first call was: "Hey, Doug, we just sold Bad Karma."
I said, "Who's this?"
The guy said, "I'm your agent. At AMG."
I said, "Oh. Nice to talk to you. Thanks!"
We got off the phone."
- Douglas Clegg
HS: You decided to release BAD KARMA under a pseudonym, Andrew Harper. Why
Clegg: I've been asked this about a hundred times.
HS: Well, so much for my list of insightful, original questions.
Clegg: Hey, the truth is: I did it for fun. To do something different. To feel different. To shake up my life a little with an experiment rather than doing the same-old same-old.
HS: I understand you’ve now seen the film version of BAD KARMA, which was directed by John Hough and adapted for the screen by Randall Frakes. Are you satisfied with it?
For BAD KARMA, Doug Clegg wrote under the pseudonym, Andrew Harper, and has been asked why ever since.
Clegg: I grew up in a family of critics and from them learned that criticizing something is not really all that important or even valuable, and it often keeps people from getting on with their lives.
Clegg: That said, I wish I could write, direct, and cast any movie from any
of my novels: BAD KARMA included. However, I will say, that Patsy Kensit
is hot and really good in the movie. I loved parts of it, and hated
parts of it, and wondered why there were so many arbitrary changes that
further weakened the story. But the problem with all this is that I
can't see the movie the same way someone else can. I see the things
that could've been done, using the source material. I hear the words
the way I wanted them to be spoken, not the way the actors speak them.
But let me return to what I loved about BAD KARMA the movie. I loved
Patsy Kensit. She is great, and proves that a really good actor can
overcome a lot. And it's a very violent movie with some nice twists
Doug loves signing books at BORDERLANDS, (even
if they belong to Norm Partridge) and he loves hanging out with buddy, Jeremy Lassen.
Photo by Raul Silva
HS: Sounds like my kind of film, then. I remember her from the second “Lethal
Weapon” movie, and she is talented. Okay, another dumb question: What
was the process like for you? How involved were you allowed to be? I
used to work in Hollywood, and it is often unkind to writers.
Clegg: I used to work a little in Hollywood, too, so I stayed away. I was involved with three different projects at the time I got the call from my agent. The first call was: "Hey, Doug, we just sold Bad Karma." I said, "Who's this?" The guy said, "I'm your agent. At AMG." I said, "Oh. Nice to talk to you. Thanks!" We got off the phone.
HS: That is hysterical!
Clegg: Then two months later, he called and said, "Doug, guess what? They're making it. The check's on the way." Me: "Great! Thanks." I hung up the
phone both times and went back to the novel I was working on. I just was immersed and I didn't want to waste time worrying or thinking about a movie of a novel I'd written a few years back. I used to worry about whether a novel of mine would ever get turned into a movie, but with Bad Karma, I was so busy that I just didn't notice it beyond telling friends and family that a movie was getting made. It was rather awkward when some interviewer would say, "So, how closely are they sticking
to the novel?" and I'd say, "hmmm, never thought about that."
HS: I've always wanted to do the James Lipton “Actors Studio” thing, but I don't know if I can be obsequious enough. I'll try. Here we go… What is your favorite sound?
Clegg: The sound of fingers on a keyboard.
HS: What is your least favorite sound?
Clegg: My own voice.
HS: What is your favorite word?
Doug by the seaside
Photo by Raul Silva
HS: Your least favorite word?
Clegg: Death. Particularly this year where first one of my editors died, then
Dick Laymon died, then my father died, then all the people at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center died, and then my dog. I'm hoping that 2002 has less of the Grim Reaper. I am tired of death. I'm mourned out. I don't want people I love and care about to die. Death Begone!
HS: If there is a heaven, what do you want to hear God say when you arrive?
Clegg: "What the hell was I thinking? You need to go to the Other Place."
HS: Okay, now back to business. You’ve accomplished an incredible body of work in a relatively short time, Doug. Is there anything you have always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to yet?
Clegg: Well, unbeknownst to many, I do a lot of other things besides write.
Half of my day is spent in not writing. I sketch and compose and play
Nintendo games and read and sing, but mostly in the shower. I would
love to learn carpentry, but I'm completely untalented in that department,
so I leave it to the pros. I wish I could build my own house. Not sure
why, but it seems like it would be a useful thing to do. A stone house.
HS: How about other creative things, any dreams as yet unfulfilled?
Clegg: I'm just happy to write fiction, and I have to tell you: I don't take it for granted. It could end tomorrow; it's not a given. My other dreams are about having a happy home, getting another dog, enjoying life and keeping up with friends.
HS: Now that I'm middle aged (okay, a bit more than
that) I sometimes find myself looking back at a particular moment
or two in my life and wondering what might have happened had I turned
left instead of right; done this instead of that. Do you ever consider
“the road not taken,” what might have been?
readers are the ones who have really done a lot of promoting of my books.
They are an amazing group, and I'm always impressed by how good looking and
intelligent and witty they are."
Jane and Doug at the Stars Our Destination signing
Photo by Raul Silva
Clegg: No - I sort of like my crazy little life. I had a terribly messed-up upbringing, and my family would put the Borgias to shame, but I got a lot of great things from my parents and brothers and sister and the way we lived, and the kids I knew growing up, and the schools I attended. I really had a wild youth, and I regret none of it, other than some bad budgeting when I got my first big advance and partying too much when I was in college.
HS: I partied so much I didn’t make it to college until I was thirty-seven. Still, have you ever considered writing about some “other” life you
won't have now, or have you ever done that?
Clegg: Strangely, this is not how I'm wired. I write stories from my sense
of story and from observations in the world all brought into my imagination,
and I tell the tales I'd want to hear. I feel like I live the only life
I really would want to live, and I'm both lucky and unlucky. Lucky in
that I'm fairly happy and get to do what I love during the day and have
a great home life and love life; and unlucky because I'm just not smart
enough. I wish I understood physics, and I’m not joking.
HS: Me too, actually. I’m still trying to understand “The Tao of Physics.”
Clegg: Also, I wish I could be smarter about my so-called career. And the career thing does bother me: I don't have an agent for my books in New York, I don't really do what a lot of pro writers do to get their work out there. I was lucky to still have a Hollywood agent from my early days when I did have an agent in New York for my books. So, no one should envy me. Nobody.
HS: Finally, you seem to be pretty invested in ebooks and the use of the
Internet, to both promote and distribute your fiction. You've been at
it for years. How has that worked out for you so far, and where do you
see the business going in the future?
Clegg: I wish I knew. I do think that the Internet is the most cost-effective way to market a book, for a publisher or a writer. Is it the most effective? No. The most effective way is to get a $300,000+ marketing budget with a major motion picture deal of a million+, and have a publisher actually get behind the books, do a lot of co-op in the bookstores, take out major ads in the big city newspapers, and work to get the author on at least morning television shows. But good luck if you get this - I have not yet had the pleasure of this. Basically, I love the Internet.
I used to have $800 per month phone bills just to keep in touch with writer-friends. Now, my phone bills are really low, because of e-mail. I've met people through the Internet that I would never have been able to meet in the real world because of geography. I have been able to hear from readers and fans and critics and other writers, directly;
and I have been able to open a dialogue with them. My novels have received
a lot of press because of the Internet, and that's something no publisher
has seemed willing to get for my books. And books need press and media
attention. It's just a fact of bookselling. It's hard to get people
to notice a book in a bookstore. The Internet has helped readers put
my name out there - because the readers are the ones who have really
done a lot of promoting of my books. They are an amazing group, and
I'm always impressed by how good looking and intelligent and witty they
HS: Okay, flattery will get you everywhere. And e-books?
Clegg: I see e-books as having a nice chunk of the literary future, but for now, I think it's mainly nonfiction that will be the big area of e-books. I would guess that when the technology gets closer to the cheapness and ease-of-use of a paperback, then fiction e-books will really take off. For now, fiction e-books seem to work best for promotion and marketing -- as a sort of test-drive for the reader. Sometimes, as in the case of King's “Riding the Bullet” and Koontz's “The Book of Counted Sorrows,” e-books can be used with a really big author to create something special for the fans in e-book only.
NAOMI was the first novel Doug ever serialized on the Internet. Due to its popularity, Stephen King was quick to follow.
HS: You really connect with this stuff, don't you?
Clegg: For some reason, I seem to have a facility in the marketing area, and I'm not sure where that came from, other than I like to brainstorm with people much smarter than I am, including MJ Rose and Brian Freeman, about how to get word out on a novel. I've found that brainstorming with other people who are into books is a really good way to come up with creative ways to help spread word. I could write a book about how this works, in fact.
HS: It would sell.
HS: Douglas Clegg, you're a gentleman and a scholar. Thanks so much for your time.
Clegg: Thanks, Harry. Now, back to my road tour for THE INFINITE which ends
in a couple of days!