Novelist talks about his book, getting published
Anthony Carlisle, an associate professor of journalism/English at California University of Pennsylvania, talks about his novel “Souls of Clayhatchee: A Southern Tale” and the process a novelist goes through in this interview.
He served as chairman of the former English Department from 2016 to 2020. He earned a bachelor’s in English from Cal U, a master’s degree in liberal arts from Duquesne University, and a doctorate in literature from Indiania University of Pennsylvania. At Cal U since 2002, he teaches journalism, literature, and composition courses in the Department of Culture, Media, and Performance.
Prior to teaching, Carlisle was a reporter for 11 years in the Pittsburgh area. His literature research interests are protest, African-American, and Appalachian. He has presented at several conferences to include the English Association of Pennsylvania State Universities, Midwest Modern Language Association, the Association for the Study of African-American Life & History, and the Appalachian Writers Association Conference.
Carlisle is the winner of several awards as both a journalist and college professor: The New Pittsburgh Courier Men of Excellence Award, The Robert L. Vann Award for Investigative Reporting, The Robert L. Vann Award for Feature Writing, the Keystone Spotlight Award for Business Writing, the Frederick Douglass Institute Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Sigma Tau Delta Luise van Keuren Award for Teaching.
His novel, “Souls of Clayhatchee: A Southern Tale,” was published May 2021.
Carlisle is an Army veteran, serving 14 years in the Reserves and deploying to the Middle East in 2004 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
QUESTION: How did you get the idea for your novel?
ANSWER: The idea just came to me as I started writing. I just knew that I wanted to write something funny. Although there is humor in the book, it turned out to be a mystery. Go figure! However, I have always been interested in the great Black migration of African Americans from the South moving to the North.
QUESTION: What is your writing process?
ANSWER: I committed to writing every day regardless if it were 10 minutes or two hours. It’s really about being steady and consistent.
QUESTION: What did you learn from penning your book?
ANSWER: That the hard part occurs after you finish the book. I went years trying to find a publisher and an agent. At times, I felt like quitting, but it’s just not in me to give up.
QUESTION: What is your brand?
ANSWER: I’m still trying to figure out my brand; it’s is still emerging. I think the fact that I have a doctorate and I’m a college professor of English are all part of that brand along with my being a reporter for many years and a military man.
QUESTION: Through this process, what did you learn about business and commerce?
ANSWER:I’m learning that this writing is a business. It goes beyond just writing a good book—you have to promote and market it. You have to strategize to see who you think the target audience is. You have to learn social media and use it to your benefit. Finally, you have to “put yourself out there” and sell yourself along with your work.
QUESTION: What did you learn about yourself through the writing process?
ANSWER: I learned that I’m a writer—a real writer. It seems funny to say that since I made my living for many years as a newspaper reporter. I think this book of fiction lends validation to me that, at least in my mind, I didn’t have before. I finally published a piece of fiction— a long-held goal of mine.
QUESTION: What did you learn from the editing process?
ANSWER: It’s ongoing. LOL. Every time I thought I was through editing, there was something else that needed to be done. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read my book. But I did genuinely enjoy working with the editors. And really the editing process is a lot like that of journalism; we were checking to make sure the facts were straight even though it’s a work of fiction. That was cool.
QUESTION: What are you learning from the book tour?
ANSWER: I’m learning to be a promoter of myself and my work. That doesn’t come naturally. As a former reporter, I was used to being in the background. Now, however, I’m being interviewed, and that seems strange. It’s just different — a role reversal.
QUESTION: What have been the highlights?
ANSWER: Everything has been so much fun! I’ve appeared on great podcasts. I’ve been interviewed by good reporters. I’m having fun. If I have to choose two, one would be the interview I had with Chris Moore, a longtime mentor of mine. He loved the book, and I was thrilled by that. Another great moment was reading at the McLaughlin Library in Ambridge, my hometown. It was great to see family and friends come out to support me.
QUESTION: What did you learn as you grew up in Ambridge?
ANSWER: I learned how to interact with all types of people. It has served me well in my careers.
QUESTION: How did your family and friends help you?
ANSWER: They were supportive all the way—especially my wife. She knew this was a dream of mine, and she kept me from being discouraged.
My children are great on social media and marketing and they have really helped on that end. In fact, the picture of me on the book cover was taken by my younger daughter, Amya, and my oldest daughter, Arielle, helped edit.
QUESTION: What did your wife or kids say when you were notified that your book would be published?
ANSWER: They were excited. They were happy for me. Again they knew how long had wanted to do something like this. They’ve been all in with supporting this book and me.
QUESTION: What lessons did you take with you from the military?
ANSWER: I learned about leadership. I saw a lot of good leaders in my day and some not-so-good leaders, so when it was time for me to hold leadership positions in my unit, I applied those lessons—those examples—on how you treat people.