Thursday, June 27, 2013

Interview with Lloyd Lofthouse author of Running with the Enemy

I had the pleasure of Lloyd Lofthouse author of Running with the Enemy answer a couple of questions for us to see what he’s been up too as well as any current project’s he’s working on to what he’s currently reading so hurry and read below!


How did you come up with the title?

For years, the working title was “Better a Dead Hero”; and then one morning I woke up and “Running with the Enemy” appeared out of nowhere and I liked that title better.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first published book was “My Splendid Concubine”. In 1999—while we were dating and before we were married—my wife Anchee introduced me to Robert Hart. I’m part Irish and Hart was Irish so my wife thought I would be interested in his story. She was researching and writing the “Empress Orchid” at the time.

I Googled Robert Hart and discovered that Harvard University’s Belknap Press published Hart’s journals (the ones he did not burn shortly before his death) and letters in several volumes. After I bought and read these books, it was obvious that Hart wanted to hide the relationship he had with his concubine Ayaou, and I became fascinated with the idea of exploring what that relationship must have been like for this conflicted man who didn’t want the world to know about Ayaou and his love and respect for her as an individual.

Hart and Ayaou were together for almost a decade and had three children together. Why would he want to erase her from his own personal history? Before he died, he even asked his family and friends to burn all the letters that he wrote, but they didn’t—fortunately.

What book are you reading now?

I just finished reading and posting a reader review on Amazon of Tash Aw’s “Five Star Billionaire”, and now I am reading Porter Gale’s “Your Network Is Your Net Worth”—a fascinating nonfiction book that will help anyone who wants to discover how to network properly. Porter Gale takes readers step-by-step through what it takes to become a successful networker and overcome any inhibitions that may get in the way while building a foundation that leads to happiness and success. I’m almost halfway through her book and it offers a seamless transition for those of us who want to learn how to network but are finding the process difficult.

Then there is “Interrupt” by Jeff Carlson; “Shanghai Love” by Layne Wong; “Inferno” by Dan Brown, and “The Chinese Secretes for Success” by Yukong Zhao—all stacked in order and waiting for me to get to them.

What are your current projects?

Thank you for asking.  The working title is “Crazy Normal, a Classroom Exposé” based on one-year of the thirty that I was a classroom teacher. During that one year—about twenty years ago in the early 1990s—I kept a daily journal and I’m using that journal to write a memoir that goes into detail of what a teacher’s job is like up close and personal that includes my daily interactions with my students and their parents.  Every day when I got home, the first thing I did was to sit down in front of my desktop computer and write an entry in that daily journal. Unlike most memoirs, I do not have to rely on a memory that is decades old. I’m sure if you write the day’s events the day they take place, it is about as accurate as one can get.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

The rough draft of “Crazy Normal” is finished and the manuscript will be going through heavy editing and revisions for the next few months. My own daily journal of that year was far too long to just publish the way it was so I’ve been taming that work into something more readable.

I want to share the opening scene from the prologue of this memoir and please remember that this passage is an unedited, unrevised advanced proof copy:

"Mr. Lofthouse, I hate you." A loud voice called, as I was leaving my classroom a few hours after school had let out. I looked around. The campus was empty; then I saw a familiar face but couldn't remember his name

He was standing at the far end of the building by the back gate ready to leave the campus. He held up a paperback book for emphasis.

"When I was in ninth grade, I hated you," he said. "I hated reading. I hated those essays and book reports you made us do-over until we got them right. You even got my mom to sit by me at home to make sure I read the books and finished the homework. Now I'm hooked. These fucking books are like drugs. I can't stop reading them." He delivered all this with an expression of disgust. Then his face blossomed into a smile. "And I still hate it."

He turned and walked off campus and into the gang infested barrio where his family lived. Then I remembered who he was. Four years ago, Fabio had been nothing but a pain-in-the-ass full of verbal irony and sarcasm. He'd fought me every inch of the way, but his mother became my ally. She was one of the few parents who listened to my advice, ditched the self-esteem movement, and learned to say no.

It wasn't my fault I was a no-nonsense, hard-ass, teacher who advocated a softer form of tough love over boosting self-esteem. My older, illiterate gangster brother, my Bible totting mother, alcoholic-gambling father and the US Marines were responsible for who I was.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The editing and revisions. No matter how hard I work at editing the manuscript, something is going to slip by me and end up in a finished manuscript if I don’t eventually hire a second pair of eyes and have a professional editor copyedit the final draft but only after I have revised and edited until I’m sick of it.

For example, “My Splendid Concubine’s” first rough draft was written over a period of about two years and then edited and revised for another eight years until the stack of revisions was taller than my six—foot-four-inches when all the printed papers were stacked in one pile. And there were still typos discovered by my freelance editors that escaped my own tedious twelve-step editing process.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes, after you finish the rough draft, edit and revise until you can’t stand your own writing and then hire a professional to copyedit the work at least one more time.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I want to say “thank you” to anyone who reads my work, and I hope you only read books you enjoy.  That’s what I do. If I start reading a book that—for any reason—doesn’t appeal to me, I stop reading it, and I only review books that I finish reading, the books that I enjoy enough to recommend. The book doesn’t have to be perfect but it does have to have an element worth recommending, and when I finish a book, it always has something worth sharing. Otherwise, I would have never finished reading it.



In case you missed my raving 5 Star Review of Running with the Enemy you can go ahead and read it here.

About Lloyd Lofthouse:
Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, served in Vietnam as a field radio operator in 1966. Back home, Lloyd was a heavy drinker until 1981, never talked about the war and suffered from PTSD. In the early 1980s, he confronted his demons by writing about his war experiences in an MFA program.
Running with the Enemy started as a memoir and then evolved into fiction.
His short story, A Night at the “Well of Purity”, named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards, was based on an event Lloyd experienced in Vietnam.
His novel My Splendid Concubine has earned ten honorable mentions in general fiction—a few examples: the 2008 London Book Festival; 2009 San Francisco Book Festival; 2009 Los Angeles Book Festival, and the 2012 New York Book Festival, etc.
In 1999, his wife, Anchee Min, the author of the memoir Red Azalea, a book that was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1994, introduced Lloyd to Robert Hart, the real-life character of My Splendid Concubine.
After an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marines in 1968, Lloyd went to college on the GI Bill to earn a BA in journalism, and then worked days as a public school teacher for thirty years (1975 – 2005) in addition to nights and weekends as a maître d’ in a Southern California nightclub called the Red Onion (1980-1982).
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