Dori Ann Dupré
I am so excited to have Dori Ann Dupré on the blog with us today. Dori is the author of newly released Scout’s Honor! Dori shares with us about her writing experience and tips for other aspiring writers. Be sure to check out a great excerpt from Scout’s Honor in the interview too! Can’t wait to read this one!
Interview with Dori Ann Dupré
Tell us a little about yourself:
I am a first time published novelist. My book, Scout’s Honor, was published on April 14th, 2016. I’m originally from New Jersey, hold a BS in History and a Post Bac Paralegal Certification, and I’m a veteran of the US Army. I’ve lived in North Carolina for over 17 years now, where my husband and I raised our two daughters. He passed away last Fall at the age of 47 from Colon Cancer. Scout’s Honor and my second book, Good Buddy, which was inspired by my husband before he became ill, have saved me throughout this very difficult period in my life and in the lives of our daughters.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I think most indie authors have under-appreicated novels. It is hard to get it out there in order for it to be appreciated by the masses. In that light, I am choosing an indie author’s novel for purely personal reasons. Eight Days by Scott Thompson came out in March 2016. Scott Thompson is an author who is also signed with my publisher, Pen Name Publishing. I received an ARC copy just a couple of days after my husband’s terminal diagnosis. His novel is about a man who dies and is caught between life and death. He has to reckon several events from his lifetime in order to move on to Heaven. There are 8 events, which is why the book is entitled Eight Days. He is guided through this process by his long passed grandfather. The story is one of hope, love and family and a creative peek into the hearts of men who must examine their lives. My husband found himself in a similar situation because he was dying, and dying young. It helped me to understand the context of some of his struggles, even if I could not put myself in his shoes. I highly recommend the book for anyone, but also for people who are grieving the loss of loved ones.
Who were your favorite authors growing up?
Growing up, I liked S. E. Hinton, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Judy Blume. I was a normal girl in that regard.
If you could join any literary world, what would it be and why?
I would want to be in Hogwarts. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s classic good versus evil while in school. The closest thing we get to Hogwarts is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and that’s just not good enough.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve never been inspired to write specifically. I’ve always just been a writer. My first book, Scout’s Honor, was inspired over 20 years ago from an anonymous call for help to an advice columnist. It was written by a young teenaged girl who had been taken advantage of by a much older man, who was a Deacon in her church. I always wondered what happened to her and how that man’s selfishness and cruelty affected her life long term. This kind of thing happens all the time and girls usually keep silent about it for all kinds of reasons. I had the idea for years, and it wasn’t until my youngest daughter went off to college that I had the time and determination to start writing it. Once I started, it only took me 5 months to complete the first draft.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Going through my manuscript with an actual editor during the publishing process helped me think of my writing differently. I think bigger now and try to get out of my characters’ heads more. I also try to write in smaller chunks. My second novel, Good Buddy, which will hopefully come out in 2018, was written in 3rd person vignettes within chapters. The chapters include flashbacks and current day. I found this to be a rewarding experiment in storytelling and I can’t wait to see what readers think! It’s written quite differently than Scout’s Honor. Scout’s Honor was written in 1st person, multiple narrators.
How do you write? Do you plot? Or do you just go for it?
I have a basic idea in my head but honestly, I just go for it. I am a classic Type A personality. If I start out with an exhaustive outline and To Do List, which is how I run the rest of my life, I would never do the actual writing. I’d be too busy trying to check things off. Creatively, for me, I have learned that I just need to DO. It comes out naturally.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first book took 5 months to write. (20 years and 5 months if you count from the idea!) My second book, Good Buddy, took longer. Because I was dealing with the Scout’s Honor launch and promotion, it was on the back burner for awhile. It started out with one idea, inspired by my husband’s selfless act of becoming a stepfather as a young man. Then because of what happened to him and our family, Good Buddy became so much more than that. I had to finish it so he could read it before he passed away. Good Buddy took just over a year from original concept to complete manuscript. It was the last book my husband ever read.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Scout’s Honor had family member names strewn throughout it. Because her identity was wrapped around Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, there are also names in there related to that book. For example, Scout’s daughter is named Jemma (and called Jem for short sometimes). Scout meets a man named Thom Robinson later in the book. Also, because my books take place in North Carolina, I try to make names fit the region and times.
How many hours a day do you write?
If I’m writing a book, I will be in a zone until it’s done. Because I work a “real job” in the “real world,” I don’t have all the time in the world to dedicate to my writing. This is hard to classify, but if I’m writing a novel, it could be 2 hours a day during the work week. I will use lunch breaks too. If I’m just in between books, like now, I write every day, just a bit at least, to keep me sane.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My publisher, Pen Name Publishing, has been instrumental in helping me forge writerly relationships. The house uses an app where we can all communicate with one another about our writing, resources, share about events and press. It is a wonderful tool and whenever you need feedback, there’s always a slew of other authors offering their support. We have also had some YouTube based author forums to discuss author topics, and interacting in this manner has been great. My most interactive writer friends include: Scott Thompson, Mike Hansen, Ralph Pullins, Amanda Hanson, JM Sullivan, Leslie Hauser, Dionne Aboulelela (who is also the House’s CEO), Jenny Milchman, and Seamus Gallacher. I am grateful to them all for all they’ve helped me with as a fellow author and writer.
What are the first 5 things you do to prepare yourself for a day of writing?
I really do not have any kind of prep for this. I know that’s a horrible answer, but I really do not prepare to write.
Tell us a little about Scout’s Honor, can you share an excerpt with us?
Scout’s Honor is a story of a self, lost…a self, loathed…and a self, rediscovered. The protagonist is named Scout Webb, and she comes of age in 1980s rural North Carolina. She heads off to Camp Judah, a Christian camp on the Catawba River, and while at camp, she suffers a profound emotional trauma that will affect her well into adulthood and middle age. Scout’s Honor starts off in the Summer of 1983, when Scout is 14 years old, and ends in the modern day. It addresses issues such as faith, morality, identity, marriage, parenting, love, family, forgiveness, friendship and emotional trauma.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
SCOUT WEBB, AGE 14
The ball flew toward me in a mad spiral as I stood, stomach churning, wrapped up in anticipation. It was coming to my left so I turned my legs back and ran to position myself to catch it. I don’t know exactly how my body knows what to do and when to do it at the right time, but even “for a girl” my body knew just the same. My gloved left hand reached just high enough to snatch the speeding baseball out of flight and I stopped myself from stride so I could get the throw into the cutoff man at shortstop. Also known as Charlie. My best friend.
“Good catch, Scout!” I heard someone yell. I felt a sense of relief come over my whole body. I did my job. I caught the well-hit fly ball that should have been a single. The boy who hit it was pissed off, no doubt, because some stupid wiry girl in the outfield caught it and how embarrassing is that and I hope she falls and breaks her arm. Heard it all before.
I love summer. Summertime is baseball season. People like to complain about the heat and humidity here in Haddleboro, North Carolina, but it doesn’t bother me all that much. It doesn’t keep me inside playing Space Invaders or Pong on Atari or watching reruns on TV like my brother Jonny and his friends. It doesn’t keep me from sleeping, even if I’m dripping in sweat on my bed all night and have to wrap a cool wet towel over my head. No homework, no worries but for my paper route — and the promise of Camp Judah ahead.
On Sunday, I get to go to camp for three weeks. I’ve gone every year since I was seven. It will be my last summer there because I’m aging out. The next time I can go back is as a counselor after I’m eighteen. I’m turning fifteen in a couple of months, so that is a long time. Three whole years. Actually more like four because I won’t turn eighteen until October when camp is over for the summer. What am I supposed to do for the next four years? Get a job or something? No one will hire me next summer because I’m too young. I’ve only ever had camp to look forward to.
Charlie turned around and hollered to me, pulling me from my Camp Judah daydreams. He shouted that I needed to be ready because the last time this kid hit, it went in between us for a single.
“Move in! He can’t hit it over your head!” I moved in closer to Charlie, who held his spot at short.
Bobby was pitching. He’s too slow at everything. He moves slow, preps the ball slow, kicks around dirt on the mound slow. Even chomps on his Big League Chew slow. I’m getting anxious again, on high alert, scared to let my team down by screwing up. My stomach’s in knots, but it’s not clear if it’s because of how close we are to winning this game or how close I am to going away to camp.
I stand ready, waiting for Bobby to pitch the ball, then watch the batter swing and miss. And again. Foul ball. Then my mind goes back to Camp Judah and to Brother Doug with the ice blue eyes, the gorgeous lifeguard who I’ve been practically in love with since I was seven years old.
At Camp Judah, we always address the counselors and other people who work there as “Brother” and “Sister.”
“Why do we call all the counselors Brother and Sister?” I asked Brother Doug a few years ago, as I helped him carry some life jackets back to his storage shed.
“Because here at Camp Judah, we are all family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and all of us are God’s children,” he answered with a wink.
When I saw Brother Doug for the first time, my camp group (the Lions for Jesus!) was coming out of the lake because our allotted time for swimming was up for the afternoon. A tall, fit, tan man stood at the foot of the water wearing swim trunks that matched the color of his eyes. He counted us as we came out and directed us where to stand to meet our counselor.
I was the last one out of the water, of course. I was always the last one out. I never wanted to leave the cool lake water because the sand was always hot on my bare feet. Some of the kids had flip-flops to put on, but I didn’t.
As I walked up the wet sand from the water, Brother Doug said to me, “Hey Shorty, I like your chubby cheeks.” I looked up at him, the sun blaring down on his almost-white, blond hair. He looked back down at me with squinted eyes, expanded his cheeks with air, and put his fingers on both sides to pop them. Then he smiled. “Those things are so big you should be able to pop them like that.”
He became my favorite person right away.
“I’m Brother Doug. What’s your name?”
“Scout,” I said.
He laughed. “Really? That was my dog’s name when I was boy!”
Heard it before. Someone always had or knew a dog named Scout. Never a cat, though, I noticed.
I’ve learned to become proud of my name over time. I’m named after the main character in one of the most beloved books in American fiction — from my mom’s favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. And since my mom was a reading teacher at Haddleboro Elementary School, she knew something about books.
So Scout, the little girl in the famous novel, is my namesake. Really, her name was Jean Louise and Scout was just her nickname. But my name-name is Scout. Scout Elizabeth. Elizabeth for my grandmother.
After reading the book when I was eleven years old, I was at ease with my unconventional name. I liked the name Scout and, the truth is, there were too many Jennifers and Lisas and Michelles anyway. Scout was a different kind of name and I was a different kind of girl. My friend Jenny (see?), who is a year older, told me that in ninth grade English, her class read To Kill a Mockingbird and everyone was talking about me and my name.
But since I was only seven when I met Brother Doug, and I didn’t fully understand the significance of my name, I felt a little uncomfortable about it being so unique. Because I didn’t want to make this Brother Doug person laugh at me, I just asked him if he missed his dog, Scout.
He grinned and said, “Sure I miss him. He was a great dog. The best one I ever had.”
I think Brother Doug noticed my uneasiness, so he got down to my level. He peered into my eyes, still grinning, and put his hand on my shoulder. He continued to squint from the bright sunny afternoon. His unusually light blue eyes were no doubt affected by the sunlight more than other peoples’ eyes. “Hey, I will give you a special name, just between me and you, okay?”
I nodded, wondering what in the world he was going to call me.
“I will call you Squirrel-Girl because you got the fattest, cutest cheeks I’ve seen at camp this whole summer — just like a squirrel hiding acorns in them.”
He waited for my reaction and I could tell that he was trying to make me feel comfortable with him. It worked. He had my complete trust at that moment and for the next seven summers.
Smiling back at him, I said, “Okay, Brother Doug.”
As I started to walk away toward the other campers, I stopped and turned to him, inflated my cheeks, and popped them like he did earlier. That one gesture became our special greeting every summer.
Now, I couldn’t wait to pop my cheeks at him on Sunday. No matter how much time had passed since I met him as a little girl, I was still his Squirrel-Girl and we always popped our cheeks at each other. I hoped he would be back again this summer because I hadn’t heard from him in a long time.
While waiting for Bobby to move along with his pitches, I started thinking of how scared I am that Jesus and the Rapture might come tonight as I lay sweating in my bed. I pictured myself hearing those “Trumpets of the Lord” and then getting raptured up with all the other Christians. Then I’d have to miss out on going to camp. I think I would demand that Jesus let me go back so I could go to Camp Judah — but then I realized that all the people at camp would be raptured, too, so it would be a waste of an argument with the Son of God.
I said a quick prayer as we all watched Bobby taking his sweet time on the mound, “Jesus, please please please don’t come again until after camp is over.” I often said this kind of prayer on Christmas Eve, on the eve of the first day of school, and on the eve of Halloween.
The boy up at bat strikes out and the game is finally over. I’m relieved. My mind is too cluttered today for this game. I’m too excited, too jumpy, and too anxious for everything. Especially Camp Judah and Brother Doug.
Really, for Brother Doug.
I jog in from the outfield and my team’s coach, Mr. Faulkner, who’s also Bobby’s dad, congratulates us on doing a great job.
“We have four more games this summer,” he said. “We are undefeated, boys,” he stopped and looked at me, “and Scout,” he added with a wink. “Not bad for a team full of scrappy kids just out of junior high.” He looked around and continued, “We need to practice on Sunday and Monday, so don’t miss. We can go far with this group. I just know it!”
Mr. Faulkner sounded pretty excited and he never sounds excited.
When everyone dispersed, he came over to me and said, “I’m sorry you’re going away to camp, Scout. We need you.”
I was glad he said that, but humbly replied, “There are lots of boys on the bench who can play just as good as me. I hate to miss so much, but if we win the rest of the games, I’ll be back in time for regionals.”
To be honest though, if Brother Doug wasn’t at camp anymore, I would have considered missing my final summer at Camp Judah to play baseball instead. I’m kind of over all the Bible verse competitions, the devotionals every morning, and the constant segregation of boys and girls in the teenager groups.
Last summer, this boy named Carlo from Philadelphia liked me and tried to kiss me. He was a nice boy, but I didn’t want him to kiss me because I’d never want Brother Doug to hear about it. It really wasn’t a big deal, though.
“Scout, I think you’re pretty,” Carlo said to me. “Can I kiss you? Just one time so I can remember you?”
I was flattered because Kelly was the prettiest girl at Camp Judah that summer — and probably every summer. All the boys wanted to kiss her. But Carlo liked me instead.
“I don’t think so, Carlo. I don’t want to get in trouble,” I told him.
Well, some girl named Pepper, who nobody liked, went and told a counselor about what Carlo said to me. Poor Carlo got in all kinds of trouble. His parents were called and he missed a whole day of activities. They probably would’ve sent him home if it wasn’t so far away. So some of the camp rules are starting to annoy me.
But Brother Doug is there. At least, I hope he is. I think he is. He has to be! And I know he misses me. He has told me so in his letters.
Mr. Faulkner told me before the season started that I’m lucky I can play baseball at all. He had to do some convincing with the people in charge of the county because there were no other girls playing this level of baseball anywhere in the state. Since there wasn’t a summer softball league for girls, and I was just as good as the boys, they decided to let me play.
Usually by this age, girls and boys go their separate ways in sports. Girls chase softballs or chase dreams of being on some stage or just chase boys. Once I overhead someone’s dad say, “Teenaged girls are chasin’ either one set of balls or another.” I didn’t think it was funny, but the other dads sure did.
I played softball in the spring with the county league last year, but it was boring and everyone stunk except for some girls from another town called Black Hill. I couldn’t stand the fact that most of them actually did throw like girls and I hated the bigger-sized ball. So instead of doing that again, I got permission from the principal to play boys’ baseball for the school team. Since they didn’t have a softball team for the girls, he told me that the baseball coach agreed to let me try out. Well, I made the team and had so much fun playing with the boys and Charlie all the time.
Next year, I could only try out for the girls’ high school softball team and not the boys’ baseball team. I was warned about that. “The girls in high school will be much better players. Some of those girls from Black Hill go to Haddleboro High,” Charlie had promised me.
“I hope you’re right,” I said, unconvinced. But really, I was sad that I would not be playing with Charlie.
The thought of going into high school both excited and terrified me. I was excited to be able to experience new things and meet new people. But the thought of not being with Charlie all the time was scary. We were a pair. I didn’t want things between us to change too much.
“Listen, you can’t worry about stuff like that,” Charlie told me last week, while we were walking into town for an ice cream. “Nothin’s gonna change. I promise.”
“I don’t know Charlie. It’s so much bigger there and maybe you’ll meet people you like better than me,” I said, feeling really stupid and insecure, especially because of how much attention he had been paying lately to a girl named Katie Smith.
He stopped me on the side of the road and made me face him. “Scout. Stop it. You’re my best friend. It will all be just fine.” Then he put his hand on my head like I was a puppy. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
I felt a little better about it all after he said that.
After Mr. Faulkner let us go, Charlie and I hopped on our Schwinn banana-seat bikes and pedaled off to his house, which was just three blocks away from the town baseball field. His uniform was covered in dirt from one messy slide into third base. I only managed a grass stain on my knee this game. I hoped I could get it out in the laundry. I hated a dirty uniform for the start of a game.
Dear SG, September 12, 1982
I was so happy to get your letter. It made my day. I was having a tough day at school because one of the younger kids got hurt in a game we were playing and he may have broken his foot. I felt really bad about it, so your letter cheered me up a lot. It sounds like you are doing good. I know it was hard for summer to end, but you should enjoy your last year in junior high because it will go fast. Before you know it, we will be racing down the water slides again.
You asked me if it was OK if you wrote to me. Of course it is! I love getting letters from my campers.
Well, I am going to close for now. I hope you have a great school year. Keep in touch!
What inspired you to write your Scout’s Honor?
Like I said above, I was inspired to write Scout’s Honor when I read an anonymous letter to an advice columnist from a young teenaged girl who had been taken advantage of by a much older married man in a position of trust. I often wondered what happened to that girl and how that entire situation affected the rest of her life.
What’s your favorite thing about Scout’s Honor?
My favorite thing about Scout’s Honor is that I tried to be fair to men. In fact, it was my goal. It’s easy to cast people as villains and heroes, when really, villains are usually just people who are hurting and not dealing with it like a mature adult. It is difficult to write from a man’s perspective when you are not a man, so I made it my mission to be fair in how Rob’s, specifically, internal struggles and failures were portrayed. I wanted to be fair to the character because he was worth a second chance and he was worth redeeming. He was a good person who lost his way for a while. Personal failures happen to almost everyone at some point, men and women alike. The difference between Rob and other men and women in these situations is that he owned up to it and did everything he could to make it right. But what he didn’t realize in the moment, was that while he was repairing his own life and relationship with his wife, he seriously altered the course of a very young woman’s life. These are the unintended consequences of redemption.
Before you go, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes! The proceeds from the sales of my book, Scout’s Honor, go toward a fund I established in my husband’s memory. The Eric DeJong Memorial Fund at the Gary Sinise Foundation supports the RISE Program. This money goes toward building smart homes for severely disabled veterans. My husband was a United States Military Academy graduate and he served his country honorably in the US Army. I am proud to associate his good name and memory with this worthwhile grassroots charity. I am more than half way to my fundraising goal for 2017.
About Dori Ann Dupré:
Dori was born and raised in New Jersey. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in History and is a veteran of the United States Army. She is the author of the two-time international award winning debut southern novel, Scout’s Honor, and several published short stories and poetry. Her second novel, Good Buddy, is expected to be released in 2018. Proceeds from her writing go toward charitable efforts in memory of her husband. Dori works in the legal field and resides with her two daughters and dachshunds in North Carolina.
About Scout’s Honor:
2016 Bronze Medalist – Southern Fiction, Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards
2017 Finalist – Eric Hoffer Book Awards
In Haddleboro, North Carolina, Scout Webb is a 14 year old kind and spirited small town southern girl and a tomboy much like her namesake, the young narrator from her mother’s favorite book. With both her name and her Christian faith deeply woven into the fabric of her identity, Scout always felt like she had a lot to live up to and was the kind of girl who made her parents proud.
It’s August 1983, and Scout is playing on a summer baseball team with Charlie Porter, her best friend since Kindergarten. More than anything, she is looking forward to her last few weeks at Camp Judah, a Christian camp near the Catawba River. She can’t wait to see her big crush “Brother Doug,” the thirty-two year old camp lifeguard who has watched her grow up each summer since she was seven years old. But after a fateful few days and one catastrophic event during her last day at the camp, Scout was changed forever.
Written through multiple narrators over the course of twenty years, this story follows Scout’s personal struggles as a freshman away at college in Raleigh and later as an overworked single mother approaching middle age, where she is forced to confront the causes of her own quiet suffering, the consequences of her actions and why even the eternal love and devotion of just one true friend can’t save her.
A story of a self, lost…a self, loathed…and a self, rediscovered…it examines the harsh and cruel ways in which otherwise well-intentioned and decent people treat each other…even those they claim to love, but even more so…ultimately, how we treat our own selves.
Scout’s Honor is for sale at all major online book retailers: