1. How did you come up with the title?
The title, The Duke Don't Dance, comes from actual graffiti encountered in a Washington DC office building men's room in 1980. Who wrote "The Duke Don't Dance" above the urinal and what it meant were mysteries, but it certainly wasn't the usual graffiti. After much discussion of who the Duke might be, the viewers (or at least this viewer) decided to steal a thought from Paul Simon and accept it as the words of a prophet speaking to their generation that they must "dance for themselves."
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The protagonists' generation, including the author, took its name, "Silent Generation," from an insulting article in Time in 1951 griping about the younger generation, when about half in their age bracket (b. circa 1926-1945) were still teenagers or younger. Partly due to that unfortunate label, the lifestyle of men and women in this transitional age group, if not neglected entirely, tends to be confused either with the boomers or conservative members of the prior "greatest generation." I wrote about the lives of rather typical, ordinary "Silents" in part as a corrective and to help fill a largely empty niche in fiction that could use more attention.
3. How much of the book is realistic?
It is not at all autobiographical, but is realistic both in terms of big events and small details. Yes, the "Silents," not the boomers, largely invented rock and roll, initiated the post war sexual revolution and were the first in Vietnam, the struggle for racial equality, and the culture of the 1960s. Among a wealth of small matters, references to the 1981 Beach Boy concert on the Capitol Mall was accurate to both the playlist and the placement of port-o-potties. And an acquaintance during the Vietnam War did have an uncomfortable body piercing.
4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
One reviewer called my writing style Pointillist (that is neo-impressionistic) and I think the comparison to that painting genre is apt. I used small bits of history and culture and personal reactions to create impressions of each character's feelings and motives, without constructing a full portrait of each protagonist, rather painting a broader picture of a generation. Some readers prefer Realism to Impressionism and I suspect I might have reached a wider audience with more extensive development each individual character. But, that said, I'm reluctant to do so. I'm an impressionist at heart.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Making sure that my characters did not try to sell themselves to the reader. It’s tempting to try to make the lead protagonists consistently likeable and set up others as villains, but the world isn’t that way.
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
A lot of people really are stuck on generational stereotypes. It's a pleasure to shake them up a bit.
7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I've been a non-fiction writer since high school, when I worked as a reporter for the school and small town newspapers. I was probably trying to impress girls. I went into development and transportation consulting as a career, writing many studies and reports. Then in 2000, I decided I'd lived enough life to write credible fiction about it.
8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Isabel Allende, particularly her early work. She communicates women's emotional depths to me in a way that enables me to translate my obtuse male understanding of female protagonists into something at least superficially credible.
9. Tell us your latest news.
Two American historical novels actually written before The Duke Don't Dance will be published as Indie releases before the end of the year. They are Jacob's Cellar, a multi-generational tale extending from the pre-Revolution era through the civil war, and Time is the Oven, a late 19th story taking on Western myths with a Shakespearean theme. Another contemporary novel called Crystal Ships, inspired by an Irish legend and a Doors tune, will come out sometime in late 2013. Announcements will be made on my website: http://richardsharpnovels.com/
10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Be resilient and unrepentant; it is really annoying to the judgmental.
About the Book
Compressed between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom were those who became known to some by the ill-chosen name of the Silent Generation. They were those born too late to share in the triumph of the great victory, too early to know only the privilege of the American empire and in too few numbers to assure themselves a proper identity and proper legacy. Despite those attributes, they invented rock and roll, filled the streets in the struggle for racial equality, bled in the heated precipitates of the cold war and opened the doors to the sexual revolution and feminism, her serious-minded sister. Their triumph lay not in their completion of these transitions, but in their survival through them. The Duke Don’t Dance follows the adult lives of men and women who made that journey.
Genre: literary fiction
Release Date: February 16, 2012
Buy Links: Amazon, Kindle, Nook
About the Author
Richard Sharp confesses to being a member of the “Silent Generation,” the subject of his contemporary novel, The Duke Don’t Dance. Born in the early 1940s into a farming family who had migrated to rural Colorado from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, he traveled east as a young adult to receive degrees from Harvard and Princeton Universities. His writing is enriched from career experiences across America and in some four dozen countries, spanning the Vietnam War era through the present.
Following years in the Washington, DC area as an international development and transport consultant, with assignments mainly in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the former Soviet Union, Mr Sharp now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. While The Duke Don’t Dance is not autobiographical, Sharp takes advantage of his broad experience to develop the novel’s vivid scenes of Thailand during the Vietnam conflict, post-colonial Africa, the Soviet Union and, of course, Washington, DC.
Sharp was the youngest child in a large family with both parents born in 19th century Missouri, their history forming a starting point for Jacob’s Cellar and Time is the Oven, tales or rural protagonists in the fringes of the South. The great grandson of three Civil War soldiers (two Union, one Confederate) and another grandfather displaced by the great conflict, Sharp explores its impact on ordinary men and women caught up in the war and its aftereffects.
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