Doug Cooper is the author of the award-winning novels Outside In and The Investment Club. Always searching, he has traveled to over twenty-five countries on five continents, exploring the contradictions between what we believe and how we act in the pursuit of truth, beauty, and love. He has also called Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, New York, Las-Vegas, and Oslo, Norway home, and now resides in Vermilion, Ohio. His third novel Focus Lost is available for pre-order and will be released on April 16, 2019 by Rare Bird Books.
You’re considered a world traveler having journeyed to over twenty-five countries on five continents, what was one of the main things that you learned on your travels?
DC: Regardless of location, truth, beauty, and love are at the center of all we do. They are both the objects and the driving forces propelling us. We pursue them to have in our lives, but they are also the energy carrying us forward. Ultimately, we find are our own individual and collective contradictions in what we believe and how we act in our pursuit, but it is in these contradictions that all truth, beauty, and love is born and forever resides.
What was the inspiration behind your new novel Focus Lost?
DC: Milton’s Paradise Lost is the main inspiration for Focus Lost with Adam, Eve, and Satan cast as a nature photographer, Hollywood agent, and famous actor set in contemporary Los Angeles and what happens when passion becomes obsession. But in addition to Milton, it is also a pastiche with a lot of motifs and references borrowed from the Bible, Lolita, Edgar Allan Poe, and modern screenplay writing. I actually wrote the first draft as a screenplay. I wanted the story to read like watching a movie to reinforce the Hollywood setting with the director’s perspective through the lens of a camera but also tie to the Milton and biblical symbolism with the camera as the eye of God.
Your writing is so descriptive, what is the key to the development of the characters in ‘Focus Lost’?
DC: My approach in all my novels is to create interesting characters with conflicting motivations and goals, both internally and externally, and put them in unique and challenging situations and settings. When I create all my characters, I develop full personality profiles from their favorite foods to their Myers-Briggs Type Indicators. I probably use only twenty-five percent of what I create, but by having a deep well of information for each character, their reactions are more organic and unique to who they are. They move with their own momentum and purpose rather than me moving them through the stories.
Your other two novels ‘Outside In’ and ‘The Investment Club’ are award winning books, what would you say is the key to the success of those two books and what similar elements did you bring into ‘Focus Lost’ that readers can expect?
DC: The three novels are all so different in terms of characters, themes, story and, for example, setting – island in Lake Erie, Las-Vegas, Los Angeles – but what is the same is my style. I write in a very lean and economical way, which makes it easy and enjoyable to read, often melodic as some readers have commented, but I also texture the writing with literary and cultural symbolism and references. Hiding nuggets of truth and homages to other works makes the writing process more fun for me, like creating a puzzle, but it also adds depth, so readers can take their time and chew on stuff a bit more if they are more meaning than plot-driven.
What are your top 3 authors that have inspired you throughout your life and what commonality do they have that will help you on your own writing journey?
DC: Edgar Allan Poe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Bret Easton Ellis are probably my top three inspirations. Their abilities to completely commit and surrender to their work and evoke such visceral reactions from readers lit the writing flame and keep it burning within me. The intense reactions they have been able to create with their words from reverence to disdain shows the power and value of writing and storytelling. When stuck, discouraged, or frustrated, they remind and encourage me to let go and plunge deeper.
What is your go to drink that helps you celebrate and take off the edge after you finish a novel?
DC: It’s kind of boring answer, but I’m most likely to pour a nice, big glass of milk. While I enjoy Vieux Carre, Sazerac or some other rye-based drink on occasion, I rarely drink when writing a novel. Actually, I probably live my simplest life when deep in the creative process and coming out of it I feel such a rich sense of satisfaction that I don’t want anything to influence the experience, so milk seems to pair with that better than anything else.
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