Friday, February 29, 2008

One on One with Scott Cherney (Literally)-Part Two

Continuing with the first bloggerview (interview blog, whatever) with Scott Cherney, author of the brand spanking new novel, RED ASPHALT.

(Available at

ETC: You mentioned that Calvin (the main character of RED ASPHALT) believes he has a great gift to give to the world. What might this great gift be?

SCOTT CHERNEY: Calvin is under the impression that he could very well be the next George Lucas. He has been working on a novel for almost a decade, one that considers has the potential to explode into a major phenomenon with unlimited franchise potential. He's so convinced of its success that he is staking his entire life on it, pretty to the exclusion of everything else.

ETC: Sounds like a "do-or-die" situation.

SC: As a matter of fact, it is, in more ways than one. The book becomes an all-consuming obsession for him. It's a romantic notion to say quote yet another movie because that's what I do...there's a line in a great film witten and directed by John Milius called THE WIND AND THE LION when Sean Connery says "Is there not one thing in your life that is worth losing everything for?" Being a romantic, I understand that. So does Calvin. His "one thing" is his book. But just because it's romantic doesn't make it any less impractical.

ETC: What is the name of this magnum opus in question?

SC: Say what?

ETC: What's this here book he's a'writin'?

SC: It's called ABRACADABRA, a massive, colossal fantasy epic that mashes sword and sorcery together with science fiction and world history into one big ass casserole. ABRACADABRA is an old concept of my very own that goes back to the late 1970s. Just like so many pieces I've worked on over the years, it sat in storage ready to be shit-canned, but I ended up saving it by sticking it into RED ASPHALT when I turned Calvin into a writer. I'm really pleased that I gave
ABRACADABRA one last chance because it ended up taking on a life all of its own. It also ended up being an integral part of the main story.

ETC: How so?

SC: At one point, Calvin says, "Without magic, life is nothing." Later on, he's convinced that there is no real magic, only tricks we play on ourselves. Abracadabra. It's also a better title than PRESTO CHANGE-O.

ETC: Is he right?

SC: There is no right or wrong. It depends on your perspective. I don't want to get into a debate about faith vs logic. Again, I'm a romantic. I think miracles can happen and that's not religious dogma, just goofy optimism, something I tend to balance with bitter cynicism. It makes a nice cocktail, don't you think? On the other hand, Calvin feels duped, especially by himself. When he realizes what his delusions have cost him, he thinks it was all just a trick. There's a big difference between delusions and imagination. Calvin doesn't realize that until it's too late.

ETC: How does a "big ass casserole" taste?

SC: With the right ingredients, not too shabby. If you cook it right, it hardly has a trace of ass.

ETC: It sounds yummy. Is Calvin a good cook?

SC: You mean a good writer? He could be. He has a lot of good ideas, but he's never completed anything, nor has he shown any of his work to anybody. He tells his wife about the book. He even discusses its progress with her. But he's never shown any of it. He wants to wait until until it's finished and it may never be done. ABRACADABRA represents a sanctuary for Calvin. He's safe when he's working on it. Since he's been beginning lose a few marbles, it's always been there for him. Once it's done, he'll have nothing else, nowhere else to go. He'll have to deal with the reality of getting the damn thing published and therefore, out of his control. He wants to succeed, but only on his own terms and it don't work like that. Somebody's going to have to read the damn thing eventually. It keeps it to himself, how will he ever succeed? Does it make ABRACADABRA a book at all? It's that hoary old cliche of the tree that falls in the forest making a sound or not.But that's not even Calvin's biggest problem. Time's a wastin' and he damn well knows it.

ETC: What does that mean?

SC: He's been working on ABRACADABRA for so long that it's starting to fade away from him and he knows that. He hasn't even begun to assemble a workable first draft, opting to just work out the story details first. After seven years, it's getting tired before he's even begun. Time is constant. It doesn't stop for anything. It's certainly not going to wait for Calvin or anyone else for that matter. Time is big theme in RED ASPHALT-the lack of time, time running out, the passage of time, no time, overtime and, like I just said, wasting time. I guess it all boils down to mortality. But with writing, as time zips on past, there's always that possibility that the wonderful idea you have been slaving on for so long will someone else's as well. They may beat you to the punch, even if you came up with that brilliant idea first.

ETC: Explain.

SC: This has happened to me more times than I'd like to admit. My next novel, the one I alluded to earlier, has been my own dream project almost as long as ABRACADABRA was. In that time, I've seen two different things appear on the horizon-one, a movie the other, a TV series. Both derailed my book and forced me to make changes, else it looked like I was ripping them off. The movie was GHOST, the TV show, SIX FEET UNDER. Now that some time has past, I feel confident enough to move ahead.

ETC: This is the second time you've made some connection between you and Calvin

SC: For good reason. I based a lot of Calvin on myself. I've been a lab courier just like Calvin. I also taught traffic school. Calvin lives in the same house where I grew up...I take that back. I lived in the house next door. I'm also a writer with many of the same frustrations and conflicts Calvin has had.

ETC: So RED ASPHALT based on a true story?

SC: Sort of. I prefer "inspired by true events". I took a lot from my own life as inspiration, but it's not a biography. It's not supposed to be. It's a work of fiction. A lot of the people and events are true, but not all. Keep in mind that everyone and everything is seen through Calvin's eyes, a very skewed vision of the world to say the least.

ETC: What's the percentage of fact to fiction?

SC: I'd say about 60/40. That's 60 fact-40 fiction.

ETC: What was your reasoning for doing this?

SC: It's the old chestnut of "write what you know". I actually thought it would be easier. Once I jumped into the deep end of Lake Me, it became a lot more difficult. I began to see the real reason that I had for writing this story to begin with-to exorcise a lot of my personal demons. A lot of this book was written out of pain. Back in the early nineties, when I first conceived of this story, I was on quite a rocky road myself. Much of what I wrote came from a dark place that got even darker once I started digging. I ended up not delving into some of my real issues and instead embellished others in their stead. I didn't begin to see the light until about the middle of the second draft, realizing that this form of cheap therapy was actually working. I used to consider acting a form of therapy, but since I had to put that part of my life on the back burner, I needed another outlet or else I was going to end up a babbling baboon for the rest of my born days.

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