A Lyle Saxon Reader: Lost Stories of the French Quarter and Buried Treasure was the 2nd Place overall winner in the Fiction category of the 2019 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.
Following find an interview with author Michael Warner.
What is the name of the book and when was it published?
A Lyle Saxon Reader: Lost Stories of the French Quarter and Buried Treasure. Published 2018.
What’s the book’s first line?
Lately the newspapers have been full of stories of buried treasure, Spanish doubloons, pieces of eight.
What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.
This rediscovered collection of Lyle Saxon’s writings includes thirty-nine of his earliest New Orleans short stories and character sketches, and brings to light for the first time in nearly a century some of the author’s forgotten classics. Throughout, Saxon pays special attention to the odd quirks expressed by the most-honored of New Orleans species, the French Quarter character.
What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?
Lyle Saxon was known as the Poet Laureate of New Orleans. His later works are well preserved and widely-read in New Orleans and the Gulf South. However, his earliest stories, created when he was learning his skills as a reporter for the city’s Times-Picayune newspaper, had been practically forgotten. Having glimpsed some of his earliest works, I felt it would be a benefit to readers to collect, edit and narrate the best of these writings. The period from which these stories draw, 1919-1923, was an active period in the history of the city from the perspectives of architectural preservation and literary creativity.
What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?
If someone really loves the traditions, music and people of New Orleans and the Gulf South, in reality and in literature, then they need to understand the origins. French Quarter characters have been around for a long time, and reading these stories will aid in developing an understanding of today’s traditions and celebrations.
What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?
There is not a single main character, since this is a collection of stories. But all of the characters ring true. Interestingly, many of his character sketches include strong female leads, holding traditionally male-dominated roles. This really makes his stories stand out, especially for that period.
When did you first decide to become an author?
In college, while working as managing editor of the student newspaper, I once mentioned to the editor-in-chief that I wanted to write a book someday. He looked at me and said, derisively: “You??” I realized at that moment that I must—nay, would!—write a book someday. It took me a while to get here, though.
Is this the first book you’ve written?
Yes. But I am working on a second book: a biography of New Orleans artist Charles Whitfield Richards (1906-1992).
What do you do for work when you’re not writing?
I am general counsel for a biotech pharmaceutical company in the San Francisco area.
How much time do you generally spend on your writing?
After my research is complete, I spend two to three hours a day writing.
What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?
The best part is learning about how to publish a book. I enjoyed the research, not only of the stories that went into the book, but also learning about the process of book design, editing and publishing. I’m a computer and art geek, so the design of the cover and book layout were absorbing. And as an attorney (my day job), learning new aspects of copyright, company formation, and contracts was right up my alley. The hardest part was discovering how to do the research necessary to put the book together. Another hard part has been marketing—and that has never been my forte.
What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?
Do it because you enjoy it. Fame and fortune are slow to arrive, so you’d better enjoy it or it’ll be a long ride.
Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling? If so, why?
It depends on the nature of the work. If I am publishing the old writings of a long-dead author, as I did with A Lyle Saxon Reader, then I would do it as an indie publisher through my company Cultured Oak Press. This is important work, yet it’s subject matter that would not appeal to most traditional publishers. On the other hand, if it’s the sort of work that would appeal to a traditional publisher, I will try that route before publishing independently. I’ve enjoyed independent publishing, and will do it again. But it would be great to partner with someone who has experience and who has a vested interest in making my book a success. There is plenty of room for both indie and traditional publishing.
Is there something in particular that motivates you?
I produced this book because I love history and literature. But it is also a stepping stone toward a broader portfolio.
Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?
I can’t point to an individual as my favorite. But I have enjoyed the modernists such as Hemingway and Faulkner. And the beat writers such as Kerouac. Lately I’ve been fascinated by Jesmyn Ward’s books. Also Eudora Welty and Walker Percy.
Which book do you wish you could have written?
Well, Harry Potter, obviously. Then I’d be rich and famous.