TNC INTERVIEW 2020
LONG WAY HOME
At the start of the first lockdown The New Current got a copy of Cameron Douglas's powerful autobiography LONG WAY HOME. In it Douglas never holds back on his life experiences that would not only shape him as a man but would leave their indelible impressions on him. We got the opportunity to talk with Cameron about his book and what he hoped it would offer readers and others who face difficult life challenges.
Hi Cameron thank you for taking the time to talk to us, how are you holding up during the lockdown?
I think my family and I are holding up pretty well, all things considered. Although, I have to say my heart is heavy given all that’s going on right now in the world and in my country.
Is this time providing you with some creative inspiration?
It is. This time has allowed me to really focus on some projects that I’ve been wanting to get around to and it has been extremely rewarding to see what’s come out of that. I think in times like this when one might find themselves with lots of time on their hands it’s important to plug into projects. Creative or otherwise.
You have mentioned the challenges men and women face once they are released from prison, did writing Long Way Home give you a focus that allowed you to adjust to your new life?
Yes, I feel fortunate in that I had a project to focus on that actually began before I was released from prison, and then really started to pick up momentum once I landed again out in the free world; gratefully that gave me a real focus and provided me with an income and some creative stimulation. Most people coming out of incarceration don’t have that luxury. In fact, for most people it’s incredibly hard to even get a minimum wage job. The stigma attached by our society is unforgiving, even after atonement through our most valuable asset, time, and all that comes and goes with the passing of it. On top of that, our penal system is not designed for success in this country; As is shown by our recidivism rate. This particular reality truly is unforgivable, yet has remained the same for more than a century, as has so many other systemic issues which demand our attention, if not for the individual, for the sake of humanity itself.
How did the collaboration with Benjamin Wallace come about?
I was looking for a seasoned writer to collaborate with to help me make this book as good as it could possibly be and I went through a process of meeting with and going over perhaps twenty different writers to find a good fit. Once I met Ben I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary one way or the other. After our meeting he left me with a copy of his latest book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, a story about expensive wine auctions and the swindling that can occur, which is a topic that did not particularly interest me. However when I did begin to read the book I was immediately drawn in; And that had everything to do with the storytelling ability and his style of writing. I knew at that point that he was the right fit for me. And the rest got much more complicated after that as our literary agents had trouble seeing eye-to-eye. Fortunately, Ben and I did not, so we did most of their job for them initially.
What inspired you to want to write this memoir?
Initially it was the idea of trying to turn the experiences that I had for the first 38 years or so of my life into something that could be positive, and maybe even helpful. As well, I’ve been told that I had a fairly unique story and that people might find it interesting. Thirdly, as you already mentioned, if you’re fortunate enough to have a project that grabs your attention and provides you with focus and a sense of direction after coming out of incarceration, it seemed like a good idea to see what might come out of it.
How did you approach the writing process? How important a role did your journals and poetry from your time in prison help shape Long Way Home?
I started by coming up with a timeline. Basically what that looked like was beginning from as far back as I could remember, I penned down all the most significant memories that I could muster. From there I endeavoured to tailor that into a narrative.
Poetry is an art form that truly touched me for the first time while I was incarcerated; and it became a somewhat volatile relationship that inspired me, frustrated me, as well as fascinated me and occasionally all at the same time! More often than not it was quite simply an exercise in patience. For every ten or fifteen poems that I’d write, maybe one might give me the magic and inspiration that I sought through them, but that one was more than enough to keep me after it. This was extremely helpful in preparing my mind to achieve a state whereby I felt I might endeavour to write this book. The journaling was extremely helpful as far as a point of reference; The entry’s took me back to a moment in time as well as a state of emotion or feeling.
Because of the nature and subjects of Long Way Home did you have any apprehensions about writing this book?
Absolutely. The biggest hang up for me was the fact that my family has always been very private, and in telling my story I would have to infringe on their privacy and that’s not something that I was willing to do. However the irony of it was that my father turned out to be the biggest motivating force in pushing me to write the book initially. I was puzzled by that. Then later on I realised that by giving me his blessing it was his way of showing a selfless love for me, his son. As well he felt that there was a meaningful story to be told and that at the expense of our family’s privacy, in certain regards, it should be told.
How cathartic was it for you to be able to share your story in this way?
Funny because that’s the number one sort of implication I think that people draw from my decision to write this book, how cathartic it must have been, and while that’s true, there was certainly a level of catharsis, it was difficult. It took a lot of discipline. It was not always a lot of fun. I was dealing with many painful and difficult memories and old wounds. So I would say the overall feeling was not one of catharsis when I think about the process of writing ‘Long Way Home’, but there was definitely significant healing that came about through it.
"So when you’re in prison you feel like all you have to do is get out of prison and all your problems will suddenly disappear, or at the very least pale in comparison."
The reaction to Long Way Home has been incredible, did you imagine you would get this type of response to your memoir?
I have learned to not set great expectations and to just make a choice and endeavour to do your best and see what comes out of it. I feel like more often than not if you set yourself up for some grand outcome, it somehow becomes sabotaged. However I am very grateful it has been well received.
Would you consider turning Long Way Home into a movie or series?
I am in the process of doing just that; adapting it into a series.
Do you have any advice you would offer someone who is about to leave prison?
So when you’re in prison you feel like all you have to do is get out of prison and all your problems will suddenly disappear, or at the very least pale in comparison. That is both true to some degree, and not true at the same time; which understandably can be very confusing and frustrating. In my opinion one must be prepared for not only a serious adjustment that takes a considerable amount of time, but also be primed to weather the very real storm of readjusting to a new reality and finding oneself in it. However, one of the conceptualisations you do have going for you coming from an environment like that, generally speaking, is you know how to appreciate the ‘small’ things in life, and you understand how to appropriately value your liberty. If one can keep this unclouded in heart and mind, I believe the individual has the makings of a bright future.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your story?
I’d say just that we’re all-one-in-the-same. Every person has their issues and every person has their story. But, change… evolution… is always within reach.