Monday, October 10, 2016

Interview with Emre Gurgen, author of Don Quixote Explained

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Inside the Book:

Don Quixote Explained

Title: Don Quixote Explained
Author: Emre Gurgen
  Publisher: AuthorHouse
Genre: Literary Criticism
Format: Ebook/Paperback

 Don Quixote Explained focuses on seven topics: how Sancho Panza refines into a good governor through a series of jokes that turn earnest; how Cervantes satirizes religious extremism in Don Quixote by taking aim at the Holy Roman Catholic Church; how Don Quixote and Sancho Panza check-and-balance one another’s excesses by having opposite identities; how Cervantes refines Spanish farm girls by transforming Aldonza Lorenzo into Dulcinea; how outlaws like Roque Guinart and Gines Pasamonte can avoid criminality and why; how Cervantes establishes inter-religional harmony by having a Christian translator, on the one hand, and a Muslim narrator, on the other; and lastly, how Cervantes replaces a medieval view of love and marriage―where a woman is a housekeeper, lust-satisfier, and child begetter―with a modern view of equalitarian marriage typified by a joining of desires and a merger of personalities.


The Interview
Question1- How did you come up with the title of your book?

There is a lot at stake in the title of my book, since it is my readers’ first impression of my work. It is the first piece of information people get about my novel, which they use to form an initial judgment.  With this in mind, I try to market my books by selecting a title that is as precise, original and evocative, as possible, without being overwhelmed by the process. 
My first step, then, is to brainstorm titles that express the subject-matter of my book in a catchy way:  a name that earns my readers’ immediate attention. To begin this process, I list possibles. Then I eliminate inappropriate titles, one-by-one, until only a few good titles remain. Afterwards, I winnow down what’s left until I find a fitting title.  Then, I go with it. 
When devising my title, I also try to distinguish my book from other books by showing people how my novel is different from what is out there.  How its’ angle, or theme, is unique.  If I do this properly, people are more likely to buy my book.  Thus, I try to select a name that differentiates my book.  A title that fits a new subject area or analyzes an old one from a new perspective. 
When selecting a title I also try to match my book’s name with its’ content, to fulfill my readers expectations.  So they are not disappointed. Thus, I try to express the main point of my work while also giving a hint of materials to come by selecting energetic titles with strong action verbs. 
In sum, choosing a fitting name for my book is essential, since a good title will get people to buy my book while a bad title will not.  If I have chosen a good title, readers will stop, pick up my novel, and peruse the back cover.  If they like what they see they will open it, read the table of contents, and flip through a sample page, or two.  If they like what I write about and how I do it, they will buy my book, increasing my royalties in the process.  All this depends on a good book title.  It initiates initial interest.
Do Not Be Wedded to Your Title:  You May Have To Change It
If you are hoping to publish with a traditional publisher there is a distinct possibility you may have to change your book’s title so that it more accurately express your book’s theme, or appeals to a wider market.  So if an agent or editor proposes a different title be open to their suggestions. 
For example, a best-selling author named Ayn Rand changed the title of her book Secondhand Lives to The Fountainhead.  At the suggestion of a New York editor named Archie Ogden, who pointed-out that her original title Secondhand Lives focused on her villains not her heroes, she immediately knew she had to have a title describing her hero Howard Roark, not her villain, Ellsworth Toohey.  The rest is history.  She sold 20 million copies.  Partly because she chose a better title by listening to her agent. 
So be open to the possibility of changing your title, especially when a publishing professional asks you to, since your original title may not work, even if you are emotionally attached to it. 
Use a New Title                    

Since, according to U.S. law titles in America cannot be copyrighted, find a title that other people have not previously used, so that your book stands out amongst the competition. 

Think, for instance, of a person who wants to buy your book because he is interested in its contents.  But his searches confuse him because it reveals several books with the same title.  If they are mixed-up by this, they may accidently buy another person’s book, not yours. Or, they may simply give up. You do not want that to happen.  Avoid this scenario by using a unique title.  Research what names have already been used.  Then choose a different one for your book.  A name that sets your work apart

General Advice about Titles to New Authors

Character’s names:  Often, (but not always) titles that make use of characters names have an element of mystery attached to them. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; The Picture of Dorian Gray; Harry Potter And The Sorcerer of Ascraband. Books with character names can also be whimsical, such as: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?; Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Place names. If your book has a great setting (a setting that has strong branding), you might want to use that to your advantage. 

Quirky titles. Some titles embody contrasts that make readers say, huhThis leads them to read the back cover to find out what’s going on.  Examples of this include Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; One of our Thursdays is Missing; Pineapple Grenade; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The one-word title. These titles tend to work best with really strong cover art. Here are a few one-word titles:  Slammed; Affliction; and Stranded.

Titles and Book Genre

If you’re writing in a commercial book genre, be sure you have a good understanding of how titles within that particular genre work. I wouldn’t recommend straying too far from the conventions of generic book titles, since fans of specific genres use titles as a kind of shorthand when they’re deciding what to buy and whether a book will live up to their expectations.

Title Generators

Online title generators invent names for books by using the topic, theme, and subject-matter that you plugged-in.

Though I do not recommend relying on automated title generators (since they often yield funny results) sometimes, they can unstumped a stumped person, a person who cannot think of memorable title.

Get Help

When I was coming up with my book’s title I asked colleagues, friends and family for ideas to put on my list of possibles.  Sometimes, their ideas were total flops.  At other times, their ideas were on the right track but needed improvement.  Occasionally, they invented a good title for my book:  a perfect designation I had not thought of. 
When potential names for my book were funny, or awkward, or simply did not work, I thanked the person for their time but discarded their suggestions quickly:  favoring my own title instead.  When an idea was interesting but needed to be modified to fit the nature of my book, I tweaked it a bit by adding words and changing tenses. When an outside idea was perfect for my book I did not debate any further.  There was no need.  Instead, I just used the suggested title, word-for-word, verbatim, exactly as a person envisioned it.  I went with it. 
For me, tapping another person’s brain for a title can be useful.  It nothing else it stimulates me to think further.  To go in directions I had not thought of. 
To me, asking other people for their advice on titles is helpful, so long as I am the final judge.
Do Not Change a Good Title
If you are pleased with your title and have good reason to be, do not, under any circumstance, change it, since, your book’s success is most important, not pleasing other people who could be wrong.  If you are convinced that you named your book perfectly, persuade your agent, or publisher that your title works.  Marshall convincing reasons why.  Get them on board. 

Short Titles are Better Than Long Ones
Short, simple, titles that show readers the main idea of your book in as few words as possible typically make more of a lasting impact than long descriptive titles that throw in everything but the kitchen sink.  This is why many perennial classics are two or three words:  like Atlas Shrugged, for example, or Les Miserables, for instance. 

Question 2 - What is your writing environment like?
My general advice to authors about their writing environments is to be more self-aware and reflective about their writing spaces, since a writers physical and temporal writing conditions can result in efficiencies or inefficiencies, focus or distraction, a good or bad book. 

When assessing your writing space ask yourself questions such as:  Is there loud traffic outside?  Do I live near a busy intersection?  Is there a steady barrage of hammering next door?  Does drilling from a construction site interrupt my thinking?  Do screaming kids playing outside startle me with their shrill shrieks?   Do I have a neighbor who plays his music too loud?  Do I have kids that constantly interrupt me when I am trying to write?  Are my phones ringing and buzzing constantly, when I am trying to work?  Is it too hot, or cold, bright, or dark, where I write? 

Be conscious of what is going on in your writing environment and try to change it.  If it is too hot or cold, turn the thermostat up, or down, so you are comfortable.  If ringing interrupts your flow of ideas, turn your phones off.  If you live in an urban environment, choose an upper floor in a sound insulated building, as far from street level as possible.  If you want to get rid of your noisy kids for a while, have your grandma babysit them, arrange for day care, or send them to boarding school.  We all love our kids (at least most of us do) but who wants them around when we are trying to write? If all else fails, set-up a writers retreat somewhere, known only to you, for quiet writing time.  Many famous authors did this, like Ernest Hemingway for example, or Mark Twain, for instance.  It could be a small cabin in the country, a quite nook in your local library, or somewhere else.  You decide. The vital thing is that it is quite, and that you have all the tools and information you need to write your book.  Everybody is different.  Thus, different solutions work for different people.  Just ensure that you, as a writer, are comfortable in your writing environment, so you meet your deadlines, without interruption.  Fit your writing environment to you. 

Personally, I need absolute quiet to write.  This is why I bought a tranquil townhouse outside of Washington DC, facing the woods.  In this domicile, I chose the quietest room for my office. My writing space is far from any roads.  It is insulated from most incoming sounds. Surrounded by space − one floor above and two floors below − I do not have to hear pesky neighbors walking on an upper floor above me, or strange noise emanating from down below.  Furthermore, my writing den it is carpeted, to absorb and repel any external sounds.  Since, I bought the house before it was built, I had my office stuffed with sound proofing insulation, to block-out loud sounds. 

My writing environment also has the tools I need to write well.  For instance, I have, at my finger-tips, a Roget’s Thesaurus, to look up synonyms and antonyms; a Merriam Webster’s International Dictionary to look up definitions; three floor-to-ceiling book shelves with books on writing query letters and book proposals; a recent version of the Literary Marketplace, which lists various agents and presses that may be interested in representing and publishing my books; books on grammar and style, so my writing is error-free in the appropriate style; various books about blogging and social networking that enables me to execute my media campaigns effectively; 3 Guerilla Marketing books with hundreds of no-cost, low-cost tips for selling my work on-line or in book stores.  An excellent book called Blogging for Dummies, that taught me how to blog, for whom, and why.  I have a lap top, for word processing.  A laser printer, for quick printing.  A scanner, to scan pictures into my manuscript.  A paper shredder, for privacy, so trash surfers cannot access or steal my ideas.  In my office, I have a fold-out coach, so I can collapse from exhaustion after marathon writing sessions.  I have a small refrigerator, a microwave, and a pantry, to store and prepare foods and fluids, to refresh for another round of writing.  I have a filing cabinet, to organize my manuscripts, according to their theme, topic, and genre.  I have spongy poster boards where I pin my book’s strategy notes. On my desk, I have an industrial stapler to clip together large reams of paper.  I have all sorts of pens, high-lighters, and post-it notes, to mark, color code, and organize, my writing projects.  I have draft and confidential hand stamps, so people reading my manuscripts know the status and nature of my work. I have various atlases to look-up geographic information that I use in my plots. 

I have a mailing station replete with envelopes, postage stamps, a digital weight scale, and a mailing meter, so I can mail my query letters, book proposals, and more (no matter what size) to the appropriate literary agents, commercial publishing houses, and university presses, with the correct postage.  Since I have all this, I do not have to wait in long lines at the post office all the time.  Rather, I weigh my mail at home, and put the appropriate stamp, or meter mark, on the envelope.  Then I drop-it in a post-office box, so it is delivered efficiently. Since I mail a lot of materials often, a mailing station in my home makes the process more efficient for me. I also have a variety of large clips, medium clips, and small clips, to bundle papers together.  I have liquid paper white out pens to correct my mistakes. 

I edit in a special, green reclining chair, with a foot rest, so I am not always sitting stock still, in an upright position. I have an ergonomic-squivel-desk chair, with a pillow on it, which allows me to sit and write longer without succumbing to body fatigue.  Sometimes, when I need to relax my body, I lay on my bed and edit, ensuring that I am comfortably settled amidst plenty of soft, cushy pillows.  When I edit I use a bold red pen, so I do not missing anything, so my editorials are seen. 

Question 3- What are some of the best tools available today for writers?
Great tools for writers include a thesaurus, which lists synonyms and antonyms, so that author’s use the correct word, with the proper nuance, in a fitting place.  A dictionary, to ensure that an author uses the correct words. A computer, for efficiency purposes, since a word processing program saves authors valuable time they need to produce timely manuscripts before deadlines are up.  I also recommend using Scrivener, since it’s easy to use, easy to keep organized, infinitely flexible, and for those long-term thinkers, you can compile straight to any format, including ebook formats that are ready to publish on Kindle and various other ebook platforms.  It has character and setting sketch templates, and it autosaves your workWith the rise in ebooks, doing things digitally first makes a lot of sense and saves you extra work anyways. Peace and quiet, so authors can produce good writing over long periods of time.  Notebooks, to record observations you make, about people, places, and scenes, material you may use one day to construct realistic plots. Make a habit of recording your thoughts in a journal, material you can refer to later, to incorporate in your book.  Just fill the pages, and when you get to the end of that notebook buy another one, then another, then the next.  At the very least this gets you into the habit of free writing, which is important for an author, since writing everyday, trains you to write quickly and well.  Grammar and Style Guides are important to learn the do’s and don’ts of good writing and proper style, as early as possible.  English grammar can take a lifetime to master, which is why there are these handy style guides you can keep around and reference while you’re doing your work.  A few good style guides are The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, The Star Copy Style by The Kansas City Star, and The Tools of the Writer by Roy Peter Clark. Writing groups.  Writing groups are my favorite tool of all. They’re a great way to meet other writers and put your skills to the test. Being a part of a writing group and workshopping your stories is, in my opinion, the absolute fastest and most surefire way to learn how to write fiction. Hundreds of MFA programs across the country agree.  Writing groups provide:

1.    Moral support. Other writers understand when you complain that writing is hard.

2.    Like-minded people. Share your hopes and dreams with like-minded people.

3.    Feedback. The invaluable critique that comes with workshopping manuscripts. They will give you honest feedback even when you don’t want to hear it.

4.    Healthy competition. Seeing other people produce work is the best motivation for a writer who is not writing.

I love writing groups and believe that every writer should have one in the early stages. Check or your local bookstore for one you can join.

However, one warning: if the writing group you find turns out to be a back-patting session, bail immediately. You’ll never learn anything if no one has the courage to tell you the truth, especially when it hurts.

Question 4 – What inspires you to write?
The inspiration for this book was my urgent need to connect Don Quixote’s themes to people’s lives in today’s world. 
To explain, since most people want to: find and maintain true love in their lives; live in a society free of crime and criminals; flourish in a liberal society free of religious extremism;   peacefully coexist with each other regardless of race, religion, or creed; learn how to live a moral life that is idealistic yet practical; live in an honest political culture; and adopt the principles of a modern civilized society based on freedom, I write about all of these topics in Don Quixote Explained.
In a word, I wrote Don Quixote Explained to show people how to:
·         find and maintain true love in their lives;

·         fuse morality and practicality in their souls by being idealistic and pragmatic;

·         gain political power even if they are from a modest background, just like Sancho Panza does when he becomes governor of Barataria;

·         Christians and Muslims can establish constructive synergies, where tolerance and kindness governs how they interact with each other;

·         Pre-criminals and future criminal can reform their personalities in a number of ways;

·         and, finally, how the principles of a modern society based on enlightenment ideas popularized during the Renaissance is better than a primitive society that founds its’ social organization on medieval feudalism. 

Another reason why I wrote Don Quixote Explained was to change how people write term-papers, essays, theses, dissertations, and books of literary criticism, in universities.
Since I want to restore how scholars used to critic books by restoring the classical idea that texts have particular messages and morals and that a text represents one idea (rather than being contradictory or complex) I tried to show, in Don Quixote Explained, how it is possible to dissect an author’s intentions from their writing.   In other words, to refute the popular stance that readers of a book cannot possibly know what an author intended by writing that book I show readers that a literary critic can know what an author meant in his book if he, or she, examines: the evidence in the text itself; extrapolates logical explanations therefrom; takes into account how the author presents certain phenomenon through the perspective of his characters; why the author incorporates certain historical scenes and events and not others; who the author chooses as his hero protagonist and what and why; and what the narrator’s observes and what this says about the author. 
To me, it seems that a premium is placed on asking questions and opening up possibilities (especially in heavily theoretical fields) rather than tying off books with definitive answers.  This, I want to change. 
Also, I was inspired to write Don Quixote Explained to persuade literature students to focus their writing on the books they critique rather than outside discussion.  In other words, by furnishing a text-centric example of literary criticism in my book Don Quixote Explained I try to persuade English students to focus more of their analysis on the book they are critiquing, not on what other think of it.  Though, sometimes it is appropriate to support your critique of a book by referencing what other professors have said about a book, in my view, the primary focus of a critical essay, should be the book itself, not external matters.  This, then, is why I write almost exclusively about Don Quixote’s themes in my book Don Quixote Explained, in a way that is meaningful to people’s everyday lives.  To my mind, this type of literary analysis is almost unheard of in English departments, except, as advanced by objectivist intellectuals, like Andrew Bernstein, who connects what he says about a book to the lives of his students.
This, then, is a strong inspiration behind my books:  a motive force that inspired me to write my Don Quixote Explained book series

Question 5 – Did you learn anything while writing this book?
By writing Don Quixote Explained I learned how to:  write lengthy books; compose effective query letters; craft expert book proposals; gain helpful endorsements; build a personal author website; blog effectively by maximizing my SEO and click through rate; present professionally on Don Quixote at symposiums; network with colleagues; create and publish professional journal articles; improve my writing by practicing the craft of authorship consistently; and, above all, to think critically in writing.   Besides all this, writing Don Quixote Explained taught me that the mechanics of good writing consists of a clear thesis, proper punctuation, correct grammar, topical sentences, and balanced paragraphs.  Also, I learned what a fair publishing contract looks like by reading examples.

Question 6- What is your favorite quality about yourself?
My favorite quality about myself is my persistence, in the face of rejections, my dedication, despite letdowns, my tenacity, in reaching a worthwhile goal, especially as it relates to Cervantine scholarship.  Though, when writing Don Quixote Explained I encountered many difficulties along the way, I learned that if I really want something enough, I can complete a project, any project, successfully. 
To explain, during the writing and publication of my Don Quixote Explained books, I did not listen to people who said that my books would never be successful.  That I would never make any money from my writing.  That there is nothing new about Don Quixote under the sun since thousands of doctors before me have already said all there is to say about Don Quixote.  Even though some of my friends, family, and other community members said that I should give up my book and focus on my real job instead, thankfully, I did not listen to them.  And, I am glad because of it.  In other words, instead listening to people harrying me with snide comments, I knew what I was doing even when others did not.  Thus, rather than viewing my Don Quixote Explained books as an unrealistic pipe dream launched by an overactive imagination, I took my books seriously, due to which I now plan to launch a career critiquing and teaching English literature.  Now, I have a positive reputation in Don Quixote circles with new insights to add.  In sum, I took the path of greatest resistance, and won.  Why? Because I did not give up.  Because I persisted. 
To elaborate, despite the fact that many of my query letters went unanswered, many of my book proposals where rejected, deep-down, in the inner recesses of my soul, I realized that what I had to say about Don Quixote was valuable, new, and had to be published.  That I should persist no matter what.  This is why when formal university presses would not publish mebecause they did not want to take a chance on an unproven newbie without a Doctorate, without a teaching position, and, in short, without a track record of successI self-published my own books, earning, in the process, an endorsement from a respected translator of Don Quixote, shelf-space for my book in the Kennedy Center, a well-received lecture at a respected International Symposium on Don Quixote, as well as a solicitation to publish in Cervantes, the premier Don Quixote journal.  Despite naysayers pestering me all the time, I created a personal author website ( an online presence that is highly ranked by Google, has a decent click through rate, and is critically acclaimed by some web professionals.   
True, though my book project took me thousands of hours of hard work, and years to complete, it was well worth it to me.  Instead of giving up prematurely, I persisted, and won.  This took gumption.  This took determination.  This took will power.  This required resolve.  This required purpose.  This accomplishment I am proud of. 
I made it happen.  Now, my books are fairly successful.  And I am happy because of it.  Though there remains a lot of work for me to do regarding my Don Quixote Explained books, I have already started to build a positive reputation.  

Meet the Author:
Emre Gurgen, the author of Don Quixote Explained: The Story of an Unconventional Hero, has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Pennsylvania State University. Currently, he lives in Germantown, Maryland, where he is writing a follow-up Don Quixote essay collection and study guide.

Tour Schedule

Tuesday, June 28 - Interviewed at PUYB Virtual Book Club
Wednesday, June 29 - Interviewed at  at I'm Shelf-ish
Thursday, June 30 - Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Monday, July 4 - Interviewed at The Review From Here
Tuesday, July 5 - Guest blogging at My Bookish Pleasure
Wednesday, July 6 - Guest blogging at Voodoo Princess
Thursday, July 7 - Guest blogging at The Literary Nook
Friday, July 8 - Guest blogging at All Inclusive Retort
Monday, July 11 - Guest blogging at A Title Wave
Tuesday, July 12 - Interviewed at The Writer's Life
Friday, July 15 - Guest blogging at As the Page Turns
Monday, July 18 - Guest blogging at A Taste of My Mind
Tuesday, July 19 -  Guest blogging at Write and Take Flight
Wednesday, July 20 - Guest blogging at Harmonious Publicity
Thursday, July 21 - Interviewed  at Bent Over Bookwords
Friday, July 22 - Guest blogging at The Dark Phantom

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