An interview about Some Way Outa Here

Last week author Mercedes Fox asked me to talk about writing and my new book, and here’s the interview, excerpted from her website.

If you use a pen name, why did you choose it?  My pen name is my real name. In real life, I go by another name.

I had a complicated family, and I ended up with my stepfather’s last name. But I was the last male in my father’s family, and we gave my children – all girls, it turned out – his last name. So when I started writing stories about growing up, it made sense to me to use the name I was born with, Mark Lauden.

Why do you write?  I can’t not write. It just happens. I do it in my work to explain things – technology, usually. I write about people because it’s the best way to understand them and share that understanding. I figured that out in high school when I started writing for an underground newspaper – it’s a story I tell in Some Way Outa Here.

Writing is also a zenlike thing. When you immerse yourself in a story or characters, you get lost in a world that can go any way you want it to go. It’s like being in control of a dream. I enjoy that.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? I’ve been telling stories about he events of the late 1960s for years, and recently someone pointed out to me that it’s now history, not just memories. But she felt that the events of that time have often been told poorly, misunderstood, and that it’s up to those of us who were there to tell what really happened. It turns out, the truth is a lot more interesting than the mythology of hippies and protesters. I think Some Way Outa Here will strike my contemporaries as true in some important ways, and I hope it sheds some light on a distant, mystical era for younger readers.

Which writers inspire you?  This varies day to day, but today I’m feeling in a Mark Twain mood. Huckleberry Finn is still the best American novel, and if I could write something like it my life would be complete. Homer’s Odyssey has inspired us all. – so many stories harken back to it. Kerouac’s On the Road inspired me to think about learning from the world, not just learning about the world. Robert Pirsig showed us how examine the world, philosophy and madness while riding a motorcycle across the country. You might notice a theme there, and it’s one that I try to explore in my own writing.

What one person from history would you like to meet and why? John Lennon. To thank him for everything. I wouldn’t mind if he’d play a tune or two with me, too.

If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?  I would make sure that every student learned two things really well: First, the beauty and importance of the scientific method, so that everyone would appreciate the disciplines of skepticism and proof. Second, the parable of The Tragedy of the Commons, which teaches a concept that may be central to the survival of humanity. For more on the latter, you can read about how I learned this in Some Way Outa Here.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?  Writing things as they happened – journalism – rarely gets to the truth. If you want to tell the truth, write like a painter rather than a photographer. Find the essence of a person, place or concept and repaint it with colors and light that illuminate what’s important. Even in history or memoir, insight is more important than precision.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?  I’ve done both, and while my first book, published by a big publisher, was financially successful, I had a lot more fun with my new self-published book, and I think it shows. It’s not a shortcut: I approach self-publishing as a challenge to make a book that’s better than a traditional publisher would make, in all ways – writing, editing and design.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?  As my first independent reviewer recommended: “Just read it.”

For the whole interview, check out Mercedes Fox’s site.
Mark Lauden interview

Stories about the end of the 1960s

I’m really excited that readers are sharing their own stories of the end of the 1960s with me…not just telling me whether or not they “like” the book. Whether it’s the music, stories about the draft and peace protests, drugs, the dawn of feminism and environmentalism, and just surviving in a world that seemed to be going nuts – everyone seems to have stories.

That’s how I started writing the book – I discovered that young people  didn’t understand how the military draft affected everyone back then. The idea that any boy could be sent off to fight (and very possibly die or be maimed) in a preposterous war is as unheard of as, well, a world without cell phones. (Who could believe that?)  Then I realized how many other incredible things happened at the same time…and I wrote them down.

What was your favorite memory of the late ’60s? Is it true that if you can remember that time you weren’t really there? And if you really weren’t there – as in not born yet – what’s the best story you’ve heard about the time? I’d love to collect them here. Just click “comment”! Some Way Outa Here 1960s collage

All Along the Watchtower

There must be some way outa here, cried the joker to the thief.
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.

I fell in love with “All Along the Watchtower” the first time I heard the John Wesley Harding album. (It’s still one of my favorite Dylan albums.) But like so many of us, it was Jimi Hendrix who made this into an indelible, central part of the our personal soundtracks.

It’s a strange song. It’s written backwards – the last line could easily be the first: two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl. The characters are looking for a way out at the beginning, but it seems like it should be the end.

A few months after Dylan released the song, Hendrix tried it out. The result was a thunderous, electrifying guitar explosion that fulfilled the song’s apocalyptic potential. Instead of Dylan’s storyteller vocal, Hendrix sings it like he’s out there on the watchtower when the wind begins to howl, a desperate watchman at the rampart. The rhythm guitars (Dave Mason is playing a 12-string acoustic) turn Dylan’s simple strum into a slapped, crackling force, like timbers snapping. And the topping is Hendrix’ astonishing guitar lead, personifying the howling wind.

Dylan says this is the best cover version of any of his songs. Some people say this is the best cover version of any rock song. I’ll buy that.

But it’s that first line that drew me in, from the first hearing. “There must be some way outa here.” (Actually, Jimi turns it into “there must be some kinda way outa here.” It works.) It’s the vision of being on the rampart in the middle of nowhere, with wildcats prowling, riders approaching, and the wind blowing hard…there must be some way out. Who hasn’t been there?

I was there, on my own private watchtower, a teenager desperate to find something else, someplace else. Perhaps that’s why Watchtower was one of the first songs I learned on guitar…I needed to sing it. Still do. Whenever the wind begins to howl.

The passage of years helped me understand that in 1969-70, this was what I needed, a way out of a time when nothing made sense, and a place that was oblivious to the madness. Suburban life in the late 1960s had the feeling of a place you would stumble on if you fell down a rabbit hole, where nothing was quite real, and you wanted to find the way out, back into the sunshine. I knew it at the time, but I couldn’t articulate it.

Dylan’s words and Jimi’s anguished voice and thrashing guitar said it best.

Is there a song lyric that would sum up your formative years?

Bob_Dylan_All_Along_the_Watchtower_single_cover

Why did you write Some Way Outa Here?

I’m asked…why did you write your book?

Good question. It’s a less polite way of asking: What makes you think anyone is interested in what happened to you almost 50 years ago?

Once I got the idea for this book, I had to write it. Once I started, it was as if it was writing itself. My recollections of a twelve month period, long ago, somehow snapped together like a puzzle, and I could see them as a whole that was much more interesting than the individual parts.

I saw the connections between people and events; I saw how friends and relatives were all part of a web of interconnections, all influencing each other.

The time, the place, and the people had come into focus.

What made the story most worth telling was the time itself. So many amazing weird and outrageous things happened that year, and I wanted to explain them to people. For my friends who were there, I found that reviving memories by telling my story helped them remember their own stories. And I found that younger people were astonished and amused by the slightly unhinged world we grew up in.

So there are two answers to the question…

I wrote Some Way Outa Here as a way to understand what had happened and how it led us to where we are now.

And…

I think it’s a pretty good story, and a good story is always worth telling.

Mark Lauden's memoir

Kindle edition goes live!

This is getting exciting – the Kindle edition of Some Way Outa Here just went live on Amazon. You can download it now!

Click to order from Amazon.

Or, you can preorder the paperback edition, which will be available this month. (Go to the Home or Books page.)

 

 

A First Review

I’ve sent prerelease copies of Some Way Outa Here to a few reviewer/bloggers. Dean Robertson has posted the first review to go live, and it’s very positive. I’m particularly pleased that the book triggered some meaningful personal memories.

Click this link to see the review:

Book Review~Mark Lauden is looking for “Some Way Outa Here”