Thank you for joining me in the shadows. Pay no attention to that odd silhouette over there. Weird things live here. Where do you hail from?
Tell me about your latest book. What makes it stand out from the crowd?
Forward To Camelot is the story of a young woman from the year 2000 who has the chance to travel back in time and solve the mystery of her own father’s disappearance on the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Once she is back in 1963, she discovers she also has the chance to prevent Kennedy’s assassination and perhaps alter the course of history forever. To accomplish either mission, she must first recruit the unlikely of a courageous ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald.
What sets Forward To Camelot apart is the unique blend of fact and fiction we use to craft our story. The tale begins as a treasure hunt, when Cady Cuyler is recruited to find JFK’s one of a kind Bible, the same Bible used to swear in Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One just hours after Kennedy was killed. We spent almost four years researching the fact and history surrounding that tragic day, and managed to weave it into suspense-filled thriller that gives a reader a very different view into the most memorable day of the 20th century.
Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
I’m currently adapting Forward To Camelot into a screenplay ( it has been optioned for film!) and working on Banners Over Brooklyn, the story of a Little League Baseball umpire who travels back in time to prevent Bobby Thomson’s infamous Shot Heard ‘Round The World Home Run, altering the course of baseball history and keeping his beloved Dodgers forever in Brooklyn.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Most importantly, you can’t do this timidly. You’ll need a very thick skin to survive as a writer and there will be people who tell you they don’t like what you write or it’s not good enough. That’s their problem. You should never write for anyone else’s approval. Write what you love, do it with a passion and commitment that your readers understand and relate to–then they will approve. Writing is as much a commitment as a full time job, so if you’re serious about writing, be serious about the commitment it takes. Every day. If writing isn’t your top priority, you’re not a writer.
How did you deal with rejection letters? Any tips for unpublished writers?
The most successful novel series of all time was rejected over a hundred times by publishers before making it to print. Learn to take your ego out of the equation.
Rejection hurts, if you let it. I used to keep every rejection letter I received in a file, saving them for a day when I could turn to those who’d denied me and yell ‘HAHA! Did it without you (or something a little more vulgar)! Saving those letters gave them power over me. I re-read them. I began to listen to them. I felt I wasn’t good enough, and I stopped writing. The day I had an epiphany and tossed all those letters in the trash, I wrote 13 pages in ONE HOUR. Rejection isn’t personal, it’s merely a piece of paper. Or an email. Don’t try to prove the naysayers wrong, try to prove yourself right.
What tools of the trade are must-haves for you?
Writing is the most simple profession there is. All we need is a pen, a piece of paper, and an imagination. My imagination works 24 hours a day, for good or for bad. I need to see people and experience life, for people are my characters and their stories are my character’s stories. I keep a voice recorder and a note pad with me everywhere I go. If I see something or someone that interests me, I make a note. I people-watch constantly. Observe and report, to yourself. Listen to speech, cadence, tone of people you come across. That is dialogue.
The most helpful book I’ve ever read was Dennis Palumbo’s Writing From The Inside Out. It explores the mentality of the writer and how we trick ourselves into thinking things like ‘writer’s block’ exist, and how to overcome it. I keep that book in my laptop bag and usually pull it out once a week or so.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to research a story?
I’m not sure if its crazy, but I was dedicated! For the first screenplay I ever wrote, I studied Martial Arts, Tae Kwon Do to be specific. I spent two and a half years training in TKD, writing and editing three scripts in that time. After all that time, I was shocked to discover my main instructor was a Film Director. I ended up as part of the production crew on two of his short films. He was the first person to ever give me feedback on my screenplays, comments which I still have more than 20 years later. Today he is one of the ‘new’ voices of Hollywood, having worked with the likes of Chazz Palmintieri and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”).
What do you like to read?
I love thrillers and adventures, especially swashbucklers. Cyrano d’Bergerac is my favorite of all time (and the only role I’ve acted in). Dumas and Cervantes are right up there. Steinbeck and Salinger bore the hell out of me. Among contemporary authors, I love the works of Ryne Pearson and Ryan David Jahn, Neil Gaiman and Nancy Bilyeau. Robert K. Lewis is a friend who’s bringing fresh life to the cops and crime genre.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I don’t know if I have an exact favorite. For reality-based events, war correspondent Richard Tregaskis (Guadalcanal Diary) has no equal. Tregaskis put you in the center of the action, makes you feel like you’re in the middle of whatever battle he’s writing about. In fiction, I’m partial to Hemingway as well as Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall; Mutiny On The Bounty was the first novel to take me away to an exotic land in a thrilling adventure. I’ve had my heart set on going to Tahiti ever since.
Now for the fun questions. Let’s strip away the veil of invisibility. Do you have a day job alongside writing and will you tell us about it?
I have been many things; Emergency Medical Technician, News and Sports Writer, DJ, worked in retail, etc. I have over 20 years experience as a locksmith, which is often a thrilling adventure in its own right. i meet people and see things, not so nice things, that add flavor to my writing. I’ve been in prisons and chemical labs, high security military bases, politicians’ offices. I’ve been shot at and been in the middle of domestic disturbances, and in one case, a husband vs. wife murder plot. Writers used to be exalted, those who lived in ivory towers and weaved magic with the written word. Now, writers in real life among real people prove to be the most altruistic.
If you weren’t a writer, what career might you have chosen?
My first dream was to be a sportscaster, and that’s how I started out. My family’s dream was for me to be a cop, and that almost happened. Police work is my family business. In that regard, I am the black sheep of the family and it broke my mother’s heart when i told her I didn’t want to be a cop. To this day, I am convinced that if I were a cop, I would’ve died in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/2001.
Who is your favorite superhero (or heroine)? Can be from a comic book, movie, novel, cartoon, video game or anywhere else heroes reign.
Oh, dear god, talk about stripping away the veil of invisibility! My favorite heroine is Batgirl, without question. Sure, the red hair and purple spandex outfit was a plus, but the erotic intelligence of a mousy librarian by day, daring crime fighter by night? Sign me up! Batgirl is the ultimate superheroine, who always left more to our imagination as to who she really was or what she could do.
Your favorite book hero?
Cyrano d’Bergerac, definitely (though it is really a play). A writer, man of words, man of swords when needed, always true to himself and his passions, though betrayed by a love unrequited. The most noble of men, brave, passionate, poetic, loyal to a fault, fearful of love and rejection…yes, the ultimate writer.
You finally have an evening free to spend any way you want. Money is no object. Where do you go? What would you do?
Wow, what a question. One evening is not enough, so lets make it a day. Myself and the love of my life (she is NOT wearing the Batgirl outfit. Not yet, anyway) have brunch at the Playwright Tavern in Times Square, take in a Broadway Matinee of West Side Story, then a late-afternoon hockey game at the Garden. We then Learjet it to Vegas for Happy Hour at Margaritaville and a special show by Jimmy Buffett. It’s back on the Lear for a mile-high club extravaganza to Key West (or the Maldives), arriving just in time to hold hands on the white sands as the sun comes up. At the first crack of dawn, I ask her to marry me. She says….?
You’ve been gifted (or cursed) with the ability to shift into another form by a witch. What kind of shifter are you? Why?
I think I become a Panda. Women dig Pandas, like to rub their bellies. There’s nothing as cool as a good belly-rub from a woman with perfect fingernails. Ask any cat or dog, or Panda. Plus, Panda’s usually have cool names with great subtextual meaning, often based in Chinese lore. Pandas are also black and white. I often see life as simply black and white.
Thanks so much for being my guest today! Anything else you’d like to share with my readers? Don’t forget to give us links to your website etc.
I know it’s been said a billion times over, but if you truly love what you do then you never work a day in your life. The day this becomes work is the day I stop doing it. I’m always open to comments and chat from everyone, so PLEASE contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, My website is kvfinnwriter.com and my author page on FB is https://www.facebook.com/authorkvfinn
Enjoy the read!
Forward to Camelot
by Susan Sloate and Kevin Finn
WHERE WERE YOU THE DAY KENNEDY WAS SAVED?
On the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination comes a new edition of the extraordinary time-travel thriller first published in 2003 with a new Afterword from the authors.
On November 22, 1963, just hours after President Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President aboard Air Force One using JFK’s own Bible. Immediately afterward, the Bible disappeared. It has never been recovered. Today, its value would be beyond price.
In the year 2000, actress Cady Cuyler is recruited to return to 1963 for this Bible—while also discovering why her father disappeared in the same city, on the same tragic day. Finding frightening links between them will lead Cady to a far more perilous mission: to somehow prevent the President’s murder, with one unlikely ally: an ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald.
Forward to Camelot: 50th Anniversary Edition brings together an unlikely trio: a gallant president, the young patriot who risks his own life to save him, and the woman who knows their future, who is desperate to save them both.
History CAN be altered …
I felt as though I’d been struck in the face. Here were clear, non-Polaroid photos of my father, in black and white but sharp and full of detail. He was so handsome, I thought, a little surprised. The fuzzy old Polaroids my mother had framed so painstakingly didn’t do him justice. His hair was thick, cropped close to his head and brushed faultlessly, his strong-planed face bare of stubble, his tan—obvious even in black and white—glowing like a movie star’s. His high-bridged nose was as perfect as his beautifully shaped eyebrows and the thick crescent of lashes rimming deep-set eyes—eyes that appeared to be the same gray as my own.
Wow, I thought, but didn’t say it. He looked vibrant, confident, and in control, a man at the top of his game. Yet he had been lost.
It was such a tragedy.
“Where did you get these?”
George shook his head. “We have our sources.” Abruptly, he changed the subject. “Quite a resemblance,” he said quietly, nodding at me.
I looked at the photographs again. While some of my features might resemble his, somehow I felt like the negative of the photograph, with him as the positive. That energy and the sense of firm purpose—I swear I could see it in his face—was missing in my life.
“We don’t look that much alike.”
“That’s debatable. Apparently, though, you share a talent: your father was a devoted amateur actor. He was in acting troupes everywhere that he lived from adolescence onward.”
“He was?” My mother had never told me this.
“Mm. And he was good: great at accents, great at imitating people, great with makeup—he certainly had the looks. Even did Shakespeare with one group.”
“She never told me,” I said slowly. Why not?
I knew I idealized my father, because she had. How often had she told me what a kind and loving man he was, how thrilled at the thought of becoming a father, how solicitous of her… how often had she sighed, when she thought I was out of earshot, “I had everything then”? What she’d been left with—an unborn child and an unknowable future—was a real comedown from what she’d had. I’d always accepted it, because she did try to help me be a part of this family that had never lived together, telling me of the walks they’d taken, the laughing arguments they’d had over my name, their picking out furniture for the nursery she’d never furnished in Dallas, because they were planning to place the order the day after he disappeared…
I shook myself out of my reverie and asked, “What else?”
George gave me a sharp look. “You knew your father was in the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II?”
“Yes, I think so.” I’d heard my mother talking vaguely about this, but because she knew no details, my childish mind had easily jumped to other topics, where she could supply precious pieces of information, and those were the stories I’d demanded over and over: how they met at a coming-out party for one of her friends, how he pursued her through letters (some of which I’d read) until they finally married in 1959, how they’d moved from Connecticut to Miami to Dallas, finally, in 1963. His war service, unknown to my mother and presumably not much discussed between them, interested neither her nor me.
But George surprised me. “Did you know he knew President Kennedy?”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
SUSAN SLOATE is the author of 20 previous books, including the recent bestseller Stealing Fire and Realizing You (with Ron Doades), for which she invented a new genre: the self-help novel. The original 2003 edition of Forward to Camelot became a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in three literary competitions and was optioned by a Hollywood company for film production.
Susan has also written young-adult fiction and non-fiction, including the children’s biography Ray Charles: Find Another Way!, which won the silver medal in the 2007 Children’s Moonbeam Awards. Mysteries Unwrapped: The Secrets of Alcatraz led to her 2009 appearance on the TV series MysteryQuest on The History Channel. Amelia Earhart: Challenging the Skies is a perennial young-adult Amazon bestseller. She has also been a sportswriter and a screenwriter, managed two recent political campaigns and founded an author’s festival in her hometown outside Charleston, SC.
After beginning his career as a television news and sports writer-producer, KEVIN FINN moved on to screenwriting and has authored more than a dozen screenplays. He is a freelance script analyst and has worked for the prestigious American Film Institute Writer’s Workshop Program. He now produces promotional trailers, independent film projects including the 2012 documentary SETTING THE STAGE: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, and local content for Princeton Community Television.
His next novel, Banners Over Brooklyn, will be released in 2014.
For updates and more information about Forward to Camelot: 50th Anniversary Edition, please visit http://susansloate.com/CAMELOT.html.
Susan and Kevin will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during this tour and their Super Book Blast Tour.