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    Marc D. Regan (photo provided)

    Marc D. Regan (photo provided)

     

    bill berry, jr.:

     

     

    Marc, I was pleasantly pleased that you agreed to chat with me.  Hopefully, I will not get under your skin too much!  LOL

     

    Let’s get started.  I get the impression and “hear” that you are doing some very interesting things since we published your work in aaduna.  So, what have you been up to and where do you see your recent activities taking you in 2016?

     

     

    Marc D Regan:

     

    Hi, Bill.  Yes, 2015 was an exciting, and busy, year for me.  Before and after my story/novel excerpt was published in aaduna I was inspired and kept the momentum going by networking with other writers via social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), and by finishing stories, writing new stories, and “shot gunning’ them at the market.

     

    “Shotgun” is a term one of my writer friends used to describe how he submitted a new story.  He said that he would choose ten magazines/journals to submit a story to, and when those rejections were in, he would shoot the story at ten more quarterlies.  This kept his work moving and increased his chances for publication.  I took the idea a step further with my own work: I chose up to twenty-five potential markets and/or contests, and hit send.  Then twenty-five more.  Using this technique I saw five stories accepted, close to one every other month.

     

    At the same time, a new chapter from my novel The Continuing Adventures of Sparky & His Guardian Friggin’ Angel (a chapter of which first appeared in aaduna in a slightly different form) was published monthly at Blue Skirt Productions.  This amounts to a grand total of fifteen published pieces in 2015.  It’s a number I can live with.

     

    And 2016 has begun.  This year began with me taking the chapters I had published at Blue Skirt (which was not the entire novel) back to the drafting table—my trusty laptop.  During the nine months these chapters appeared in Blue Skirt, I received a good amount of feedback.  I was also involved in an online writers critique group and had shared parts of the novel there, and the members of this group, seven or so fine writers, supplied me with invaluable feedback.  In addition, I sent a portion of this novel to a contest where four reviewers individually critique and grade your work.  Although the book did not win the contest, it did fare well.  And tucked in the responses I received from readers and other writers were some great ideas, directions this book could go, and suddenly I was looking at a new novel.  I now think of the Blue Skirt chapters as a trial run or beta version of The Continuing Adventures.  I have high hopes for the re-imagined novel that I have rewritten and am now refining.

     

    Of course, my writing doesn’t begin and end with The Continuing Adventures novel.  I have another completed novel (Jamie’s Jump) that I hope to be the first book in a literary trilogy (Echoes) about family secrets; how they unconsciously provoke a mannish-boy to take actions that confound and hurt himself and those close to him; and how his involvement in a rock band may either save or destroy him.  This novel (and the two I hope will follow), which is set in the 1990s, also tells the unfolding story of rock ‘n’ roll and how it sways generation after generation.

     

    Then there is my backlog of stories that await publication.

     

    My hope is that 2016 will be the year I am actually paid for fiction that will appear in hard copy (old fashioned books).

     

     

    bb:

     

    Boy, 2015 was a rave year for you and congratulations!  With that “out of the gate” and finish line performance, great things are destined for you.  And for those achievements, I am quite happy for you and applaud your goal attainments.  Now, with your excellent update on your creative side, what is up with the rest of your non-literary life?

     

     

    MDR:   

     

    I live in northern Northern California and, as you probably know, this area has been experiencing a drought for several years.  This year—now—however, we are getting rain, snow and everything between.  This is fantastic news.  My wife and I have begun planning and preparing our garden, which will provide us with food (we are vegetarians) for 2016.  2015 was full of excitement: my eldest daughter gave birth to my first grandchild, a beautiful boy, and my eldest son was married in Massachusetts.  In contrast, we expect this year to be quiet and our primary focus to be on homesteading.

     

     

    bb:

     

    I became a first-time grandfather in 2013 so I know the joy that a first grandchild (I have a granddaughter) can bring, and for you to bear witness to seeing another child (your eldest son) get married are blessings that are not take for granted.  Since you mentioned eldest children, how many children are there and is your immediate family spread out or do most reside someplace in Cali?

     

    Years ago, I was vegetarian and then vegan and then a lot of other eating disciplines spread over decades.  The point is that a few years ago, my wife and I started a vegetable and separate herb garden and while we continued the herbs this past planting season, we decided to grow flowers instead of veggies most noticeably dahlias, sunflowers, gladiolas and a few other wildflower varieties.  [We live in an upstate New York region where there are many local farms and farmers’ markets.]  What are you growing, and does having a garden help define your personality or did your (and your wife’s) character find a natural extension of who you are to lead to growing your food?  Are you what some folks would call a “foodie?”

     

     

    MDR:

     

    Yes, Bill, my grandson is truly a blessing.  I have four children, all now adults, the oldest being my daughter who lives in Washington state and my youngest, also a daughter, lives about an hour’s drive away, in CA.  My two sons (a little over a year apart in age) are on opposite coasts.  The older of the two, who got married his past summer, lives in Massachusetts—whence we all originally came—and the younger lives nearby in CA.

     

    I enjoy getting my hands dirty, the feel of rich soil on my fingers, under my nails.  To witness a plant go from seed (potential) to harvest (fruition) is an experience not to be taken for granted.  In the past I have grown small vegetable gardens, and flowers, but before I lived here my primary focus was on houseplants.  I do have a green thumb.  The house was filled with huge potted plants.  Here, although I began growing our vegetables, my wife has now taken over much of that, and I concern myself with trees—namely our fruit trees.  I’ve become a bit obsessed with growing apple trees from seeds I find in either store bought organic apples or our own organic apples.  Presently, I have approximately a dozen trees (not all saplings make it and I’m always planting new apple seeds) at various heights/ages.  I also love my coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens).  In 1999 I began two six-inch redwoods in my yard and was told that I suffered from “zone denial”, meaning that, as we live about three miles outside the “fog belt” where these trees generally grow and thrive, I would not be able to successfully grow these trees.  Of course if anyone tells me you cannot I will accept the challenge, and now almost 17 years later my redwoods are a good eighty-plus feet tall.  Trees grow more slowly (generally) than do I, and thus bear witness to my impermanence.  I need this reminder—so I will be inspired to do what I want to, need to and can do while I am able.  No one (I’ve met) is immune to time.  In addition to apples, I have grown many other trees—peach, pear, Asian pear, various maples, Liquid Amber (sweet gum), pine, and a bunch of cypress trees—and they all hold lessons.  Plants possess an intelligence some people overlook.  I suppose I am forever in awe of nature, which is good given that I am daily surrounded by wildlife, insects, and plants.  So, to answer your question, I think that love of nature brought me here, and nature’s lessons and rhythms have taught me about myself.  It becomes hard for me to make a real distinction between myself and that which perpetually surrounds me—not the sweetest realization, as the characters I write, and therefore spend a large amount of time with, are often not the most savory.  Or sane.  My mom used to say, People are judged by the company they keep.  Oh well.

     

     

    bb:

     

    Now realizing the affects that family and nature has on you, talk to me about your characters.  How do you develop them and your story line?  Do you create characters first and then arrive at a suitable environment to place them in or does the thematic subject of the story come first and then the characters manifest themselves and eventually become full “personalities” as you map out your story?  And this question is really from left field, as an “originally Massachusetts person/New Englander, are you a Celtics or Patriots or Red Sox or Bruins fan????  [The wrong answer may prematurely end our chat!  LOL]

     

     

    MDR:

     

    Almost without exception, each piece of fiction I write begins with a premise.  This premise can be drawn from a situation or a dream a friend or family member has described, an incident I have read about in a newspaper, or the germ of a story can be extracted from an event in my own life.  For example: I once had an important job interview seventy miles away from home at ten o’clock on a Monday morning.  My vehicle was in ill repair but did get me from point A to point B—unless temperatures dropped below twenty degrees Fahrenheit—and on this key morning I woke to a blizzard  blown in from northern territories that had already dumped two feet of snow on the debris of previous winter storms.  Then add to the mix that I was on crutches and therefore getting my driveway cleared enough to back my Toyota Corolla out was going to be a challenge.  The aforementioned event did happen to me, but since I am not writing nonfiction I need to stir the elements up and/or add obstacles.  Maybe the protagonist (really a sort of anti-hero) is an alcoholic and although he didn’t want to drink the night before the big interview, had in fact sworn to himself he wouldn’t, he did.  Say he is still drunk when he ventures out into the blizzard to check his car.  Landing this job is essential as he’s been out of work for an extended period of time and now his workman’s comp has run out—maybe he lost his last job by purposefully throwing himself down a flight of stairs and breaking bones that aren’t healing right due to his advanced diabetes, a condition exasperated by his excessive drinking—but he’s too hung-over and disabled (both conditions partly of his own making) to take the necessary steps to get en route.  The clock is not waiting.  Okay.  So I’ve added elements that have nothing to do with my original experience.  But it’s not enough.  I need the protagonist to be at least somewhat sympathetic.  So I add a son, an eight year old, and both father and son are still distraught over the loss of Francine (wife/mother) who was lost to brain cancer at thirty two, only eight months earlier.  The protagonist Bob loves his son and needs to get their toppled life even, but his demons wear a variety of masks and whisper in voices Bob must stifle, and where the hell did he put his wallet?  In the midst of this chaos, Bob has a moment of clarity—his neighbor Ralph Upton.  Bob knows Ralph is out of town, and always has his driveway shoveled and salted by a landscape crew.  Bob also knows that Ralph’s SUV is new, and he knows where Ralph hides an extra set of keys to his house.  Once in the house, Bob will only need to find the Land Rover keys…

     

    Once I get the premise fleshed out, I let the characters go.  These characters will direct all aspects of this story (which I, by the way, just invented for you) if I can keep myself out of the way.  Often, I need to rein in a character or kill a character off for the sake of the story, to maintain tension, but I usually don’t know this until after the first draft is finished.  In most cases by the third draft I can no longer recognize the event from my life or a friend’s life that I began with.  I hope this has answered your question; sometimes I find illustration is the best way to describe process.

     

    On New England teams: Well, I grew up seeing that CITGO sign (by Fenway), and as a teen I worked at a hockey rink on Cape Cod and my high school’s hockey team won many championships.  That probably answers your question but: The Red Sox and the Bruins will always be my teams.  I favor the Pats too, but going to a high school that played soccer rather than football, I never became a diehard fan.  Basketball was just never my sport of choice.  Now, after living in California for nearly twenty years—but with no TV—I guess my heart still belongs to the New England teams.  I hope my answer doesn’t too strongly jangle your New Yorker allegiances. 

     

     

    bb:

     

    Interestingly, I grew up (at least through elementary school and some high school) being a NY Yankee fan to the extent that I went to every Saturday home game without fail.  {I was born in The Bronx and grew up there until I got married.]  I would arrive at the stadium early with friends to collect player signatures, and was often able to get into the stadium to watch the team practices and warm-ups.  Truth be told, I have not been to a Yankee baseball game or any game in years.  I never liked the Celtics, Patriots, Bruins or any sports team associated with Boston even though I lived there for a year while in graduate school at Boston University, and was a frequent visitor to that City for a few years after coming back to NY.  My reasons are entirely another conversation for another time.

     

    I enjoyed contemplating how you approach developing your stories, and wonder do you have a regimented process that dictates when you actually write or is your approach more cavalier and/or freestyle?  What other authors are you currently reading?

     

     

    MDR:

     

    In my younger years (in my twenties) I read a lot of nonfiction, particularly books on success.  Although this interest (in the approaches used to achieve success) fanned out in many directions and included varying philosophies, I discovered Napoleon Hill and adopted a major concept of his: “If you truly desire [whatever] so keenly that your desire is an obsession, you will have no difficulty in convincing yourself that you will acquire it.  The object is to want [whatever], and to be so determined to have it that you convince yourself that you will have it… …you can never have [whatever] in great quantities unless you work yourself into a white heat of desire…and actually believe you will possess it.”  In this quote Hill was speaking of money, but I have replaced money with [whatever], because not everyone’s desire in life is a bulging bank account.

     

    Now this may not be what you were looking for in answer to your question but this principle has shaped my approach to writing (and before that to songwriting and the band I was in).  I am fairly obsessed with my writing and I do work myself into a white heat of desire each and every day.  So, yes, I have a firm daily routine: After coffee and whatever breakfast I have, I go to work; after a mid-afternoon coffee break, I go back to work until dinner; and after dinner, some nights, I return to work.  These days, “work” primarily refers to actual writing and/or rewriting, but it also includes networking via Facebook, LinkedIn, et cetera, reading, and submitting.  Yes, I would fall more into the regimented category.  But this is not to say I don’t laugh and enjoy myself.  Joseph Campbell, too, has had a great influence on me and my writing.  Campbell’s concept follow your bliss has helped me maintain balance.

     

    “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.  Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

     

     

    Campbell, Joseph Campbell, and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, edited by Betty Sue Flowers.  Doubleday and Co., 1988.  p. 113.

     

    I am always reading a few novels simultaneously, but one novel primarily.  Presently I am reading The Suicide of Claire Bishop by Carmiel Banasky.

     

     

     

    bb:

     

    I like to say that a life full is a life worth living.  You have talked about many topics that, for me, have been intellectually stimulating and reflective.  I thank you for that and for having this conversation with me.  As we approach closure, is there anything else you wish to share with folks who will read our chat or just offer words of advice (more than what you have already done.)  Marc, thank you for the chat.

     

     

    MDR:

     

    Thank you, Bill, for inviting me to converse with you and for lending me your attention.  Of course, any advice I share has come from someone else.  I think the best advice I have been given is to pay attention.  This is not an easy task.  Life is fleeting.  Individuals hurry, myself included.  But when I do pay attention I notice that which I might have missed.  To the degree that I can be present, here, now, my experience will be enriched, my life fuller.  Another’s attention is a gift not to be taken lightly.  Thank you for gifting me yours.  I also thank the readers of my fiction (and this conversation) for lending me their attention. And finally, I would like to extend my gratitude to aaduna for publishing me and making me a part of the aaduna “family”.  It is an honor.

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    View Marc D. Regan’s fiction, “Going Up the Country,” in aaduna’s spring 2015 issue:

    http://aaduna.org/spring2015/fiction/marc-d-regan/

     

    Click below to read additional conversations:

    summer/fall 2015

    Click  to read conversations from previous issues:

    fall/winter 2014

    summer 2014

    ————————————————————————————————————

    Message from Bill Berry, Jr

    When aaduna started, I did an interview process titled “E-Viewpoints” with contributors. The purpose was to construct a wider audience for aaduna writers and artists while providing our readership with a better understanding and glimpse of the individuals who penned the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and created the diverse array of visual arts. For a variety of unplanned reasons, I took a hiatus from that initiative. But now, I am back with “Conversations.” The plan is to chat with current and previous contributors and delve into aspects of their background that you may find intriguing and uplifting. I hope you become a regular follower of this series of “Conversations” and continue to enjoy the work of the individual that I have a chat with. The intent is not to be “in your face” but enable you to savor the nuances, expectations, and challenges that aaduna contributors face as people, just like you and me. I think you will find “Conversations” interesting, maybe provocative, and enlightening. I hope so.

    Stay Creative,

    bill