This Free Spirit has Found his Home – Lane Diamond Chats with Alex Laybourne

Interviews are a great way to allow readers a chance to learn more about you, but it is also great for the interviewer to learn more about the people he has become friends with in this age of social media.

My guest today has been a friend of mine for some time on Facebook, and I am delighted that he was willing to take the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me. An author, publishers, businessman and nice guy in every sense of the word…

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you all to Mr. Lane Diamond.

Lane

You and I have chatted for a while now on Facebook, but for those that don’t follow our every word (apparently there are some people out there who do not) can you tell us a little about yourself?

I consider myself an author first, then an editor, then a publisher. Of course, for practical day-to-day work responsibilities, it’s exactly the opposite. I must tend first to my responsibilities as publisher and editor, and then, if I’m lucky, I get to write. I formed Evolved Publishing, along with my business partner D.T. Conklin, because I just couldn’t find the right publishing opportunity for me. We laid out what we thought would be the perfect publisher, and then, not finding that publisher out there, said, “Ah nuts! Let’s just do it ourselves.”

Lane is not your real name… not your first name at least. What was your reasoning behind adopting a pseudonym?

I did a simple Google search of David Lane (my real name) when I was preparing to submit my work around. What I discovered dismayed me: there are approximately 14,978,327 Dave Lane’s in the world, several of whom had published in one form or another. Then, just for good measure, the David Lane that appeared most prominently was some neo-Nazi skinhead white supremacist based in Great Britain. I thought, “Great! Just what I need, to be confused with that guy.” So I needed a name just for me – something unique – and decided to tie in somehow my longtime nickname of Diamond. (That goes back to my singing/band days, when folks called me Diamond Dave.) I settled on Lane Diamond.

How long were you in the Air Force for?

3 years, 8 months, most of that spent at Ramstein Air Base in what was then (1980-1982) West Germany.

What made you join?

After a terrible accident in college, 12 days in a hospital, and a body beat to a pulp and sporting a monster concussion, I missed a lot of class time. Indeed, I fell hopelessly behind, and would have to try to recover the following year. Sadly, I lost my scholarship in the process. With few options that made any sense, since my family had zero money, I decided to join the Air Force and finish my education while serving.

You have worked in a number of different fields over the years. Was it that you never found the job that made you want to ‘settle down,’ or are you just a free spirit by way of nature?

I’ve always been something of a free spirit, but I’ve also been someone who cannot abide boredom… and I bore easily. It was a problem for me in school, my good grades notwithstanding, and it was a problem for me throughout my working life. I did settle in rather well at my last “job” (14+ years), and was about to be promoted again when I left. I didn’t expect the road to lead me here, but in retrospect, it feels as if this was always the plan, even if I didn’t recognize it. Call it fate, or providence, or dumb luck – I think this is exactly where I am meant to be.

When did you first start writing?

I wrote a short story at the age of twelve, and made it about 10 times longer than it needed to be. The process simply captured me. I then started writing a lot of poetry. Finally, while in the Air Force in Germany (pre-internet, no TV, no phone), I wrote my first book. We’ll not talk about those details (yeah, it was that bad), but it definitely lit a spark in me. I regret that it took me so long to get here, that I allowed so many distractions, but I finally made it.

When did you first start writing seriously?

I would say 1987. I started a sci-fi thriller, got 185 pages into it (manuscript form), which I figured was about 2/3 of the way there, and then the manuscript was accidentally destroyed (again, pre-computer days). I was devastated, and decided to just focus on my career at the time. I began again in the late 90s, but once again suffered a serious loss when my hard drive failed in 2001. And once again, I just couldn’t face it. Then, in 2007, I finally came back around, this time for good.

For me, writing has always been part of my life, and looking back many decisions I made were wrong because I didn’t admit what I truly wanted to do. Would you say that being a writer is something you are born with or something you can learn? I believe that anybody can write books, but real writers are born with it.

I believe the spark of talent must reside within you. However, I also believe we each have a lot of work to do to raise that spark into a raging fire. I’ve studied the craft, reading 80+ books on the subject, and countless thousands of articles, over a thirty year period. While I don’t think everyone should wait so long as I did to take the serious leap, I do think everyone should study the craft in earnest. Professionals study, and learn, and practice, and learn more. They are… well, professionals.

You have tried your hand at many forms of writing; poetry, short fiction, novels, and even song lyrics. What was it about novels that held your attention so?

It’s all the reading I did. I fell in love with books as a reader. Isn’t that how it is for all writers? At some point, after many books by Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, John Le Carre, Frederick Forsyth, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, and many others, I said, “Man, I really want to do this. Nay… I need to do this.”

Your debut novel Forgive Me, Alex came out last year, and has been very well accepted by the reading public. Can you tell us a little about the book?

It’s been described as part Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris) and part The Dark Half (Stephen King). That works for me! Others have said they see similarities to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series or James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels. That works for me, too! I think of it first and foremost as a study in character, but one in which they’re dealing with extreme circumstances. The human experience, particularly the manner in which we respond to devastating tragedy, or love, or fear, fascinates me. I wanted to delve deep inside the minds of the characters, to get that intimate glimpse of them, to share – to feel – their whirlwind of emotions. It’s not a book for the squeamish, or kids, and I’ve heard from readers that they experience a full range of emotions, so I hope readers come to it prepared to glimpse a part of the human condition that’s not always too pretty. Yet I think there’s much cause for hope here, too – a simple message: we can survive almost anything.

A novel that focuses on the viewpoint of the killer: that is clever, and a view I really enjoy. What made you decide to turn the tables like that?

Just an idea I had early on, that it would be interesting to see the story through the eyes of both the good guy and the bad guy, characters that would be at once similar and worlds apart. The more I wrote it, the more it became clear that they each had to tell their own story, and that it was my job as author to weave their stories together in a manner that made sense. Perspective is everything, and your perspective of a singular event will naturally differ from mine, to some extent. So it is with Tony Hooper and Mitchell Norton, my main characters. This made the writing great fun for me, and I think it gives the readers a fresh and interesting dynamic.

You are currently preparing your second novel, The Devil’s Bane. Is this a direct sequel to Forgive Me, Alex, or are they two standalone novels?

Ultimately, it should be the goal of every writer that two novels can stand alone, if the reader can only get to one of the books (no matter which one), even if the second is a sequel to the first. However, reading the sequel is always going to be a richer experience if you’ve read the first book. In my case, The Devil’s Bane is a direct sequel to Forgive Me, Alex, but I hope to achieve the goal stated above.

Do you also take the perspective of the standard antagonist in this novel too?

I’ve switched to a tight third-person narrative for The Devil’s Bane. That means that POV will remain with whatever character is the focus of a particular scene, but they will not narrate – no more telling “their” side of the story.

Can you tell us a little about this novel?

Those who’ve read Forgive Me, Alex know that the denouement left open a continuation of the story. While it had a satisfying ending in its own right, it didn’t answer every possible question. Many of the characters go on – they have lives beyond Forgive Me, Alex, and I revisit them, and attempt to bring further closure to some of the relationships, in The Devil’s Bane. Plus, this time there will be two serial killers! I will expand the character of Master Ben Komura in this one, as a critical figure in Tony Hooper’s life, and I will bring in several new characters as well. Again, I want people to enjoy TDB even if they haven’t read FMA.

To use an appropriate bridge when it arrives, publishing is something that you are no stranger to, being the co-founder of Evolved Publishing. How did that come about?

I’d received four consecutive “positive” responses from literary agents, each of which took the time to tell me how much they liked my book, but…. Yeah, there was always that “but” at the end. It had nothing to do with me or my work, but everything to do with the marketplace – things over which I had zero control. Talk about frustrating! So, I just set my manuscript aside for what ended up being about a year and a half. Then, I watched with interest as the eBook revolution started to take off, and with it a whole new wave of self-publishing. I considered going down that road… for about 8 minutes or so. For reasons I won’t go into here (a whole other discussion), I decided against that, but I figured there must be a publisher that had set themselves up out there to take advantage of this new market paradigm. Well, not so much – at least, I couldn’t find one that made me truly happy. In the end, after some long discussions with D.T. Conklin, a lot of back and forth, agreeing and disagreeing, hammering and pounding and laughing, we said, “Ah hell! Let’s just do it ourselves, if no one else is.”

Between you and me, I have often considered submitting some of my work, but with the caliber of authors you have on the books, I would look like but a hack. For other writers out there, however, how would they go about querying you?

We have a submissions menu on our website. We start with an Introduction page, which everyone should read. In keeping with our philosophy of an open and honest environments, we pretty much lay out our business model there. Then, it continues on the Author sub-menu (we have sub-menus for Artists and Editors, too, and soon for Translators), which lays out the process for author submissions. It’s true we’ve taken on some terrific talent, and that we have high standards, and that we’re being extremely selective. Nonetheless, if an author feels she’s polished her work to the best of her ability, perhaps with the assistance of beta readers and an editor, she should submit. Really, what’s the worst that can happen? We say, “No thanks,” and you’re right where you were before, anyway. So why not try?

How many writers do you have signed to the Evolved label?

We’ve published the works of 18 authors, 16 of whom remain active as team members with EP. That concept – working as a team – is critical to our philosophy, and an integral part of our business model. Frankly, our authors have told us that it’s the thing we do that they enjoy most. Indeed, when we look for new authors, the work itself is the most important thing, but the individual is a close second. I have long believed that the key to success for any organization lies with the people who make up that organization. Choose the right people, with the proper attitudes, skills, drive and desire, and then work in concert toward a common goal, as a well-oiled machine, and there’s nothing you can’t achieve.

What sort of fiction do you represent?

Everything from children’s picture books to thrillers, from YA to fantasy, from lower grade chapter books to romance, from middle grade to literary to historical to… well, pretty much everything in between. We look for great stories well told. We look for great writing. We look for talented authors who are a good fit for us, and for whom we’re a good fit.

Being a horror writer, the market often shuts its doors at the merest mentioning of the genre, forcing you to turn to more genre specific presses. Do you think this approach is limiting a book’s potential?

Many publishers, or the agents who serve as middlemen, focus on a specific area of expertise. This can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing; perspective is everything here. At Evolved Publishing, we’ve chosen to offer a broad catalog in an attempt to be a kind of one-stop shop for readers, no matter their genre preferences, who simply demand that the books they purchase are polished, professional products.

I dislike genres, I like to just create and allow the words to fall where they may. Do you think many writers become blinded by the boundaries and the label that will be attached to their work?

Genre designations function as guideposts for readers. If book consumers don’t understand what they’re getting into when they buy your book, they’re less likely to purchase it. So one way or another, you have to be able to reach potential customers with a quick, easy-to-understand explanation of your story. Genres are the first component in this, and an important one. Having said that, crossovers, or the combining of two genres in a single story, are a time-honored tradition. So long as you can explain it easily to readers, you’re okay. For example, we’ve published Angela Scott’s zombie westerns. Zombie westerns? You betcha! They’re great fun, and that designation – Zombie Western – is pretty easy to understand for potential readers.

Would you not say however, that the guidelines can have a detrimental effect ultimate potential of the product.

Every story should be what it is meant to be. Then it should be tightened, trimmed, and polished. My advice is to tell the story that’s screaming to be told, and figure out the classification issue, including possible revisions, later.

Writer, Editor, Businessman – which of these hats do you find the most natural to wear?

With 25+ years of business management experience, I’m right at home there. However, I’ve now been editing for long enough, and worked on so many projects by so many authors, that I feel perfectly comfortable there too. If there’s one area where I fight the constant insecurities, it’s in my own writing. Like most writers I’ve ever spoken to, I go through the full range of emotions, thinking my work is crap one minute, then the most brilliant thing ever written the next minute, then back to assuming no one in his right mind would ever read my crap, then back to thinking I should be winning major awards somewhere, then back to…. Yeah, you get it. We artistic types are an insecure lot; just goes with the territory. I liken it to what new mothers often go through after giving birth. Fear and depression set in because they’re just not sure, now that their baby has arrived, that they’re up to the task. It’s a daunting responsibility. Of course, mothers have been doing the great work for centuries, and yet they suffer these insecurities. We authors, who give birth to our own, admittedly less important, babies, suffer that same kind of insecurity.

I guess each one has helped you become better at the other, almost a symbiotic career base if you will. Do you think writers, especially in this modern e-book age, should start paying more attention to their own edits rather than relying on someone else to do it all for them?

Every writer has a duty to her self, to her editor, and to her publisher, to first polish her work to the extent she can. Make it shine! Then turn it over to your editor. If you do that, your editor will spend a lot less time fixing minor issues, and will be able to therefore focus on ramping up your book to a greater level. Think of editing as having to climb the stairs to the 100th floor. The author that allows the editor to start on the 50th floor is going to end up with a far better product than the author who forces the editor to start on the first floor. If the issues overwhelm the editor, she’s liable to collapse on the 70th floor.

Writers should be readers, an item that does not even warrant discussion, but do you think it is also key to establish a difference between reading novels to improve your own craft and reading for pleasure?

Yes. And no. I think we learn a certain amount just as a natural result of reading – almost by osmosis, as if absorbing it into our consciousness without even realizing it. However, at some point, if you’re a true professional, you’re going to pay attention to the details of specific works. How did that author keep me glued to the page until 4:00 AM? Why does that character appeal to me so much that I can’t wait to read her next novel? What is it about the setting that makes me feel as though I’ve lived there for years? What is it about that paragraph that makes me say, “Wow, I wish I’d written that?” Pay attention to the details. Think about them. Make notes. Do your homework. Be a professional.

On that note, what are you reading currently?

Uh-oh! Now I’m in trouble. I haven’t been able to read for pure pleasure for over a year. I haven’t had time to turn around and say, “Boo!” However, I’ve had the pleasure of editing several of our books that have reached me at a deep level, or that just hooked me and made me laugh. Without meaning to leave anyone out, because I think we have a terrific team of authors, I’ll mention just a few.

  • Circles and Spirals by Ruby Standing Deer – The characters and culture explored in these Native American Indian historical pieces captured me early on, and never let go.
  • Desert Rice and Desert Flower by Angela Scott – These are powerful, emotional pieces that really surprised me. Billed as YA, which isn’t really my genre of choice as a reader, I just didn’t expect them to affect me as they did.
  • Hannah’s Voice by Robb Grindstaff – This is a great book, well told. Robb has an easy humor that shines throughout the book, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. It reminded me a lot of some of John Irving’s work, in both style and substance – particularly A Prayer for Owen Meany.
  • Hot Sinatra by Axel Howerton – This quirky gumshoe detective novel, part hardboiled and part noir, is just plain entertaining. Axel’s voice caught me early on, and the characters grabbed me and held tight. Plus, I laughed out loud on several occasions, something I always appreciate as a reader.

You work seven days a week, but on those moments that you can switch off, what do you like to do to relax? What helps Lane Diamond unwind?

My primary escape, now that I no longer sing in a band, is to go out on karaoke night, sing a few songs, and down a few beverages with friends. I also enjoy a little Texas Hold’Em on occasion, though that’s rare for me these days, or perhaps a little cribbage.

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. It was a pleasure having you here with me today.

 

If you are interested in contact Lane you can find him on Facebook, Twitter or via his Website.

Evolved Publishing can also be found on the social media highway’s of Facebook, Twitter and their Website

 

To get your hands on Lane’s book Forgive Me, Alex just click on the link and Amazon will be your destination.

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