Tell your readers something interesting about yourself AND/OR your favorite character.
Well, about myself, I play guitar and bass guitar, and I have a matched set of rare collectible instruments from Sweden.
What was your favorite book as a teen? Tell us about it and how it affected you as a person.
As a teen, I was always drawn to works by Robert A. Heinlein. I don't know that I had a favorite character back then, but in Heinlein's novels, there was almost always a crotchety old pragmatist who offered simple philosophy and didn't care what the establishment thought, like a gruff old uncle whom everyone loves because he's always so colorful. Those characters (as well as my father) always encouraged me just to be myself and hand the establishment.
Tell us about the genre you have chosen to write for. Why do write specifically for them?
I'm a hard-core science fiction freak, although it doesn't show up so much in my work. The fantastic has always drawn me. If you're going to read fiction, then read the most out-of-this-world, radical fiction you can, right?
Some people think that science fiction is for writers too lazy to write realistic fiction. But if anything, I think it's harder to write credible sci-fi, because of the research aspects involved in coming p with a good story. The system has to be founded on some kind of realistic premise, or you're just asking too much from your readers in the way of their willingness to suspend their unbelief.
Tell us about your new book. How did it come about and share your favorite excerpt/scene.
Becoming NADIA was born in a dream I had back in 2007. The premise began to unfold in that twilit zone between being fully awake and fully asleep, and the concept hit me so hard, I woke right up and started writing.
By the time they reached D'Antini's, Nadia knew she was in the company of a friend. They made small talk while they waited for the maitre d' to find them a table in the middle of the sumptuous dining room, and she almost forgot about having to explain herself to her station staff.
The appetizers were amazing, if unidentifiable. Nadia asked what was in them and Jon just smiled and held up a hand. "You really don't want to know."
Nadia almost spit out the latest mouthful, but thought twice about it as she looked around. This was too nice a place to be so rude. Her eyes grew wide in mirth as she tried to laugh around it, and almost choked trying to get it down. She grabbed her water glass and took a drink, waving a hand at her face.
"You jerk," she laughed softly, when her mouth became free. "All right, seriously now, do you take every woman who faints in your arms to a place this fancy?"
"No," he answered, "just those who remind me of a dear friend." The smile faded from his face and he became pensive for several seconds. Then he placed a couple more appetizers on her salad plate. "Here," he said, suddenly brightening. "Have some more…brown, crusty…things."
She chuckled again, pushing the plate away. "No, thanks. A moment on the lips…." She let the rest of the cliché fade away while she rearranged her napkin in her lap, trying to buy some time before she had to plow ahead. "So why am I here with you? Because you're concerned for me or because I remind you of someone else?"
"That is an entirely unfair question, Miss Velasquez. I was wondering that very thing myself. Maybe a little bit of both. Is that okay?"
"How did you know my last name?" she asked. It was not as if she were a necessarily private person, it was mainly that she was hoping he would not recognize her from television. She was already AWOL. She may as well put in her resignation as soon as she got back to 'Frisco.
"I heard you lie to 'Steve', whoever that is. When you talked about an interview with a president, I pegged you right off the bat. I've been to the West Coast on business a few times."
"That's where you saw me before. Well, that answers that, then."
"No, it doesn't." Jon looked at Nadia again, the piercing gaze locked on her face. "There's something else, and I can't explain it yet. Just less than four years ago I lost my best friend and her family…."
"Oh, I must look like her, then—"
He cut her off. "How's Phillip?"
Nadia's hand stopped halfway to her water glass. She felt paralyzed. The blood drained from her face, leaving it ice-cold. The memory reconnected like a switch in her mind. The question trickled weakly out between her lips, her voice quavering. "Who's Phillip?"
Jon's voice took on a steely edge. He wasn't becoming hostile, just insistent, but insistent in a way that made her feel like she was being peeled away, layer by layer under a microscope. "You know full well who Phillip is."
Her hand began to tremble, then to shake violently. She remembered someone telling her, "It took twenty-three surgeries just to reconstruct your face." Her breath came in gasps; her voice seemed to keep getting weaker. Phillip. Phillip was-- She found herself unable to get up, incapable of walking away, too terrified to run, like a bird in the gaze of a snake. "What are you talking about?"
"Why did you skip out on your flight, Nadia? Why did you come to the Staley's at 42nd and Lexington? Why at that particular time?"
The questions began to gush from Jon's mouth one right after another, and Nadia had no chance to answer any individual one. He was getting more agitated as he went, until Nadia thought he would reach over the table and strangle her right there in public. "Why did you order a double-decaf-mochaccino latté with a cinnamon stick? Why did you know my nickname and then faint as soon as you recognized me? Why are we sitting here right now while the chef in the kitchen prepares Steak Hélène rare, and before the appetizers came you were doodling Betty Boop figures on your napkin and playing with your left ear?" Twenty-three surgeries. "Nobody has called me 'Jake' since I was ten, except for her and my mom. And you absolutely hate Merlot, don't you?"
Nadia's hand never made it to the water glass. She couldn't think. A sound roared in her head like ten thousand voices screaming in terror, and an icy spear of fear shot through her chest. She felt the tears begin to roll down her face, and her chest heaved as she gasped for breath.
She hoped with everything inside her that no one else was watching these two terrified people having this horrible, strange confrontation. Her vision started to close in again, but she fought it off. As it was, she nearly fell out of her chair. Her voice was strange and weak. "Do…do you know who I am?"
How has writing affected your life? And what’s your favorite part of being a writer?
I believe that God puts in every single one of us a desire to know His perfect will for our lives. It's what he designed us to do, and when we find that, we find perfect and ultimate joy. I discovered that I'm a writer. Sure, I'm a minstrel, and a mentor, and a dad, and a husband, and many other things. But if you've seen Chariots of Fire, you know what I mean when I say that, when I write, I feel God smiling.
I love the story-telling part more than anything. I like to think as I'm writing an action sequence or a suspense element, that my reader is going to hold the book that much closer to their face, and their eyes are going to bug out, and they'll think, "Oh, my God, I have to find out what happens next!" I want people to finish one of my books and put it down, thinking that they're glad they read it, and they have something to think about.
What advice can you give regarding the writing process?
Writing is one thing that you can't do well on your own. In order to make your story the best it can be, you need to expose yourself (and your ego) to critique partners and beta readers who are friends enough to tell you the truth. To complement that aspect of the process, it is critical that you develop a thick skin. O need to be able to receive constructive (and sometimes destructive) criticism and glean out every useful bit of information to refine and polish your work. Writing is fun, but it is also a serious business.
Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
The best thing I ever did was to read a copy of Manuscript Submission, by Scott Edelstein. He makes the process of marketing and selling your manuscript simple enough to understand that if you practice what he's preaching, your work will have a better chance of being seen on its own merits.
Other than that, you must, you must, you must, refine and polish your manuscript using every tool at your disposal. Excessive typos and weak style will kill a good story and get you a form rejection letter so fast your head will spin.
Finally, keep your sanity. It took me over three years to sell my first book, but the second one sold almost immediately. I received over forty rejections, and most of those were form rejections. A rejection is simply the industry's way of telling you your work hasn't found its home yet. Look over it again, polish it some more if need be, and get it back out there.
You can do it.
How can your fans find, follow or friend you?
I have a Facebook page. They can look for Cyrus Keith. They can also contact me through my publisher's website, museituppublishing.com. There's also a reader's Yahoo! Group they can join, and meet other Muse It Up authors as well. We all love to have personal contact with our readers, and we'll be glad to hear from you!
Thanks again for having me as a guest, Charlie. I enjoyed this immensely.
Thank you for joining us today, Cyrus.