Author of the Month
I chose Keith Remer as Myshelf Author of the Month because of his sense of detail and his ability to weave a compelling story. Remerís action is a perfect blend of physical struggle and psychological dilemma, driving the reader to keep turning page after page. Once finished, the reader has to ponder what just happened. The plot seems simple enough, until we reflect back on what just happened only to discover plots and subplots intertwined into a multi-layered, thrilling adventure. Remerís readers are not so much carried along by the action as they participate in it, even questioning our own thoughts and ethical positions. Iím convinced weíve seen only the beginning of a brilliant career, one that will eventually provide material for any number of college classes studying psychology, ethics, literature, and life.
Keith Remer was born and raised in the heart of Oklahoma, the setting for many of his novels, where he worked as a policeman and retired as an army colonel. He continues to live in a small enclave town in the heart of a wooded section of central Oklahoma with his wife, Carrie, an active duty army major, several animals and a developing horse ranch. Remer continues to expand his horizons in learning, living, and leading others.
Chris: Youíve had such a varied career. Why did you start writing fiction?
Keith: I spent years on the police department and years in the active army. Somehow I thought I should have gathered enough experiences to reflect some of my ideas on life. I grew up fairly sheltered in Ada, a relatively small town in southeastern Oklahoma. Then when I came to Oklahoma City, I saw people had the same kinds of problems and issues as the people in the more rural areas. I donít necessarily mean financial problems, but problems dealing with life.
Chris: Youíve written twelve novels and The Hiding Place of Thunder is the first published, though Run River Run is in the process of being made into a film. It seems to me your characters deal with these issues differently in your works. Do you have a consistent theme or message you want to get across to the reader?
Keith: We are in the early discussion of the film project. But the issues my characters deal with are really for the reader to discover. I have avoided trying or even thinking about my novels as artistic works. Somehow too much of the author creeps into the storyline. I struggle with the same issues as my characters and I plot out the books first to be entertaining, then to try to present situations, mainly psychological, that the readers and I struggle with.
Chris: So your intent is entertainment, correct?
Keith: I like a compelling story as much as anyone and I like to create situations that are exciting, but Iíve never seen a full-fledged hero in the real world, one who doesnít have problems. I try to make my novels as realistic as possible by researching the locale, the historicity, the local culture, and I draw my characters from the people who live there or who interact with the area. I try to make the plot more than a slice of life, more than just realism; that can get pretty boring. I hope, and so far my readers have said this, that the reader canít put the book down because the action is compelling. And maybe, the reader will be saying to himself, ďIf I were in that spot, Iíd do such and such. Or would I really?Ē Iím not trying to present a treatise on ethics or morality or anything like that, but those are the kinds of issues we deal with everyday. You may not think youíre prejudiced, for instance, but I bet I can present some character that brings some prejudice out in you. So, how do you deal with that once youíve discovered that bit of prejudice in you? That and the action might be why the books are compelling.
Chris: Youíve written twelve novels and are starting on your thirteenth. How do you stay focused and how do you plot out the storyline?
Keith: I set aside a certain amount of time each day to write. Even if I end up throwing away what Iíve written, I write everyday. As far as the storyline goes, I come up with a very basic idea of the plot, a very basic idea, and then populate it with the kind of characters I think would find themselves in that situation. The situations arenít far from daily occurrences but with a twist. A Hiding Place of Thunder, for instance, involves murder and prejudice, but the compelling part of the story is the main characterís developing relationship with his illegitimate son, a relationship the father has tried to forget. The murder/prejudice action excites the reader but we all have relationship issues and thatís what compels the reader to read on. I never know how a novel is going to end until it ends. Iím almost in as much suspense as the reader.
Chris: Why werenít the other novels published? Is The Hiding Place of Thunder so different?
Keith: The publishing business is a very competitive business and novels need to fall into specific genres to get attention from editors. Even as suspense or mystery, mine tend to cross boundaries. Theyíre not complex, but they are hard to put into a specific genre. It seems each reader gets out of the book something different. Some like the local color, others the murder mystery, some the psychological quandaries. I donít know. Enlighten Press has done a remarkable job in helping me bring this novel about and I certainly have improved my craft over the years. But thatís not to say that the other novels will get thrown on a back burner. Iím reworking them now and continue to edit them.
Chris: I have heard that you have a steady stream of blog responses on your website and Iíve also heard you respond to them. What do you consider to be the positive reasons for keeping in touch so closely with your fans?
Keith: Editors and publishers can say only so much about what they think readers want to see. But the most valuable lesson a writer can have is to learn from the readers themselves what they like and dislike. Iíve found readers to be very honest and open with their comments. They want to see quality products and often make suggestions that can only improve reader approval. Most of my remarks in this interview are a result of reader response—the compelling action, the psychological motivation, the historical accuracy, the participation of the readers in the characters themselves. This is what they like and this is what Iíll continue to provide in the next several novels.
Chris: Where do you hope this new career will take you?
Keith: Well, thatís for the readers to decide.
Read the review on Myshelf by Chris Querry of
2010's Honorary List