Thursday, September 1, 2016
Guest Blogger: Frederick H. Crook
Please tell us about your latest book.
“The Summer of ‘47” is a departure for me. I really stepped out of my comfort zone for this one. I don’t want to say I ever became comfortable with my dystopian sci-fi works, but this new one is a paranormal historical fiction novel, and I guess we’ll see what happens.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I may write another Campanelli, but I’m not sure. I have a story worked out in my head, but this other storyline is bumping into it. Most likely, the next book will return to the wonderful world of “The Great Exodus”.
How do we find out about you and your books?
You can visit my website, http://frederickcrook.wixsite.com/crooksbooks or visit my author page on Amazon: Author.to/FrederickHCrook
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
I think that my attention to detail gets into the characters. I try to be detailed, and find myself deleting things during my editing process. I hope my sense of right and wrong get in there, too, but often, my id sneaks in when it needs to, like when I had to write the character, Elliot Three-Seven in “Campanelli: Siege of the Nighthunter”.
When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
I’ve been interested in writing since I was a kid. In school, I was one of those the other students were annoyed with, whenever I was called up to read something I wrote or when the teachers did. I was heavily encouraged by a senior English teacher to write. I wish I had believed her at the time, but as it was, I distrusted grownups and I still do. I shopped around for a publisher for my first novel, but I received no takers. I didn’t even bother with the second one, and went straight to self-publishing it. By the time “Campanelli: Sentinel” was finished, I considered shopping around for a publisher again, and was steered to Solstice by Rebecca Frencl.
Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
Since 2009, I’ve had this sense of ‘making up for lost time’, so I’ve been writing pretty much non-stop since then. It all depends on the size of the book, but it’s somewhere between three to four months.
Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
When I’m working on a book, I fit writing time in wherever I can, every day. I don’t really live by a schedule, but I try to write steadily.
What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
I don’t really take any days off. I tend to do something every day, even if it’s something in marketing. I save my time off, if you can call it that, for road trips, even if we’re heading to a convention or trade show to sell books. I find that relaxing, but exciting at the same time.
What truly motivates you in general? In your writing?
I’m motivated by wanting to tell a story. I want to entertain people the only way I know how. I want and I need those readers who enjoy a well-thought out story. I love to hear people tell me about how much they enjoy my work. I have a small, loyal, local following that I run into at my favorite pub.
Where do your ideas come from?
I was tired of seeing dystopian sci-fi movies and television series that deal with a catastrophic end to mankind on Earth. That’s a little too dark for me. I’m a bit more positive than that, even in our current state of affairs. I created something where the vast majority of mankind leaves Earth for a new planet, leaving just some millions of people back here to deal with the vacuum of power and the failure of infrastructure and technology. That just seemed to be the way to go.
Do you feel humor is important in dystopian sci-fi and why?
The existence of humor is an indelible reality. It’s not believable to write a story that has no humor in it whatsoever. I wouldn’t enjoy a truly dark story, through and through. I’ve read a novel like that before for a review group that I’m no longer part of and it was a truly disgusting, drab experience. The author must have been dealing with some mental issues to have written it. To write anything that’s not a text book without a trace of humor in it is a crime against humanity.
What kind of research do you do?
I keep my research to the internet, though I tend to seek many different sources, depending on how important it is. Location is all important. I use Google Earth constantly, so the locations and streets in my “Campanelli” collection and other works are correct.
What does your wife think of your writing?
She’s a big fan, that’s why she’s been so supportive over the years. She’s a major motivator.
Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)
My wife and I never had children, but we have dachshunds. They’ve become my favorite breed and our newest little guy, Luke, never leaves my side. We unexpectedly lost our black and tan longhair, Penny, to a rare disorder this year, so it’s been tough. Luke and his older adopted sister, Moxie, are our children, essentially.
I recently got back into video games just this month. I quit for a couple of years, as the multiplayer combat games were wearing on my psyche. Other players can be quite hostile and verbally abusive after you hand their asses to them repeatedly. It got to a point where playing was no longer fun and I had to stop. I’ve settled into a nice, slow-paced space exploration game on the PS4 and it’s challenging and relaxing.
Fill in the blank favorites - Dessert. City. Season. Type of hero. Type of heroine.
Dessert? Hmm…beer. When I’m out to dinner with my wife and mother-in-law, if they order dessert, I grab another brew. It’s only fair.
City? I’m a Chicagoan…so…
Season? Spring. Especially the month of June, though I suspect it will be bittersweet for a good long while. Our Penny passed away in June.
Type of hero? Heroine? Somebody funny. The Tick comes to mind as does Will Smith’s “Hancock”. There’s nothing worse than a hero that takes himself/herself seriously.
What are some of your favorite things to do?
I love writing. I love going to shows/conventions and talking to people that read. This new game is awesome, but I love road trips, too. There’s no better way to unplug than to go for a long drive.
Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?
Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Dean Koontz, among a couple others. I truly have no one big favorite. I’ve tried to figure that out before and it hurts my gray matter to make one pop to the top.
Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
You know, not to kiss ass, but there are some real talents under the Solstice label and, as an editor, I’ve been privileged to read some of the raw, unreleased stuff. That alone is worth it to me.
What do you think of critique groups in general?
I have no need for more cooks in my kitchen. I declared my independence from the opinions of other people and I’ll either succeed or fail on my own, not because someone’s opinion steered me from my path. That being said, an editor that believes in my work and has some truly constructive criticism has my attention.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m generally too ‘in the now’ to look ahead and make a plan. Plans are boring and too many things happen to alter them, anyway. I’d like to think that some Hollywood-type power mad mogul would realize that remakes of older, star-studded, and highly respected films are old hat and that there are a lot of worthy books out there that deserve their time on the big screen. I’d love it if someone put Campanelli on film.
How many books have you written, how many have been published?
Not counting “The Summer of ‘47”, there are twelve. I’ve self-published six titles, two of which are novels, the others, novellas. I’m very grateful to Solstice for taking over the “Campanelli” series, that’s two novels, “Minuteman Merlin” and “Comfort in a Man Named Jakc” are novellas, “Of Knight & Devil” is another novel, there’s a short story, “Adrift”.
Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
I’m partial to Frank Campanelli, from the “Campanelli” stories. He’s a tough guy, subject to a bad temper, but he can be funny, too. On the other hand, Major Reginald Mattersly of the British Army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment from “Of Knight & Devil” is a proper soldier and all, but there’s a bit of humor in that rigidity, along with his subtle English humor. I love writing both these characters.
What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
“Adrift” was the easiest. It was short and I already knew the characters from “The Dregs of Exodus”. The hardest has to be “The Summer of ‘47”. Like I said, I’m way out of my comfort zone on that one. “Campanelli: Siege of the Nighthunter” was great fun to right, but also the darkest at points. The character of Elliot Three-Seven gave me more than one nightmare during the writing process.
Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
To me, these elements are independent of each other. There are characters in my head that I’ve never written a thing about. At the same time, there are situations/plots that I’ve thought through that would be fun to tackle, but those characters won’t have anything to do with it. The setting, that is, location and time, are afterthoughts, but also important.
What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?
I find that the majority of my research occurs near the beginning of a story. Those first few thousand words are the toughest. The end, of course, is the easiest, as everything has been laid out for it, and I’m really cranking out the word count at that point.
Have you experienced writer's block---> If so, how did you work through it?
I avoid writer’s block by thinking through a story from beginning to end, thoroughly, before I type. That’s not to say that I’ve everything figured out right down to the word, but the beginning, end, and the path are in place before I start. In my head, I’m at least two books ahead of where I am. I think of it as building a railroad. You need to know the start of the line and the end of the line. Then you need a firm idea of the path it will take to join the two. The characters are the engineers or passengers, and the stops in between are the details that tend to fill in as I go.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
I love talking to someone that’s read one of my books. I’ve had a few conversations with local fans, and they come up with some aspects that I never considered.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, but they were completely pointless. I really didn’t fit in, anyplace I’ve ever worked. I don’t know, maybe that’s a character flaw.
Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
That first project needs to be finished, and it needs to be finished in the highest quality you can imagine before you ever present it to a publisher. Don’t think of yourself as an author until you have that first project done.