Monday, July 2, 2012

Twenty Very Important Questions

This is my Dad, you guys. 
....with my Dad, Mark de Castrique. My Dad's new book, The 13th Target is out tomorrow, July 3. In honor of that, I decided to channel my inner Oprah and conduct a super important, life-changing interview. While other blogs have been interviewing him about literary elements and his career, I asked the hard-hitting questions that other blogs were afraid ask.  Some people would be scared to inquire about fountain pens or fictitious dinners, but not me.  

So, following the lead of those other - some may say "more legitimate" - blogs, I came up with twenty questions for my Dad about his writing and miscellaneous other important topics. 

(Well, it's more like twenty-eight questions. I crafted a few multi-part questions. Or, maybe I'm just really bad at counting.)

In all seriousness, my Dad's new thriller is really good. Like, crazy awesome good. (I think that's what the other blogs said - give or take a few more adjectives and examples.) In case you're somehow under the impression that I'm biased, here's a review from an unbiased professional at Booklist who describes The 13th Target as "a fine action-packed thriller with a very timely theme...readers will trust no one - not even the reporters - and keep turning the pages."

You'll find more information at the end (although, what else could you need to know?). And, if you think he's rad, you can LIKE him on his new Facebook page or Follow Him on Twitter. 

With that, here are TWENTY(ish) questions with my favorite author, Mark de Castrique

1. When did you write your first book (published or unpublished) and what was it called?  

My first book was based on a speculative screenplay I wrote and was a scifi mystery/thriller called DOUBLE CROSS OF TIME.  I wrote it in 1990 and it will be published in November 2012.  A key component of the book is time travel, but I didn't realize the book would actually have to travel twenty-two years into the future to be published.

2. If you were to describe your new thriller - The 13th Target - in a tweet, meaning 140 characters or less, how would you describe it? 
I don't have 140 characters in the book.  Oh, you mean letters? An ex-Secret Service agent is drawn into a murder investigation when he becomes prime suspect in a terrorist plot against the Federal Reserve.  Okay?  The hardest part of this question is counting the characters without Twitter to help me.  I bet you wouldn't make John Grisham do that.

3. If you could have dinner with 4 fictional literary characters, who would they be and why?
  • Professor Moriarity - dinner with Sherlock Holmes would probably be boring but his arch-nemesis would be someone fascinating to talk with.
  • Hamlet - Although this Great Dane could be a real downer.  If he can't decide whether to be or not to be, imagine how long he'll take ordering his food.
  • Jay Gatsby - I'd be curious to get his opinion on the current state of the 1% who seem to be making all the money in this country.
  • Sam Blackman - Yeah, he's one of my characters, but it would be interesting to get his take on how he sees himself, and whether he harbors a grudge for all the turmoil I've put him through.
4. What would you eat and drink at this dinner?

Fortunately, I think all of them drink alcohol and aren't vegetarians.  My rule would be no anchovies and no chicken livers.  Maybe one of those Japanese restaurants where the chef cooks the food right in front of you.  Hamlet and Moriarity would probably enjoy seeing the guy flash the knives around.  I definitely wouldn't sit by Moriarity, and I'd make Jay Gatsby pay his own bar bill.

5. Can I come to the dinner?

Yes.  But if it's the Japanese restaurant, remember you'll have to take off your shoes.  Be sure and wash your feet.

6. How far along does a book idea have to be before you start to put it to paper?

That's a good question which is code for I don't have a good answer.  It depends on the story.  Some of them start with a character idea like my funeral home director, Barry Clayton.  In that case I did a fairly detailed outline.  Others start with a premise like The 13th Target where I thought it would be interesting to create a terrorist attack on our financial system, as if it didn't have problems enough.  I started with a vague notion of a story and started writing.  I find that the most enjoyable.

7. You are often seen carrying around writing journals. How many of those writing journals do you have now? 

Probably eight or ten.  

Do you save them? 

I'm not saving them on purpose.  I just haven't gotten around to cleaning my office for the last ten years.  

Why do you still like to often write on paper? That's very old-school of you. 

I like writing on paper because it changes the way I'm physically involved with the story.  Most of the book is done on a computer writing program called Scrivener that I like, but you can only look at a computer screen so long.  Writing on paper is very satisfying in a tactile sense.  And I find sometimes when I've got writer's block at the keyboard, switching to pen and paper helps.  From a practical standpoint, carrying the journal means I can write anywhere and anytime I've got a few minutes to spare.  Since I work fulltime in film and video production and also try to complete a book a year, I look for any and all opportunities to write.

8. Not many people know that you enjoy writing with a fountain pen. You know, they have developed less complicated pens now. I like BIC. Why the fountain pen?  

Same as with writing on paper.  It is a different creative experience.  Something about the way the ink flows makes the words look more important, even if they're not and I have to rewrite when it goes to the computer.  And I don't lose the pen.  I'm neurotic about keeping up with it, and most younger people have never written with a fountain pen and have no clue what it is.  Other than you, of course.

9. Out of all of your books, who do you think is your most intriguing character and why?

I guess that would be Sam Blackman, my Asheville detective.  I've given him some obstacles to overcome.  He lost a leg in Iraq, he's at odds with his brother, his one remaining relative, and he's made a great deal of money that he has to keep hidden from the IRS.  I guess even Sam is in the 1%.  Too bad his creator isn't.

10. You are one of the only people I know who still types in Courier New font. Is there a reason for that? 

Hey, if it's old, why do they call it Courier NEW?  Hello?  

Have you considered switching fonts? 

I have.  But I'm very loyal.  Also, I get use to seeing a certain typeface and how many pages equals how many words when I'm using that typeface.  

I like Helvetica and Curlz MT for whimsy. 

 That's why they make chocolate and vanilla.  But then I read Burger King is serving bacon sundaes so I guess there is such a thing as too many choices.

11. Your career is in TV/film/video production. In your opinion, what is the best movie adapted from a novel? 

The Maltese Falcom starring Humphrey Bogart.  The reason is that the movie is just like the book.  The director John Huston asked for a scene breakdown from the book which was simply giving the setting and recording the dialogue, and while he was on vacation it was accidentally sent to the studio head Jack Warner (as in Warner Brothers) who thought it was the finished script.  Jack sent it back with a note saying it was great.  Don't change a thing.

12. If you could meet any other author, who would you like to meet and what would you ask him/her?

I'd like to meet Edgar Allan Poe.  What a strange guy.  He influenced the genres of detective fiction, horror, science fiction, and he couldn't even get rid of this bird that sat upon the bust of Pallas croaking nevermore.  I'd like to find out what happened to him in his final days, why he showed up incoherent and drunk in someone else's clothes, and then died.  And this was in Baltimore where even that event could be called unusual.

13. What advice would you give to someone looking to become a published author?

Write.  That seems pretty obvious but a lot of people talk about what they're going to write and never do it.  Then be persistent.  Query agents and publishers politely, be open to feedback, and keep writing. 

14. Why should people buy your new book?

 My younger daughter needs the inheritance.  Plus, I think people who read thrillers, but are up for something that's a little different will find it interesting. 
It's offered in paperback, hardback, and e-book versions. Do you suggest people buy all three?

  Absolutely.  And don't forget audio.  I'm not confirming or denying, but each version could have a different ending.

15. What book are you working on now? 

A Sam Blackman book set against the historical existence of a commune in the mountains of western North Carolina founded by freed slaves.  It was ruled by a king and queen.  The only "royalty" I know of in the U.S. since King George got the boot.

Is there a character named Lindsay? 

So far, she hasn't appeared.  I think she overslept.  But, I haven't figured out the ending yet, so the potential is still there.  

If so, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being "Beautiful-Heroine-Who-Saves-the-Day" how would you rank this Lindsay character in your story?  

Probably a 1, but that's because it's fiction.  In real life, she would be you and a 10+.

16. You have the most unbelievable discipline and focus. How do you force yourself to stick to your writing schedule and not get distracted?  I already got distracted 6 times in crafting these 20 questions and even took a break to watch an episode of Friends and update my Netflix queue.

Time is something you use or lose.  I think about what I have to achieve to reach a goal of a book a year.  I started by writing ten pages a week - one a night Monday through Friday and five over Saturday and Sunday.  In forty weeks, I had a book.  There's no shortcut.  Now I know I'll have slower going at first, but as I get toward the end, things should be coming together at a faster pace.  You have to stay focused and asked if you're not writing, then why not.  I have to have a good excuse like my anniversary or a daughter's birthday.  

17. If someone was looking to buy you a birthday present, what do you think a good birthday present would be? Just asking. Totally hypothetical. 

Did you ask that because I brought it up in the last question?  I'm easy to shop for.  Anything from Costco is usually fine.  How much can you go wrong in a store where the brand name of their wine and their underwear is the same?  I've used both at the same time. (Wait, was that too much information?) 

18. The 13th Target is more of a thriller instead of your more traditional mystery novels. How do the two differ and did that affect your writing process at all? 

In a mystery, you're following a detective as he/she uncovers who did it.  In a thriller, an ordinary person is usually caught up in extraordinary circumstances where the fate of the  (insert U.S. or free world or life as we know it or planet Earth) hangs in the balance.  In a mystery, you don't know the villains and culprits.  In a thriller, you might know them and the terrible obstacles standing in the way of the hero.  That adds to the suspense, the thrill, if you will.  Therefore, in writing a thriller, I switched to the third person POV so that the reader could see different things happening from different perspectives.  The chapters are much shorter and the pace faster.  I'm interested to see what the reader reaction will be to a story that is both different in setting, style, and subject from my earlier books.

19. Is there a question you wish I'd asked?  

Yes.  Now that you've written a book that's set in Washington, D.C. and not the mountains of N.C., will you be writing more D.C.-based stories?

20. If there is a question you wish I'd asked and you gave it above, then how would you have answered that question?

If my daughter promises to invite me to all the D.C. parties with her cool friends.  Wait, why did you change the name of your blog to NC meets DC and vows to keep MdeC in NC?


21. Be honest. Is this the best interview you've ever given?  
Unquestionably so.  I don't understand why you're not the replacement for Ann Curry on the Today Show!

That's it, folks. I hope you learned a lot. Move over, Barbara Walters. More importantly, I hope you are excited to check out The 13th Target (or any of his other novels.) You can order your copy here on Amazon. Or, I encourage you to pay a visit to your local independent bookstore. 

Learn more about my Dad's books on his website,

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