Twilight Times Special Feature
Interview with Robert Ferrier
Only in my fantasies. I fantasize that I could write music lyrics. I admire how lyricists capture the moment, the wonderful economy in their use of words. It's hard enough to write words, yet lyricists match words and music. I rate lyricists and poets at the top of the creative writing pyramid.
2. Lida: "Do you feel you were creative, even as a child?"
I dreamed and fantasized as a child. I suffered some shyness; often I found myself alone with my thoughts. At those times I let my imagination run wild. I've known many novelists, and they all share one trait: imagination. Salable talent may be nothing more than a marriage of imagination and persistence. You can learn grammar, style and fiction craft. However, you cannot learn imagination; you either retain that from childhood, or choose another field than writing fiction.
3. Lida: "Could you share with us the story behind the story? In other words, how did your writing life lead up to your first novel, The Witchery Way?"
For years my mother urged me to write. I must admit to an early penchant for avoiding hard jobs and rejection, which beginning novelists suffer on a vast scale. I dabbled at creative writing: sports puzzles for football programs, a script for a television documentary on college football, a comedy monologue mailed to Johnny Carson's producer. I felt the creative critter gnawing inside me. Then at age forty, I survived cancer and encountered my mortality. Could I face lying on my deathbed someday, wondering, "What might have been?"
That experience jolted me into action twenty-one years ago. After having studied professional writing in college, I returned to the classroom at OU and audited a course on writing the novel, taught by fellow cancer survivor Jack Bickham. At first I tried to "be like" other writers. I wrote a couple of novels about CIA operatives pitted against KGB villains. I set the novels in foreign locales: Paris, LeHavre, Moscow. Of course, I had never worked as a CIA operative or visited those places
Finally, I "wrote down to my bones" and started a young adult story about witchcraft and railroad sabotage in southeast Oklahoma. In other words, I wrote from my heart and my roots, about things that interested me. My maternal grandfather had worked as an engineer on the old Frisco railroad. He had told stories to me. I interviewed people who worked with him. I took a trip in the cab of a locomotive and interviewed railroad personnel. Some of those stories found their way into the manuscript. At last, my work resonated with the ring of truth. "The Witchery Way" almost found a home with a major publisher in New York. Then the book sat on a shelf for six years.
I sold magazine articles, yet I clung to my dream by writing novels. Then redemption arrived on the wave of electronic publishing. Co-publishers Barbara Quanbeck and Lesley Ehrhart at Word Wrangler Publishing heard my creative voice at last. They accepted The Witchery Way and two other of my young adult novels--Dear Mr. Kapps and The Virtual Guard.
4. Lida: "How did you prepare for the creation of your first novel? How much research was necessary?"
I researched Native American witchcraft in a world-class library--the U niversity of Oklahoma Western History Collection. For the railroad research, I interviewed a railroad conductor who had worked on the Frisco line with my grandfather, Frank. Then I found some articles on restoring steam engine locomotives.
5. Lida: "What kind of reactions do people have to your writing?"
I've been gratified by the response from teenage reviewers to whom I've showed my work before submitting for publication. For example, in "Dear Mr. Kapps" they sensed that I had written from my heart as a cancer survivor: they felt the fear, the pain of chemotherapy, the heartache of pursuing a girl when you're bald and bloated, the inability to play football because you're fighting for your life, the torture of watching a fellow patient and friend die before your eyes. Those reviewers cared about the characters I had created in all three books.
Now I will have readers. My most exciting moment in 2000 will arrive with that first e-mail from a reader responding to one of my novels at Word Wrangler.
6. Lida: "Do you find anything difficult in the writing process, and if so, what?"
I'm reminded of a quote from teacher and lecturer Syd Field: "The hardest thing about writing is knowing what to write."
I'm jealous of writers brimming with ideas for new books. My imagination refuses to yield easily those nuggets. I have to dig deep. I cling to Rebecca McClanahan's advice from her book, "Word Painting." I'm discovering "my personal constellation of images."
7. Lida: "Do you currently have any writing projects?"
I've started my ninth novel, a young adult fantasy. I continue writing feature articles for "Sooner Magazine," a quarterly publication of the University of Oklahoma Foundation.
8. Lida: "Is there anything else you would like to add?"
My advice to writers: never quit, no matter the rejection. Subsist on the process of writing; the journey outranks the destination. The actor Charles Durning once said: "If you keep loving your art, eventually your art will accept you."
Web sites of interest:
Novel excerpt and ordering info for Roberts novels.
Word Wrangler an e-publisher.
Official web site of the University of Oklahoma.
Author Bio Robert Ferrier, a native of southeastern Oklahoma, graduated from the University of Oklahoma where he received BA in Journalism and Master of Business Administration degrees. He served two years as an officer in the United States Army.
After working two years in Florida as a technical writer/editor in the aerospace industry, Robert worked thirty years as a research administrator at the University of Oklahoma. Now he devotes full-time to writing magazine articles and young adult novels. A twenty-one year cancer survivor, Robert serves as a Hospice Volunteer.