When I was writing The Secrets of All Secrets, there were times when I had I just completed a section that featured a comical or bizarre episode, and a phrase popped into my mind that I’ve heard people exclaim after relating an outlandish event: “You can’t make this stuff up!” to which I replied to myself, “Yes, you can. I just did.”
But let me take you back. Before writing The Secrets of All Secrets, I wrote a couple of mysteries (one was self-published) and a “literary” novel, serious, introspective, with a heroically conflicted protagonist—a little pretentious and a bit derivative of other, better writers.
I needed to find my own style. What to write, what to write? I asked myself. Just in the nick of time, before I fell into a full-blown existential crisis, before I ended up as a couple of splotches on the drop cloth of life—okay, those are exaggerations—I decided to write something humorous and satirical because everyone knows humor, satire, and irony are my bread and butter and I’m hip as to which side of my butter is breaded.
From out of the ether, I developed the beginning of a story. Zane, my central character receives a USB device by a mysterious, cloaked figure on a bridge at night. When Zane takes it home and inserts it into his laptop, an unknown entity speaks to him via writing on the screen. The entity tells Zane he has been anointed, so to speak, to seek The Secrets of All Secrets, which will confer upon him unlimited knowledge and power, the confirmation of the meaning of life itself, and we’re not just talking about unveiling the mysteries of how to properly fold a fitted sheet and how to program a TV remote. Out of this nucleus, the entire story flowed.
Other characters came to life: four quirky government agents who hunt Zane and The Secrets after intimidating Zane’s friend Hazim into revealing Zane’s mission. Dali appeared. She has also been given a USB. She and Zane meet up in Florida and combine forces. Quarrelsome with each other at first, a romance slowly blossoms. More characters arrived: a corporate megalomaniac fond of quoting Von Clausewitz’s On War and Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido: The Code of the Samurai, who sends his right hand woman, Magdalene, to pursue The Secrets. She hires Speque, a hit man/tracker, to assist her. They make quite a pair. She’s 6 foot 2. He’s 5 foot 6; naturally, they’re made for each other. Then there are brothers Jonah and Jeptha, crazy, fringe-element, anti-government separatists determined to get The Secrets in order to form a new Amerika—“Amerika with a k,” as Jonah asserts. Off they all go, chasing Zane and Dali pell-mell across the state of Florida. Where the story leads from there…well, readers will have to wait until The Secrets of All Secrets is released.
Whaddya know? I had simmered up a frothy soup rich with satirical and comic possibilities. Now I knew I had discovered my genre, if you want to call it a genre, simply because I was having a blast writing this thing. A real labor of love. I believe readers will experience the same blast when reading the novel and connect with its incisive view of the cockamamie world we live in. Zane and Dali are the contemporary Everyman and Everywoman, hounded by nefarious, zealous forces.
Years ago, I read a Peanuts cartoon in which Snoopy was writing a story, and in it, he made a pun, convulsing him into guffaws. Then he said, “Leo Tolstoy would have been so jealous.”
With my novel, Tolstoy being jealous is a stretch, but maybe he would have laughed when he read it.
Douglas Wells was born in Seattle, Washington. His father was an officer in the U.S. Army, and by the time Douglas finished high school, he had lived in Hawaii, North Carolina, Texas, Okinawa, South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of South Florida and has taught English and Literature at several colleges.
He is the author of the novel Last Boat to Sorrow Beach, which was published in 2006, and a play, Autobiographies, which was performed on the stage. He is the founder of and a workshop leader for The Gulf Coast State College Conference for Writers.
Douglas has a unique interest in and perspective on the comical and absurd foibles of the human race, which inspires his writing. The imaginative pillar of his novel, The Secrets of All Secrets, set to be released by TouchPoint Press in 2017, is built on Groucho Marx’s line, “Humor is reason gone mad” and the Roman poet Juvenal’s declaration that “It is difficult not to write satire.”
Douglas is a Professor of English at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida. He is the father of two grown sons, and he lives with his wife and cat in Panama City Beach.
Contact Douglas at