Today, Norm Goldman is honored to have as our guest journalist and author David W. Menefee. David began his writing career in 1979 with the Dallas Times Herald, where he worked for twelve years until it was bought over by its rival, the Dallas Morning News in 1991. David then joined the Dallas Morning News and took on leadership responsibilities with their locally produced version of Parade magazine, for which he anonymously contributed many articles.

David broke away from the newspaper industry in 2003 when failing economics forced many publications to downsize or close altogether. He struck out on his own as a freelance writer, immediately finding success with a string of books about the silent film era: Sarah Bernhardt in the Theater of Films and Sound Recordings (McFarland 2003), The First Female Stars: Women of the Silent Era (Greenwood Praeger 2004), The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era (BearManor Media 2008).

David has worked for Brown Books Publishing Group, serving as Editor on Sonnets by Robert Brown, Slaves to Medicine by Dr. George Beauchamp, and Downtown Dallas: Romantic Past, Modern Renaissance by Mark Rice. He also collaborated with Richard Davis on Lilian Hall-Davis: The English Rose, a biography of Britain’s famous silent film star, and collaborated with William Thomas, Jr. on "Otay!" The Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas Story (BearManor Media 2010).

In 2007, David embarked on a long effort to research many stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. He visited and communicated with major archives around the world in a detailed exploration of archive contents to unearth the rarest materials available for several upcoming biographies. In 2008, after amassing enough materials for several books, David began a lengthy journey working on multiple projects developed to appear in print and online in the following two years.

In 2009, David worked for BearManor Media, serving as Editor on Best in Hollywood: The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful by James Best and Jim Clark, Burlesque: A Living History by Jane Briggeman, Johnny Olson: A Voice in Time by Randy West. Also in 2009, David was the accredited author of Richard Barthelmess: A Life in Pictures, which was named one of the Top 10 Film Books of 2009 by Thomas Gladysz of the San Francisco Examiner.

In 2010, David shared edited Tales from the Script by accredited author Gene Perrett, Six Cult Films from the Sixties by accredited author Ib Melchior, Will the Real Me Please Stand Up by accredited author Christopher Knopf, Endless Summer: My Life With The Beach Boys by accredited author Jack Lloyd, Confessions of a Scream Queen by accredited author Matt Beckoff, as well as Now and Then, The Movies Get It Right by Neal Stannard.

Early in 2010, David released George O'Brien: A Man's Man in Hollywood, the first full-length biography and filmography of one of Hollywood's most beloved stars.

In 2011, David published twelve books, including the Pulitzer nominated Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story.  And recently, two books by David were named among the 2011 Top 10 Silent Film Books of the Year: Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story, and The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen.


Norm:

Good day David and thanks for participating in our interview. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and what do you think over the years has driven you as a writer?

David:

Around the age of eight, I was given my first typewriter, and I began to write stories that pleased my friends. By the time I was twelve, I served as Editor of my elementary school newspaper, followed by studying Journalism in middle school and high school. I first realized I had a genuine gift when three local daily newspapers began to compete for the right to publish my editorials. I am driven by an inner compulsion, not unlike the instinctive urge a bird feels to take flight, or a duck who is inexplicably lured by the wall of water. I have tried to quit writing many times, and no sooner have I taken a vow of abstinence than I am seized by a irresistible story idea and cannot rest until I have written and circulated the finished work.     

Norm:

What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write? Is your work improvisational or do you have a set plan?

David:

Creativity comes from within. I stew over a story until I can construct at least a skeletal outline. Then, I reach for my talent as if the force was gold coins stashed in my pant pockets. I write at least one page each morning before allowing myself to have breakfast. That discipline spurs advancement and kick starts my imagination. I tell first-time authors to simply write the words in a first draft, and then go back and comb through them and apply word-smithing skills. A good analogy would be to compare the process to painting a vertical wall. You first slap the paint up there from the can, and then you brush through the paint and smooth the texture until the paint looks right. 

Norm:

How many books have you written? Why have you been drawn to writing about movie stars? Which is your favorite book?

 David:

I've actually written several dozen books, but have so far only published twenty-two of them. A common misconception of my work is that I only write about movie stars. In fact, I write in a variety of categories, such as nonfiction, biography, historical fiction, juvenile fiction, travel, and mystery. When working at newspapers, I quickly learned to be flexible and professional, and be able to write about any subject, whether I had a personal passion for the subject or not. My movie star biographies have enjoyed some high-profile attention, so they are sometimes top-of-mind to others. My favorite books are those written by others that had a profound influence on me, such as A Tale of Two Cities, Bram Stoker's Dracula, A Separate Peace, all of James Oliver Curwood's novels, and any book by Erma Bombeck.  

Norm:

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

David:

In dreams, Divine inspiration, an idea that springs from my inclination to see the silly in the serious, or because I have perceived a story that has never been told.

Norm:

Do you believe you have already found “your voice,” or is that something one is always searching for?

David:

Does a shoe cobbler ever hammer together the ultimate shoe? An endless variety of writing projects await the professional writer, and I strive to avoid becoming hung up on a single genre.

Norm:

What has been the best part about being a published author?

David:

The singular moment when UPS knocks on my door and presents me with the opportunity to first hold the printed copy of a title. A second thrill arrives when someone else tells me that they genuinely enjoyed a book. Beyond those two brief, isolated moments, there has been little joy. Most of the journey has been tainted by stabbing disappointments and abject loneliness

Norm:

What do you want your work to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?

David:

Sell. I want my work to sell. No, I'm kidding. If money is an author's objective, they should quit before they start. That is a completely wrong motivation. My works have not been noteworthy sellers. I am most satisfied when my work informs and entertains people. As a researcher, I take great delight in presenting to a reader fascinating facts they did not know. Richly detailed research into the back stories behind a subject have been the hallmark of much of my work.

Norm:

What's the most difficult thing for you about being a writer?

David:

Working every night from 8:00 p.m. to midnight on a writing project while holding down a full-time day job. During the few times I've been blessed to be able to take a long sabbatical from a full-time day job and concentrate solely on moving my writing career forward, dealing with the isolation and loneliness has proven deeply challenging. A writer must work in self-imposed solitude, which not unlike being in solitary confinement in prison.

Norm:

Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre, owe something to readers. If not, why not? If so, why and what would that be?

David:

Writers owe readers a well-written, entertaining, and imaginative piece. 

Norm:

What do you think of the new Internet market for writers?

David:

Any emerging market should be embraced as a God-given opportunity to please others. I'm not sure that the Internet market really is anything new. From my perspective, the Internet has merely evolved from paper newsletters, brochures, and catalogs that were once widely circulated with great popularity, much the same way that texting has replaced dashing off voice mails or paper notes to people, or the way Kindlebooks are merely drawing market share from pocket paperback books that are dwindling in sales in direct proportion to the increasing sales of Kindlebooks and ebooks.

Norm:

Do you have any suggestions to help our readers become better writers? If so, what are they?

David:

Read the great works of literature that have come before you. Study the Chicago Manual of Style and learn to use proper grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and spelling.

Norm:

What are you upcoming projects? We would like to hear about them.

David:

I am about to publish The Vanishing Act, the fifth Margo Cranston detective novel, while simultaneously finishing and publishing an annotated and illustrated "lost" autobiography of Gene Gauntier, one of the first silent movie pioneers, and I'm writing a zombie novel for an exclusive Kindle release. In 2012, I also plan to help at least one emerging author by editing their first book and shepherding him or her through the publishing process.  

Norm:

Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?

David:

The best source is my AUTHOR PAGE on AMAZON.COM,  which is regularly updated.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

David:

Yes. Encourage other authors to help each other. What they give will come back to them seven times or more. I also can testify that if you trust the Lord and acknowledge Him in all you do, He will direct your path. I also strongly urge every budding writer to write, write, write. You've got a lot of bad writing to work out of your system. Don't view your words as if they are carved in letters of gold. Take advice from other professionals seriously, especially advice that comes from an experienced editor. Even though you might initially disagree, be flexible and revise. My most successful book came about only when a tough editor ordered me to change the title and expand the chapters. Someone once said that "great books are not written; they are rewritten." Plan on rewriting any your book several times, and always challenge yourself in the end to find a way to whittle down your "finished" work by at least 5,000 words.     

Norm:

Thanks once again, and good luck with all of your future endeavors

Click Here To Read More About The Complete Selection  Of  David W. Menefee's Books