Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Charlie Newton
We recently reviewed Charlie Newton’s “Start Shooting” and he kindly agreed to do a short Q&A for us. The review of Start Shooting (Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository UK) can be found at http://wp.me/p6kwu-Xl. For details of the book giveaway, please scroll to the bottom.
How did you react to gathering award nominations for a debut novel and then being dropped by publishers?
Not in a grownup fashion, although I kinda saw it coming. If you bitch enough—even if you’re occasionally right—you’re asking to be sent to the rail. That may be changing a bit now, but most authors will tell you (off the record) bitching at your publisher for anything short of treason is a suicide note. Luckily, my current publisher, Doubleday, has a sense of humor most of the time.
After 4 year interval since “Calumet City”, can we expect Charlie Newton to publish more frequently in the future?
Oh, yeah. If my deal with Doubleday folds (let’s all stop and say a Hail Mary here), I’ll publish them myself. After 12 years full time, twenty-five thousand hours of typing, I’m all done waiting to be discovered. CALUMET CITY was #6, but the first I could get published. START SHOOTING is #9 and the second to be published.
Will you be dusting off ideas that were turned down previously or starting on something new?
I write mine from beginning to end, edit them 20-25 times, submit to my agent, and hope for the best. I don’t wait for encouragement in order to continue; there isn’t much extra laying around. The mirror and I have a conversation at 3:00 AM and we don’t entertain criticism or read failure notices till after 10:00 AM. If you intend to write fiction as opposed to non-fiction, you write it, submit it when it’s perfect, then your agent tries to sell it. If he can’t, you don’t get a paycheck that year. But you do get a new mirror.
What are your views on the future of the publishing industry and the challenges facing it such as self-publishing, Amazon, royalty rates, ebooks etc?
I don’t see any of that as “challenging” for the author. Any new way to sell our work gives us power we didn’t have yesterday. But like the old-guard publishers and agents, some writers will benefit from the new openness, some will suffer. The marketplace is in free fall, but not necessarily in a bad way. I don’t want to go skipping with Pollyanna here, but I think quality, not marketing muscle, may be making a comeback as a viable commodity.
What role do you see for social media i.e. Twitter, Librarything, Goodreads, blogs in promoting books?
Passion based social media and multi-level co-branding are the future. If your work has passion in it—be it stamp collecting, cookbooks, or murder, people out there in the ether will talk about it, and keep talking about it. The major corporate players can’t throw money at the media like they used to and gain the same results. So they’ll stop, or at least slow down. Into that space rushes the future, an odd, disjointed place that produced 250 million YouTube views for one Adele song.
What other authors do you enjoy and recommend?
Pete Dexter. Hunter Thompson from The Hells Angel’s though Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Thomas Harris for his first three, P.J. O’Rourke till the early 1990s, Elmore Leonard’s westerns, Chandler for his sentences; the noir kings: Cornell Woolrich, James Cain, Jim Thompson, David Goodis; and non-fiction “novelists” Mark Bowden and Michael Lewis.
For “Start Shooting”, how much planning of the plot and characters did you undertake before embarking on the actual writing of the first draft?
I usually have a 25-word expansion of a one-word premise. For START SHOOTING the one-word was “hopes-and-dreams.” I started with four characters, people who inspired me and I wanted to spend a year with. Who they are and what they do sends me in search of a plot to tell their story. For START SHOOTING it was the current world climate of corporate malfeasance, a hard-to-believe, but true WWII event, and a friend of mine in charge of bringing the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. Wound together, those three elements would be the backdrop to a Hopes-and-Dreams story that in many ways mirrors my own trip through the roses.
How much research did you do for “Start Shooting” given the references to CIA, biological weapons, World War II etc or do you simply invent what you need?
In my stories the lynchpins are almost always true, no matter how hard to believe. All those you asked about for START SHOOTING are 100% true. Some I had personal experience with, others I’d been told about. Nowadays, if you know what you’re looking for, the research doesn’t require near the effort it used to. You still need access, but you don’t spend a year figuring how who and where.
Both “Calumet City” and “Start Shooting” have strong female characters, do you find this poses any extra challenges for you as a male writer?
As I’ve said before, I couldn’t write a fully formed, emotionally available female, they’re too complicated, too other-worldly. The women in my stories are partially closed down and operate out of their male side. I know a number of these women, “the Tribe” as they are called, women who own the ground they walk and don’t derive their self-image based on how we judge them. I was married to one, a Jordanian rugby player who was on the American Gladiators. They don’t fit into the male theory of power female— the evil femme fatale or girl who wears cat-suits to work. But they could if it suited their goals or safety.
Is there a certain type of audience that you have in mind when you’re writing? If so, who do you think will enjoy your books the most?
I’m always thinking “backstage;” the same way I feel when I’m reading Mark Bowden or Michael Lewis. I hope my readers “want to know” but don’t want to die to find out.
What makes a good story? Plot or characters?
Did Jason Kaufman (Random House) make you ask that? I have a plot because the form requires it. Characters are everything for me. From them, the plot happens. Like Elmore Leonard has said, once he has the names (I start with real people so I already have the names) he puts the characters in the same room, stands back, and lets them rock.
Where does the inspiration for your characters come from?
As I said, 90% of them are people I know. I use their real names, real history and skill sets. I put them in a politically incorrect box with no good/wholesome way out, and let them do whatever it is they decide is tolerable. I do my best not to kill them in the story and succeed only some of the time. As you might imagine, there have been the occasional moments of discord when they read themselves eating a baby or stealing mom’s rent money. I try to have those conversations over the phone.
We also have two copies of Start Shooting available to giveaway to residents of USA & Canada courtesy of Doubleday. Just leave a comment to enter.