I follows the story of Mark as he struggles with depression, addiction, and homelessness. Events inspired by true events, but what inspired you to write this story?
I have worked in the downtown core of my hometown for nearly twenty years. As these streets have become crowded with people in desperate situations over the last few years, I tried to make a positive impact by donating any change I had to whoever asked, every time I was asked and, participating in and facilitating a donation campaigns at work. The compassion and empathy I felt towards these people who struggle, whom are seemingly ignored by the general public, began to enter all facets of my mind. Inspired, my new poems and songs were significantly more politically themed than previous compositions (as an example). It was at this time when I read the article of an unidentified man who had died on the street across from where I work. The article stated he was mid 30-40s, just like me. I immediately wondered what other similarities we might have had, what differences could there have been for me to be alive on this street, with a job, a house and a wife; while he was alone, unknown and dead. Possible parallels were too numerous to overlook.
How much of Marks character is based on reality and how much is fictionalized?
That’s very difficult to quantify. I can say, it is a modestly fictionalized version of reality.
This novel gets to the heart of the issues people face with drug abuse and depression. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I want… not just for readers to be aware of the astounding number of people in these situations but to CARE. To be emotionally invested. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how little effect I alone have on the whole of society but, hopefully this story touches its readers and inspires them to help wherever possible. Someone recently told me the book brought them to tears and how certain moments felt like a punch in the belly. Another told me he has begun giving change when he can and not only that but, treating people on the streets with more dignity and respect than before, keeping eye contact when speaking with them. That is what I want.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
As yet untitled, I’ve begun work on the story of a middle to lower class neighborhood, on the day of a possible suicide. The story is told through a series of vignettes in the Rashomon style. Otherwise, i’m always working on poetry and writing music reviews.
Inspired by true events, Foul Play Is Not Suspected is the tragic tale of Mark Fuller. He’s homeless, depressed and addicted to drugs as he has been for a number of years. Author Steve Murphy sympathetically details the journey Mark has endured from birth through to today. An important story that speaks to several major overlapping social and political issues. Foul Play Is Not Suspected packs a careful, emotional wallop. 20 years of lived experience downtown where he lives and works, has provided Murphy with in depth knowledge of the streets. A lifetime of storytelling through song has sharpened his use of language into a penetrating tool.
Amulet’s Rapture finds Catrin, a princess of Britannia, a warrior, and a druidess ending up a slave to a Roman. How did the initial idea for this novel develop and change as you were writing?
The overall story idea is based on the legacy of Mark Antony and Cleopatra but with a Celtic twist. The inspiration for the primary character, Catrin, is Boudicca, a warrior queen who united the British tribal kingdoms in a rebellion against Rome in 61 AD and almost succeeded in kicking them out. Originally, Amulet’s Rapture was intended to be the first book in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. However, after receiving feedback from critique groups, editors, and agents, I decided to start the story earlier in ancient Britannia so readers could better understand what Catrin lost when she is enslaved. Fantastical elements were also added to give the story a flavor of the Celtic and Roman cultures through their mythology and legends.
I always enjoy your character development in your books. What were some obstacles you felt were important to Catrin’s development in this story?
The key as to what obstacles Catrin must overcome in the story is highlighted in Chapter 4: Roman Training. In a scene, Catrin has a vision of her dead father who tells her what she must do to become a warrior queen to take back her kingdom from her treacherous half-brother, Marrock. She must summon stamina from nature (her own inner essence) to endure hardships of slavery and rigors of training with Roman soldiers. She must learn how to deal with both enemies and friends. She reluctantly embraces her corrupt and cruel Roman master like a stern father from whom she learns how to maneuver through changing political winds, transforming her weakness into strength. Most of all, she must understand how her utmost trust in those she loves is a double-edged sword that can be used against her. Though she deeply loves Marcellus, her Roman husband and ally, she must ultimately face and overcome obstacles by herself. She can only rise above unfortunate circumstances by understanding herself and by harnessing her inner darker forces to survive and to seek vengeance on those who have maltreated her.
In Amulet’s Rapture, Catrin transforms from a naïve fifteen-year-old girl into a worldly young woman who must forge her own destiny. This book sets the stage for the next book when she must ally with former enemies and friends to confront Marrock.
What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer when starting this book?
My goal was to write a quality book within a year of the last released book, Dagger’s Destiny. I strove to write the best story I could by having the manuscript thoroughly critiqued and professionally edited and formatted. The story must have a unique theme and character development that resonates with readers. I was open to revising the original plot whenever it was inconsistent with the characters or was headed in the wrong direction. For example, I changed the last chapter in Amulet’s Rapture because the original ending was not in keeping with Catrin’s transformation. The revised ending threw a wrench in the plot of my next book, Skull’s Vengeance, but I consider this a challenge to add new twists in the overall tale.
Although Catrin is the rightful heir to the Celtic throne in Britannia, she is lucky to be alive. After witnessing the slaughter of her family at the hands of her half-brother, who was aided by the Romans, she is enslaved by a Roman commander. He disguises her as a boy in the Roman Legion with the belief that she is an oracle of Apollo and can foretell his future. The sole bright spot in her miserable new life is her forbidden lover Marcellus, the great-grandson of the famed Roman General Mark Antony.
But Marcellus has been wounded and his memories of Catrin and their secret marriage were erased by a dark Druidess. Though Marcellus reunites with Catrin in Gaul and becomes her ally as she struggles to survive the brutality of her Roman master, he questions the legitimacy of their marriage and hesitates to help her escape and retake her kingdom. If their forbidden love and alliance are discovered, her dreams of returning to her Celtic home with Marcellus will be shattered.
Mango Rash is a memoir of your time in American Samoa as a teen in the mid-sixties. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this memoir?
I started writing bits and pieces of my Samoa story when I joined a writers’ group in 2004. That was almost forty years after my time in Samoa, and for all those years I’d struggled to convey what it was like living on a tropical island as a teenager in the 1960s. All I could come up with was, “It was beautiful . . . It was a blast . . . “ and other generic responses that didn’t begin to capture the essence of the experience. So I started writing about that year as a way to not only fill in the details, but also tease out why living in Samoa made such an impression on me—something I’m not sure I completely understood until I finished writing the memoir.
Was everything you wrote from memory, or did you have to do research like dig through old photographs and letters?
Some events and conversations were so deeply etched in memory I could write them off the top of my head. Others surfaced as I looked through old photographs, played music from the time, and read letters and diary entries. One very good friend from high school days had saved all the letters I wrote her from Samoa, and those filled in so many details, including entire, verbatim conversations and descriptions of people and places. As I was revising the manuscript, a cousin unearthed letters my parents had written to her parents from Samoa. Those letters corroborated my accounts and provided even more details.
I appreciated the candid nature of your book. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer for this book?
Interesting question! I think my main goal was to dig beneath the day-by-day recounting of events, extract the most pivotal events, and ferret out my reactions to those events, both at the time and forty to fifty years later, as I was writing about them. And then to keep making sure I was telling the truth, not only the factual truth, but also the emotional truth.
This is a lovely coming of age story that superbly captures a whirlwind of emotions. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
Thank you! I hope readers take away several messages from my story.
First, that even though our individual life stories may be very different, we all experience similar emotions at key points in our lives—adolescence, for one, but also other points along the way.
Second, that change is inevitable—nothing is permanent—but it’s good to consider which changes are beneficial and growth-promoting and which ones are destructive. Neither resisting change nor forging ahead just for the sake of change is the best path.
Finally, I think the most important message is that we all can learn so much from cultures other than our own if we open ourselves up to what they have to offer. Given all the mistrust and misunderstanding among different groups of people these days, this message can’t be stressed too often.
Moving to a South Pacific island from small town Oklahoma, sixteen year old Nancy Sanders trades cruising Main Street in search of tater tots for strolling sandy shores with islanders who feast on sea worms and summon sharks with song.
With a dash of teenage sass, MANGO RASH chronicles Nancy’s search for adventure—and identity—in two alien realms: the tricky terrain of adolescence and the remote U.S. territory of American Samoa. Against a backdrop of lava-rimmed beaches, frangipani-laced air, and sensual music, Nancy immerses herself in 1960s island culture with a colorful cast of Samoan and American expat kids.
But life is not one big beach party, Nancy soon finds, when she clashes with her parents over forbidden boys and discovers double standards in the expat community. Samoa, too, is experiencing growing pains as ancient customs collide with 20th-century ways. In the midst of all this, a hurricane shatters the peaceful paradise, delivering lessons in attachment and loss, strength and survival.
Like Nancy, readers of this unforgettable memoir will fall in love with Samoa’s biscuit-tin drum serenades, its mountains like mounds of cut velvet cushions, and its open-hearted people, who face adversity with grace. And just as Nancy does when her own health crisis thrusts her into a very different kind of unfamiliar territory, readers will draw strength from fa’a Samoa: the Samoan Way.
In language as lush as the island landscape, MANGO RASH enchants, entertains, and, ultimately, inspires with its message about embracing and learning from other cultures.
Passage of Time finds Elara struggling with letting go of her past while fighting a dictator that will destroy the planet. What inspired the setup to this thrilling novel?
Life inspired this novel. I want my readers to experience challenging situations through my characters eyes, and my hope is that they come away with tools on how to cope with life’s hardships. I want my readers to get more than just a great escape from reality.
Elara continues to be an engaging character. What were some obstacles you felt were important to her character development in this book?
Elara’s growth is something I wanted the reader to witness. She needed to experience “real life” challenges, and she needed to hit rock bottom to grow into a powerful young woman. Sometimes we feel as though we are stumbling through life, when in reality we are constantly evolving. The obstacles she faces in Passage of Time were essential to her growth.
The writing in this book was exceptional. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer before writing this book?
My goal was to publish a book with zero regrets. Each book you publish should be better than your last. I wanted to challenge myself with Passage of Time by approaching topics I once feared. Domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide, and war are tough to explore. This involved intense research and deep breaths. A plethora of emotions surfaced while writing this book because I wanted my readers to explore various reactions between characters. I wanted them to explore Elara’s mind. Passage of Time is the largest book in my series, and it took the longest to publish because I refused to rush the process. I spent countless hours doing revisions and edits. When I wasn’t writing I was reading. Reading is the most valuable tool for improving your craft.
Where do you see the Seeker of Time series going in the future?
I have BIG plans for the Seeker of Time series. I can’t give away all of my secrets but I will say this: books 4-6 are scheduled for publication.
Abandoned and betrayed, Elara struggles to let go of the man she loves while her fearless mentor encourages her to stand against the evil dictator who rules her home planet. To succeed, she must rise above the darkness and trust the voice near her heart.
The twins experience a setback after a deadly standoff with the Inner Circle. An act of love transforms Elara’s destiny, and an act of hate pushes Cyrus to his breaking point.
Zenith makes a bold move that disrupts the lives of everyone on Aroonyx. Samson gathers the citizens to prepare for war. An alliance is formed, and a traitor seeks revenge.
A tragic event in the West Village sends Elara tumbling further into the darkness, leaving her to face the masked dealer alone. Outnumbered and out of luck, the twins must rally the recruits to end Zenith’s reign.
As the epic battle approaches, the hands of time pause during a life-changing event, and a visitor from the past alters the future.
Passage of Time is the third installment in the award-winning Seeker of Time series. Meaningful lessons challenge the reader, sending their hearts on an emotional marathon that leaves them sprinting toward the finish line.
Tellus finds Queen Natylia on lock down and betrayal around every corner while every decision affects the fate of her kingdom. What were some ideas you wanted to carry over into book two and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?
Natylia started off as a pretty naive character. A bit pampered. But she’s always been courageous, and her moral compass has always directed her in the right direction; which was why, despite her fears, she left the palace in Imber. I really wanted to expand on that. Character growth is astronomically important to me. A person doesn’t have experiences without evolving, so why should a character? I think in Tellus, I wanted Natylia to figure out a little bit more what it meant to be a leader, but also to sacrifice for the people she loves . . . as well as those she’s destined to protect. And while her mental health is taking a beating, I really want to make sure my readers know that just because she’s struggling, doesn’t mean she’s any less of a strong person; something she definitely shares with Camion.
In a more physical regard, the end of Imber is kind of a dungeon crawler. While I love the idea of continuing that, I really wanted to open up the world a bit and show off a bit more of what Araenna has to offer—and I think the cover does a pretty good job of showing what’s in store! 😉 But Imber was very stationary to Natylia’s lands, and the world is so much bigger . . . which, I think also helped give her some perspective.
Natylia continues to be a captivating character. What were some obstacles you felt were important to her character development in this book?
So, Natylia has a bit of a selfish streak. It’s part of her having this life where she never wanted for anything. The problems she faced growing up felt, to her, astronomical to her at the time, but now she’s facing much realer things. I wanted her to grow from that. While I think she started that journey in Imber, I thought it was really important that she realize in Tellus how her actions and choices can affect the people around her, and I’m really excited to show off what she’s learned overall in Ventus. She’s become a much stronger woman, and even though no one ever stops growing, I think the lessons she’s learned have not only made her a better queen, but a better friend and partner as well.
You’ve previously mentioned that you played the Elder Scrolls games. What race from that game do you find yourself always choosing when creating a character?
I love this question! I gravitate toward Elves in almost any fantasy games that I play. And I tend to stay far from humans. But that’s not always true, because the character I’m playing in Skyrim currently is I think a Nord?
Tellus is book two in the Thanatos Trilogy. Where does the final story go and how far along are you in writing it?
The final story will deal with cleaning up the mess that has been created in the first two books. Natylia still has a lot of work ahead of her, not only dealing with with betrayals and revealed secrets from Tellus, but also the new the situation she found herself in at the end of book two! I’m already 35,000 words into the first draft, and I’m currently aiming for a July release.
After a disappointing venture into Emberlyn Forest, Queen Natylia of Thrais is feeling anything but confident. To make matters worse, the Council is now involved, placing her on lockdown to ensure she rules her kingdom as appointed.
But she knows the Scepters are out there. At any moment those magical keys could be used to release four dangerous Titans from their prison far beneath Saphir Lake. If Natylia fails to find the Scepters before they fall into the wrong hands, her kingdom won’t be the only one to suffer.
With the support of Jyn, Camion, and Meryn, Natylia sets out to hunt these ancient relics before war and death can destroy Araenna. And when a former love gets tangled into the mix, Natylia is forced to learn the true meaning of forgiveness.
Betrayal haunts her every step, but the fate of Araenna depends on her every decision—and a test of power may cost her everything she holds dear.
Including her own life.
Revenge I Will Have follows Navy SEAL Jake as he’s tasked with a new mission, but finds his psychotic ex-girlfriend embroiled in the mission’s objective. What was your inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
At the conclusion of my first book, “Sleeping with a Wall Street Banker,” I found myself thinking about both Jake and Jessica. Where would Jake go? How would he react? What would Jessica do as a criminal on the run but also burning with hatred for those she feel betrayed her. Jake reacted by retreating to where he felt safe, a refuge. Jessica, consumed by hate, by seeking out a partner for revenge. Both characters were catalysts for the plot, similar to putting two combustible agents together, you eventually get a reaction. In this case Jessica caused the reaction that set the plot in motion because of her blind hatred
Jake is an interesting and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?
No one wants to read about a wimp or a sad self-absorbed character who is moping around, crying in their beer. Jake had misfortune fall upon him and he pulled himself up, like people do every day because they don’t have a choice. People are intrigued by characters with strong personalities, their strengths, flaws and idiosyncrasies. The reader can relate to them because they have flaws and quirks as well. I’m surrounded by strong personalities, most notably my husband who also has more than his share of lovable and funny idiosyncrasies
Jessica and her emotional issues were consistently intriguing. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character and relationship with Jake?
Jessica allowed her emotional issues to overwhelm her to the point she was no longer in control. She thought she was pulling the strings but in the end, she was the one who was being used. Her hate blinded her to see through the obvious
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m actually formulating a sequel to Revenge. Without giving away the plot, the Bat’s terrorist network, funded by a foreign government, is planning retribution against Jake by staging what could be a cataclysmic attack on the US while also targeting members of Jake’s family for death, specifically his invalid mother and his brother who is a Roman Catholic priest. There are geopolitical twists and turns and new plot angles that will have the reader on edge. The Bat’s friends find they bought off more than they could chew by going after Jake’s family.
Mired in grief over the recent murder of his girlfriend, Alice, at the hands of his psychotic ex-lover, Jessica, former Navy SEAL turned Wall Street banker Jake Logan is suddenly called back into action. While his team’s primary target is internationally known terrorist financier Asyd Omar Batdadi, a.k.a. “the Bat,” the mission soon becomes personal for Jake when he learns that Jessica—a dangerous woman with dissociative identity disorder—is wrapped up in the plot. In fact, Jake’s connection to Jessica is the very reason he has been reactivated as a SEAL.
Their efforts to capture or kill Batdadi and his associates soon take Jake and his fellow SEALs to various locations in Europe and the United States, but the wily terrorist manages to elude them at every turn. In the midst of their hunt, they learn that, with Jessica’s help, Batdadi is plotting a bold terrorist strike on American soil. For Batdadi, it is an act of revenge for America’s interference in the lives of his Middle Eastern brethren, a chance to put himself in the “terrorist hall of fame” alongside names like Osama Bin Laden. For Jessica, it is the ultimate form of payback against the journalists whom she holds responsible for ruining her life and her future with Jake.
Battling a ticking clock, international criminal masterminds, and his own grief, Jake strives to transform his troubled relationship with Jessica from a liability into an asset, his only hope of saving thousands of innocent lives—not to mention his soul.
Without Fear of Infamy is an anthology of poetry published by Scurfpea Publishing. What was the collaboration process like on this anthology?
It’s a very competitive submission process and I am very thankful that a few of my poems were chosen for this new anthology. Collaboration has been a great learning experience for me as a writer and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
My favorite poem was Be Every Color of the Sun. What inspired this piece?
IT came from a rare feeling of positive self-esteem I was experiencing at the time. I think this makes it stand out because a lot of us struggle daily to find those moments in our lives.
Besides your own, what is your favorite poem from the collection?
One of my favorites is Tempering Grief by Brit Graham. I really love her vivid descriptors and her overall style of writing. This one stood out to me as one I could personally relate to having experienced heartbreak in the same manner before in my own life.
Each year since 2010, Scurfpea Publishing has produced an anthology of poems. It’s a juried competition with a different editor each year and no entry fee; consequently, each anthology has a distinct flavor all its own. This anthology includes poems by: Charles Luden, Katie Alexander, Steve Boint, Lin Brummels, Raymond Byrnes, Jennifer Carr, Craig Challender, Susan Spaeth Cherry, Kevin Cole, Jason Freeman, Jerome Freeman, Brit Graham, Monica Gulbrandson, Roberta Haar, Carol Hamilton, Constance Hoffman, Brenda K. Johnson, Leone Kayl, Ivanna Kusijanovic, Jennifer LeBlanc, Charles Luden, Mary Ann Marko, Elissa Mittman, Marsha Mittman, Rosemary Dunn Moeller, Marcella Prokop, Larry Person, Marcella Remund, Lisa Rinaldo, Bruce Roseland, Barbara Schmitz, Dan Snethen, Gloria Sofia, Brad Soule, Jennifer Soule, Linda Duede Starbuck, Douglas Starr, G.M.H. Thompson, Norma C. Wilson, June Tuff Witte, and Susan Zueger.
Runaway follows Rose as she is taken from one home to the next and struggles to find a place without pain. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
This story actually came from a dream that interrupted my sleep night after night until I finally got up and wrote the outline. I tried to describe Rose the way she looked in my vivid technicolor dream.
Rose’s character is interesting and deeply developed. What were some ideals that drove her character development?
Although I was loved and wanted as a child, I grew up alone with older parents who were often mistaken as my grandparents. I had to entertain, and sometimes care for myself. Perhaps some of my own characteristics come through in finding the hideaway in the attic, pretending to be someone else through my own fantasies, and particularly escaping into my music. My own piano playing comes naturally; I play by ear as well as by note. Playing before a crowd, or on a small Sunday night service also comes from personal experience. How the book describes Rose getting lost in her music, playing with her eyes closed, or banging out her frustration on the keys comes from personal experience.
This novel sheds light on the condition of runaways and abused children. What do you hope readers take away from this story?
My husband and I were foster parents to young preteens. We saw the plight of these young children and what they had to endure (especially if they had to return to their families). We had to deal with and abide with CPS *(aka, the system) and their rules. It may not be the perfect answer, but with so many abused runaways/throwaways in our nation, it may be their only hope and salvation to be placed with a good foster family, and eventually adopted. More good families are needed in the system to meet this need.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am presently doing research on an immigrant child from Venezuela seeking to find refuge in the United States. His Venezuelan mother has been promised safe transport for herself and her twelve-year-old son if she can only come up with the money. She knows if she can get her son to his American father, he will be cared for properly and safe from the cartel. Even though Mateo’s father was only in Venezuela on a short work project, she believes he will welcome the son he knows nothing about. Little does she know the man she hired is only doing this for profit and benefits.
Hopefully, this will be available sometime next year.
My Love’s Journey Home trilogy (available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, or at my website, casimonson.com- 2013-2015) also deals with abandoned children. Separating to survive, some end up going through the adoption setting.
She was told she was unwanted. Unloved. Broken and scarred. “No man wants a cripple,” she was told. “You’re damaged goods.” But she never dreamed she’d be thrown away. There was only one thing she could do…”Runaway” is a fictional account that captures the plight of runaways, child abuse, and foster care in America. It’s a message of hope and faith when all else seems lost.
The Underground follows a wolf pack alpha male in an alternate Seattle who seeks the downfall of his overlord. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
The Underground was inspired by a single question I asked myself while in a half-fainted state on an uptown city bus with no air conditioning on one oppressively hot and humid afternoon: What would it take for a werewolf to survive in today’s world?
It gave me a lot to think about. Assuming humans are just as hostile to paranormals as they are in the literature, our werewolf’s primary concern would be keeping his true nature secret. Still, he can’t just wall himself away from humans—he needs a job, a place to live, and what have you. Would he have friends, knowing that everyone who crosses your path is a potential enemy? What lies would he have to tell to keep humans from finding out what he is? When the change comes, what does he do? He can’t go hunting humans in the city—that would be suicide. So…what? Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg, as they say.
Parker and Kurt were both well developed and interesting characters. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I really don’t have a favorite between the two. I love all my children equally! What was most interesting about writing the two is how they developed into such different characters. Yes, Parker’s from a rural-esqe part of the southern U.S. and Kurt’s a German aristocrat but it’s not just that. For example, their speech patterns are so different, aside from Parker being a potty-mouth! There’s a formality to Kurt’s speech that’s absent from Parker’s and everyone else. It’s almost as if I don’t have to use dialogue tags or other indicators as to who’s speaking. You can tell when Kurt’s speaking just from his language.
I loved the idea of exotics and the whole world of paranormal creatures you’ve built. What were some themes you wanted to explore in your world?
While mentally building the world for The Underground, I realized that world is our own. Human bigotry against paranormals abounds. Paranormals are hunted by humans and marked for execution. That’s no different than anyone who’s persecuted because of skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or identity, or any other difference the majority perceives as dangerous and undesirable. That leads to the question of what would happen if the downtrodden decide they’re not going to take their lot anymore? History tells us the answer. Oppress a people long and hard enough, they will rise up. And the results won’t be pretty. There’s so much more to these themes, too. I’ve even written an essay about it.
Are you still working on the Sequel to the The Moreva of Astoreth? How is that coming along?
Yes, The Moreva of Astoreth’s sequel, When Gods Die, is still in the works. Since Moreva was released, I’ve been assaulted by major real-life issues that necessitated putting Gods on the back-burner. Moreva is getting a major overhaul—new cover and a deep edit—and once that’s finished, I can go back to Gods. Of course, I can’t say for certain when it’ll be finished. Deadlines and me really don’t mix. But the plan is to have Gods published by the end of summer 2020. One reason for taking so long is I have to write a novella, The Final Victim, which I’ve promised to people who sign up for my newsletter. Victim is set in The Underground’s world and bears a strong relation to it but it’s not a part of The Underground’s story. Call it a companion book.
In an alternate Seattle, communities of “exotics”—shapeshifters, witches, elves and vampires—live among the murderous human population and are ruled over by the cruel vampire Master, Kurt. The powerful alpha male of the werewolf pack, Parker Berenson, is one of the Master’s enslaved servants and he would like nothing more than to hasten the downfall of the vampire overlord who stole his love, the beautiful mage Garrett Larkin. But in a night city already on the razor’s edge—in the midst of a spate of bloody murders—Parker’s passionate encounter with a stunning interstellar assassin could upset the very delicate balance and ignite a war neither exotics nor humans can survive.
Cooperative Lives is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a mystery, suspense, and romance as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
Organically. I began with humble aspirations: to publish a thin collection of stories about various fictionalized neighbors. Their only shared aspect was their abode, a storied New York co-operative. These were simple tales with simple twists: a compulsive planner who locks himself out of his well-equipped apartment during a blackout; a man who exasperates his wife by, with daughter in tow, routinely ignoring Walk/Don’t Walk signals, only to watch his wife mowed down while observing the rules; an aging fund manager who commits an egregious act of negligence but is saved from ruin by the words on a long-forgotten pack of cigarettes. Other stories involved skiing accidents, medical malpractice, writer’s block – a mishmash of themes and occurrences.
The connections came slowly. What if the woman in the second story is saved by the aging money manager? What if the man in the first story was grieving the loss of his family? What if the second family knew the man? What if they both had children?
The book became more character-driven – how New Yorkers deal with the universal challenges of raising a family, making ends meet, preserving relationships, surviving medical ordeals, and growing old. The protagonists were sufficiently varied in age, background and income to address the questions from multiple perspectives.
Also, their eventual interaction enabled story arcs. What if the aging fund manager didn’t, in fact, correct his error in time, and somehow involves the man whose wife he saved? What if there’s a reason the man in the first story lost his family, and that it ties all the protagonists together?
The finished novel did indeed cross many genres, but so, alas, does life.
What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
9/11 and the financial crisis were such specks in time, separated by a scant six years, but they had an intense, lasting impact on the New York and New Yorkers I knew. My goal was to craft a series of short stories that captured New York in transition – from a wild, frenetic, forward-looking community where lawyers, bankers, artists, corporate managers, and theatrical executives (i.e., my neighbors) toiled their way up the ladder, traveled without fear, raised families without fear, and retired in relative comfort and privacy, to one spooked by uncertainty, laid bare by overzealous media, and devoured by the very financial system they created. A tall order – best approached one short parable at a time.
It took me seven years to pull the novel together, to narrow my admittedly subconscious, sweeping vision down to a simple whodunnit. But I was committed to publishing before my 60th birthday, the only writer’s promise I kept. Had I allowed myself another seven years, who knows where the novel would have taken me?
Your characters were all varied, unique, and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind the characters development?
I’m not sure I had ideals, at least not consciously. The characters were montages of people I knew – some alive, some dead. Their thoughts were frequently mine, but they were basic, the logical extension of where and how each scene was set. If there was a goal, it was to make the characters genuine, so persuasive I could sneak in plot liberties and still seem plausible – a magician’s sleight of hand. Heaven knows if I succeeded.
Part of making characters genuine is making them nuanced. In the “real world,” the only world I know, there are precious few saints and even fewer demons. An argument, by definition, has two sides, and everyone, including a seven-year-old child, is complicated.
I am a huge fan of American comedies from the thirties and forties, including those of Frank Capra. He quoted Konstantin Stanislavski so liberally I thought, until now, that he wrote this, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Truth. Watch any Capra film. Every role makes an impression, even the uncredited, unspoken ones … because they are so real. It was surely not an ideal but a commitment; each of my characters had to be genuine.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Cooperative Lives took me seven years to write, edit and publish. I would love to publish my next volume within five. The locus will be contemporary New York and many of characters will be over forty. There will also be water, lots of water.
A landmarked midtown Manhattan address. Carnegie Hall and Central Park at your feet. Three hundred units. Thirty-two full-time employees. Five hundred neighbors. You’ve hit the big time. Joined the elite. But what do you know about them, the neighbors? Have you ever met them? Really engaged with them? Or do you gaze down in the elevator, the same way you do on the subway and the street?
Oh sure, you’ve heard a famous writer lives on the fourteenth floor, a retired US senator on the eighteenth. You’ve witnessed so many Broadway impresarios glide through the lobby you’ve lost count. But what about your real neighbors – the couple in 7H, for instance, or the family in 8B? Did you know they once harbored the most wanted fugitive in America?
No? It was in the papers for weeks; nearly tore the co-op apart. Even that famous writer on fourteen got involved. And all because an M7 bus side-swiped a resident-shareholder while turning down Seventh Avenue.
You’re busy? Oh, I’m sorry. Just thought you should know something about the co-op’s history. And buy more insurance, lots more; I’ve got a friend named Stanley.