Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Gustavo. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy In the Talons of the Condor or The Schwarzschild Radius, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.
I started writing as a child and have written on an off ever since I was about eighteen. My first novel was about the South Bronx of the early 1970’s when returning Vietnam vets formed huge gangs that warred against one another. Their names don’t do justice to their violence: The Savage Skulls, The Seven Immortals, The Ghetto Brothers, The Latin Kings. These gangs had a thousand, two-thousand, heavily armed, battle-hardened members. I knew some of them. The book landed me a major New York agent, but she never managed to sell the book. It was ultra-violent, and I was toning it down. I may come back to that story some day.
Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?
The Schwarzschild Radius about 20 years ago. Then seven years ago, I decided to revisit it and planned to re-write it in six weeks. I rewrote it 33 times and it took four years, then, another year to get an agent, then another year to get a publisher. You don’t do this for money.
Q: It really does come down to dedication and perseverance, doesn't it? In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?
I find that I am a good plotter. I can create twists that don’t sound like they've been done a thousand times. I did this in The Schwarzschild Radius with the computer hacking and social media elements. On the other hand, I sometimes struggle with dialogue. I’m a quiet person myself and I have to resist the urge to make my characters quiet too.
Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Were there any twists or turns in Olivia and Rachel’s story that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?
I like to make my characters multi-faceted and when I find another facet, bells go off. I enjoyed writing Olivia’s dark, dual life. I gave the priest a missionary background in India where he did a great deal of good. Rachel was a classic fish-out-of-water. A Columbia engineering geek who forces herself to become a stripper and runaway. These facets often surprise me.
Q: You've had quite an interesting career track, from the defense industry to the financial sector, and you've listed worldwide conspiracies as a passion. How much of your life influences your work?
My career hasn't been the font of my creativity, LOL. Engineering and IT are pretty dry subjects in the context of literature and story. I have always been fascinated by conspiracies, beginning with the JFK assassination, General Patton’s “accidental” death, 9-11 and so forth. I believe there are forces that have inordinate influence over events and that politicians are just puppets. As someone once said, politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. The powers that be don’t put up with poetry.
Q: I like that last line! When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?
I’d like to say that I write for my own satisfaction, but the fact is that my heroine in The Schwarzschild Radius was originally going to be fourteen- years-old. I was told by an editor that I’d have a hard time finding an agent who would handle a story where an underage kid is engaged in so much adult activity. So I had to make Rachel eighteen. I have to give a lot of credit to Vladimir Nabokov for writing Lolita in the 1950’s.
Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?
I have a scene in The Schwarzschild Radius where a diabetic character goes into ketoacidosis because she’s run out of insulin. A couple of readers who have diabetic kids jumped on me, accusing me of not being accurate and 90% of their review featured their knowledge of diabetes.
Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?
Thomas Wolfe set the bar. Look Homeward, Angel, is the furthest thing from a thriller but Wolfe’s prose is so beautiful that the suspense was, “What is he going to do with the language next?” Then Frederick Forsythe wrote The Day of the Jackal, which was both literary and suspenseful. I so love Shakespeare and Byron and Shelley that I always have them in my peripheral vision when I write.
Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next?
I’m writing a political thriller that starts out as a murder mystery then expands from there to encompass larger and larger conspiracies. It’s a relief that I don’t have to work with the constraint of a 110-pound, eighteen-year-old female protagonist. It’s easier when your hero is ex-special forces. In fact, the hero of my next novel is John McKenna, the detective in The Schwarzschild Radius. He’s a former sniper and gives me a lot to work with.
About the Author
WUACADEMIA--Prix d'Or Best Novel
The Verb First Chapter Contest--First Prize
Mount Arrowsmith Best Novel 4th place
The Writing Show--Second Prize best first chapter of a novel.
Second Prize--16th Annual International Latino Book Awards
About the Book
The Schwarzschild Radius by Gustavo Florentin
Paperback, 350 pages
Published December 1st 2014 by Ragnarok Publications
Rachel, an 18-year-old Columbia University student descends into the netherworld of runaways and predators to find her sister, Olivia, who has suddenly disappeared. After getting a job in a strip joint where Olivia worked, then doing private shows in the homes of rich clients, Rachel discovers that Olivia has been abducted by a killer who auctions the deaths of young girls in an eBay of agony. As she closes in on the killer who has taken Olivia, Rachel becomes his next target.