Hi Russ! Thank you for taking time out of you busy day to do the interview.
M: Now, I’ve read and reviewed your debut novel, Finders Keepers (HERE if you haven’t read it). But can you tell us a quick glimpse of what the book is about, for those who haven’t read my review?
RC: Finders Keepers is loosely based on backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar that contains the Universe's DNA. ... Yep. That's right. I said it. The Universe's DNA. Ha!
But theatrics aside, at it's heart, Finders Keepers is a character-driven buddy story about two very distinct, but decent guys in their early twenties -- Jason Medley, a sheltered worrier from the New York Suburbs; Theo Barnes, an adventurous risk-taker from Auckland, New Zealand -- trying to figure themselves out. In their distinct ways they're both caught in that netherworld between college and a career -- too old to be a student, but not ready to be a "grown up." So for different reasons they backpack across Europe. Of course, all sorts of mayhem ensues -- girls, hash bars, hangovers, train rides, bizarre strangers coming and going -- with what I call some "cosmic lunacy" mixed in for good measure.
M: I have to say I love the cover! It is a wrap around from the front to the back. It has a great comic feel to it. Which for me the story had a comical feel as well.
RC: Thanks! The cover was a blast to create. The artist is Rich Koslowski (www.richkoslowski.com), an award-winning comic book writer and artist -- and the publisher of Finders Keepers. He produces his own line of comic books, plus he is a licensed artist for The Family Guy and The Simpsons, and has done a lot of work for Archie Comics and Marvel. We worked on the cover for several months to ensure that the visuals captured the adventurous spirit of the novel. The basic cover concept -- and that great wrap around -- was all Rich's idea. It came out great.
M: Where did the idea for the story come from?
RC: I KNEW you were going to ask me that! It's actually a long story with several layers to it, but the short version is ... for my last semester of college I studied abroad, in England, at Manchester Metropolitan University. The month prior to that, I backpacked across Europe. My college career was coming to an end, so it was sort of a last hurrah for that period in my life. I'd really not been anywhere of note until then ... but whoa! I caught the travel bug! After that trip, I traveled across the U.S. a few times, moved to Tempe, Arizona for a short stint, and spent a few weeks in New Zealand (plus a few return trips to Europe). I wanted to capture those experiences -- or at least their essence -- in a narrative.
Separately, I was tinkering with a light-hearted sci-fi/fantasy concept, just for giggles, and the pieces -- the backpacking trips and the "cosmic lunacy" -- came together quite nicely.
M: The story is told from a fun side and a sense of humor. But I get the feel there are a few morals here to be passed on. Did you use that idea in writing the story?
RC: Well, I wouldn't say "morals," per se, but there is a lot of philosophy, mythology and spirituality embedded within the narrative. On the surface, Finders Keepers is a popcorn book. Adventure, travel, sex, love, humor. It's meant to be fun and funny. A beach book. Just a good time romp. But there's subtext. About loyalty, about friendship. I also like to ask the big questions. Is there a god? Is it all random? Or is there a grand design to the Universe? Plus, you know ... what REALLY happened to the dinosaurs?!
Whether from modern day Earth or the galactic realm of Eternity, I like characters to have their beliefs challenged, confronted and tested, and then put those characters in a position to make difficult choices -- yet in many absurd situations. I spent quite a bit of time arguing -- with myself! -- about what I wanted the characters to think, do and say in regard to how they viewed their place in Universe and whether their beliefs matched their realities. But I don't like to preach. I find that the grandiose questions are more fun to play around with when they're wrapped up with comedy.
M: Do you have any favorite characters in here?
RC: Ooh, that's always a tough one. I relate to elements of every character, and I don't know that I have a favorite, but Lex was really fun to write, both as a person and a dog! I get a lot of compliments about Lex. And I'm a big fan of Danielle. She's outspoken and sassy, but also fiercely loyal to her husband. I also have a soft spot for Theo's mother. She's the rock of that family. Very quiet, very patient. If not for her, I'm not sure her husband or sons would have had the freedom to find their way. I admire her resiliency. Plus Ira (the dolphin) and Howard (the whale). They crack me up!
M: I enjoyed Hank and Brigsby. I even get the idea that they might be related some how… ;)
RC: I'll let that comment just hang out there!
M: And you have Character Illustrations! This really has brought the characters to life for me. You really seem to have fun with this cast of characters. Did you do these yourself?
RC: Oh, lord no! I am probably the worst. Artist. Ever. Seriously. Can't draw a straight line with a ruler. I'm that bad. I do words.
But I'm glad you responded so positively to the character illustrations. That's always nice to hear. Though the illustrations are separate from the novel itself, I was looking for another way to promote Finders Keepers, so I placed an ad on Craigslist for artists. I had many responses, and ultimately selected Michael Lunsford, who at the time had recently graduated from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. He did a terrific job with them. When you see them on my Web site (http://bit.ly/dLp4Ok), we included the character image on the front, and then their key "stats" on the back, kind of like the back of a baseball card. I'm hoping to do a bit more with them soon.
M: I think a little birdie told me you are working on another book set with this same world. Is that so? Can you share any tidbits on that book with us?
RC: Oh, the little birdies do like to chirp! Finders Keepers is a stand alone novel, so it holds up as a singular adventure. But my plan is to write two more novels in the series. I have the sequel mapped out, and a nice outline for the third book. After that, the adventure with the core characters -- particularly Jason Medley and Theo Barnes -- will be resolved. After that, if there's enough demand, I may give some of the secondary characters their own spin-off adventures. If all goes well, I'll be writing Finders Keepers novels for a long, long time.
M: You have two settings here in the book. There is here on Earth and then there’s Eternity. I enjoyed the magical feel of Eternity. Could we possibly see more of Eternity?
RC: That's a very distinct possibility!
M: You have to have crazy days! Two dogs to walk, work, a home life (wife & TWINS - congrats by the way) and you still find time to write and do conventions. What do you dream about when you finally fall asleep? Baseball? Talking dogs? …
RC: I actually only have one dog -- Simon -- and 9 month-old twins, Nate and Abby. I love being a Dad. It's amazing. They crack me up. Abby is pretty much set on ruling all of Metropolis with wide-eyed enthusiasm, and Nate is just naturally funny. He likes to chill out -- and giggle. As for my dreams, I don't remember them too often, but when I do, it's usually several days in a row, and they're pretty strange. And I often have different sets of recurring dreams. It's been said that every character in your dream is actually you in different forms. I believe very strongly that we are connected both to ourselves and to the fabric of the Universe, and that everything we need to know is in the either. We just need to find ways to relax, and connect with it. Our dreams are one way to do that. Carl Jung talks about this quite a bit. He's one of my heroes. His works continue to have a tremendous influence on me, both personally and in my writing.
M: Are there any questions out there that you wanted to be asked and never was? If so, would you like to answer it today?
RC: Wow. Awesome question. Let's see ... um ... if your super villain foe wanted to completely disable you, what would be the most effective tactic? Complete this sentence. _____ is to you what Kryptonite is to Superman?
My friends all think I'm a wackadoodle on this one -- they LOVE to bust my balls about it -- but force me to eat liver, tomatoes and cooked mushrooms, and you'd have a very good chance of driving me clinically insane! It's not that I hate tomatoes. I HAAAAAAATE tomatoes. Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em. George Carlin used to do this great bit on tomatoes, about how on the outside they are so round and smooth and look gorgeous (and they do!), but on the inside it's like the stringy goo from the end of an egg! Totally! The texture and flavor skeeve me out. But grind them down to a paste, add some garlic, salt and oregano, and it's delicious. I love pasta sauce. I love pizza. I love ketchup. But raw tomatoes or cooked tomato chunks? Ahhhh!
I'm also skeeved out by cooked mushrooms, which to me are the cooked vegetable version of liver. Uuhhhhhhhhh (that's me shuddering, Homer Simpson style)
M: Do you have a favorite line in the book?
RC: You really like to make a guy play favorites, don't you?! Hmm ... well, there are a few passages I connect with in particular, so I'll share one. It's toward the earlier part of the novel, when Jason Medley is just getting started in Europe, and he meets Lilly, in Rome, and he's hooked. Big time. But he's not quite the ladies man, either. Not a dunce, but not a closer. So they have dinner, share a bottle of wine, and then head back to the hostel, where they're both staying in the same communal room, but in separate bunks. Here's how Jason handles it:
Yet in his wine haze, on his back, Jason stared only at Lilly. And in a flash, in a blast of utter genius, it came to him. He had a plan. A wonderful drunken plan.
As part of this plan, he would wander down to the Termini train station, find a florist and buy Lilly roses—big, red roses. Then, under the cover of night, he would slip back into the hostel undetected, tiptoe into the room and leave the flowers on her pillow, his heart detonating against his chest.
As part of the plan, Lilly would awaken the next morning with the roses by her side, the sun beaming in through the balcony window. And with the sun on her face she would smell the roses and know they were from Jason. That he had thought of her. That his desire was pure. And her heart would swell, watching him sleep, touched by his romantic spontaneity. And when he woke they would embrace, the beginning of their glorious new beginning together.
Jason loved this plan. He really did. He loved it so much, in fact, that just before passing out, he almost ran out and did it.
M: One question I like to ask on my interviews… If you could travel any where in the world, where would you like to go?
RC: That's easy. Antarctica. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to do it, but I'm totally serious about it. I can't imagine that any experience could equal going there. I want to get me some frozen tundra! Hookah Chockah! I actually have another favorite destination ... but I can't share. It just might end up in the next Finders Keepers sequel, and I don't want to spoil the surprise. ...
M: Thank you for the interview Russ! I do appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day for us here at My World…in words and pages. I wish you all the best in words and pages.
Russ has be kind enough to offer 2, yes 2 copies of Finders Keepers to two lucky commenters!
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~~ Giveaway ends Monday May 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm EST