I’m taking a break this week from talking about my work and what I do to share a conversation I had with my friend Trey Goodman (writing as Harl Goodman). Trey surprised many of us a few months ago with the news that he had written and was preparing to publish his first novel, The Scent of Redemption. I knew Trey from working in state parks as a kind, intelligent, and hard working guy. So when I found out he was another park ranger/author and a man writing in the romance genre, I had to know more!
Trey and I first met in 2010 at a managing park operations course, and I had the privilege of working with him off and on over the next three years until I left the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2013. Trey continues to work for the department in a profession he loves, having just left Galveston Island State Park to manage Purtis Creek State Park.
To learn more about The Scent of Redemption and author Harl Goodman (Trey), read on! Every author is so different, and it is fascinating to learn what makes him or her tick. I was blown away by his answers and I think you will be too.
Interview with Author Harl Goodman (Trey)
Me: Thanks for agreeing to an author interview with me, Trey. I’m so excited for you on the launch of The Scent of Redemption, and am glad to have another author friend to commiserate with, especially a fellow park ranger! Who knew working in state parks could lead to a career in writing? My first question for you is the most basic and obvious, yet I still struggle with it when speaking about my own trilogy. How does one narrow down 90,000 words to one concise statement? (That’s not my question for you, though.) What I’d really like for you to share with readers is what The Scent of Redemption is about, and what inspired you to write it?
Trey: The Scent of Redemption is about a woman’s desire to live with hope for the future while dealing with tragic events from the past. Sometimes, through no fault of our own, things happen to us which leave us with emotional and physical scars. Those scars become constant reminders of our imperfections and trying to keep them from defining who we are can be a challenge. Through a series of search and rescue adventures, the story reflects the struggle to forgive herself so she can find joy once again.
I love stories with strong female characters because I was blessed with being raised by a single mother who was the strongest person I’ve ever known. She died very young from breast cancer, but the way she fought the disease taught me everything I needed to know about emotional strength and dignity. She is the one who gave me the inspiration for the character. The setting the character found herself in was inspired by my love for dogs and my job as a park ranger.
Me: That’s a really special way to incorporate your own life stories and your mother’s into your art. I was going to ask you next if any of your characters were based off of real people, but clearly the answer is yes. I think most authors utilize real experiences and interactions with people to create new worlds, but I love that your story isn’t just inspired by the behaviors of a real person, or characteristics, but also by their life and who they were.
So my next question: Even though your female character was based on someone you knew very well, what did you find most challenging about writing a character or multiple characters from the opposite sex? One of my dear author friends who writes women’s fiction likes to say in a joking way, “We don’t write men how they are. We write them how we want them to be.” So that answers the question of how women write men, but as a man, how do you write realistic women?
Trey: I'm afraid I'm going to tarnish any sense of machismo that my friends may think I still have after writing a romance novel, but I was raised in a family of women. It was impossible not to absorb their feelings and emotions. Someone would come home upset after a bad date or sad over something hurtful someone said, and I paid attention to what they were feeling. I watched as they displayed their tough exteriors to the outside world only to come home and deal with the emotional consequences in private. It was enlightening, to say the least. I used those memories while writing in my female character's POV. Though I wanted her to push through the pain and handle her situation in a way that felt right to me, I had to reach back into my memory bank and let her take care of it like one of my female family members would have done. It's tough to think like a woman! The worst thing a male writer can do is to soften up on their female characters. The truth is, women are stronger than men in most ways. It would behoove a writer to remember that.
Me: Haha! Very true about women. I’ve rolled my eyes at some books where I think the author just pulled a cookie-cutter character out of a 1940’s movie and said “this is woman!” Your readers will be thrilled at how much thought you’ve put into giving them something real.
It’s fascinating hearing your answers to these questions because I’m sure there are people in your life who scratched their heads when you said “romance.” From the outside, you look more like an action/sci-fi/spy-thriller kinda guy, so to learn more about who you are as a person, and how that has inspired your writing is really neat for me. I’m sure it will be for others who read this blog and your novel as well. I can tell that your experiences growing up helped shape your prose, and you chose writing as your outlet for art and creativity for a reason. Sticking to that same time period of your life, what was an early experience you had where you leaned that language had power?
Trey: I love that question! I was one of the few people in my senior class that actually looked forward to writing the dreaded term paper. I was a junior in high school and had a lot of time on my hands because I dropped out of football for the year. The coaches were not the best at instilling confidence and I was feeling pretty low at the time. Just for fun one day, instead of doing my physics homework, I wrote a one page 'character analysis' about a good friend of mine and hung it up on the bulletin board in the school hallway. By the end of the day, everyone was talking about it. I expected the principal to take it down, but even he liked it. It became a weekly event to post them and people looked forward to reading them. Friends even started asking me when I was going to write one about them. It was never mean spirited and I was careful to write only good but funny things about my subjects. If someone was chosen for my paper, they were a star for the week. I had been so beaten down by the football coaches that it was a new experience for me to feel good about something I was doing. That's when I discovered that the written word had power to impact a reader.
Me: Okay that is such a cool anecdote. It almost sounds like the plot of something that could make for a really inspiring novel. J I know you’ve just finished a huge undertaking in releasing your first book, but do you have any plans for future stories, and if so, what could we expect from future Harl Goodman works?
Trey: A sequel to The Scent of Redemption will be out by the end of next summer. While I consider it a romance novel, it has enough crossover value to be appealing to the general fiction reader as well. After that, I am going to explore humor. I consider myself to be somewhat of a humorist and I have a couple of plots in mind that I think will keep people laughing. I've heard it's dangerous to change genres as an author, so I plan on putting them out under a pseudonym. After that, I will keep exploring novels that include life in nature. Somehow, I think that will always be my niche.
Me: That’s great news for fans of The Scent of Redemption! You won’t have to wait long for the sequel! And it sounds like you have many more great ideas to explore, which is more good news for us readers.
Another thing I want to ask you about is your writing process. It’s fascinating how differently we all approach the act of writing. For me, I have to be at my computer, in the same spot, at the same time of day, listening to epic movie scores (Hans Zimmer-esque) if I’m writing, and 90’s pop on Pandora if I’m editing. Other writer’s have completely opposite routines. What routine do you follow when you write, if any? Or how do you manage the chaos of no routine?
Trey: I am not fortunate enough to be a full-time author. At least not yet! I still have to manage a park ranger job that requires me to be on call 24 hours a day, which can cause problems with focus. I would sit down to begin a writing session and then get called out to handle an emergency. To counter that, I set up a nice place in a spare bedroom that is all mine. I even bought a writing desk and a nice chair to make me feel more professional about my writing. I try to sit down every evening after work and write at least two hours. Weekends I usually spend six or seven hours. I've never been able to focus correctly with music in the background. I tried it but it kept bringing back too many memories that had nothing to do with what I was writing about. So I prefer a nice quiet room, small writing sessions with frequent breaks. Of course that's why it took me almost a full year to write The Scent instead of the six or seven months it should have.
Me: Hey, a year is nothing. It took me three to get my first book written, edited, and published. You should be proud of that one year! And that’s great that you find time in a busy schedule to write, and that you have a family who supports that by giving you time to write and a space of your own. Writing is a solitary journey, but it definitely helps to have loved ones surrounding you who believe in your dreams as well. I’m almost done here, but I do have another question for you. Learning you were an author came out of the blue to me, as it probably did to some of your colleagues, friends, and maybe scattered family. Just for fun, what other hidden or uncommon talents do you have other than writing that most don’t know about?
Trey: Believe it or not, I am pretty good at playing Blackjack. I can count cards like no one's business. I'm also great at eating Mexican food. Both of which only serve to make me fat and broke.
Me: Haha! Fat and broke are not bad things as long as you are happy. I want to thank you for visiting with me today about your writing, and I also want to wish you the best in your new profession! One final question: Where can we buy The Scent of Redemption, and where can we find you online if we want to follow you through your writing journey and learn more about your upcoming projects?
Trey: Thank you Robyn for the opportunity. The Scent of Redemption can be found online at Amazon or through your Kindle. The paperback will be available on December 18th. I also have a new blog at harlgoodman.com that presents a humorous glimpse at what being a park ranger is all about.
Buy The Scent of Redemption now for your Kindle, or in paperback on December 18th HERE.