Thursday, March 3, 2011
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Douglas Starr
Douglas: So far so good, as far as I can tell. It seems to have struck a chord with true crime fans, which is funny, because I came at the story from the angle of science.
Scott: With the introduction of e-book readers, like Kindle and Sony Reader, there is a current debate about the piracy of e-books and the loss of the print media. How do you feel about e-books?
Douglas: Anything that gets more people reading is fine with me. Personally I like the feel of a physical book. I also like knowing that my dog-eared old paperback probably won’t get stolen if I leave it on the towel to go jump in the ocean.
Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?
Douglas: I teach at a university, so on days I’m not teaching I’ll work anywhere from 8-12 hours. On teaching days I’ll get up at dawn and try to get in a couple of hours. The key is to keep things moving forward.
Scott: Have you considered writing fictional novels or do you prefer the research and study that goes along with writing non-fictional books?
Douglas: I love the adventure that comes with non-fiction: The topics I choose invariably take me to interesting foreign countries, and often other times.
Scott: How do you approach your writing? Do you tend to develop a story in your mind and then proceed to conduct some research or is more of an organic method where you write the story first and research any technical aspects later?
Douglas: Being a non-fiction author, I’m confined to reality. So I spend years searching in every available place and talking to every available person in order to dig up a story worth telling. Once I get that story I’ll spend years in research. I generally start writing when I’ve done 60-70 percent of my research. The writing then tells me what I still need to discover.
Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?
Douglas: At the moment I’m reading To the End of the Land by the Israeli author David Gross. Before that I re-read Dracula, and before that a marvelous book about a family in the Dominican republic during the Trujillo dictatorship called In the Time of the Butterflies. I like books of all genres that take me somewhere different – to another place and time. I’m always in the middle of a book, and go through so many that I’d have great difficulty choosing my top five.
Scott: There seems to be a lot more options available to authors to get published now compared to say a decade ago. What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?
Douglas: I got my start during the heyday of the Old Media; and although I enjoy the New Media, I find it professionally confusing. I’m distressed that so many websites expect people to write for them for free, or almost free. Writing isn’t a hobby – it’s a profession.
That said, the advice I’d give to unpublished writers would be to write for anyone who will pay for your work – website, magazines, on (in my field, which is science writing) universities or research institutions.
When you feel it’s time to write your first book you must get an agent. Approaching publishers directly won’t work. Here’s a tip to finding an agent: Pick up a book or books you enjoy and read the acknowledgments page. Usually you’ll find the name of the author’s agent. That would be a good person to approach.
Scott: Have you always been interested in Forensic Science and what drew you to this subject in the first place?
Douglas: I’ve always been interested in stories in which science plays a role in human drama, and a few years ago became interested in the issue of science and justice. Then one day, while poring through some medical journals, I came upon a paper about the early days of criminal forensics – the case of the serial killer and the scientist—Joseph Vacher and Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne. I became fascinated with the subject, the period and the characters, and the more I looked into the topic the more fascinated I became. That’s always a sign that you’re about to get hooked on a topic. I can’t wait until it happens again.
Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.
Douglas: Thank you!
Check out Douglas' web site here; www.douglasstarr.com