|Taylor Lee Cooper
|Taylor Lee Cooper
|Interview With A Crazy Bastard by Tristan L. Prescott
|I took a shot at getting a meeting with T.L. Cooper through his
Facebook page. After several weeks, he messaged me and
explained he was doing a lot of 'moving around', which he did
not explain, and I did not pursue. He sent me the phone
number of a friend, named 'Steve', who I was to contact if and
when I got to New England. This was in June. I did not reach
Boston until October.
Steve gave me the address of a marina in Lynn, a city on the
Massachusetts coast, just a few miles north of Boston. Met
him there and he greeted me with a cup of coffee. While I took
a sip and looked around, he made a call and spoke briefly to
a third person.
|Robert E Howard was the creator of 'Conan the Barbarian' and several other similar characters. Every scene
was desperate, the violence, mind boggling. Invariably, a scantily clad woman of exaggerated dimensions and
loose morals was somehow involved. Howard has been roundly criticized for appealing to the baser instincts
of young boys, but Taylor feels these critics are sucking on sour grapes. They might have tried, and failed, to
imitate Howard's dynamic ability to attract and hold an audience. Having read some of Howard's work, I can
attest to it's strengths, though it holds little appeal for me.
Taylor said, "Never try to write like anyone else. It's phony and only means you have no courage to write as
yourself. It's too late to be Howard, Hemingway, Dostoevsky, or Jane Austen. You've got to find your own voice,
or you can't do anything but edit other peoples writing for grammar or punctuation."
"The first things I wrote sucked. The stories were good, don't get me wrong, but everything else sucked.
Grammar, punctuation, word use, just about every rule for composition were not just broken, they were mauled
and left for dead."
"I wrote my first two complete novels in longhand, in spiral bound notebooks with Bic pens. I thought I was
doing my best writing." He gestured with one hand, while installing a screw with the bare fingers of the other. "I
figured the handwriting would slow me down and force me to be careful crafting sentences. That was bullshit.
The writing sucked."
|"Tom will be here in a few minutes." Steve grinned.
"I wanted to be sure you showed up before having
him leave work to come over."
Steve is a big guy, wearing leather and standing near
a new Harley Davidson, but smiling and easy in his
"How did you manage two coffee's on the bike?" I
"Practise." He laughed, then took a step toward the
|big bagger and opened the lid on a storage bin in the
fairing. "I have these set up to handle stuff. My
girlfriend likes when I bring her coffee or ice cream."
He nodded toward the entrance to the parking lot.
Tom parked close by and stepped out of the car. He
was shorter than Steve, dressed casual and neat, and
he offered his hand, smiling, seeming to have the same
easy, affable nature as Steve.
"Looking for Taylor?" He asked.
|I nodded and was about to speak, but he quickly
added,"Got a net? He's a crazy bastard, you know."
At this, he and Steve laughed, and Steve nodded.
"No, he's okay." Steve said, laughed again, then
grinned. "But don't be surprised if you catch yourself
"How long have you known him?" I asked, hoping it
was longer than the past summer.
"Thirty years." Steve replied.
|"All my life." Tom said. He's my cousin."We talked briefly and Tom called Taylor and handed me the phone.
I got an address in a small New Hampshire town, expressed my gratitude and bid farewell to Steve and
It was not long before I found myself climbing in altitude and driving along narrow roads through beautiful
woods and lakes. This stunning view of a lake lined with brilliant foliage erased my first question from the
"Why would you sell a perfectly good sailboat in the tropics and come up here?"
Now, I sort of understand, though I am no fan of long, cold winters and mountains of snow.
On a long, narrow road up the side of a small mountain, I pulled into a paved driveway and stopped halfway
to the house, where a man stood waiting. When I slowed to enter the drive, he had been crouching near the
hitch on a large cargo trailer. As I entered, he stood, turned, and waited, indicating where I should park.
|Taylor was born in Salem, Massachusetts, home of the infamous
Witch Trials. I could get nothing from him as to his childhood, other
than an overwhelming wanderlust which kept him dreaming of
packing a knapsack and hiking toward the horizon. Six days after
graduating High School, on his 18th birthday, Taylor stepped off a
plane in Texas and began boot camp. Not long after he stepped off
another plane in Viet Nam.
Nothing ages a person faster than war. It was here Taylor began
writing, perhaps because few things inspire the need to escape so
much as war. Fittingly, the first stories were packed with violence,
heroics, and travel to strange lands.
He discovered Robert E Howard by finding an abandoned, tattered
paperback in the day room of a barracks in Tuy Hoa, which he read,
cover to cover, in an evening. From that point he sought out
everything he could find written by the man.
"This," he remarked, holding up a volume of Howard's short
stories, "is how action should be written."
|"I laid off for years." Taylor shrugged and continued. "There were issues with drugs and alcohol. I got past it
and moved on. Started writing again while I was getting sober."
"I got a big fat book called 'The Writers Market' and started dreaming of big checks and fame."
He turned to me and chuckled.
"It's such bullshit. Beginning writers have no idea what the whole writing and publishing world is like. It's a
fucking quagmire of greedy bastards squeezing every drop of blood out of writers they can get."
Taylor handed me a small, cheap electrical splice of some sort.
"Look at that piece of shit." He said. "How'd you like to have your life counting on that? That's off the brake
He started in again.
"I'd already submitted my first masterpiece," he grinned and shook his head, "to one of the big New York
Publishers, then wrote a sequel and was ready to send that off, but just for the hell of it, I looked back at the
|Taylor laughed and gathered up the tools outside.
"It was awful." He said, returning the small tool tray
inside the trailer. "It was the worst writing I'd ever
seen. I wanted it back to start over. I got a rejection,
of course. What pissed me off about the whole thing
was," he used both hands to emphasize the
statement, "some sections of that crap manuscript
ended up on one of the TV SciFi shows. Same
names, same dialogue, same everything. Some
asshole in the slush room of the publisher was
sending off other peoples work as his own. Pissed
me off for a minute. Until I realized those losers had to
steal - from what I considered crap - and I can write
|I seated myself and opened another area.
"Someone mentioned you might be a crazy bastard. Why is that?"
He grinned and nodded.
"You know how that shit goes." Taylor shifted uneasily and shrugged. "I've heard it. I know it. Maybe I think it's
because I do what I want, when I want, how I want. Maybe they think it's something else. I walked out of a great
job at GE and started building a boat. Maybe they think building the boat was crazy. Maybe it was walking out
of the job. My family was all pretty straight and conservative. At the same time, I was riding choppers and
looked like the Unibomber. I raced motorcycles, every way you could. I volunteered for Viet Nam. I fought, in the
ring, not just on the street. And you know that prettiest, most popular girl in school you never dared to talk to?
I asked her out. She said "No." but, what the fuck? At least I asked. People damn sure said I was crazy for
that. I finished the boat and always sailed alone. I walked out of college in the middle of my last semester,
and my grades were great. Just didn't feel like doing it. Used all kinds of drugs and booze, including heroin.
Finally got sober. Maybe it's none of that, maybe all. I really don't give a shit."
He turned and met my eyes.
"I'm not crazy. You know. Bonkers, Bozo, whatever, but I'm damn sure not like most of the herd out there."
He quickly grinned and looked away. "But I can't argue with the 'crazy bastard' thing."
I smiled and indicated the trailer.
|"What is this about?"
"Funny thing about the sea," he said. "Every road is
water, and they all look the same. I'm looking forward
to exploring countryside for a while. Mountains,
forests, State and National Parks, Canada."
"In this?" I pointed to the stark, windowless box.
"It'll be better when it's done. Windows, solar panels
up top, plenty of insulation, gas heat and range, good
reefer," he looked at me and smiled, "that's,
'refrigerator'. Good shower, lot's of storage, and a spot
to hold the scooter in the back. Take it right in and out
the rear ramp door. That'll be great for putting around
the big parks from campsite to campsite."
|He pointed to a motorcycle in the garage.
"Put the camping gear on it and explore. Sleeping bag, tent, food, camera, whatever, and go have fun."
The conversation drifted back and forth, more about things not really about Taylor or the writing. I got the idea
writing and publishing were less important to him than just living life and enjoying it. He plays around with a
guitar, has golf clubs he seldom uses, studies programing and web development here and there, continually
researches the goings on at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, keeps abreast of discoveries on the
Hubble website, hates politics with a passion, and his pet peeve is apparently stupid people. Mostly, he says,
because he is so often one of them.
In conclusion, I have to say yes, Taylor Lee Cooper is indeed a crazy bastard, but the kind you like to spend
time with, and enjoy leaving as well. He just wore me out. I do think I understand why he likes to spend so much
time alone. He is comfortable in his own company and can only be comfortable in the company of others for
just so long, at which point he begins to look for a way to extricate himself. When I mentioned I'd not seen that
aspect show in him, he smiled, and replied simply.
"I know this will end soon," he said, "and I've already decided it won't happen again."
Driving away I found myself captivated by the idea of getting a motor home, and a small motorcycle, and doing
much the same thing Taylor described; cruising America with a camera and a laptop. For me, it would be a
way to free lance stories. For him, I think, it's just a way to be free.
|Almost as soon as I got out of the car, he spoke,
turning at the same time back to his job on the trailer.
"What are you thinking?" He asked flatly, not
smiling, but not unpleasantly.
"How do you mean?"
"Well, I mean, no pictures," he faced me and used his
hands like an Italian, "no exposure that gets anyone
coming around here or following me. I prefer to stay
under the radar. Having said that," he turned back to
his work and squatted, "I can't stand people who
|agree to an interview and turn sour when it starts. You can't fold at crunch time. You don't want to give an
interview, don't say you will."
"Some people have second thoughts once it begins."
"Funny how second thoughts seem smarter than first thoughts, huh?"
He looked up at me and smiled.
"I gotta learn how to do this."
"Do what?" I asked the question and suddenly knew the answer before he spoke. "Oh, you mean the
"Yeah," he nodded. "It seems part of the whole, 'write and sell it' thing."
I did my best to do an interview for the rest of the afternoon. Taylor is an engaging and interesting man,
intelligent and easily diverted. He seldom stopped working, moving inside and out, back and forth,
occasionally explaining what he was working on.
At one point, while describing leaving Naples, Florida, in the schooner he'd built, and heading straight into
huge waves and howling winds, he stopped and held up a small, orange light of some sort for the side of the
"LED's" He said, then nodded toward the wiring exiting a small hole in the side of the trailer. "All new
wiring. The trailer is brand new. Ordered it from the factory with bigger wheels, brakes, and axles, better
hitch, and extra cross members on the frame. Wiring sucked. Wires were big enough, but the connectors
were shit and every fixture was grounded to the chassis. That's no good. Rewired the whole thing with
bigger wire, better connectors, and shrink-tubing everything, and running plastic conduit below. Electric
brake connector was open and unprotected, hanging over the open asphalt. Weak."
In an instant we were back aboard the boat, heading out of Naples through Gordon Pass, on an outgoing
tide with 6 foot rollers and twenty knot winds coming in.
|that crap all day. It smartened me up. Never trust big publishers, agents, or anyone else. They all suck."
From that point Taylor joined online critique groups and began submitting first chapters for examination.
The results highlighted several, what he referred to as 'critical deficiencies' in his writing.
"My female characters were men in skirts." He said. "It took years of reading women's books, Jane Austen,
Emily Dickinson, to begin to get a handle on developing female characters."
During this period, Cooper decided not to submit any more manuscripts to conventional publishers. He
showed me a stack of over one hundred rejections.
"It's not as simple as saying the writing is no good, because the now is quite good. Sometimes you're barking
up the wrong tree. A publisher my like your sub, but he's got that slot filled for at least three years.
Sometimes they are thinking 'space opera' and you're sending hard core science. Other times, the writing
"Self Publishing is booming." I offered as a way to switch gears.
"Yeah. He nodded and sat on a huge boulder in a fieldstone wall, indicating I join him on another mossy
stone. "That's why I went this way. More control, less bullshit, and a bigger slice of the pie."