Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Roger Simon in studio to discuss the narrative of his new book American Refugee and the literary process.
Leahy: In studio, all-star panelist Roger Simon, author, screenwriter, all-around, good guy, and columnist with The Epoch Times is with us.
Roger, I want to extend our conversation about your upcoming book because it’s interesting how you take kind of topical issues and make them compelling. This is going to be your 14th book, right?
Simon: Yes. It’s a third, nonfiction. Most of the other 11 were novels in that you have a slight disadvantage. The disadvantage is you better have talent. But the advantage is you’ve got a plot, hopefully, and the plot keeps the reader involved.
Leahy: One of your novels was a mystery [series] about a detective that turned into a movie with Richard Dreyfus.
Simon: Eight mysteries on Moses Wine. Theoretically, people are looking to find out who done it and all that. However, now I carry that over a little bit into my nonfiction writing.
Leahy: This is interesting to me because this topic of your book, American Refugee, which you just sent the manuscript off to your publisher and they liked it, which is great.
Simon: Which is a relief.
Leahy: It’s a relief. Once you send the manuscript to the publisher, a real legitimate publisher, Encounter Books. Very well known. How long does it take from the time you send it off to the time the book is actually released?
Simon: It’s varying now, and part of that is publishing is now part of the supply chain issue. It’s not as easy to get to the printer and all of that. So I’m not exactly sure. I’m sure my book will be out sometime this summer which is something I had to be cognizant of winter in writing. When you’re writing about something like this.
I’m writing about the North American refugees, meaning the folks who moved from the blue to the red states who are all around you’re here in Tennessee right now, some of it you could write in two pages, meaning the statistics, and then which vary probably in one year to the next, but in the last five years, not substantially, there’s been a big influx.
I could have done that in an article for The Epoch Times, and indeed I have. This needs to be a kind of dramatic narrative, and it needs people in it. The primary person I use, ever regret to say, is the person I sort of know best, meaning me.
Leahy: You sort of know yourself depending on the day. (Chuckles)
Simon: There are things you don’t know about yourself, of course. The idea of this has to be a drama. And the drama, I realized when reading it, was for the reader, does this guy like this place or not? I’m not going to give away whether I say yes or no, because you got to buy the book.
But there’s a tension in the book that comes from that because there are things that I like and things I don’t like any normal human being. And it’s just not like or not like. It’s also accommodate himself to it, or not accommodate himself to it.
Leahy: Let me see if I can get what the narrative would be. People moving from California and other blue states where freedom is crushed, to states like Tennessee.
Simon: Where it’s supposed to be all here, but is not quite all here.
Leahy: That is the theme of the book, isn’t it? The theme of the book is, I thought I was going from the lack of freedom…
Simon: To nirvana.
Leahy: To nirvana, the full existence of freedom. But wait, there’s more!
Simon: Anyway, that’s to be expected rationally, really. But it’s an experience. And also the other theme of the book is that the refugees are changing Tennessee and Tennessee is changing the refugees. So you’ve got a two-way street, which is fair and interesting, I think.
Leahy: So how many people did you interview about this or is this sort of a collection of anecdotes? Are there multiple key characters in the book?
Simon: Yes. I can’t even answer the question because sometimes it wasn’t even an interview. I’d go hang out in the place and chat with people. On numerous occasions, I did that, which is actually a more interesting way. Some of it’s experiential and in some cases I formally interviewed people.
Leahy: You have this big advantage in writing a book. I’m just being honest here. You have great talent as a writer. This is my opinion, one of the best writers in America today, in my view. It’s you, who is you sitting right across from me.
Because you’re funny. This is what people like. It’s funny and amusing. You can follow the plot and even in your columns, right? You’re one of the most popular columnists at The Epoch Times because they are funny.
Simon: Because we need relief from the world.
Leahy: So is there going to be a movie made out of this book?
Simon: Maybe. We’ve been talking to The Epoch Times about doing a documentary. Obviously, it’s not a fictional work, so it doesn’t get a movie like Hollywood. As if Hollywood would make movies with me anymore. That’s questionable.
Leahy: No, they would not. You’re not a Marvel comic book.
Simon: And not only that, I can’t get onto Facebook, so how could I make a movie? It’ll be up to me and to them a little bit. But we’re going to see about it. I think, like everything else, you have to reconstitute it when you do it as a documentary. But I would be more in a somewhat thinner Michael Moore mode, probably walking around talking to people. And we’d probably have the cameras in this room.
Leahy: I think a lot of people in Tennessee would like to see this kind of documentary because a lot of people are coming to Tennessee from these other states. Every day I hear about somebody. I just heard this morning somebody left Illinois and came to the Nashville area. Why? Because they were sick and tired of Illinois.
Simon: Yes. There are a lot of reasons to leave Illinois.
Leahy: I can understand that.
Simon: You sure can. Also, there is a guy in there that Michael knows more about than me. A mysterious character named Rocky Top who actually the publisher said, that’s really interesting what you did with that guy.
Leahy: Rocky Top figures in your book and your publisher thinks Rocky Top is an interesting character.
Simon: Yes. Rocky Top is a sometime blogger who is a man who obviously remains anonymous and was in the upper echelons of politics in D.C. and here in Tennessee. So he’s a very knowledgeable fellow with a kind of nasty sense of humor. (Leahy laughs)
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Roger Simon” by Roger Simon.