I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, the youngest son of a teacher and an aircraft manufacturing engineer. My mother taught piano in our home through my adolescence. But she had been a grade school teacher for years before I came along, at the elementary school my siblings and I would ultimately attend. Probably because of her, I read at a level several rungs higher than my peers from an early age. People my mother had worked there with were now my teachers and the principal. That resulted in getting some extra attention, most of which was positive, and proved to benefit my development. Daily reading at home started with today’s newspaper and included other periodicals, books, and encyclopedias. That gave me a sound foundation in things from current events to geography and history, all of which I still enjoy today.What did you want to become when you were a kid?
My career interests always included being involved in aviation and space. I had an uncle with an airplane on his modest ranch, and I still recall flying with him often as a child. After seeing the Original Seven Mercury Astronauts in person before their first flight, I wanted to be an astronaut, like so many kids back then. I became very active in Civil Air Patrol in my teens, which helped me earn my Private Pilot’s license while still in high school. For years, I wanted to follow my father into studying aeronautical engineering. I always dreamed of doing something involved with flying, and I hoped to have a long career in the Air Force as late as entering college. But during high school, I got the writing bug from journalism classes and becoming the Sports Editor of our reputable school paper. When the prospective Air Force career hit a speed bump, I entered the university as a Radio/TV/Film major to study broadcast journalism. After my father wondered aloud too often how I would make a living in that field, I switched to Finance. I’m glad I got away from broadcasting, remain somewhat sorry I held off writing for a thirty-year gap, but most of all I still regret abandoning those dreams of a life in flight.What motivated you to start full-time writing?
Throughout my career, I always wrote sometimes long and detailed reports and technical business stuff on a daily basis. After we lived through losing everything in Hurricane Katrina, our future was seriously in doubt. Those long-held interests in writing surfaced. I felt I should write about our experience, but had trouble getting through the trauma to do so. Then, I had a dream that prompted an idea for a story and wondered if I could write it. I wrote the first draft of what became “Gabriel’s Creek”. Before I published it, in my mid-fifties, I “got very sick”. I prepared for the negative outcome doctors led me to expect. When instead, I kept living but was unable to return to the work I’d made my livelihood in, I decided to publish my novel. Continuing to live, I needed an occupation, something to keep me busy as my recovery continued. I enjoyed the writing of that first novel, and ideas kept popping. I’ve dabbled in everything from poetry to short stories to essays and more. While I still may have some non-fiction works in me, my interests as a novelist will be my focus, and I hope to continue to improve.Which is your favorite memory of being an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin?
Beyond the cultural experience of a major university being very eye-opening, I found Austin a very cool place with the perfect college-student’s vibe. It was a wonderful town that has retained its charm through the years since while becoming a large city. I loved Austin, its live music scene and so much about it. It felt perfect for a kid from the prairie of North Texas, both close enough to home and far enough away. My dad was a student there in the early ‘40’s, and he indoctrinated me to the campus and its traditions through the mid-‘60’s. I loved all of what that brought to the experience. But, I must say, and I’ve said this many times over the years, if there’s one thing I enjoyed most of all, it might be Earl Campbell. For those unfamiliar, he was a football player who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and ultimately enter both the College and NFL Football Halls of Fame. We were students over the same four years. As a football fan (more so then than today), watching him play in person almost every game for four years was “worth the tuition”. He remains the best football player I ever saw and a uniquely genuine role- model-type human being. So, as corny as it sounds, there’s a lot of truth in him being among my favorite memories. And Barbecue with Lone Star longnecks.How would you describe your long career in the hospitality industry until turning to writing full- time?
In college, I always worked a job in a variety of part-time jobs while carrying a full-time scholastic load. Before I finished at the university, I began working in hotels, on the “graveyard shift”. I hated the first job, but the second was as an auditor at the new local Marriott Hotel. I had found something I enjoyed and was also pretty good at. They liked me, and I liked them. As I finished my studies, I felt I had “a bird in the hand” and kept going with this major, growing company. I entered management and continued to progress in responsibilities, moving often as I relocated to open new properties. I earned a major, upper-level position long before my peers. Recruited away from Marriott by Stouffer Hotels to a regional executive, frequent-flyer traveling position, I felt I was truly making positive contributions as I expanded my resume. When I met my wife-to-be inside the organization, both of us couldn’t continue with the same company, and my travel needed to stop. Because I was based in Cleveland, my choice was clear. I left Stouffer and we moved our new family to the Gulf Coast when I took an independent property executive spot. Although I evolved from the lowest levels to one quite high, I ratcheted down when illnesses dictated I downsize my career. At doctors’ requests, I went down further, to dealing table games in a casino. Then, pick up where the previous question (#3) left off.Who inspired the character of Marie Duval in "Bogeys: Part One: Armistice"?
I can’t say Marie is modeled on one specific person. I’ve never been to France, and the only French people I’ve known were men. But as I developed the character, I think there must have been a subliminal connection to people from my life. Most novelists I know will admit that’s a common, almost autobiographical denominator in creating characters – we base features of all of them on people we’re familiar with. I’ve known several independent women who were stunningly attractive while having modest roots and a strong work ethic. I certainly wanted a strong, independent woman with an equally feminine side. I wanted to contradict common conventions and show that despite the sexist record of history, there have been men who very much appreciate Marie’s qualities in women; that it’s not necessarily evil to appreciate feminism and beauty.How much did you research about golf while writing your book, "Gabriel's Creek"?
I could claim a lifetime of research because I became enchanted with golf at a very young age, at least what golf was to lower-middle-class kids in the early 1960s. I played regularly through much of my life (most of it badly), although today, it’s unusual if I play twice a year. As a boy, playing golf started as a way to figuratively keep us off the streets in the summers, and we’d be at municipal courses almost every day. We were far from the country-club scene. Growing up in Texas, I also loved the team aspect of football. In high school, I became disenchanted with football when drawing blood became more important than the game’s camaraderie. An uncle and aunt were daily golfers in central Texas, and they took me under their wings to grow my appreciation for golf. It felt more natural to suit my introverted nature. Back then, it was common to play by yourself, just you against the course. I got away from golf for a few years through college and the early years of my professional life, but I grew into opportunities to play often, on great courses across the United States. I got fairly good – confident, anyway, good enough to not embarrass myself – and built some great friendships along the way. Reaching the Gulf Coast, managing golf courses became part of my career responsibilities. That broadened my appreciation for everything that goes into the business side of it, including aspects of golf course design and architecture. The real courses that appear in “Gabriel’s Creek” are places I’ve actually played (with one exception). The rest, including all of the fictional Gabriel’s Creek Golf Course itself, I simply had fun making them up, designing each one, hole by hole.What are some important issues you hope to discuss or bring to light through your books and your writing?
Perhaps like other authors, my initial writings were not for readers so much as for myself. “Gabriel’s Creek” was certainly that way, as was “Intersection with History” for different reasons. I know I have to evolve to some degree to writing the stories readers want to read as much as writing what I want to write. I find myself writing character-driven pieces about relationships, like “Gabriel’s Creek” and “Bogeys”. I prefer to immerse a good dose of emotion in my stories, ranging from relationships to events that elicit a reader’s reaction. Relationships aren’t always romantic, and friendships can still be deep and long-lasting without having any sexual connotation. Who can argue there’s something in life better than having a life-long friend? When I go outside that box to try and focus instead on pieces with other meanings, I’ve tended to be a little deeper than I should. I’ve always ascribed to the old adage that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. That means current times in the United States are a little hard to deal with – right now, fact is indeed stranger than fiction. I find it’s become nearly impossible for me to be objective, as a writer or a reader. Still, it’s quite likely a “political thriller” might be in my future, and expect my position to be clear if I do.What is it about historical fiction that you love the most?
I enjoy learning, so I enjoy doing the research necessary to learn enough about a period that I feel comfortable incorporating appropriate action into my fictional story. I’ve got enough true events of my life’s experience that provide plenty of opportunities to write creative non-fiction pieces, where I create a fictional story in an actual setting. So far, I feel I’ve created good stories in periods I have an interest in, which I never studied a great deal until writing about them. That’s how the idea for the “Bogeys” series came about.What is one thing that has changed after being an author? Do you miss anything?
No, it’s not the point of writing, but at the same time, I miss “earning a living”. I feel like I work harder for less than I’ve ever experienced. While that’s true, there’s been one piece of advice I try to keep in focus, in answer to the question, “How do I sell more books?” The answer/advice is, “Write something good”. I’m trying. I miss believing I’m really good at what I do. I also believe that will come in time – flashes of brilliance give me hope. When I get better, perhaps an income will come that can trickle down to my grandchildren. In the meantime, most people I know wonder what I was thinking.According to you, how different and difficult is it to write historical family memoirs?
In writing “Intersection with History”, I learned a lot. I’d advise writers not to wait fifty years to write about their experience. I found it difficult to try and write my “historical family memoir” after all the primary players passed away. I counted on my memory for most of the content, not the smartest move when you’re growing older and memories begin to fade. In my case, I wasn’t “a writer” for much of our lives, so the family only rarely touched on thoughts of documenting our day. After all, news outlets had interviewed my mother, including Life Magazine, and she’s in the Warren Report. But those channels didn’t tell the story I hoped to tell, the ones people always seemed to find interesting. The trauma of the event that made my mother and brother – the true key players in the story – reluctant to talk about that day for the rest of their lives. For those imagining a similar project, I would suggest giving it much more substance for the reader than mine does. Originally intended as a series of periodical articles, I decided to put them together in book form – that’s why it’s so short. Such a book as mine would benefit from being enhanced with the memories of others’ experiences, including what they recalled about my mother and brother. Since I failed to remain close to my childhood friends, I didn’t think about how their thoughts would contribute to the story as I wrote it.What do you feel about self-publishing? What are its pros and cons?
My first experiences with communicating with agents and publishers and reviewing their offers made me turn to self-publishing. With traditional publishing, I found quite concerning the turnover of my rights and the minuscule payments of royalties to authors, considering the work level. The primary reason I jumped at self-publishing’s DIY method was the control we retain over our own product. Also, there’s the pride of authorship that carries through the life of the book from its inception to its sale, throughout its design and production. Now approaching the publishing of my fourth book, it feels like the bloom might have fallen off that rose. There’s so much to get bogged down in, we don’t write as much as we want to, or should. It’s a trap many of us fall into – maybe I’m one of them. As a younger person, I might be better equipped to learn the needed skills and wear the many hats needed. But, there are so many things that seem so far outside my expertise that I’m beginning to consider looking at traditional publishing again. (Insert another old business adage: “Find what you don’t do well, and don’t do it”.) Perhaps I can compare the two of today and decide: does the retention of control but the sacrifices of lower unit sales in self-publishing still outweigh the low unit royalties and loss of control of the traditional side? If so, I should continue to prefer self-publishing. There are many pros and cons, but I have more experience now than when I made my original choice. Having never yet accepted a publishing offer, I find it difficult to speak against it until I’ve tried it. Stay tuned.How have negative and positive reviews helped you to write better?
I don’t ignore negative reviews as well as we’re advised to, but I don’t focus on the negativity of them. I must say, I haven’t had many, but a lesson from my hospitality career is that for every twenty or so who might have a complaint, you’ll only hear from one of them. I believe we should welcome all the feedback we can get. Positive reviews stroke the ego, but can they help us improve as much as negative feedback might? I look for the possibility there is something I can learn from negative feedback while remembering it’s true some people simply enjoy being a jerk. I find my orbit of self-publishing authors exchange good mutual feedback with a focus on the craft. But hearing from readers is a wonderful confirmation that you’re actually doing something right. “Gabriel’s Creek” is admittedly a book that asks readers for deep-thinking. People are touched by that book in a way that catches them a bit off-guard, in a positive way. The feedback I get on that novel gives me an extremely gratifying feeling that I’ve done something positive for my readers.Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you. Do you have any new books planned?
I’m kind of an open book, being somewhat laid bare on my website bio (alanlivingston.com). That means I can’t say readers wouldn’t know about my Hurricane Katrina experience or those I’ve had with cancer. Beyond that, I’d be reaching to answer the question, like saying I’ve never run into many people who’ve spent time in Taiwan, as I have. Long story. As for current projects, I’m currently working on Part Two of my “Bogeys” series, targeting to release it this year. Beyond that, I claim a couple of novels in progress. The two I’m most anxious to get to are aviation-oriented. In the first, a man discovers his family's future was altered by inaccurate details of his father's death on a doomed commercial airline flight 20 years before. In another, a former Special Forces operative investigates an international mystery in the Nevada desert.How has your experience of association with AllAuthor been?
I’ve yet to take appropriate advantage of AllAuthor as it’s intended. I hope to do so soon. My experiences with communication from the site are very positive so far. I look forward to learning more about how to manage my presence there.
Alan Livingston is a master of description. He has a gift for painting a picture with words. His career interests always included being involved in aviation and space. After a long career in the hospitality industry, Alan is now a full-time writer. He is the author of the inspirational golf novel "Gabriel’s Creek".