Life Defined

Thursday, June 7, 2012

An Interview with Edward Eaton, Author of "Rosi's Castle"

Goodeye, Mites! (an accented account of "Good day, Mates!")

It's an honest truth: we've been through thick and thin together, explored our thoughts, rambled on a bit about the psychology of frogs (Really - have we not...? We simply must remedy that...), and met several new and intriguing figures. Well, I've a new introduction to make today - one whom I'm certain you'll be pleased to have met. So slip off your boots, remove that head armor, and settle into your favorite chair, for I'd like to invite Mr. Edward Eaton - author of Rosi's Castle - here today:

How now, Mr. Eaton? It's lovely to speak with you today. Would you mind starting off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I am many things. I am a stage director and fight choreographer. In college (the University of Richmond), I studied directing and playwriting. I started out thinking about being an actor, but I learned very early on that I did not really enjoy it. I loved directing. Then I discovered stage combat. After college, I had several jobs. I was a professional stage manager. I was a journalist. I worked in a small grocery store. I washed dishes in a restaurant. I even worked, very briefly, in real estate. Then I went to graduate school (Bowling Green State University) and got an MA and a PhD in Theatre History and Literature.

I moved to Boston where I entered the ranks of those adjunct professors who do so much of the teaching. I consider myself a teacher. I have to do occasional scholarship to keep my credentials in order, but I believe that teaching is a different craft altogether.
I learned very early on in my teaching career that very few students need to take Theatre, but just about everyone has to take some sort of English course. So I became an English teacher. I have taught all over the Boston area. My favorite teaching gigs so far have been one semester on Semester at Sea and one year in Oman.

I have also worked at any number of theatres in the area, staging fights and directing plays.

I am married. Silviya is a hospital administrator at Mass General. She is one of those annoying people who succeed at everything they do. I have seen her grades from college and grad school. They are obscene. I know Harvard professors who would love to have her self-discipline. She is from Bulgaria. If you know any Bulgarians, you won’t need me to say anything more. If you don’t, you wouldn’t understand, or even believe. :)

I have a son. His name is Christopher. He is eight. I signed up for a baby. I’m not sure I appreciate all this growing up stuff he is doing. I suppose, though, that it is too late to send him back. He is sometimes a writer as well. He has written some pretty cool stories about space pirates. He illustrated them, too. At eight, he is already a better artist that I am. Even though he has not read Rosi’s Castle yet, he is a big reader. He is the first in his class to finish the entire Harry Potter series. That has been exhausting. We even had to have a Harry Potter themed birthday party for him this year (we got the MIT Quidditch team to host it).

I SCUBA dive. I ski, usually with Christopher. I read. I have to force myself not to read new books because I need to focus my energy on writing. So I am rereading all sorts of fun stuff.
I love to watch television. Of course, I realize that I can’t just sit around and watch television and not do anything, so I arranged the furniture on our apartment so that I can see the television from the kitchen. As long as I can do that, I am happy to do most of the cooking at home.

Wow! You've certainly had quite the experience with teaching and theater. How has this ‘groomed’ the writer in you?

I have learned a lot by doing theatre and studying theatre about structure and the history of entertainment.

Doing theatre and teaching have taught me a lot about how to recognize audience needs and how to adjust to them.

Rosi’s Castle is your most recent publication, and it is the first in your trilogy, Rosi’s Doors. Would you mind telling us about this piece? 

My usual blurb is: “When Rosi Carol moved to New Richmond, she discovered that the town was haunted—by her!” I discuss this teaser at some length in my Guest Blog.

Rosi Carol is a fifteen-year-old girl whose father has recently died. For some reason, her father’s will says that she is to be sent to live with her Uncle Richard, of whom she has never heard and about whom none of her other relatives will even talk.

Rosi has to move from New York City, a place she loves, to a very small town in coastal New Hampshire that appears to be stuck someplace in the past—sometimes a bit more literally than others (spoilers).

The upside of the move is that she learns that her family is obscenely rich, and she and her uncle are treated like local gentry. She can have just about anything she wants—sometimes before she knows she wants it. She gets to live in a large castle.

The downsides include: all of the local families (that is, families who have been in the town for generations) are scared of her; very few of the young people her age will even speak with her; the kids from non-local families (tax exiles from Massachusetts) resent her because she is not impressed or intimidated by them; she rarely sees her uncle; the Castle she lives in is haunted. The first time she escapes from The Castle, she meets a boy, falls for him, leads him to his death, and ends up in jail.

Then things go bad. She is pursued by a wall of shadow that is filled with faces of the dead. She is stalked by a girl in black who may or may not be trying to help her. She sees people who are not there. At one point, she is attacked by a tribe of headhunters. The only person who believes her is a paranormal journalist who is a bit creepy, in a sexy kind of way.

Oh, and she meets a really dreamy guy and starts acting all weird.

It sounds like quite the read. What inspired you to write Rosi’s Castle?

I had the town in my mind. I knew its secret and the Carol family’s relationship with the secret and the rest of the town. I knew the Carol family’s secret (who they are). One of the first parts I wrote was about the original Carol and his people arriving in New Richmond. There are clues to where these people come from throughout the books.

I knew who Rosi was. Very early on, I saw her in New York. I saw her on a road trip with her family. 

I have a niece named Rosi (that is a letter-for-letter transliteration from Bulgarian). It is pronounced with a soft ‘s’ rather than with a ‘z’ sound. Actually her name is ‘Rositsa’ (yes, I spelled it correctly). I noticed that some of her family’s non-Bulgarian friends insisted on calling her ‘Rosie.’ It did not matter that they had just heard the name pronounced correctly, they felt the need to pronounce it with the ‘z’ sound. I found that amusing, and sort of sad. This girl will have to go through life explaining to people how her name is pronounced. 

Anyway, once I had the name ‘Rosi,’ eventually I came upon the image of a girl sitting in an empty train station in the middle of the night waiting for her ride.

I always enjoy when there's a story behind the naming of characters. It makes the characters themselves seem more 'real', in a way.

It is my understanding that you’ve also written a play – Orpheus and Eurydice. Can you tell us what it is about and how the Muse inspired this creation? 
I wrote Orpheus and Eurydice for very practical reasons. I was running a theatre group at a university in Oman. I was seriously limited in what I could do because every time we prepared a piece, a censor would come by and make us change all sorts of things. I was lucky that the chief censor was not very bright because I slipped a whole lot into my shows that she would have been quite upset about had she understood what I was doing. Because English was a second language for most of my actors, I directed very visual little shows filled with a lot of physical double entendres. Only one of my actors got most of them, because she had grown up in Australia and had a really raunchy, Benny-Hill kind of sense of humor.

Anyway, we were desperate for a Spring piece. The Australian and one other girl (who had lived overseas and spoke English quite well) really wanted to do something other than light comedy. My resources were limited and my pool of actors very small. I tossed out the idea of the Orpheus and Eurydice story. They loved it.

My wife and son were back in the States for Christmas, so I had a lot of free time and only so many DVDs to watch. I decided to write the play. Nothing came to me other than scribbles until I came up with the verse concept. The whole play is written based on the haiku form. Well, loosely based on haiku—I followed the syllabic rules.

The two lead actresses loved the play and we were able to talk some others into performing. All women—one guy thought about it, but refused to play Hades for fear it would test his faith too strenuously. Four Omanis (including the girl from Australia). Three native English speakers (including the girl from Australia). The production was simple, but it was effective. The audience enjoyed it. The foreigners in the audience enjoyed it much more than the Omanis, but I was content.

It was published by a small house in England that has since closed its doors. Dragonfly, Rosi’s publishers, is going to help me get it rebooted and out there. 

What a wonderful opportunity! Keep us posted on the proceedings.

Which was more difficult to write: your novel or your play? What sorts of things were most challenging?

One thing that I loved about writing Orpheus and Eurydice is that I cast it and started rehearsals before I was finished writing it. Not by much, but by enough that by the time I was writing the last half, I knew who would be playing what character, so I knew what each character sounded like. Orpheus and Eurydice were cast before I even put pen to page. Indeed, I wrote those characters specifically for the actresses and for their vocal patterns. Eurydice has a more complicated language structure because Emily, the girl who played Eurydice, was the native English speaker. I originally wrote Hades for an Omani. One of my colleagues ended up playing the part. I offered to rewrite some of it for her, but asked me not to change too much. Actually, she asked me to shorten her part, if possible. Since my Persephone was game, I rewrote part of the scene where Eurydice is sent back to the underworld so that Persephone got to ‘twist the knife’ instead of Hades.

Orpheus and Eurydice was written on a fairly tight deadline. I started writing in January. We performed in April. The play I am working on now, Hector and Achilles does not have the advantage of a deadline.

Rosi’s Castle was written with no deadline. At least the first couple of drafts were. I put aside the manuscript several times to work on other projects or to work on productions as director or fight choreographer. It got exciting when I found a publisher. 

Rosi was originally written as one book. Book I of the series covers what in the original was mostly exposition and character development. To give Book I a story with something resembling a beginning, middle, and end, I had to cannibalize huge chunks of what became Books II and III. The mystery or her family used to take the better part of the larger novel; now it is resolved at the end of Book I. Books II and III are more action oriented. Rosi knows the secret, but someone else finds out what it is and proceeds to screw everything up.

In a series that is planned as a series, most writers will end each book with an end to the book’s story, even if there is a through line to the whole series. Rowling, for example, writes a fairly clear end to each book in the Harry Potter series. There are no major cliffhangers. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings to be one book. It just happened to be published in three volumes. Each volume has a logical stopping point, but no clear resolution. People read Harry Potter like there are seven books. People read The Lord of the Rings like it is one really long one. In the case of Rosi’s Doors, I did the best I could to rearrange things so that there were no major cliffhangers. Book I ends. The transition between Books II and III is a little muddier. There is not so much a resolution and an end to Book II, but a place to pause.

It's always difficult to determine the best way to end a book. Some prefer cliffhangers, while other prefer definable resolutions. I like that you've incorporated a bit of both throughout your series. 

What was your favorite part to write in Rosi’s Castle?

I really enjoyed the part in Chapter 1 when Rosi slips out of the car and into a place that is completely alien to her. I do not want to give any spoilers here. It was hard to write that part without giving away too much of the end.

In the original draft, she slips out of the car as well. (This is an intentional nod to Dracula.) What she does, though, is completely different. In the published version, I introduce the wall of shadow, which appears several times in the story. I introduce the Girl in Black. She is a very small part in the original. She does not appear in Books II or III, but I hope to resolve her story in a potential Book IV.

This section is where I really began running into trouble with my copy editor. There are details that appear to be inconsistencies, continuity errors. They are not. The editor understood the whole of the story. The copy editor did not.

My favorite section of Book I to write was Part III. I wrote it longhand. I was on vacation for a week in France. I took my nephew and a cousin diving. We would spend all day on the beach. I went diving a few times, of course, but I decided that finishing my book was probably more important. So, I took a notebook down with me and sat in a café and wrote all day. My wife says that this part of the book was the best part. In addition, French beaches in July are fairly easy on the eyes. :)

Writing in a new environment is a great way to spark the Muse. It sounds like taking the time to write during your vacation was a brilliant choice.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

No, not really. I suppose that I want people to analyze situations they are in and use critical thinking in their everyday lives. However silly Rosi might be, when push comes to shove, she is fully grounded.

I sometimes teach critical thinking. I ask students to look at issues in the news and in history and analyze them from all sorts of different points of view. It is very rare that there is an issue where one side is right and the other side is wrong, or one person is to blame and the other is completely blameless. Rosi is the heroine of these books, but she often makes stupid, careless, and selfish decisions. There are villains in these books, but they are not mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplashes. Most of them are rational sane people who are doing things that Rosi and her point of view determine to be wrong.
Okay, so there are one or two villains who are simply whack jobs. That is because they became so much fun to write for. Let’s face it: Alan Rickman has made a career of being a heavy; he’s fun to watch and must be a hoot to write for. Didn’t many of my generation secretly root for Darth Vader? I was disappointed when he found the good in him in the final movie. And I have always felt a little bit sorry for Sauron.

I think Rosi has much to offer the world. Speaking of Rosi, can you elaborate on how your niece ties into your work? 

I really only used her name. She is certainly a sweet girl. Like my Rosi, she is headstrong and fairly independent. But my Rosi is not intended to be an older version of my niece, although there are some surface similarities. Niece Rosi is twelve. Silviya, my wife, and I have already decided that she is going to be a real heartbreaker (that is not exactly the the term we use, if you get my drift). I hope that niece is not as insecure as character is (my Rosi talks a big game, but she’s a real pushover when it comes to guys). Niece is being raised in an Eastern-European way that insists on a certain close-knitted quality to family life. Character was raised by a father who was driven, who had a calling. He loved his daughter, but he left her to figure a lot of things out on her own and to learn to fend for herself. In both cases, the approaches are on the extreme edges of the spectrum. Neither is probably the best way to raise a child. Rosi Carol would find the idea of “let’s get together as a family and do togetherness stuff” to be depressingly artificial. She would be polite about it. She might be slightly jealous of it. But she wouldn’t like it.

*chuckles* I think I'll take to Rosi quite well. Both of them, in fact. :)

Could you tell us about your path to publication?

When I polished the Rosi’s adventures the first time (Rosi’s Doors, then Rosi’s Doors, The Battle for New Richmond), I tried the traditional route of looking for an agent or trying to find some major publisher to give me a large advance. The response was overwhelmingly depressing. Worse than simply being rejected, I was given positive feedback—and I was rejected. If I had simply sucked, I might have gotten the point eventually and moved on (not really, I’m too egotistical for that). Some agents and publishers really enjoyed the book and liked my writing a great deal. They wouldn’t publish me, though. This is not the first work that has had such a response. I wrote a psychological thriller about a nymphomaniacal serial killer (not a YA book) that got some positive responses from agents and publishers who refused to touch it professionally with a ten-foot, er, pole.

I put the book aside for a while. About the time that I was finishing up Orpheus and Eurydice, I was cleaning up my jump drive. I needed room. I decided that I should toss this old book that was going nowhere. Just for kicks, I gave a copy to the daughter of one of my colleagues (she was also playing one of the Demons in Orpheus and Eurydice). Darya, the girl, loved it. Her father told me that they had to yell at her to turn her light off and stop reading at night because she was enjoying my book so much.

I talked about the story and the characters with Darya and polished Rosi again. I sent out another slew of queries. I got similar responses to the ones I’d gotten before. One agent or editor (I don’t remember) wrote back and saying that her or she remembered the story from the previous time and liked some of the changes I had made. Still no deal.

About that time, I started exploring some smaller publishers, including several POD houses. One loved the piece and offered to publish it as was. The other publisher and I spent several weeks discussing the nature of the POD, my role in marketing, the nature of publishing, the future of publishing, the genre of my book, and all sorts of things. Their reader loved the book and suggested they NOT publish it. The publisher disagreed, at least with the last part, and offered to publish it if I made substantial changes and divided it into three books. I chose this publisher—Dragonfly.
Then the hard work started.

Sounds like quite the trek - but worth it in the end! Kudos on your patience and persistence. You now have a lovely story to share with readers~

Hmm... Curiosity: do you relate to any of the characters in your work? Tell us about him/her.

I relate to all of the characters. Whoever these characters might resemble, ultimately, they come from my imagination. I don’t think I am a bully like Kirk, but I understand living in the shadow of someone much more popular than me, like Kirk does with his brother Dan, the heartthrob. I spent a great deal of my life, including much of my adult life, being identified by my relationship to someone else. Graduate school and the Middle East were just about the only places as an adult even where I was not laden with the baggage of being connected to someone else. The baggage is not always a bad thing; sometimes it is a good thing; always it is frustrating.

In many ways, I am closest to Rosi. I spent more time in her mind than the other characters put together. She is the focal character for all of Book I and most of Books II and III. The movies she likes and refers to are movies I like. Television shows she watches are ones I have seen. She is not I, but we are certainly close in many ways.

Can you describe your writing style for us? What processes do you go through while writing? (i.e. outlines, character maps, index cards, etc…)

I. Idea
II. Expanded idea
a.     Try drafting a few pages here and there
b.     Write down character notes
c.      Research
          III. General Outline
a.     By now I have the overall arc of the story
b.     Divide the book into its parts
                                                             i.      Rather than chapters
                                                           ii.      Rosi’s Castle, for example, has three parts and fifteen chapters
                                                        iii.      Orpheus and Eurydice for example would be divided into scenes about now as it is a one-act play
c.      Research
             IV. Chapter outline for at least the first part
V. Detailed outline of first chapter
VI. Draft of first chapter
VII. Revise and redraft
 VIII. Move on to the next chapter
IX. When I am finished drafting any given part, I
a.     Redraft parts
b.     Clean it up
c.      Polish it a bit
d.     Show it to Silviya
e.      Send it to Brian, my reader     
f.       Revise and clean up based on their comments
X. Rinse and Repeat
I love the outlining format on Word.

I'm more of a 'pantser' myself, but I know that many authors prefer the 'plotting' route. Thank you for sharing your format with us.

When did your fascination with writing begin?

I started writing when I was very small. I would dance around the library at our house (it sounds grader that it was—it is a nine-room house, but my father used one room as a library/study) telling stories. My mother typed as fast as she could to keep up with me.
From time to time, my brother John and I would put on plays using our stuffed animals. The larger animals would be the elaborate sets. The smaller animals the characters. I did all the voices and moved most of the characters. John would build the sets—sometimes in the middle of a scene. When I needed to fill time, I would grab some Broadway score from the piano and sing show tunes. Often I did not know the shows or the tunes. I can’t read music. I didn’t let trivial technicalities like that hinder my shows.

Most of my plays were based on movies I had seen recently.

Every show ended with the stage erupting and all the animals and pillows and furniture we used going flying, every character, of course, dying most melodramatically.

We always had an audience. My parents. Neighbors. Unsuspecting dinner guests.

Goodness! You had your own library? I was reading and writing all the time as a child, but I never had my own library. It almost sounds like a fairy tale. That sort of falls in line with my next question: Do you believe that one must be a reader before he/she can be a writer?

I cannot imagine any writer not being a reader. What would possess someone to write if he or she did not read? I do not think reading is a requirement for writing. It is the sine qua non.

That is not to say that there are any particular books that wannabe writers should read. Other than Rosi’s Castle, of course (and Empyreal Fate, naturally).

Readers read what they read. I’m a snob in many ways. As a reader, I am fairly egalitarian. Most bodice-ripping romances are formulaic trash, sure, but they can be fun. Most other books are formulaic trash as well. Just because they are formulaic and/or trash doesn’t make them bad. Gone with the Wind fits the profile of trashy romance. It is also one of the best books written in the last hundred years. 

Does your writing reflect past experiences or is it mostly drawn from imagination?
I suppose there is a fair amount of my past in my writing, but I am not trying to explore my past. For instance, New Richmond is modeled, to some degree, on the town of Mikhmoret, Israel. At least the port part of it resembles what I recall of the town—I was on an archaeological dig there when I was in college (Archaeology, just like in the Indiana Jones movies, is filled with beautiful temptresses and villainous Nazis. I even had a cool hat.). The harbor in New Richmond is much larger and there is an island covering the mouth of the harbor rather than a breakwater. If you look at Mikhmoret on GoogleMaps, The Castle would be on the southern point and the Country Club and where all the BAs live would be just beyond the northern. New Richmond is not in Israel, but in New Hampshire, so flip it over. The Castle is to the north. Anyway, that is kind of what I see in my mind. However, I am not exploring Mikhmoret is any way.

My characters may resemble people I have known, but they are not supposed to be versions of these people.

Some scholar someday might find great significance in comparing my past and my writing. He or she may even be right. My writing, though, is mostly drawn from my imagination.

How exciting! And here's a bit of a divergent topic: Do you believe in the supernatural?

I certainly hope so. Imagine how boring this world would be without the inexplicable, the impossible. Science is wonderful. It has solved so many problems. This is amazing considering that science is continually being proven wrong by some sort of new science. I don’t want science to solve all of our problems. I don’t want to know all the answers. I want to explore the questions.

I want God to exist. I want vampires to exist. I want ghosts and demons and saints. I want magic.

I want hope and fear and danger and excitement.

It's interesting to speculate, no? And indeed - it makes life more interesting.

Curiosity: Is symbolism a major aspect of your writing?

It is more important in my poetry. I do not want to overwhelm prose with too much subtext. I think people want to read. I want to write something that people will read.

Poetry readers do not approach texts the same as prose readers (even if they are the same person).

Feel free to read a lot into my book if you like. Write a paper on it. Publish the paper.

I'm always curious about the extent to which authors differ during the writing process. What would you say is one of your writing “quirks”?

Not exactly sure what you mean by ‘quirk.’ I don’t write nude, or anything like that.

I can write just about anywhere. I carry a notebook with me most of the time. I can’t type everywhere, so I do a lot of work longhand. 

Anyway, I had to promise my publisher that I would only use one computer to work on. Changing back and forth to and from different computers supposedly does wonky things to formatting and stuff like that.

My main computer is a Mac Powerbook. It has my life on it. I do back up sometimes (not enough), but I can’t afford to buy a new one if this one gets broken or stolen.

So I use notebooks.

I become attached to certain kind of pens. I really like those Pilot FriXion Ball erasable pens. I recommend them. Be careful, though. I left a notebook on a beach chair while I went and had lunch. The sun or the heat erased about four pages. I was not a happy camper. The pens also don’t hold a lot of ink. 

I love to write in those Moleskin notebooks.

What is your favorite genre to read/write about?

I am an eclectic reader. Right now, I am reading some science fiction. History (World Wars I and II, Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe are my favorite, but I read about all sorts of periods and cultures). Good historical fiction (I read with my reference books or Wikipedia at hand to follow up on things).

As a writer, I want to tell my stories. I want to tell them in all sorts of ways. I don’t want to be tied down to one genre. Of course, I am a professional. If the fantasy/sci-fi world embraces my works, then I will happily spend the next twenty years there.

I know you’re not a fan of psychology, but do you think working in an educational environment helped you to capture human interaction in your work?
I have taught at traditional four-year institutions. I have taught at junior colleges. I have taught overseas. I have taught Theatre, English, Philosophy, History, and Psychology.

Teaching has exposed me to a wide variety of people from different cultures and different generations. 

Teaching has exposed me to the different ways that students think and react.

That has to be good for a writer. 

Ah! The beauty of knowledge and interaction! A grand gift to be had throughout life, and a wonderful inspiration to get the creative juices flowing.

Speaking of 'creative juices', does the Muse come easily for you? How do you deal with writer’s block?

The muse comes very easily. In fact, she comes too easily. I have so many good ideas.
I don’t get writer’s block. I get overwhelmed by ideas and impatient because it takes so long to get any idea down on paper.

I force myself. I organize myself. Organized and diligence are not qualities that anyone would associate with me, but I have to get the work done.

We touched on this a bit earlier, I know, but in terms of technicality, would you call yourself a “plotter” or a “pantser”?

I would have to say “plotter.” My outlines are hardly set in stone. I can make fairly major changes very suddenly. ‘Plotting’ allows me to make these changes and to see that there in an internal consistency to my work.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, which genre(s)?

Not while I physically write. While I am exploring the story, I certainly do. 

I have no preference as far as music goes. It depends on what piece happens to strike my fancy. Sometimes nothing does.

Big chunks of Orpheus and Eurydice were worked out and explored in my mind while listening to the song “Marigold,” by the Foo Fighters. 
I got a lot of help through some big chunks of the final version of Rosi’s Castle from Bear McCreary’s music for the Battlestar Galactica series, especially the piece “Passacaglia.” 
I can’t listen to music while I write. I find music demands too much of my attention.
I am very picky about music. I hate other people’s music and resent when it is forced on me. I believe in fair play, so when I listen to music, I tend to wear headphones. There is an additional advantage to this: I can listen to a song hundreds of times nonstop, very loudly. No one needs to be subjected to that.

Thanks for sharing those links with us!

Do you have a new project in the works outside of Rosi’s Doors? Can you tell us about it?

Let’s see. I have several.

One is a fantasy series. It began with an image of a pregnant teenager living in a tree with a witch. I don’t want to give too much away. I will say that as soon as the baby is weaned, the witch plans on killing the mother. I suspect the girl will have something to say about that.

I am working on a verse novella about expatriates living in Oman.

I am working on a verse novel about the Civil War. It started out being about World War II.

I have others. 

Always thinking; always dreaming. 'Tis the brilliance of a writer. :)

Which archetypes do you incorporate in your work?

I realize that some of my characters fit archetypical patterns, but this is not intentional. My characters have physical and vocal models. That is, I can see the characters. I can hear them. Most of them have been based on people I know or know of. That way, I can see them move and give them certain vocal patterns. These people may have played roles in my life that were similar to their roles in the story. each character has a specific function. That should make it easy to identify them in terms of archetypes.

Uncle Richard, for example, had an initial physical model of one of my professors in graduate school. In fact, the professor was one I disliked. To be fair, he disliked me as well. We were both arrogant and cynical. We would either have been fast friends or we would have hated each other.

Angie and Andy are based to some degree on two friends of mine from West Virginia: Angel and Dimitri. He was very much a head-in-the-clouds intellectual artist. She was very practical and kept the two of them out of the poor house for several years. Kirk’s original model was a boy named Kirk with whom I went to prep school. He was about as far from a bully as you could get.

Rosi’s model changed several times. The most recent, published, version is based physically on a young actress who played Juliet in a production I directed. Her vocal patterns owe something to the Australian-Omani actress I have mentioned (She didn’t have a particularly Australian accent; Rosi does not sound like she’s from New York). But those influences add little more than flavor. Rosi belongs to no one that strongly.
Angie and Uncle Richard are the main characters in Book I who are truest to their initial models. In Books II and III, Zilla began and ended modeled from my nephew and son’s nanny, Sis.

Knowing the models in this case is not particularly helpful in understanding the books. The models are not famous or powerful people. A few years ago, a young author was touted as having written a scathing roman a clef about life in some part of New York City. When the reviews came out, it was determined that none of her key figures was known outside of a very small circle of wannabe bohemians in the city. No one cared who they were. The key opened no rooms worth entering.

Let's move on to the promotional side of things: What forms of social media do you use for marketing/promoting?

I spend a lot of time annoying my friends on email and Facebook. 

I have joined several other sights on reading and writing.

I have, with the help of a friend from MIT, Sara Ferry, developed a couple of book trailers that can be found on Youtube: here and here. I would welcome suggestions as to other ways to get my book out there.

Cover art is a great promotional tool. Did you create your own?


Nope. A very talented artist named Marco Serida came up with them. That is not to say that I didn’t have some input. My publisher and I discussed the nature and theory of cover art for several weeks before she chose an artist and took our ideas to him. I encouraged them to avoid any representation of Rosi or any of the other characters. I know what Rosi looks like. I can see her in my mind’s eye. Other than certain characteristics (she has blond hair and blue eyes and is fairly traditionally pretty) I don’t want to push an image. Nor do I want someone else to establish what Rosi looks like. Perhaps someday they’ll make a movie. I’ll deal with who plays Rosi and what she looks like then. I said somewhere that Chloë Grace Moretz might be a good choice. Or Emma Watson. Alec Guinness was the face of George Smiley for several generations of readers. I read someplace that John le Carré hated that so many people associated that actor with his character.

Ultimately, though, the publisher and the artist made the decision. Had I hated the cover, no doubt it would have been changed. However, I really liked it.

How extensive do you think cover art is to overall sales?
I firmly believe in judging a book by its cover.

·        Right now, I am looking at the cover of an old paperback: Whirlwind.
·   There’s a sword on it. That does not say much. However, the sword is vaguely Middle Eastern. Hmm.

·        It was a Number One bestseller. Popular is usually not a bad sign. It might not be great literature, but it is probably readable—something a lot of great literature is not.

·        It is by James Clavell. I know his writing. I like his writing. Just in case I did not get the connection: I’m told that this is the same author of Shogun and Noble House. Now we’re rockin’!

·        On the back, there are a bunch of reviews from newspapers. There’s even a fifty or so word blurb there that gives me some indication what the book is about. I am also told that it is part of the Asian Saga, so I know I will be learning more about Struan-Dunross and ancient legends.

There are a lot of books in this world. I can’t read them all. The cover tells me that I might want to read this one.

I do judge a book by its cover. Literally and metaphorically. Am I sometimes wrong? Absolutely.

If you could change one thing about your publishing experience, what would it be?

I wish that my book had sparked a bidding war that brought me fame and great wealth. Really.

More seriously, I wish it had happened earlier in my life. I’m 47. Hardly old, but no longer young. Younger writers get away with a lot more than older writers do. Younger writers get to grow into their styles and careers. A twenty-five-year-old author is seen as a young writer and gets to make all sorts of mistakes—their potential is what everyone talks about. A forty-year-old is expected to have matured not only as a person but also as an artist. Ironically, growth and maturation come from putting your work out there to be edited, polished, read, critiqued, and consumed.

Hmm.. Wisdom versus free reign. Is age truly a factor? 

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring author? 

Write. That’s what you do.

Take it seriously. Expect your friends to take it seriously. They might not, but if you don’t, they certainly won’t. If they won’t take your writing seriously, find new friends.

Treat it like a job (even a part-time one). It is not a hobby. You may consider your writing a calling. Good. But remember, the writers who are successful are those who work at it, not those who rely solely on inspiration and muses.

Time for a bit of randomness: 

Which is your preference: ghosts or zombies?

Ghosts, of course. Zombies are just mindless consumers (I tried several ways and this was the least political answer I could come up with). Ghosts might be malevolent, but most ghost stories I’ve ever read had ghosts that were conscious and to some degree sentient. I could sit down and talk to a ghost (I am always amused when someone is asked the question: what would you say if you saw the ghost of so and so? They always come up with some answer intended to impress the asker or the audience. Me, if I saw Shakespeare’s ghost, I’d probably become hysterical and then have a heart attack—but if I survived the heart attack….). Zombies would do nothing other than try and eat my brain.

If you could possess any superpower, which would it be?

I ask my students this question about every semester. In the end, I try and see how long it takes them to become criminals. :)

A lot of students want to fly. Of course, flying would have to expend energy. They would tire and collapse long before they crossed the Atlantic, so they couldn’t travel overseas. They would have to fly fairly fast to avoid being caught by the Air Force, in which case they’d freeze. If you’re invisible, do your clothes become invisible as well? (They touched on this on one of the Fantastic 4 films.) In the Spiderman films, those webs must come from somewhere. Superman gets away with so much because he has so many superpowers; Thor is a god; Batman has no superpowers at all.

Teleportation. That’s what I would pick. Do my clothes go with me? I hope so. Would I pop into the odd bank vault and take off with wads of cash? I might. If I knew I wouldn’t get caught. That’s an old ethical question, Plato’s Ring of Gyges. Would you steal a million dollars from Bill Gates if you knew you would not get caught and that the loss of the money—he might not even know about it—would not hurt him or anyone else? I like to think that I would not become too corrupt. I’m really not all that high maintenance. 

I’m not sure if it would be my role or obligation to try and solve the world’s problems. True, Peter Parker is told that with great power comes great responsibility, but does the pithiness of the saying validate the sentiment? Superman appeared in 1938, but you don’t see him whacking Hitler. Dr. Manhattan doesn’t end the Soviet Threat.

 Before we can tend to the Universe, we must solve the mysteries of ourselves (for there are many). 

Scenario: You are planning a trip to the jungle and can only carry three things in your backpack without collapsing from fatigue. Assuming you will find enough to eat on your journey, and water is not an issue, what do you choose to pack?

Can I fit an RV into the pack? (I want a Country Coach Prevost RV.) What about Denise Richards? J (My wife better not read this far.)

Honest to God, I’d take a book. I like James Clavell a lot and his books are truly monsters. I reread Noble House every year or so. I haven’t reread Whirlwind in a while.

If I knew I was only going to be gone for a week, I’d take a fully charged Kindle.

Notebook and pens. 

A change of clothes. I can’t wear the same things too many days in a row.

Favorite word?

‘Chocolate’ is way up there.



'Epiphenomenal'. I like that one. :)

Tape, glue, or staples?

When you try to remove tape, it tears at the paper. Tape also gets dirty.

Glue is sticky and messy.

Staples are neat and efficient. And you get to hit something—always good! I like to make scones because I get to beat the dough. 

Introvert or extrovert?

One on one, I can be very extroverted. Actually, I’m more of a flirt than anything else. In larger group situations, I get more and more introverted. I will go to parties and read a book in the corner. For some reason this upsets people. I am having fun reading. I probably would not have much fun talking to them.

Thinker or dreamer?

I like to think that I am a bit of both. My wife says I am dreamer who is completely divorced from reality.

You can’t divorce someone you’ve never met. 

Teaching or acting?

Can you separate the two? Okay, not all actors are teachers, but teachers (good ones) are actors to some degree—at least they are entertainers.

Lighthouse or monument?

Lighthouse. Monuments are pretty, but essentially useless. Sometimes I wish I could live in a lighthouse. The solitude would be good for writing.

Thank you, Mr. Eaton, for visiting us today and letting us know more about you and your latest work, Rosi's Castle.

If you are interested in learning more about this author and his novel, feel free to visit his Website, explore a bit more in Rosi's Doors, and find the book available for purchase.

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