Friday, April 4, 2014

Q&A and Give Away with Duncan W.Alderson

Who, you might ask, is Duncan W. Alderson?  Well, I'll tell you!  Back when I started writing, I struggled to find information and guidance about the craft (back when there was no Internet or cell phones - a truly barbaric time ;). The universities in my area didn't offer creative writing classes to the community, and I couldn't find any local writing groups.  Then one day, I see an ad for the Rabbit's Hill Writer's Group offering writing classes.  I jumped on it and signed up right away.

Duncan was the owner and teacher at Rabbit Hill.  We had classes in a barn turned art studio turned writing room.  It was wonderful.  I met other writers, received feedback on my stories, learned the craft of writing, and made a few friends.  Not only did my writing improve, but I loved the class style so much, I use it for when I teach (shhh...don't tell Duncan ;).  I credit Duncan's classes as an instrumental part of my writing success.

I'm so excited that Duncan's debut novel, MAGNOLIA CITY has just been published.  It's a historical fiction set in Houston, Texas in the 1920s. Now, I realize most of my readers are more fantasy/science fiction readers, but this novel is just wonderful.  It's rich in details, but not overwhelming.  The characters are masterfully drawn and I was suck into this world about love and oil.

Below is an interview with Duncan, and he has offered to give away a signed copy of his book to a random commenter (ALL are welcome to enter)!  Please include your email addy with your comment so I can get in touch with you. Contest ends April 15 (tax day for those in the US).

Q&A with Duncan:

1.) What sparked the idea for this story?
I grew up seeing photographs of my mother as a flapper in 1920s Texas. The exotic woman in the pictures seemed so different from the practical housewife who was raising me, that I had to write a book to explain who that other woman was.

2.) Why historical fiction? Is there something special about this genre that draws you to write?

I wasn’t drawn to the genre particularly, just to this subject matter inspired by photos of my mother. I was trying to write about my own experiences in the 1960s, but this other voice kept interfering, so I finally went with it.
3.) The book is rich with setting details and authentic historical information.  How much research was involved?  Where did you find the information?  Was any one source more helpful then the others?
This was the biggest challenges of telling this story. I spent years researching the period in general, and my own hometown in particular. The Texas Room at the Houston Pubic Library has a collection rich in history, as do libraries in Galveston and San Antonio. Certain books were key in helping me understand early Houston history, such as Houston: The Unknown City by Marguerite Johnston.  One of the most useful sources for items used in everyday life was a copy I made of the 1927 Sears & Roebuck Catalogue, which I found at my local library.

4.) During your research, did you discover anything surprising and unique?  Perhaps something that you used in your story?

When I read Houston: The Unknown City by Marguerite Johnston, I discovered that the historic nickname of my hometown was The Magnolia City. This became the title of my novel.

5.) What do you find most interesting about Hetty Allen?

He desire to become a “modern” woman. This is a large part of what drives her as a character.

6.) What else do you enjoy doing besides writing? Interests? Hobbies?
Spending time in Manhattan going to operas, concerts, theatre and museums. My wife is an art dealer, so we do a lot gallery crawls in Chelsea and attend a lot of art openings.

7.)  How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?

I think I became a writer by default. I was a child actor, appearing as Tom Sawyer on both stage and television with the Houston Civic Theater. My dream was to become a movie star and change my name to Duncan Divine. Then my family moved from Houston to our lake cottage in the piney woods and my acting career was suddenly over. I took up writing stories instead and penned my first novel, Retama, in high school.

8.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?
I’m a very lazy writer. I’m not at all like Joyce Carol Oates who writes eight hours a day, seven days a week. When I’m under deadline, I try to log in four or five hours a day, but otherwise find all kinds of excuses to avoid working. When I do write, I always pen my first drafts in long hand with a good fountain pen.  I love the feel of the nib scratching against the paper. I use Natalie Goldberg’s approach of free writing, so never experience a writer’s block. I just keep my hand moving and something always comes out.  Then I type that “shitty first draft” into my computer in 18 point Times Roman triple spaced.  That’s when the real work begins, as I revise the pages over and over, printing each draft out and marking it up with a red pen. After twelve or fifteen drafts, I usually end up with something that feels coherent, so reduce it down to 12 point Times Roman double spaced and print out the final draft, which then gets integrated into the work-in-progress. 

9.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write?  A favorite?

I’m lucky to have a writing studio out in the barn in our backyard. I’ve gotten to where I can only work there, as that’s where all my files are, my comfortable desk and the Roget’s Thesaurus that I’ve been using for over forty years. It’s a quiet space away from the house where I can go to be alone with my muse.  Or take a nap. 

10.) What are you writing now?  What's coming out next?

I’m working on the sequel to Magnolia City, called The Tibetan Magic Show.  It was actually written first, but needs a lot of revision.  My editor wants it on his desk my Christmas, 2014.


  1. Oh my word this sounds like my kind of book! I love historical fiction and the south is my favorite area to read about (as a southerner it's nice to see all the different perspectives of what the south was)! This would be an amazing addition to my library and it's a great intro to a new author!

  2. I don't normally read historical fiction, but when the author sounds this fascinating, the book usually is too :-)
    magicmysticminerva at yahoo

  3. I love looking through family photos & it's wonderful that a photograph of your Mother inspired you to write MAGNOLIA CITY.

    I do love Historical Fiction.


    1. Congrats Mary - You WON the book! I just emailed you for your mailing address so check your inbox :)

  4. That sounds great!
    mandygeeksthelibrary at

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