“I have a theory that compulsive fiction writers are subconsciously working out traumas that happened to them when they were young. I call this process self-psychonalysis.”
While David Morrell is most known in film circles as the writer who created Rambo, he is also a writer who can walk in both the worlds of popular fiction and the more scholarly and literate world. Has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Penn State. As a scholar he taught American Literature at the University of Iowa for 16 years, and as a writer he has written more than 30 books, most of them novels. His first novel, First Blood, was published almost 30 years ago so it’s easy to find interviews and quotes from Morrell over the years. Here are a few that give some insights into the person and the writer:
“My father was killed during World War II, shortly after I was born in 1943. My mother had difficulty raising me and at the same time holding a job, so she put me in an orphanage and later in a series of boarding homes. I grew up unsure of who I was, desperately in need of a father figure. Books and movies were my escape. Eventually I decided to be a writer and sought help from two men who became metaphorical fathers to me: Stirling Silliphant, the head writer for the classic TV series “Route 66” about two young men in a Corvette who travel America in search of themselves, and Philip Klass (whose pen name is William Tenn), a novelist who taught at the Pennsylvania State University where I went to graduate school from 1966 to 1970. The result of their influence is my 1972 novel, First Blood, which introduced Rambo. The search for a father is prominent in that book, as it is in later ones, most notably The Brotherhood of the Rose (1984), a thriller about orphans and spies. During this period, I was a professor of American literature at the University of Iowa. With two professions, I worked seven days a week until exhaustion forced me to make a painful choice and resign from the university in 1986. One year later, my fifteen-year-old son, Matthew, died from bone cancer, and thereafter my fiction tended to depict the search for a son, particularly in Fireflies (1988) and Desperate Measures (1994). To make a new start, my wife and I moved to the mountains and mystical light of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my work changed yet again, exploring the passionate relationships between men and women, highlighting them against a background of action as in the newest, Burnt Sienna.
Amazon Introduction to First Blood
“Stirling Silliphant’s brilliant scripts for “Route 66” made me decide to be a writer when I was 17. At the time, I sent him a letter, telling him so, and he encouraged me. Eventually, we worked together when Stirling was the executive producer for the NBC miniseries of my novel THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE. His scripts are characterized by a tremendous amount of action coupled with ideas — opposites coming together. The theme of “Route 66” is that the journey matters more than the destination, and that is how I’ve led my life.”
“The only advice I can give (aspiring writers) is to suck it up and keep writing. If you’re determined to write, then you accept the conditions within which you’re forced to survive. There’s no alternative. Write, write, write, keep writing. With modern PC software, self-publishing is easy to learn. If you believe in your work and you haven’t found a publisher to help you, then do it yourself. I’m amazed by the professional look of many self-published volumes. Of course, you don’t have the benefit of a distribution network and have to sell your books “from the trunk of your car,” as they used to say. But that doesn’t mean those books won’t get sold. On occasion, a self-published book attracts a lot of buyers.”
A Conversation with David Morrell by Claire E. White
Related post: Writing “First Blood”