reading, and that I’d either be published or I wouldn’t. It’s all about confidence.

When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

iUniverse first published Barley & Gold, and at the time, it only cost $199.00. They were the first in their field to really market themselves as a POD publisher, and I wasn’t quite sure what it all meant. But I felt so strongly about my story, that I was determined to see it in print. After all, I believe even Laura Ingalls Wilder paid to have her work published in the beginning.

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

Seeing my writing in print was amazing and made me feel like I’d accomplished something. I didn’t really celebrate the event, though. I was surrounded by people whom I felt didn’t see the value of such a venture, and even then, others grumbled at the fact that I’d paid to have it published.

What was the first thing you did as a promotion when you were published for the first time?

I was interviewed by the local newspaper that ran a story about a local teacher being a published author. It garnered some response, but sales of the book were never high.

If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

I don’t know if I would have any new options if I had to do it all over again at that time. Now, however, there many options for authors that don’t cost a cent. One of the newest movements in the publishing world is the independent publishing house. Piers Anthony, the New York Times bestselling author, even champions independent publishing houses. They tend to be smaller and more personal. My current publisher, for instance, is an independent, and my contract with them is more like a friendship than a business arrangement. The large publishing houses seem to be on the road to extinction.

Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I have been published twice since then, and soon to be three times when the next installment of the Waking God Trilogy comes out in a few weeks. The Grace Note, I believe, shows a tremendous amount of maturity on my part. I was 19 when I started my first book and 36 when I wrote The Grace Note. My writing is cleaner and more direct now.

Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I often wonder if I could have done anything differently. Back then, and in many ways now, agent representation and publisher marketing was a laborious and tedious process. The book industry is so overrun with poor writing (a problem agents and publishers themselves have created over the last decade) that moving from manuscript to printed novel involves many months of time and energy. And even if a large publisher picks up your work, it will take another 18 months to get it into print.

What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

I can Google myself and get pages of results. It’s overwhelming to realize how much of a presence you can make on the Internet just by being involved in the marketing and promotion of your work.

If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A professional violinist. I would have started playing much earlier than I did, and I would have wanted to play at Lincoln Center.

Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

That’s an interesting question, because my new book, The Grace Note, does just that. It is about a professional violinist who, after a tragedy strikes him, becomes disillusioned with his craft. In writing the book, I was able to combine both worlds.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully on the New York Times Bestseller List, or maybe having one of my books played out on the silver screen. I’ll take either.

Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Don’t give up. Ever. Rejections are only jabs to a writer’s ego, and no indication of whether he can write. The world will decide if you’ve got a story worth telling. And in the end, if your writing is no good, those closest to you will let you know. But we must keep writing; we are the historians of our day.


1 Comment

  1. Great interview. Good advice for authors, too. I read the first book in the (co-authored by Doe) Waking God trilogy and loved it, am looking forward to reading the rest. I’ll also have to read the other books written by Brian exclusively.

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