Duane Lance File
is a retired funkster extraordinaire, writer, painter and musician who grew up in Compton, California with six brothers and sisters. He and his wife, Janice, have two adult children and currently reside in Carson, California.
BPM: Welcome! Please tell us about your body of work.
Thank you for inviting me to chat with Black Pearls Magazine. I appreciate any and all who read my books. My name is Duane Lance Filer and I like to write far out stuff! I grew up in Compton, California and had one of the greatest, richest childhoods one could have growing up in an “inner” city. My mom Blondell Filer lived in Compton until her recent passing in 2016; living until the end in Compton in the same house me and my six brothers and sisters were raised. I definitely received my artistic genes from Blondell Filer. Love you mom!
My dad Maxcy Filer was involved in the west coast civil rights movement, and during the 60’s and 70’s I got to witness and was involved in some wild and crazy events during this important time in American history. My family helped integrate the City of Compton, and my dad later served on the Compton City Council for 15 years. Since birth, I’ve possessed an extraordinary memory; an insatiable imagination; and a fascination with writing. I started writing in high school, through college, and during my work years.
My first short story was written for Mrs. Pierce’s 7th grade English class at Walton Jr. High in Compton. At Compton High School, Mr. Alvin Taylor’s Black History class inspired me to write “what you know.” My next stop was at Cal Lutheran College (now University) where creative writing professors Ted LaBrenz and Dr. Jack Ledbetter encouraged me to continue to write my off- the- wall short stories.
After college, I continued to learn the craft of writing at the Watts Writers Workshop in 1973-1974 (God bless Harry Dolan); the Open-Door Writers Program for Minority Writers at 20th Century Fox (1980-82): and the Institute of Children’s Literature.
I worked for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for 29 years and retired in 2013. I am and have been married to my beautiful wife Janice for 40 years. My son Lance and daughter Arinn are both bright, ambitious young adults who have made their parents very proud. I have 6 brothers and sisters (Maxine, Kelvin, Anthony, Stephanie, Dennis and Tracy); a goo gaggle of cousins, in-laws and friends.
To date I have self-published eight books. “Word Food for Doods” is my 8th book. Following is a brief summary of each book:
1. Square Squire and the Journey to DREAMSTATE
Squire Brooks is a precocious nerd whose only awareness of the transitions in his neighborhood of Compton, California, in the 1960’s is the opportunity to chuck stones at the increasing number of For Sale Signs in the yards of his white neighbors.
His father’s deepening involvement in civil rights creates increasing chaos in his home where Squire writes his short stories and daydreams. Adolescence brings peer-driven lessons about girls, puberty, girls, bullies, and girls as he navigates the temptations during his elementary, junior high, and high school years.
Squire’s daydreaming has developed into an imaginative mechanism that frees his mind from all the chaos and allows him to escape to a dream state whenever he writes. After graduating from high school and on a road trip with his dog, Julius, Squire meets Octavia Steves, who teaches him that his “dream state” is actually a form of meditation/astral projection that could help him become the writer of his dreams.
2. The Baby Boomers First-Hand/First-Year Guide to Retirement 365 Days of Bliss or Diss. Ever wonder what really happens that first year after you retire? I’m talking about the day-to-day emotions, feelings, projects, questions, anxieties and the true ups and downs of this very important next step in one’s life after years of working.
“First-Hand” is a humorous collection of thoughts and stuff viewed through the lens of the retired. It does not hit you over the head with heavy retirement statistics such as inflation projections, investment facts, tax shelters, and financial formulas. While that information is indeed necessary, this is not that kind of book – OK?
My book is simply a personal essay of my first 365 days of retirement, featuring real names and real people. Included are personal pictures and anecdotes of my 2013 journey that sheds light on the everyday minutia of life.
So, no. I am not an expert, just a dude who wrote a one-year journal that I think is informative and will make you stop and think when your retirement time comes. you must have a sense of humor when reading this guide- life is funny and unpredictable. My hopes are that this book/journal will be a source of reference for those of you thinking about retiring, or recently retired. Hey,we are lucky to have made it this far right?
To change-up and keep the reader interested, the book is broken up into chapters by each month. At the end of each chapter is a “Retire-Recap” of what I learned that month, as well as a “Music Jams of the Month” of my favorite walking/writing songs; and finally, a “Journal Your Journey” section for the reader to jot down any notes/comments/ideas for that particular month.
3. Square Squire & the Journey to Dreamstate –Squared Version 2.0 for Teens and Young Adults. This is my 3rd book, a teens and young adult version of my first “Square Squire’s” book. Square Squire and the Journey to Dream State – Squared Version 2.0 for Teens and Young Adults, is a sem-iautobiographical story of growing up geeky in the last innocent time when all the basketball players had hopes and none of the gangs had guns. Squared Version 2.0 is a modified version of the original 2012 book where any adult-themed language has been modified and structured for teen and young adult reading.
2015 was a very busy year for me! I self-published my first three of a series of seven independent children’s books from a collection entitled “LongTALES for ShortTAILS.” Here’s a look at these first 3 children stories, all 3 containing eye-popping color illustrations by Jay DeVance III.
4. Fastjack Robinson – Fastjack was coming to spend the summer with his grandrabbits- Grandpaw and Grandmaw Robinson, in Bunny Junction. Fastjack Robinson had moved to Hare City, but always loved coming back home to visit his beloved grandrabbits as well as his childhood friends House Mouse and Stooley the Pigeon.
Little did the Grabbit Rabbit know that, like a young Jackie Robinson, Fastjack Robinson was the fastest rabbit in the world! Somebody in Bunny Junction had to stop the notorious Grabbit Rabbit. So Stooley, House Mouse, Grandpaw, and Grandmaw devised a plan to catch the Grabbit Rabbit. It’s Fastjack to the rescue!
5. Ms. Missy: Bishop’s First Dog – Who out there doesn’t remember their first pet? Bishop’s first dog turns out to be the beautiful Missy. Missy soon has a surprise for the family. This is a true story concerning my family’s first pet – Ms. Missy the diva dog!
Follow along as Bishop, oldest child of the Morrow household, learns the ins and outs of owning and taking care of a dog. Bishop has daily duties of feeding and caring for Ms. Missy; bathing her in the Morrow backyard with younger siblings Maxine and Kelvin; and training Missy in the ways of the pet and human world. Time passes, as both Missy and the Morrow family grows with additional kids.
One day, Missy disappears, and young Bishop feels it is his fault because he scolded Missy too hard. Bishop feels terrible, and fears she has run away for good. When Missy is finally found – she has a surprise of a lifetime for the Morrow family!
6. “Duncan & the Chocolate Bar” – The year is 2050. The space shuttle to the moon has been a reality since 2030. There have been scientists, explorers, politicians, entertainers and celebrities; just about every type of scientific type person has been or has plans to go to the moon, but no ordinary people have been included? Black, white, brown, or yellow….no regular ordinary people have been to the moon. Finally, in 2050, the USA government has decided it is time to send some regular folks to the moon. A contest was held to pick three lucky souls to be sent to the moon. Each person selected could bring a friend. And the best part is that the government claims once the lucky winners get to the moon, there would be a surprise waiting for them.
Young Duncan (Dunk) Sylers,11-years old and from the city of Compton, California, enters the contest. You guessed it – Young Duncan wins and decides to take his younger cousin Drew on the exploration of a lifetime. Follow along as Duncan, Drew, and the other winners (including a wanna-be hippie who brings his parrot as his guest; as well as an aging actress and her equally washed up boyfriend) travel toward the moon. Do they succeed? You’ll have to read the book.
7. The Legend of Diddley Squatt – A Novella from a Brother Fella
Have you heard the phrase: “You don’t know Diddley Squatt?” Most people have heard this phrase. Well, this book answers that question!
Diddley Squatt, a black child, was born in Rundown City, Mississippi in a rundown year, to a rundown father Doodley and a rundown mother, Jackie. Given up on and left to be raised by his popular Grandma, affectionately known as Momma Squatt (the owner of the Copp-A-Squatt Inn - the best-known brothel “this side of Mississippi”); Diddley Squatt enters the world. Diddley is bullied as a youngster because of his obviously weird name and home life circumstances.
Young Diddley could care less; he develops a thick skin as he is raised by his grandmother and the ladies of the Copp-A-Squatt, along with the goo-gaggle of johns including famous musicians, military soldiers on leave, politicians, and others who visit the brothel. In actuality, it is through the nurturing, lessons, mentoring of the various and strong women at the Copp-A-Squatt - that leads Diddley through his early life.
Experience “young Didd” (as he is known) from birth through high school. Witness some of the amazing adventures that help shape his life. He learns of the mystical powers he’s blessed with by way of a magical harmonica gifted to him.
Read on as Diddley grows to a handsome young man and catches many a young girl’s eye. Finally, after high school graduation, it is time for Diddley to spread his wings and explore life outside of Rundown City. He makes the move, the first big step in his life journey; slings his ever-present guitar gig-bag over his shoulder; says his goodbyes to Momma Squatt and the other tearful ladies of the night who helped raised him and takes the Back-Up Rundown City train to the big city.
At 37,452 words (141 pages), THE LEGEND OF DIDDLEY SQUATT could easily be just the first book of many detailing the colorful escapades of Diddley Squatt. I am presently working on future Diddley adventures as he grows and experiences life through the chitlin’ circuit during the turbulent civil rights era.
8. Word Food for Doods – My 8th book. I wrote some of these short stories and plays long ago (1970s- 1990s) but I still feel they are relevant to what’s happening today. I will never stop writing!
BPM: Tell us about your most recent, “Word Food for Doods.” Who did you write it for? Is it available on Nook or Kindle?
You can find an ebook at AuthorHouse, Amazon and it available on Kindle.
If women can have a “girls night out” and chic lit reading groups/lunches, what about a “Dood Food” happy hour? “Word Food for Doods” is a guy’s night-out buffet comprised of 3 short stories; 2 funky one-act plays; and 2 essays that sprout about important men banes. A plus for the ladies, these stories will help them understand a man’s warped mind.
Also, there's a bonus is the twenty-three eye-popping/old-school/black/white/brown illustrations that help bring flavor to each story; you will be amazed at how these old-fashioned pictures bring life to the characters.
BPM: Give us an insight into your main characters. What does he/she do that is so special?
“Word Food for Doods” clocks in at 25,244 words and 119 pages. To date, I have self-published eight books. My book published in 2017, “The Legend of Diddley Squatt – A Novella from a Brother Fella” has received the most press and local/U.S. media attention of any of my books! I want readers to love all of my books just as much!
Here’s a brief glimpse of each story in “Word Food for Doods.”
1. “Kemal’s Last Laugh” – Three white, experienced mountain climbers receive a lesson in humility from some unexpected sources as they attempt to conquer deepest, darkest Mt. Kenya in Africa.
2. “Streople” – One day on the streets of downtown Los Angles and one can meet the strangest people, street people or just “Streople.”
3. “A Week in the Life of a Closet Miserable” – I wanna be a writer, but one week leads to the next and every time I start to write, well…kids…the wife….sports, they all get in the way!
4. “The Tattle-Tale Grin of Kid Spade” – Tells the exploits of a black cowboy, Kid Spade the Blade, in the very wild, unfriendly west of Yall City.
5. “Jazz Junkies” – Recounts an important point in the life of band leader Hemp Leeks. Does he follow fame and certain riches or stay loyal to his original band mates?
6. “T.S. Etiquette (a.k.a. the toilet seat chronicles)” – An essay for men on how to avoid that age-old argument with your woman on whether the toilet seat be left up or down?
7. “Dedman Speeks the Hellcatcher” – Dedman thought he had caught it all – a sucker soul magnet but never caught anything until he caught the hell that often arises from marriage issues. Dedman Speeks will indeed be a “Deadman” who no longer “Speaks” should this story be published!
BPM: Is there a specific place/space that you find inspiration in?
For my three children’s books, I remember when growing up in Compton, CA in the late 1950s, early 1960s, loving children’s books and cartoons on Saturday morning T.V. The Jetsons was one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons. I also remember asking my parents “how come none of the people in these books or on the cartoon shows look like me or any of my friends on the streets in Compton?”
I wanted to feature some black/minority kids in my writing because IT WAS NEEDED. So, I reached back in my memory and thought of various popular cartoons and then twisted some of the characters into a reflection of things that happened in my personal family with my brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. I think the world should show its diversity. Kids of color can now relate to characters like them, that’s important!
For my teen, young adult and new adult books, I like to show how everybody has issues, problems, and set-backs at first but that you must remain positive and keep working toward your dreams and ideas.
I like to show that there are folks in everyone’s life who reach out and will be there for the helping (teachers, mentors, baseball coaches, religious people, brothers and sisters) – all you have to do is trust certain folks.
BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
That it is a compilation of various genres/formats of writing. It includes 3 short stories, 2 one-act plays and 2 essays. It is a funky gumbo of the written word for different types of media, books, the theater and magazines. The only thing missing is a screenplay for TV and the movies. Guess what! I do have a couple of each, which I will be presenting soon. I AM ECLECTIC. I LIKE DIVERSITY!
BPM: How much planning goes into writing a book? How long does it take to complete one of your books?
I have tons of materials…possible screenplays…short stories…plays…that I have written since the 1970s. I have kept all of the stories in my overstuffed desk drawer and file folders. If something happens on the news or becomes a trending topic or a situation just moves me, I can pull out some of this material and start expanding on it.
On some of my earlier work, such as the Diddley Squatt book, it is already set-up for a Diddley Squatt part 2 because of where I left off in the story.
Sometimes, something new hits me and I jot down a few key phrases and BOOM, I have the idea/story for another book. I will then create a separate journal for this new idea and jot down storylines, possible characters/plots, as they come to me.
BPM: What advice would you give aspiring writers that would help them finish a project?
I definitely and strongly believe in outlining anything that I write (book, essay, play or screenplay, poetry – all of which I’ve written.) In my opinion, it makes writing, and completing a project, so much easier. I jot down possible chapters; possible characters; possible themes; possible plots – and start to shift these outline points into a time-frame I think will make the book interesting.
An outline is moveable. It doesn’t have to be exact, but it will help you move forward in your writing and you can complete chapters in a much easier fashion.
If you get an idea that belongs in a certain chapter, you can jump ahead and throw ideas/word/sentences/paragraphs into that chapter, even if it is out of sequence. The chapters can all be unfinished; you can return at a later date and complete them.
As for finding the time to write, it’s easy for me because I retired in 2013 after a total 35 year work experience; 29 years with the State of California’s Public Utilities Commission. I’m truly blessed. My kids are grown and my wife, she also recently retired, likes to run around a lot and shop (which I have no problem with, go for it!)
I do have a routine though, wanna hear it?
1. Get up by 9am, shower, clean the bedroom and dosimple house chores.
2. Stretching! I have a bad back, so I spend at least 20 minutes doing back stretching exercises or I will walk or go to the gym. I stretch every morning but must admit to walking or going to the gym between 2/3 times a week.
3. Come home, eat something, do any “honey-do’s” the wife has left for me. Then, I head to my little man cave in our garage I have named the “FFFunkLab (Filer- Family-Funk). I have my desktop computer, a TV and all my books and music paraphernalia (drums, bass, keyboards, guitar, etc) in the FFFunklab.
I throw some music on and begin working on whichever project is pertinent at the time. I TURN ALL PHONES OFF IN THE MAN CAVE WHEN I AM WRITING!
4. Sometimes in the afternoon I may gather up some writing material, go to the park around the corner or a library for a different perspective. I always have my trusty iPod and earphones with me, which has over 4,000 songs on it. I like to feed the birds or the pigeons. If the weather is nice, I’ll drive to the beach which isn’t far away. I’m lucky.
5. Come back home and, since I like to cook, will sometime cook dinner. My favorite is blackened salmon, yummy!
6. Spend time with wife, then if an idea has hit me on one of my writing projects, go back to the FFFunklab and make sure I jot down the idea or I will forget. I am 65 years old and going through what someone told me is commonly known to aging folks as “CRS” which is short for “Can’t Remember Stuff (actually a curse word).”
Also, many of my ideas and scenes come to me in a dream. Since high school, I’ve kept a journal of some sort near me. When I started writing, I always made sure to have some sort of paper/pen/journal next to my bed in case an idea woke me up and I needed to jot it down.
I learned you must jot the idea down IMMEDIATELY that night in order to remember specifics about the thought/subject. There is no “I’ll remember to write it down in the morning.” NO that doesn’t work; you will forget important details and why the thought came to you originally.
BPM: What genre do you find you write about most often?
I write fiction. I just love fiction. There is so much madness in the world. I like to write about happy, far-out, weird stuff and give the reader a break from reality. I like animals and I believe that animals actually talk to us in their own language.
Don’t get me wrong. I love reading nonfiction; especially biographies. While I prefer fiction, I usually always add some personal facts that I’ve experienced in my books. In my first book, Square Squire and the Journey to DREAMSTATE, I combine fact with fiction and called it faction. The book begins with real experiences of my childhood in Compton, CA. Later in the book, I break off into fiction with the main character, Squire, inventing a “dream-state” that allows him to drift into a magical state of mind and create/write his crazy stories.
BPM: Have you always been a writer? Do your recall how your interest in writing originated?
My first short story was written for Mrs. Pierce’s 7th grade English class at Walton Jr. High in Compton. Then, at Compton High School, Mr. Alvin Taylor’s Black History class inspired me to write “What You Know.”
My next stop was at Cal Lutheran College (now University) where creative writing professors Ted LaBrenz and Dr. Jack Ledbetter encouraged me to continue to write my off- the- wall short stories.
After college, I continued to learn the craft of writing at the Watts Writers Workshop in 1973-1974 (God bless Harry Dolan); the Open-Door Writers Program for Minority Writers at 20th Century Fox (1980-82): and the Institute of Children’s Literature.
BPM: Are you a musician? If so, how has that influenced your writing?
I’ve been fooling around with the bass ever since I heard Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone in the late 1960s. I can pick out melodies and bass lines and I have some musician friends who come over to my “FFFunklab” (Filer-Family -Funk – my writing and man cave area, carved out of a corner of our garage in Carson, CA, where I write my crazy stories and play my funky music.)
Music has DEFINITELY influenced my writing. Other than Sly, my other musical influences are Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and the Talking Heads. I have hundreds of albums and music is always playing when I write. Music takes me away. I especially like to listen to Miles when I’m writing.
I like to write, paint and play my funky bass guitar. Readers can see my books, paintings and concert reviews at
my website, go here
BPM: What do you hope readers take away from your various books?
Regardless of your birth circumstances – born black, white, or brown; rich or poor, big or small; male or female; in the north, south, east or west – YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER WHO YOU ARE AT BIRTH!
It is left to each of us once born and as we start to grow into ourselves, to ensure that we make the best of our lives. Nobody can live for you, you take the good with the bad and learn to adjust and hopefully find happiness along life’s glorious journey.
BPM: How has writing impacted your life?
Once you receive that first batch of your first books the thrill is unbelievable! It was a very positive experience in 2012. After my first book, I had other books lined up and waiting and it was just the process of what should come next. I never gave up and never will, with the idea that one of my books will break through and become popular.
My dad, Maxcy Filer from Compton, would you believe it took him 48 tries before he passed the California State Bar before he realized his dream to practice law in California! Yes, my dad Maxcy took the bar twice a year for 24 years from 1967 to 1991, finally passing it on his 48th attempt in 1991. Persistence finally paid off and I too will never quit!
I also love putting in the work. I retired in 2013 and I have this thing about me that I have to ACCOMPLISH something every day or I don’t feel right. Whether it’s going to the gym or practicing my bass, I’ve got to complete something each day. Writing gives me that accomplishment feeling the best.
I like quirky stuff. I don’t like traditional. I’m drawn to folks who people may think weird…we just have a vibe.
BPM: Was there an early experience where you learned that the written word had power?
I remember 1969. In my 11th year Black History Class, teacher Alvin Taylor gave us an assignment to read a book of our choice. I had read “The Fire Next Time” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin, my favorite author to date.
So, while looking for a new, different book for Mr. Taylor’s assignment, I came across the title of a book “The Spook Who Sat by the Door” by an author named Sam Greenlee. THE TITLE JUMPED OUT AT ME! I ordered the book from the library and couldn’t put it down; it was different and my mind was never the same.
Later, in college at Cal Lutheran, I happened upon “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson and me and my roommates where never the same! I became a fan of “gonzo” journalism (living/experiencing what you write) and that’s why I still talk to the squirrels when they visit my backyard.
BPM: What is one of the things you’re most thankful for as a writer?
Just to be able to write what I think and see. I love the term “writer’s prerogative.” My wife hates some of the stuff I write, and often tells me “why can’t you write or paint traditional stuff?” That’s when I know I’ve done my best!
For writers I love Hunter S. Thompson, Ishmael Reed. For painting, as far as my far-out paintings, I love Basquiat and Jackson Pollock. For music, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and the king Sly Stone. Also, as mentioned earlier, I like to escape. Writing lets me escape and it is up to me what I write – I’m in control.
BPM: What does literary success look like to you?
I love that I have self-published 8 books in my lifetime. When I’m gone, I will at least have left something for some folks to remember me by. While I would love to have one of my books become hot and trendy, it doesn’t really matter. I’d love to make money off of some of my books, but if it doesn’t happen, I just say “Que sera, sera.” Should my books make any money, I would gladly give half of any royalties I receive for any of my writings to favorite charities of mine. I have all I need materially.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
My main next project is a screenplay that I’m working on, the idea provided by my son Lance and my daughter Arinn. I don’t want to divulge too much about it right now, but it should be completed in 2019. I’ve got tons of stuff I’m working on, as well as painting in my backyard and picking up my bass guitar every once in a while.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Purchase Word Food for Doods by Duane Lance Filer
If women can have a chick lit genre, what about a dood food happy hour? Word Food for Doods is a guys night out buffet comprised of three short stories, two funky one-act plays, and two essays that sprout about important men banes. In addition, there are twenty-three eye-popping illustrations. Women, these stories will help you understand our warped minds. These stories will enthral both sexes. Enjoy padners!
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