Q: What the hell is wrong with you?

A: Where do I begin?

 

Q: So, what’s this book about?

A: The Shores of Utopia is a romantic science-fiction thriller. The story begins in the near future just as terrorism is gripping the city in fear. Cathryn is a young woman from the future visiting New York City. Her foreknowledge of certain events arouses the suspicion of a relentless FBI agent, Vivian Wu. She senses something is off with Cathryn, but she can’t quite place it. She needs to avoid Agent Wu in order to escape before an atomic detonation destroys New York City.

  

Q: How did you come with the idea for… what’s your book called again?

A: The idea for The Shores of Utopia originated from a dream I had about Nicole Kidman, just after I saw her in the film, To Die For. Calm yourselves; the dream was G-rated.

In my dream, Nic and I were leaving a movie theater together when some dude pulled out a knife and demanded money. Me, being a badass ironworker manly man, instinctively sought to protect her, but she chuckled and extracted a tiny device from her purse. She waved it at him, and the thief turned into a bloody puddle of steaming entails and burnt organs on the cobblestone alley floor. It was the most realistic dream I’ve ever had. I woke up at 3:00am, made a sandwich, and began typing.

I made Cathryn a six-foot beauty, and gave her a June twentieth birthday as homage. When I originally wrote dialogue for Cathryn, I imagined NK speaking her lines. Since then, Cathryn has evolved considerably. I’ve made her less beautiful and more sensitive.

 

Q: Dude, are you still working on that stupid book?

A: It’s a fair question considering I’ve been working on Shores since the Clinton administration, but I usually ignore the inquiry.

 

Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?

A: Stay off social media! If I dedicate distraction-free time for writing, I write. I’m easily distracted by social media, which is a colossal waste of time. I have several stories in the works, so regardless of my mood, I’ll write something accordingly. For instance, reading the news these past few years inspired me to write an assassination story. Sometimes it’s garbage, sometimes it’s gold. The trick is to keep writing, and stay off social media!

 

Q: How do you handle negative book reviews?

A: My book just came out in November, and so far, there’s only one review—and it’s positive! No doubt I’ll have some negativity to look forward to, especially in this judgmental world. I’ll take them with a grain of salt. I’ll need to remember that what makes for an enjoyable book will differ from person to person, and it’s subjective.

 

Q: Why don’t you ever pick up your damn phone?

A: If you’re not listed in my contacts, you’re considered spam, and I block. If you leave a voicemail, I’ll return your call. Maybe. Probably not.

 

Q: Do you plot your stories, or are you a panster?

A: A bit of both, actually. I’ll start with an idea—it could be anything, and I’ll see where it leads. At one point, I’ll have a good idea how the story ends, then I’ll fill in the blanks. Other times, I’ll have a basic outline in my head before I even begin. Often, I’ll intentionally take a story to left field, just to see what happens. For me, the point is to have fun. I have no deadlines to meet, and no one to impress—except you, the reader.

 

Q: Can you give me an example of left field?

A: After my first draft of The Shores of Utopia was completed, I wrote a synopsis, just for practice, and realized my story was lacking. I rewrote my synopsis, but added plots that weren’t in my book to make the synopsis itself interesting—something I’d want to read. I basically wrote a synopsis for a book that didn’t yet exist. Shores was originally a straight up romantic thriller, but after I added the subplot about terrorism, and especially the FBI’s involvement, the tension pushed the book to a new level. When I created Special Agent Vivian Wu, the story took off. She’s an important part of the feel of the book. She became my favorite character and the most fun to write.

 

Q: What’s your favorite part about the writing process.

A: Revision. After the first draft is completed, there are usually boring spots, things that drag, things that may not fit, and plots that may meander to oblivion, and mistakes galore. Revisions are the fun part. After the second pass, I go through the story again to fix the mechanics and improve the flow. If I have to revise again, I do so. After I come to a point where I feel my story is as good as I can get it, I throw it to my pack of beta readers to tear apart. They usually find things I missed, and their suggestions are often adopted. I’ll revise it again. I’ll self-edit again. After it’s at the point where I cannot find fault with it, I send it off to a professional editor I adore so she could see how poorly written my crap is. She’ll polish it until it’s shiny and new.

 

Q: Who is your editor?

A: Kristen Hamilton. You can reach her through her website, Kristen Corrects. It’s full of writing tips and common mistakes to avoid. Kristen’s site is a wonderful resource for writers of all levels.

 

Q: Do you listen to music when you write?

A: All the time. Typically, I put a classical or jazz playlist on—usually instrumental. Sometimes, I’ll put my favorite albums on, but I wind up listening to it and ignoring my work. Sometimes, it pays off. I tend to type in time if something up tempo comes on.

There’s a point in the book, one of my left field moments, where Cathryn is taking Michael somewhere special in Australia. As I was writing it, I had no idea where they were headed. Kate Bush’s The Dreaming came on, and it clicked. The resort became the Dreaming, an underwater getaway where there’s nothing to do but dive, eat and boink. The Colony Mission, my second book in the series, has a scene where Cathryn works out to Emerson, Lake & Powell’s version of Mars, the Bringer of War, solely because it was on when I wrote the scene.

 

Q: What’s your favorite and least favorite aspect of publishing?

A: Aside from the writing process itself, my favorite part of the business end is meeting and conversing with readers. My least favorite part is self-marketing. I’m tempted to partner up with a slick business-minded marketing guru.

 

Q: Your debut novel only came out three months ago. Just how many readers have you connected with?

A: Even this fake interview is annoying. I’m looking forward to meeting readers, okay? I’m anticipating some cool interactions with them. Creative folks are my tribe.

 

Q: Is this an FAQ section, or an imaginary interview?

A: I’ve been asked every one of these questions (mostly). And yes, they are pretty much in order of frequency. The first question gets asked the most—by far.

 

Q: Are there types of scenes you find difficult to write?

A: Love scenes do not come naturally—especially written from the woman’s POV. One of my alpha readers complained that there were no love scenes in my romantic thriller. I countered that they were implied, and showed her where they were. “A girl wants to read about sex, Charlie!”      I relented and added a few scenes where I felt they needed to be. I tried to make them tasteful and refused to include graphic language. There’s no throbbing or thrusting in my book, and nothing is moist, flowery, or girthy. Oddly, on the very first page, the story begins in the shower, right after a love-making session. Washing the gunk off is assumed. Compromise.

 

Q: Who are your dream actors in the film version?

A: The film version! I wish.

The cast in my head is constantly changing. As noted earlier, when I started the book, I imagined Nicole Kidman as Cathryn, Samuel L Jackson as Pryce, Jodie Foster as Denise, and then 15-year-old Haley Joel Osment as Christopher Miller. It’s been twenty-seven years since I began the book, so the dream cast has obviously evolved to actors better suited.  I’ll leave it to the readers to form their own opinions.

 

Q: Do you know why I pulled you over?

A: No, of course not, kind Officer.

(I’m usually lying. I always know why I’m pulled over. Sometimes I’ll try, “Did I run the red light on my bicycle?” If the cop is cool, he’ll ticket me accordingly, saving me points.)

 

Q: What’s your biggest fear?

A: A determined seven-foot spider, driving in an ice storm, and angering Gina Carano. Also. I’m afraid that the vast world I’ve created will disappear the moment I check out. The characters I’ve created exist only in my head. When I die, they die. If enough people read about them, they’ll live on. It sounds weird, but it’s the truth.

I’m further motivated by my sense of mortality. I’m not afraid to die, I’m afraid that I won’t have enough time to finish all of my projects. It’s something I’ve been aware of more consistently since friends began dying of old age. So, ready or not, I’m putting my books out there. Be kind.

 

Q: Do you still write music?

A: Not as much as I’d like, but yes. I’ll be releasing three albums as soon as they’re properly mixed and mastered. In 2019, the hearing in my right ear became muddled—just like that. It sounds like my head is underwater. And for a little extra fun, the tinnitus kicked in. Imagine hearing a Bb sine wave blaring in one ear, and another Bb sine wave in the other, but 5 octaves higher. Let’s not stop there, let’s add some scratchy white noise to the mix. Yeah, that’s it, that’s my new reality. All day, all night, until the end of time. Fun fun fun.

Regardless, I still maintain a modest project studio where I record my own music, or the music of any other artist that’s unfortunate enough to find themselves in my secret musical lair. I’ve written tons of songs with lyricist and singer Marcus Simeone. I’ve unofficially named my studio Deaf Charlie’s Doghouse. I thought it’d be funny to run a studio as a semi-deaf audio engineer with tinnitus. I do it for free. I do it for fun. I do it for love.

 

Q: Is this book the first in a series?

A: I’m so glad you asked. Why yes. The Shores of Utopia is the first book in a series of three. The second installment, The Colony Mission, is being polished off as we speak, and will be available in December 2024. The third, as of yet untitled and final novel in the series, is currently in the revision stage and will be available around November of 2025, unless I die. I’m also considering selling them as a set with some extras.

 

Q: Are there any planned novels outside of the Utopia universe?

A: Yes. I have a thriller-intrigue secret-organization-type series of books in various stages of completion. They’re kind of predictable, a little boring, and they contain plots I’ve read or seen before. I’m working to fix that. I’ve created a set of cool characters that are waiting for something interesting to do. They’re getting a bit antsy; I better get moving. I can envision four or five novels there.

Chloe is a novel about a unique and benevolent lifeform that’s been stuck on Earth for eons. When people die, it takes over the recently departed body, and enjoys life. I’m just about done with the first draft. I have several other standalone novels planned. I have no shortage of ideas. I also write lots of shorter stuff. You can read some of them on the Stories page.

 

Q: Why did you decide to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?

A: Of course, I would’ve loved to have had my book published traditionally. I’d be lying to claim otherwise. I queried The Shores of Utopia to a handful of dream agents, but they passed. It wasn’t the rejections that deterred me. In my case, time was more of a factor. Issues in my life forced me to get my story out there sooner, so I self-published.

Honestly, I’m not the least bit concerned with advances. I much prefer freedom over money, so I do what I want when I want. I’ve carefully designed my stories to build, whereas agents insist on hooking the reader on the first page. I also don’t concern myself with established guidelines or word count. If an agent instructed me to cut 20,000 words to make my book more appealing for a publisher, I’d immediately drop them. (To be fair, it would be a sensible request for an agent to make, because Shores has almost 117,000 words, which is normally too high for a debut author in my genre.) Listen, if good folks are reading my stories, then I’m happy. It’s all I want. The old joke where the broke writer tells the rich guy at a dinner party that he has something the rich man doesn’t, namely, enough, applies to me.

Naturally, all of that previous bullshit changes if an agent shows some interest.

 

Q: Can you offer any advice to new writers?

A: Yeah, ask someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about. The tips I’d offer are obvious and often repeated elsewhere by folks smarter than me. The most important advice I could give is to have a space dedicated to writing, free from distractions. Read as many books as you can in your genre, and then read books not in your genre. Know what your fellow authors are up to. Learn the rules, then break them. Write something you’d love to read. If you have the urge to write, write. Read Stephen King’s book on writing called… I forget what it’s called, but it’s the best book on writing I’ve read.  

 

Q: On Writing?

A: Yes, his book on writing.

 

Q: Your comedy needs work.

A: Your questions suck.

 

Q: Do you give interviews?

A: Never. I have trust issues, apparently.