Monday, April 11, 2011
Interview with Author Brent Davis
I would like to welcome author Brent Davis and thank him for agreeing to interview it me this week. Brent is the author of As I See it: Memories and Musing of a Middle Aged Southern Man. These are true stories that will make you laugh, smile and remind you of a period in time that everyone really enjoyed: As a baby boomer Brent gives the reader his own perspective of the 60’s and 70’s and his outlook on life and how it was shaped by his family, church ad his peers. Join in the discussion. Comment in the comment box at the end of this interview and ask the author some questions. Listen to my in-depth interview with this outstanding new author on April 20th on my show Book discussion with Fran Lewis at 3 Eastern on Blog Talk Radio.
Fran: In writing this book how did you determine which stories to include?
Brent: Hi Fran and thanks for having me. By the time I was putting the book together, I had been writing for my local paper for nearly two years. So, I went back through nearly 100 columns and picked 60 or so. I tried to include a mix of local interest columns with those that were more widely adapted to being a baby boomer. Also, I tried to include those columns on which I had received the most feedback. Then there were my particular favorites as well.
Fran: Why did you begin with Father’s Day and complete the book with your Dad’s funeral and weather test?
Brent: My first column ran the Friday before Father's Day. My father had passed away the previous September 2007. He didn't live to see me begin writing and it felt like the proper subject at the time. He was a major influence in my life. When selecting the column to end the book, it was a no-brainer. I felt the story of how he was when i was a child at the beginning of the book was the perfect set up for the story of his funeral at the end.
Fran: Who sent you the poem for the holidays that your father wrote? Just how special and touched did you feel or do you feel when reading it?
Brent: I had lost my job at the end of May 2007. My father was going through the final rounds of chemotherapy at the time. I had become good friends with many of the staff at my former place of employment. About three months after my father passed away, I received a letter in the mail from one of those coworkers. The envelope was plain and inside was a poem about Christmas. It was from the perspective of a parent who had passed away. It spoke of not being sad and enjoying the holiday because the loved one would be "spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year." On the day the poem arrived, i had spent the morning watching over the placement of my father's headstone at the cemetery. Seeing it there made it all seem so final. I drove home, pulled up the mailbox and took out the mail. I stopped halfway down the driveway because I was curious about the envelope. I opened it and read the poem to myself. No one else was home. I still had not found a job. The words felt as if my father was speaking directly to me and I cried...and cried and cried. A simple poem on a single sheet of paper. But it was more powerful than anything I had experienced before. I had been the strong one during this time and now it was my turn, at a time I could handle it, to grieve. I will never forget that moment.
Fran: Tell everyone what Laurisms are? If found that hysterical: Why did you include them?
Brent: Lauraisms are little quirky words or blunders made by my incredibly supportive and patient wife Laura comes up with. She creates words by accident by mixing two related words together. For example: Once when we were manning the concession stand at an event, the question was asked about how we could let people know that hamburgers were being taken off the grill and ready to be eaten. Her response was to announce it on the "over-com", a blending of "over head" and "intercom." These Lauraisms are funny in and of themselves but what makes them especially endearing to me is the fact that Laura laughs along with us. She is such a good sport, even though she knows that at one time or another, all new Lauraisms will make their way into my column. The material is too good to pass up!
Fran: The story about the grilling reminded me about my rotten experiences cooking. Have you grilled again and what did you learn from this experience?
Brent: Not for several years later! In fact, I never used that grill again. The thing I learned from the experience is either to have a list of things to do before lighting up the grill...or make sure your wife isn't watching.
Fran: When you shared the story about Aunt Joan and mothers yelling out of the window: What happened if the voice was ignored? Did you mother yell too?
Brent: Well, in the first place, Aunt Joan's voice could not be ignored. Neighbors would step out onto the porch to find out what all the dogs were barking at and all the horses were running around in the pasture for. My mother didn't have to yell for us as much simply because our house was where all the other kids would go to play. All mom needed to do was to flicker the outside light when it got too dark for us to play outside. That was our "time for a bath" signal.
Fran: Growing up where you did; Did you ever feel that you wanted to move to a bigger city? Why or why not?
Brent: Never. I didn't know there were cities that were bigger. For me, cities are about people and not square miles. I just figured that anywhere I went, people were all the same. Plus, even though I grew up in a town with a population at the time of about 15,000, my grandmother lived in a town of 108 people. We WERE the big city. My cousins from the small town all considered me to be a city boy. I love small towns and won't live anywhere else.
Fran: Tell everyone about Crank’s IGA Foodliner and why being a delivery guy was important?
Brent: Crank's IGA Foodliner was the typical small neighborhood grocery store that was prevalent at the time. Each store was independently owned by local people. Crank's was located on the not so prosperous side of the city and about 50 yards from the railroad track. Since our town didn't have fast food places, working in a store was just about the only form of work a teenager could do. Crank's was about one block from my house and directly across the street from my paternal grandmother's house. A teenager in the store could do one or all of three different tasks: bag customer's groceries and carry them out to their car; stock the shelves; or deliver groceries. This also happened to be the progression of trust placed upon you from the boss. Both times I delivered groceries were memorable experiences. The people I met and the lessons I learned working in that store during high school will be with me forever.
Fran: What was your reaction to being called Sir the first time?
Brent: I had been called Sir many times but it really didn't mean much to me because generally it was being said by a person close to my own age. However, once when I was interviewing with an employment agency, a young lady across from me was asking employment questions and it was at that very moment I realized that my fate was in the hands of someone almost young enough to be my own daughter. It was like I had been hit with a 2 x 4. Being called Sir hasn't felt right since then. I may be 53 now but i don't feel like it.
Fran: What are the five things you remember the most about the 60’s and 70’s that really stand out? Why?
Brent: Tang: every boy wanted to be an astronaut back then. We had seen men land on and walk upon the moon. The closest we mere mortal youngsters could do was to buy astronaut suits, drink Tang and eat Space Food Sticks.
Television Remote Control: prior to the invention of remote controls for television, I was the remote control in our house. It was my job to turn the dial to one of the four stations we could receive through our antennae (one station really didn't count because it was PBS) and to turn the volume knob until told when to stop. When remote controls came along, I actually got to watch a show for a change
JFK Assassination: It was a day that everything stopped. It was quiet everywhere. No cars. Nothing. Watching the funeral procession and seeing John Jr salute and the sight of a horse with no rider and boots turned backward in the stirrups gave me the chills.
Hot Wheels: When Hot Wheels cars came out, everything changed. It was like living all your life with a Model T and then trading up to a Cadillac! Those plastic orange race tracks were all over my room. I even had the Hot Wheel carrying case. It was a gift from the girl who broke my hand.
The Beatles: You can't have the 60's without the Beatles. I still listen to their music. It changed everything. I find it incredible to think about how a bunch of young kids touched so many lives around the world and for so long.
Fran: What happens when you put a Q tip in your ear? What did you learn about not doing this again?
Brent: When you put a Q tip in your ear, you end up at the Emergency Room. Mostly I learned that I'm a terrible patient and that even though it will fit in your ear, it doesn't mean it should!
Fran: What is so great about TV themes?
What is your favorite television theme? What show would you love to see brought back today and why?
Brent: TV theme music is what set the mood for what was to come. If you weren't in the room, you could hear them and come running: just like when your mom called you from the back porch. There are so many good themes. One of my favorite was from the cartoon "Johnny Quest" It got me all pumped up to watch the show. Very action oriented. Also, you can't forget "Mission: Impossible" or "Hawaii 5-0" or "The Beverly Hillbillies" but I'd have to say one of my all time favorites was "The Andy Griffith Show" It was a great theme for learning to whistle. Honestly, I don't want to see any of them come back. They were great as they were and trying to imitate the original would do nothing but fall short and diminish the original.
Fran: Why did you compare your live to Plinko?
Brent: Because we sometimes bounce back and forth among the many obstacles, unforeseen situations and events that shape the direction our lives take. Just like dropping that little chip at the top of the Plinko board and watching it go in unpredictable directions until it comes to rest at the end.
Fran: The article : Do you know where your kids are: Really hits home as all of these mom had their own way of yelling out of the window. Why is Mrs. Hodshire so special and why did she stand out?
Brent: Her daughter was my age and had a very unusual name. Lynesa. It was pronounced "La NEE sa". Mrs. Hodshire would hit the NEE part really hard and stretch it out. Even if you didn't understand the words, you knew "Nee Nee" as we called her, had to go home. She is also the one who saw me sneaking cigarettes and smoking them when I was about ten years old. It was not fun in the Davis house that night.
Fran: Why did you compare your doctor to Dr. Welby?
Brent: Dr. Curtis Jones, Jr was such an easy going man. He was a family doctor and did everything from pulling splinters to birthing babies. He was always smiling and had a great sense of humor.
Fran: What was an is your relationship with Doug?
Brent: Much different now than it was then. Like most brothers who were a year apart in age, we fought a lot. I was bigger than him so I tried to take it easy on him but we mostly just wrestled. Now, it's much different. We get along well but we live apart now and don't see each other as much.
Fran: How did you feel in school being called a nerd?
Brent: I really wasn't sure what that meant, to be truthful. If I was a nerd, I was ok with it since I was ok with me. It was only when I learned what a nerd was that I looked back at it all and, I must say, I agree with them!
Fran: How did you deal with the teasing?
Brent: In the first grade, there was a curly haired, freckle faced red headed boy named Kenneth. One day, I wrote a note saying "I hate you" on a piece of paper. I even had the nerve to take it to him and watch him read it. He looked up at me and started to cry. My feelings don't get hurt easily so I figured neither did his, but I was wrong. So, I never did that again. Plus, church taught us not to be unkind to others. I remembered this and decided that it was the one doing the teasing that should be concerned with what they were doing, not the one being teased. It also helped that I was really tall!
Fran: Tell everyone how you got into the movies for free and why?
Brent: One Saturday afternoon I was standing in line at the movie theater waiting my turn. I was tall for my age and always had to prove I was younger to get the kids price ticket. So I stood at the end of the line. Along came a busload of children from the local center for mentally challenged children. They piled out of the bus and lined up behind me. When i put my quarter on the counter for my ticket, the lady in the booth looked at the kids behind me and then said "That's alright sweetie. You don't have to pay." I was overjoyed, ran in the theater and hit the concession stand. It wasn't until decades later that I realized she thought I had come there on the bus with the others.
Fran: What is your ONE THING!?
Brent: My one thing is, being kind to others. I fall short much of the time but I really try to do what's right.
Fran: What made you to decide and write this book and share it with everyone?
Brent: I had been encouraged by many of my readers to put the book together. Being a writer has always been a dream of mine. I'm glad I did.
Fran: From start to finish how long did it take to get it published?
Brent: I self published so it took about three months to go from compilation to interior design to book cover design to photography to numerous edits and finally to the finished product. I enjoyed each step.
Fran: How long did it take to compile the stories and complete this book?
Brent: From the first article I wrote to the published date it took just over two years.
Fran: What are you going to include in book two?
Brent: Book two will include columns left out of book one plus and new ones I have written since then. It will also include new stories not previously published including the story of horse back riding in Hawaii on our tenth wedding anniversary.
Fran: Where did you write you column?
Brent:I write two columns a week for the Saline Courier, one of the oldest newspapers in Arkansas. It is a daily newspaper. My Friday column is title "Resident Boomer" and I write about baby boomer topics. My Sunday column is titled "Common Sense" and is more locally slanted regarding current events, people and politics in Saline County Arkansas.
Fran: Tell everyone the inspiration for this book
Brent: My family is my first inspiration. My extended family. My home family and my childhood family. The people around me and the community where I live inspire me as well.
Fran: What /who influences you the most to become a writer?
Brent: My parents mostly. Mom always encouraged me to write and dad told me he could picture me in a cabin in the woods with a typewriter on the table, banging out books.
Fran: Why would someone give your book a five star review?
Brent: Because I paid them very well for it! Seriously, I don't know. It doesn't seem to me that I am doing anything different than anyone else is doing. To me, having gone through the process of getting a book published, anyone who writes a book deserves a five star review.
Fran: What other projects do you have in the works? What are your websites and where can we learn more about you and get your book?
Brent: I am currently putting the finishing touches on book two, yet to be titled. After that, I plan to write a book about my father and also a fictional work about weirdly interesting town in the south. But who knows. In any respect, I will be writing, I know that for sure.
My website is Common Man Gazette (www.commonmangazette.com). My book can be purchased there and I will mail it signed. Also, Amazon.com has my book listed. Last time I checked it was 517,452 on the best seller list. I'm just happy to be on it!
My columns are posted on the Saline Courier website as well (www.bentoncourier.com).
This is one book I think everyone should definitely read. I hope to read Brent’s second set of stories when completed.
Thank you so much for agreeing to interview with me. Fran Lewis