Author Interview: Douglas Warren
Indie author Douglas Warren talks to Sheila & Swede about his writing and retiring in France. Read on for the full interview below.
Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
I've had a very colorful life including the last six years I've been living in Europe, mostly in France. I didn't set out to be a writer, but an actor. After being trained in college as an actor I realize I didn't have the ambition or drive to succeed at that so I became a director. In Portland, Oregon, I founded a theater company. After a few years I left the company to attend graduate school to become a college professor. I worked for several colleges and universities but didn't have the temperament to stay in academia. After that I became a Jack of all trades from working as a ship's carpenter to becoming a therapist. After retiring I began to write and found that it came naturally and was something I could do anywhere. Writing has been very satisfying.
Your latest book, How to Retire in France, came out this spring. Would you like to tell us about it?
It took me a long time to decide on writing a non-fiction book. There are too many books about travel and retiring abroad. But none seem to deal with the actual nitty-gritty process. So I decided to share some of my experience, especially in how to get a visitor's visa in France. That type of visa is good for a year and renewable. But you can't get a job in France and must have a retirement income. Hopefully that little book will help others to fulfill their dreams of living in France.
You’re originally from the US. What made you decide to travel the world and to settle in France?
Back in junior high school in the States I ran across a book about France, Is Paris Burning? A 1965 book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre about the Liberation of Paris during the Second World War. I must have been 14 at the time. It inspired me to take two years of French. At 17, I joined a traveling musical group as their lighting technician, traveling around Europe, including Paris. I fell in love with the city. But then life took its twists and turns. I got married, raised two sons, divorced, moved to New York City, and decided to take an early retirement. Nothing was keeping me in New York and one of my sons lives in London, so I decided to travel in Europe to see what might happen. I started my European adventure in Paris not knowing if it was the place for me. But after four years of traveling I decided to make Paris my home base. It's worked out great and inspired my books.
Your novels are set in the US, the UK, and France. How do you research your books? To what extent do you use real experiences in your writing process?
My first book was set in Paris and practically wrote itself. Friends helped get my French phrases correct, as I'm no expert. I've spent a good deal of time in the UK as well. A little village in Kent inspired two of my books: Nefarious by Nature and its sequel, Nefarious Pleasures. They are both stand-alone stories but share many characters. Although both are erotic I wrote Nefarious Pleasures as a political satire of the whole Brexit mess. My research comes from my personal experiences but also from reading. For instance in the aforementioned books there is a father-daughter team of detectives. They needed to carry pistols. I know nothing about guns, so went online to find out what kind of guns they might carry. I found out more then I wanted to know, but got the information I needed. If I had to put a percentage on the amount of real experiences I use I say about 80% at least for the initial creative spark. For Hôtel Inspiré I did attend an artists' retreat in the south of France. However, the main character I created is nothing at all like me. In Different Worlds I used the experience of working in drug and alcohol treatment centers to tell the story of the twin brothers caught up in their addictions.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you use outlines?
The short answer is both. Sometimes it just pours out, other times it can be very slow. Right now I'm working on my 9th book. Most of my books were written in six months, but not this one. I've been working on it off-and-on for six months and have only written 20 pages. I've considered giving it up or turning it into a short story, but I like the overall concept of groups of people who are looking for a sense of community. Aren't we all? The story begins with two staunch scientist who both see the same vision or apparition. They can't explain away what they saw so they seek answers in the spiritual realm. I'll continue to work on it and see what happens. I am using an outline for this story because there are several interconnected characters. The outline helps me keep everything and everyone straight. In the past I've used chapter titles to keep events straight in my mind and for the readers.
We met at a writer's retreat in France some years ago. Would you recommend other authors to go on these types of retreats, and why/why not?
If you like retreats, by all means! And if you really like drinking wine that's a particularly good retreat to attend. After all, it's located right in the middle of wine country. Certainly for me it inspired a book mainly due to the quirky people I met there. Would I go to another? Definitely not. I went to see if it was a lifestyle I wanted to pursue, hanging out with writers and other artists. It wasn't. In other words, don't go to a retreat to get work done, go there to have a good time, as a holiday. I write better in isolation, sitting in my room with no distractions. But sometimes I do need to be around creative people, and there's plenty of them in Paris.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I was determined not to! I'm old school and wanted a big house New York publisher and an agent. I spent months sending out inquires, hundreds of them. It was a waste of time. I could have been writing instead. That's why I decided to self-publish on Amazon. Now I just log on, hit a few buttons and I'm published online.
Would you like to talk about your experiences with marketing as an indie author? What would you recommend other self-publishing authors to use in terms of marketing tools?
There's certainly a lot of advice online about marketing your book. Most of it I tried, advertising on Facebook and Amazon and posting on Instagram. After spending all that time and money I can't say that I sold one book through those outlets. What I rely on now and found successful has been giving away my books on Amazon. I don't do the price reduction option, it doesn't work at all. Instead I pick one or two of my books and give them away for one day, usually a Saturday. It's easy and people do respond to that short time slot of one day.
Do you have another project you're working on right now? If so, what can you tell us about it?
As I mentioned earlier, I'm working on a novel about community and a 'vision.' In fact, that's the working title of the book, The Vision. I feel that many people are seeking something outside of themselves, a group of people they can relate and feel protected by. It used to be organized religion. Now it seems to be online communities like Facebook. Those examples aside, the community in my book will hopefully be a healthy one. That sounds a bit preachy, but I'd like people to consider the best use of their time and energy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish you the best in your continued writing career!
Former New Yorker Douglas Warren left the busy streets around Times Square for the cobblestones of Paris to make a new home post-retirement. Using his training as an actor and experience as a stage director, Douglas has published eight books over the past five years. Check out his Amazon Author Page for more information on his books, and connect with him on Instagram.