Rudy Gurley Author of A Caribbean Tale Interviewed
Author: Rudy Gurley
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Rudy Gurley, author of A Caribbean Tale.
Good day Rudy and thanks for participating in our interview.
Rudy please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background and what motivated you to write A Caribbean Tale.
Good day Norm.
I was born and bred in St.Lucia, a tiny Caribbean island, which, miraculously, has produced two Nobel Prize Winners, one in economics, the other in literature.
But my roots also extend to Barbados, the land of my father’s birth; Grenada, the birthplace of my maternal grandmother, and to St.Vincent and the Grenadines, where my maternal grandfather’s navel string is buried.
I spent the mid-eighties in the UK where I became a Chartered Management Accountant. Later, I picked up an MBA from HenleyManagementCollege. I’m also a member of the Institute of Management, and the Institute of Directors … both British institutions.
Last year I retired early from corporate life after fifteen years with British Telecommunications giant, Cable & Wireless (C&W), a company set up by the British Government over a hundred and thirty years ago, to provide telecoms services to former colonies of the British Empire. It is now publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange.
I’ve held a number of positions at C&W, including Chief Executive of the St.Lucia, and Grenada operations. I’ve also been the Chief Financial Officer of the former. In addition, I’ve sat on a number of boards, in different capacities, including: Chairman of the St.Lucia Development Bank, Chairman of Cable & Wireless Grenada, Director of the Bank of St.Lucia, Director of the National Commercial Bank of St.Lucia, and Director of C&W Dominica.
So, I suppose I barely fit the profile of a writer.
When, at age eleven, I stumbled upon Norman Vincent Peal’s The Power of Positive Thinking, I became totally convinced that we, all of us, have been endowed with an inexhaustible wealth of potential to make our dreams come true. But I was equally influenced by Charles Spurgeon’s words that many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties. So, from a very early age, I visualized my future, and used positive thinking to guide me along the path to my dreams, always telling myself that every challenge, every difficulty that I encounter along the way, were meant to strengthen me, much the same as storms make trees take deeper root, making them stronger and better able to withstand the ravages of future storms.
I wanted to share my story with as wide an audience as possible … for I believe that human development is a constant process of learning from each other. Hence, A Caribbean Tale.
From reading your book, I detect that you have a sense of humor. Now that you can look back at some of the many unbelievable experiences you endured on your way to success, do you ever have a good laugh at some of these experiences that probably at the time were no laughing matter? Rudy:
Let me, first of all, comment on this very interesting, and sometimes elusive word that you’ve just used. Success.
I believe it was Booker T. Washington, an ex-slave in Plantation America, who said that: Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. This is something that I believe fervently. And I also believe in Christopher Morley’s maxim that: ‘There is only one success … to be able to spend your life in your own way.’
So, whether I’ve been successful, or not, is still up for grabs.
Looking back on those experiences you’ve referred to, I doubt very much that I would have been the person I am today, without them. They have made me stronger. And yes, sometimes I have a good hearty laugh when I think back on some of these experiences. Memory of my first encounter with a computer that crisp spring morning in London, and the consequences of that encounter, is guaranteed to twitch my lips, spread my face into a broad smile, and have my shoulders shaking in mirth. There are several other experiences that evoke a similar reaction, but with varying degrees of intensity.
How do you explain the recent phenomenon of an explosion of personal narratives onto the contemporary publishing scene?
I think there are two factors at play here.
The first has to do with the catastrophic events of 9/11, which, I believe, have caused many people to stop and take stock of their lives, perhaps with an unprecedented depth of introspection. It is natural to want to share our ‘moving’ experiences with others, particularly where we believe by so doing, we could serve a greater cause, or make a contribution to humanity, considering the morass in which we, the global village, now find ourselves.
The second factor, I believe, has more to do with the likes of J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) and Dan Brown (Mr Da Vinci Code). Their phenomenal commercial success, and their life stories, not least how they got their calling as writers, would have persuaded many aspiring writers to take the plunge.
Dan Brown, for instance, got his calling after reading through a copy of Sydney Sheldon’s Doomesday Conspiracy that he found on the beach while vacationing in Tahiti. After he’d finished reading the book, he said to himself, “Hey, I can do that.” The rest is history. It is very likely that quite a few people reading about that experience would be similarly inspired. And of course, for many, it is more inspiring to base a story on personal, real life events, than it is to conjure up tales from one’s imagination. Hence, the explosion of personal narratives.
It is said that the most powerful personal narratives are often the ones built around a single remarkable main event-something that does not happen every day.
If you had to choose one event that you describe in A Caribbean Tale as being the most important element of your personal narrative, which one would it be?
My brain is having tremendous difficulty trying to isolate a single event as the most important in A Caribbean Tale. My brain is telling me that perhaps the experience of meeting my mother, brother, and sisters for the first time is a leading contender. At the same time, I’m sensing that my initial encounters with this gorgeous thirteen year old girl, my dream to one day make her my wife, and my struggles in trying to convert that dream to reality, perhaps stand as good a chance of winning. And, of course, there is the episode of my temporary blindness.
I suppose, these events all conspire to strengthen the overall story.
Is there any underlying message in your book?
It was Albert Einstein who said that every child is born a genius. I’ll vary this slightly by saying that we have all been endowed with an inexhaustible wealth of potential to make our dreams come true. It is up to us to release this potential. We need to set goals and decide the future we will have. The only way we can see the future is through our imagination. So we need to keep visualizing the future as we want it to be, to keep believing in ourselves, and in our ability to make that future happen, and to be prepared to work relentlessly toward that goal.
All the same, we ought to bear in mind that no one is born knowing the ways of the world. So, it is natural that in our learning process, we will make mistakes and experience failure. Nature’s way is to try and fail, and to adjust and try again. Birds learn to fly that way and children learn to walk. We need to accept mistakes and failure as lessons in progress. The greatest progress has been achieved through trial and error by people who dared to fail time and time again.
These are the underlying messages in A Caribbean Tale.
How do you approach the work of writing?
By 8am I’m at my desk in my study, in front of my computer. My first order of business is to review and revise the previous day’s work. This could take several hours, as every word, every comma, every full-stop, every sentence, every paragraph … everything, has to justify its place in the prose. Otherwise, its gone … replaced by a stronger candidate, which, itself, will be subject to the same rigors, sometime later.
I spend the rest of the day writing and rewriting the next 1800 words in preparation for the next day’s scrutiny. I don’t just write; I need to experience what I’m writing about, and to share it with the reader, for the objective is not to tell, but to show the reader. The reader needs to smell, feel, touch, see, taste, whatever I’m experiencing. Sometimes it could be emotional, and this could be exhausting after my ten-hour day.
My dictionary and thesaurus are my constant companions. So is the internet, which I use mainly for research.
More than likely, I’ll be disappointed with the first draft of the work. I will end up rewriting at least fifty percent of it. I’ll rewrite 25% of the second draft, and so on. By the eighth or ninth draft I’m fairly ‘happy’, but as long as I keep reviewing, I’ll find cause to keep revising. It’s a never ending process, but one must have the discipline to say, ‘That’s it!’ … off to the editors now!’
I’m never quite satisfied with what I’ve written and so I instruct my editors to be completely ruthless in their review. And when they get back to me with only minor revisions, indicating that the text is fine as it is, invariable I’m disappointed. And so I subject the text to another round of review and rewrite before the word file is e-mailed to the typesetters. And the typesetters more than likely will get upset with me because of the number of changes I’d ask them to make after their first submission, not errors on their part, but more of my revisions.
Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to read through any of my books, for I suspect my mind will be constantly seeking out candidates for revisions … and that’s no fun.
I take very seriously my contractual obligation to my readers. In return for their hard-earned dollars, they deserve a thrilling, exciting read, but a read that will leave them thinking of their own lives and circumstances. This is what I aim to achieve.
What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?
The challenge that comes immediately to mind is that, as mentioned previously, I have to relive every episode that I write about, some of which are intensely emotional and discomforting. Throughout the process, sometimes I feel strafed by all the negative emotions associated with some of these events, which have to be lived and relived over and over again. Some things are better left in the past. But unless I’m able to conjure up those ‘vibes’ I’d be doing my readers an injustice. So I accept this as an inevitable reality, and allow the emotions to stab away at me.
Another challenge is the fact that I ended up with an 800 page book, which, despite very positive preliminary reviews, I felt I couldn’t impose upon my readers. Perhaps if my name was Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling, I could get away with cutting down a forest, but being an unknown debutante, I couldn’t muster the temerity to unleash such a mass upon my readers.
Hence, two books – A Caribbean Tale, and the sequel – Sent From Overseas, both of which, thankfully, stand on their own.
How will you be using the Internet to boost your writing career and to promote your book? As a follow up, will there be any unique ways you'll be marketing your book that is different from how others authors market their books?
The internet, with its amazing reach and ubiquitous access, is a fantastic tool for writers. My immediate priority is to get credible, objective, and honest reviews of the book, and to circulate these as widely as possible. The net comes into play both in identifying credible reviewers, and in disseminating the reviews, not just throughout the net, but also to the international press.
Websites such as bookpleasures.com have revolutionized the publishing business, giving up-and-coming writers, and small publishers, opportunities that were previously the preserve of only the big publishing houses with their bestselling authors. I intend to avail myself of those opportunities, opportunities to link up with readers throughout the world and in a multitude of markets.
Of course, A Caribbean Tale will have its own website, linked to mine. And the objective here isn’t just to promote the book. I’d like to tell surfers about the Caribbean and about our islands, our lifestyles, our culture, etc, and to engage them on some of the issues raised in the book.
My marketing strategy, in addition to being web-centric, targeting a global audience, recognizes the fact that annually we have 16M plus visitors to the Caribbean. I will seek to ensure that as many as possible of these visitors, know of A Caribbean Tale, and that they are aware of what the critics have said about it. Most likely, the visitors would have come across the book on the net, but if not, I’ll ensure it is promoted in brochures, tourist guides, hotel lobbies … wherever they turn. And of course, I will ensure that the tourists have every opportunity to leave our sun drenched islands with a copy safely tucked away in their carry-on bag.
And I almost forgot to mention that I intend to break new ground by promoting the book like a movie, complete with TV trailers and teasers.
Can you tell us how you found representation for your book? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Were there any rejections?
After I’d written the first few chapters, I queried an agent, who didn’t think the idea of the book would fly. But then I recalled that the Beatles were initially rejected by a music producer who claimed that ‘guitar bands’ had no commercial viability.
This experience led me to study the industry in greater depth. No sooner, I decided to cut out all the middlemen … I saw no need to have anyone between the printer and me, and between book retailers and me. So, I’ve become my own agent, publisher, and distributor.
I’ve approached the writing business, much the same as I’ve espoused in A Caribbean Tale – that is, with self belief, positive thinking, and an attitude to learning from one’s experiences, nothing is impossible.
Many writers want to be published, but not everyone is cut out for a writer's life. What are some signs that perhaps someone is not cut out to be a writer and should try to do something else for a living?
I believe fervently, that people have the capacity to become whatever they want to be … if they want it badly enough. But clearly, if you’re not enjoying the task of writing – if you find it too lonely, and too laborious - then you have to be brutally frank and ask yourself questions such as, ‘What am I trying to achieve here?’
But you need not necessarily be a writer, in the traditional sense of the term, to get your book out there. Perhaps you are a story teller, with a great story to tell. Jeffrey Archer, one of the greatest modern-day British novelists, hardly considered himself a writer. But he was a great story teller. He needed desperately to avoid looming bankruptcy, and when the idea of ‘a book’ struck him as his financial savior, he promptly disclosed his plans to a friend, who responded, “But Jeffrey, you can’t write!” To which came the response, “I know … I never said I’ll write a book … I’ll produce one.”
Being dyslectic, Jeffrey Archer needed all the help he could get, and he got it. He sought out and found himself master wordsmiths to help get his scribbles into shape … and the rest is history.
Today, there are ghostwriters who will work with aspiring writers and story tellers, or with people who are just too busy to get it done themselves, to get their stories in print.
What is next for Rudy Gurley?
With one book in print, and the second soon to be released, I will be spending my time focusing on the business aspects of things. Promotion and distribution. I’ve set myself some extremely challenging targets here, and I’ll pursue them relentlessly.
At the same time, I need to start thinking of the trilogy. This will be driven mainly by what happens with the sequel, Sent From Overseas, which, I’m sure, will ruffle quite a few feathers. You may get to hear about it on the BBC. Someone may even try to have it banned.
Very interesting. Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
I’d like your readers to consider, for the moment, this question:
What if Dan Brown, after reading Doomesday Conspiracy, had said to himself, “Hey, I can do that!” but then went home after his holiday, and did absolutely nothing about it?
I’ll leave the answer to readers imagination, but ask that they consider the question, not merely in relation to writing, but in relation to any aspect of their lives.
Thanks once again and good luck with A Caribbean Tale.
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