More from Staff Writer Melanie Addington’s interview with Damien Echols, one of the “West Memphis Three” released from prison in August 2011 after entering an Alford Plea in their case from the 1993 killing of three boys in West Memphis, Ark., and the author of the book, “Life After Death.” Echols will be at Off Square Books on Tuesday to sign copies of the book.
When asked how the book tour is going, Echols responds “long” before laughing heartily.
“It’s also been good. We’ve been on tour since September of last year.”
What are some of the things that are soothing to Echols?
“I really love doing laundry. It’s one of my favorite things. Something about it calms my nerves. Doing laundry, watching baseball, sitting on a rocking chair, these are all soothing and calming to me.”
Talk about meditating while in prison.
“Even in a prison cell you can still do things that are distracting like read a novel, watch TV, listen to the news, do push-ups. You can constantly distract your mind. When you sit down and start do to meditation you have to shut down the distractions.”
Echols gives his editor credit for helping with his writing and in putting the book together.
“It is so hard once you write something, you don’t really want to chop it down. There were a gazillion pages. You have the outside eye come in and say what is too much, what needs more. We wanted everything in there. I am almost 40 years old and the trial was 18 days. I am not the case. I am a sentient being with a personality outside of this one particular circumstance.”
The first 25 chapters in the book are written in one structured narrative, which breaks down for the final few chapters into journal entries. Talk about what’s in the book and the structure.
“I wanted readers to have an idea of what my writing style was when not telling a narrative. I was journaling in prison and that helped keep me sane and I was able to throw myself into what I loved doing. I wanted to share the undiluted form of writing on a day-to -day basis.”
(Echols said there are still 10 to 12 journals he has not shared with anyone but that he is not planning to keep any secrets but also doesn’t want to put out any other writings if they are mundane or mediocre.)
“Like today I had Cornflakes for breakfast. I don’t need to write about that. But I kind of like sharing.”
You’ve said you’d like to meet the writer that inspired you, Stephen King. Talk about King and how his writing influenced you.
“I read my first (King novel) when I was 10 years old.”
(Noting he thinks it was a copy of “Night Shift” he saw at his grandmother’s house.)
“Somehow she thought that was appropriate literature for a child. I fell in love with his writing style back then. It is like when listening to music you can hear a beat and you can eventually write a new song to the beat of the old song. I could feel a pattern or rhythm to King’s writing and I could fall into that rhythm.”
(His favorite King novel is all of the “Gunslinger” series.)
“The whole series is one giant story. I have read it over and over. It is one of the greatest things ever written.”
(Since he has gotten out of prison, many relationships still need mending, including the one with his son who is now 19, only a year older than when Echols went to prison.)
“I was spinning last year. We were like refugees with no clothes and no where to go. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was at least six months in deep shock and trauma and couldn’t function. This whole time I’ve been out has been about trying to get back to normal. But before you can carry others, you have to learn to take care of yourself.”
(Echols said Mississippi and then Texas follow as the book tour winds down and he returns to his new business in Salem. His wife, Lorri Davis, who put her life on hold for more than 13 years to fight for her husband’s freedom, is thinking of returning to her landscape-design business.)
“Right now she is managing me. That is a full-time job. Lorri and I both sort of learned we have to keep our vision on what we do want and not the negative. We eventually make progress towards it.” (May 9, 2013)