BookLife Talks with Douglas Cooper
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Focus Lost'
Focus Lost is your third book. Has your writing process changed since you first began writing?
Overall, my writing process has become more structured over my three novels. Initially I wrote in more of a stream of consciousness style because my genesis as a writer was in journaling. I would start writing and let the ideas take me where they went. While I still think the best writing comes in an organic flow, I now develop full character profiles and plan out the story structure and events before I start. Creating the signposts of the journey and writing in between them is just more efficient and keeps the narrative tighter. I focus my daily writing on specific scenes and have a weekly goal of 25 pages. Setting page goals weekly, rather than daily, lessens pressure and mitigates guilt for not getting pages done when life intervenes, which it so often does.
To what extent do you draw from real life, and what responsibility do you feel to reimagine or change characters who are based on real people?
Because of the detailed style and real-life settings in my novels, readers often think the characters and events are based on actual people and on things that happened to me. While I draw inspiration from real life, I write fiction for a reason. My purpose is to entertain and educate through storytelling. People sacrifice their money and time to read books, so I have a responsibility to provide value for their investment. If they want real life, they can listen to or read the news. Most often, people are opening books to escape that or to gain new perspectives. My commitment and focus are to delivering that.
How do you imagine readers at this moment will connect to Focus Lost?The fine line between passion and obsession runs through us all. We’ve all experienced this to some degree, whether it’s with a relationship, a hobby, a job, or some goal or object of desire. Our craving and love for something can cause us to lose sight of what we really want, why we wanted it, and who we are. All the characters in Focus Lost deal with this in different ways, and I envisioned this serving as a mirror to how we all fall into this trap at times in our lives. The title and a lot of symbolism draw from Milton’s Paradise Lost and the Garden of Eden creation story. The three main characters, a famous actor, his agent, and a nature photographer, represent Satan, Eve, and Adam, respectively.
What do you think your book offers that other books in the thriller genre don’t?
My first two books were slanted more toward literary fiction, whereas Focus Lost and the new novel I’m writing are straightforward thrillers, but I still retain the literary components and add texture to the writing with symbolism and references. Hiding nuggets of truth and homages to other works makes the writing process more fun for me, like creating a puzzle. It also adds depth, so readers who enjoy that type of density and are driven more by character and metaphor/allegory than plot can take their time and chew on stuff a bit more.
What are you working on now?
My fourth novel is a thriller called Nice to See Me. It’s about narcissism and being able to see outside of yourself and your own beliefs to trust others and life. It takes place in a small town where children disappear from a lakeside park. When one of them returns, unharmed, and is willing to show only her father where she has been, it calls into question whether people in their community will ever believe what is happening. It’s been a lot of fun writing about these really self-absorbed people who just can’t help making everything about themselves until life shakes them from their egoistic comas.