Friday, March 23, 2012

D for Doxology

From the title it looks as though today's post should be part of April's A-Z blogging bonanza.

I'm part of the Brian Holers book tour and I was so pleased when I got to read his book.

Here's my review and below that I was lucky enough to ask Brian some questions:


Doxology is populated by a cast of colorful characters each haunted by their own past. The author’s voice is original with its humor and a stunning array of tales to tell in delightful detail, most of which are painfully true to life. This is a poignant story of how childhood affects the adult, how relationships are formed between fathers and sons and the subsequent disastrous results.

The somewhat harrowing premise is eased by the author’s wicked wit and his quick eye for the absurd in small-town Louisiana, a place that is brought to life by rich prose.
The main character, Vernon Davidson, is a deeply flawed hero, quick to lose his temper and wounded beyond his sixty years by life’s buffeting and his fondness for whiskey mixed with mustard. Yet he earns the reader’s every sympathy, thanks to his inherent goodness and his laugh out loud personality: I’ll never forget him standing in the creek butt naked in front of the Baptist Church luncheon. And anyway, who could dislike a guy who only eats fried processed cheese and bologna sandwiches?

This novel, which portrays the pain of having to face realities, couldn’t have been easy to craft but the author has succeeded in creating one that is unforgettable. It’s a debut that deserves every success.

Here's Brian.

Congratulations Brian on a stunning debut novel - and one which is so remote from my own reality (I'm a Brit living in Portugal) that it could be set on the moon. However, your skills at drawing out the atmosphere of the setting allowed me to not only imagine this small town in Louisiana, but to smell it too. Is this your strength in writing, do you think? Or is it in crafting believable and memorable characters? Could you tell the readers your story of writing Doxology?
My greatest strength as a writer is I don't hold anything back. I am the furthest thing from a perfectionist--I have to work really hard to get all the detail work done in my writing--but I do put everything I have into it. My goal is to draw the reader into the story as if into some sort of dream state, and to keep the reader there as long as possible. I spend a ton of time planning, outlining, thinking through a scene and imagining a character's motivations, making notes--but when it's time to write, I totally turn off the editor and let myself go into that dream state. When I'm in that place, I just write down everything I see, hear, smell, feel, taste. 

In 2006, my wife, then four year old son and I left the U.S. for a year, to see some places and figure out our next steps after selling a business in Seattle. I had a lot of free time, of course, and found that being away gave me a perspective I hadn't really had before, about the country and the place I came from. I wrote the first several drafts of Doxology in a variety of locations on that trip--from a cheap, smelly hotel in Zanzibar, to the lobby of a YMCA hotel in Jerusalem, to a coffee shop with stale cookies in a hotel in East Malaysia. In all, I probably spent 3000 hours writing this book, and threw out maybe 5 times as much as I kept for the final product.

Just your journey sounds like enough material for a book! Who is the character in Doxology that you most relate to?

I most relate to one of the lesser characters named Peterson. I couldn't begin to draw a major character based in any way on myself, but I did especially enjoy drawing the minor characters--they were a lot easier to draw, and a lot more fun. They have no real work to do in the story. When my character, Jody, learns of his father's impending death, he returns to his small hometown in Louisiana, which he abandoned many years before, and quickly begins to discover that all the parts of himself he thought he had left behind are still there. One of the first characters he runs into is Peterson, a man who had worked with his father. Peterson is nothing but fun. Peterson spends his days outside the paper mill from which he recently retired, sweeping rocks off the street with a pushbroom, trying to make himself useful. When he is not sweeping the street in his hardhat and orange safety vest, he surfs the internet and fabricates wild conspiracy theories about bands of baby thieves and secret government projects to cross humans with Martians. I enjoy him so much because he lives the way I would sometimes like to live, completely free to think and say whatever he wants to. And he has a ton of fun doing it.

What do you hope your reader will take away with him/her after finishing Doxology?

I like to say Doxology is a story at the crossroad of God and man, and involves characters who, despite great loss, feel the presence of a force much greater than themselves in their lives. So much religious fiction is just not that good as fiction; the characters in Doxology are Christian and Jewish, but they're also just regular people dealing with life, and life that has not been easy for them. They're just people dealing with life, and finding that life is much easier, and much more meaningful, when they believe in something greater than themselves.

I have to say I agree with that. Are you writing your next novel. If so, could we have a little peek into it?

My second novel, tentatively called Miracle Run, also set in rural Louisiana, is another story of fathers and sons, and explores the life of Tommy Turner, a young man who has found God in prison but finds that his past is not about to let him go. It's an uplifting story like Doxology, but not nearly as gentle; there are a few more bad guys getting what they deserve.

Thank you so much for visiting, Brian. Good luck with Miracle Run - I look forward to getting a taste of rural Louisiana again.
Visit Brian here:


  1. I'd pick this book up for the title alone! Brian sounds like such an interesting man, thank you for interviewing him :-)

    1. Thank you Sarah, that is a kind thing to say-- I hope you do read Doxology and if you have any questions or comments, you know where to find me.
      Brian Holers

  2. Thanks so much for doing this Susan,I enjoyed your interview especially about the character with whom I identify--I hadn't quite thought about it before, but I have heard something similar from other writers before, that the major characters take so much work and require so much depth, their distinctions from the author grow over the course of writing. The lesser characters, however, especially those that are comic relief, are fun to relate to.

  3. Nice interview, Brian and Sue. Very interesting to hear how the book grew.

    No buy links so here: Amazon and B&N

  4. It's a great book, Sarah and Elin. Amazingly atmospheric.
    It was a pleasure Brian :-)

  5. Wow, this sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing!

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