“Dave Watson is founder and editor of davesaysmoviesmatter.com. He is a writer, educator, and lives with his family in Madison, WI. This is his first book.”
It was a privilege to speak with Dave Watson about his memoir two weeks ago. He’s crazy smart and a lot of fun! Of course, I knew this already, having met him at The Future of Story in Las Vegas last year. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to gab with him about his new memoir WALKABOUT UNDONE. He had some great insights to share as you will see when you read for yourself what he had to say about his book and getting published as a first-time author.
AMY LAUREL: What was it that made you write this book? Was there a moment it went from being just an idea to “I absolutely must write this!”?
DAVE WATSON: I actually pitched the idea to someone who is now an agent in Hollywood. I met him 14 years ago, and I had a novel in mind for Australia that I couldn’t get focused. So I pitched it to him and I could see the look on his face. I said, “Are you excited?” and he said, “No. But what about this is based on your experience?” and then I started talking about that and he cut me off and said, “No! Write that! Do it as a memoir.” And that was probably the moment that set me off.
AL: You start out talking about your love life and are very open. How did you manage to let yourself be so vulnerable on the page? Did that come easily to you?
DW: No, It didn’t. You’ll be amazed that if you’re very open on the page people like that. And also, what are they going to do? If it’s in a book? They read it and like many people in life, they move on. They say, “Oh you were vulnerable. You were in love once. You were open about it. Okay.” And it becomes real to them in a way.
AL: You lived in quite a few places around the world before going to Australia. Do you think this prepared you for your experience?
DW: I would say yes and no. It was my fifth year abroad and I was 29. But I’d lived in smaller countries. I spent a gap year in Denmark. My Danish host brother at the time said, “You know, Danes see international events in bigger countries happen around them.”
And then the same thing happened four years later when I was in South Korea. South Korea is very used to seeing things happen around them and being very good observers.
Now Australia is very far from everything. Yet Aussies will have a very balanced world perspective. But, it is so isolated that the social dynamic, which came to light in my second year, is that nobody passes through Australia. People will go there as a destination and they go there once and then they go home. So it was a very particular experience in that way
And the Aussies will travel a little bit and then they will come home to roost. Like some Americans do. A lot of them grow up in Melbourne and then they stay there. And that I was not prepared for.
So in some ways, I was prepared to live in Australia and in some ways, I wasn’t. The thing with traveling is every place is different. And yet there are some universalisms.
AL: That was something I really wondered about because you seemed to intertwine yourself with a variety of cultures before Australia. But in Australia, you seemed to have a hard time with their ideology, or they had a hard time with yours, however, you want to word it.
DW: I did have a challenging time grasping and just seeing where they’re at. Especially towards the end of the book where it took so long for them to look at an essay and grade it. And this was with me following up, with me driving it, and going to the Dean it took more than four months for them to grade a 75-page paper. And I don’t know why.
And there is some mirroring going on because Australians pride themselves on making it up as they go along and I think we as Americans do the same thing.
AL: Many of my readers are also writers. Can you talk about how long it took you to get published? What did that journey look like?
DW: This may be the hardest answer for readers. I got married in 2004 and it was my fiance at the time who encouraged me to take a year off from Microsoft and write this book. And so, I did. And I finished it in ‘05 but I kept coming back to it because writing is rewriting. But then I also stopped because we discovered we were having our first and our son was due in the spring of ‘06 and I just wanted to become an involved dad.
And I will say this, I had that sense of accomplishment. That 237 pages sitting on my computer.
AL: Did you get many rejection letters?
DW: I had a fair amount of rejection letters! And talk about unprofessionalism. Maybe one editor out of 20 just disparaged my book. And that brings me to why? Why be so mean about it? That was really hard.
So I tabled it for a long time and I kept it in my back pocket and I shopped other projects around. I shopped a screenplay and some other things. I kept coming back to this. And I shopped it at two different writers institutes here in Madison and then I met Kira Henschel, and she was one of the three
And then I had to rewrite it over the course of about nine months. And have it professionally done and then finally in January of this year she said yes! She said, “We’ll be in Madison and we’ll sign.”
So that’s January of 2017 when I started writing it in April of 2004. So it was a very long process. And one of the keys is to keep a lot of irons in the fire. I started my movies matter website four years ago and that I do for fun. So the thing is to keep writing and keep a lot of irons in the fire.
AL: The book starts off as a sort of romance but then veers into several different genres that all wrap the story up neatly. This is not an easy feat. Can you talk about how you achieved it and what genres you touch on?
DW: Very kind of you to say! Remember, it’s still a mystery. These people I saw up close behaved the way they did and we don’t know why. I guess it ends as a mystery and starts as a love story.
I think we as human beings notice things that touch on the range of genres. As a writer, I think you inevitably fall into your favorite. Mine are crime and noir, so those will have a way of working themselves into this story.
We still experience genres every day. Say you go to the grocery store and see the mayor shoplifting. Say he gets away with it. Or you see a couple all snuggly in the bakery section and one of their exes is behind the counter. We could see this kind of thing every day.
AL: Your book sounds like it was a lot of rough learning about life for you. What do you hope your readers take away the most from your harsh experiences?
DW: That frustration leads to growth and greater insight, painful as it may be. Traveling does, and I realize this at one point, teach you where you’d like and love to go and where you shouldn’t. An Aussie I knew saw the scale in Indonesia. In the context of academia, grad school and Ph.D. students, goodness it can be a huge investment and unless you like what you’re working on, it can be a long frustrating path. You better like your colleagues as well; though you’re reading, writing, and researching, at the end of the day we are social creatures.
AL: Do you have any other books in your future?
DW: Yes, a corporate thriller because offices and behavior always fascinate me. I’m also developing a TV show.
AL: Finally, do you have any advice to those who are hesitant to start down a desired but possibly difficult path? Those who in their own way wish to go on a walkabout?
DW: Remember, the difficult path can be rewarding but not always. Many, probably not all, have bright spots. If I hadn’t gone back the second year, I wouldn’t have met Barry from Bristol and his partner Carolyn. I wouldn’t have seen Uluru (Ayers Rock). I also, as my friend Jim points out in the book, gone through life without Colleen asking “What if-what if-what-if?”
Finally, for the writers out there, my late editor Robin Ireland once told me, “Finishing is one of the hardest things; which is why so many writers drink.”
Thanks for reading my interview with Dave Watson! I hope you enjoyed what he had to say as much as I did! Have a thought on the book? Leave a comment down below. Enjoyed the interview? Drop me a like with the button below! See you in the comments section! Thanks for your support!