I very much enjoyed Peter Cawdron‘s contribution to FROM THE INDIE SIDE, and I say this while acknowledging that the story did not immediately pull me in. Yet, after a page or two I could not put the story down. The first time I read it, I set out to read a couple of pages and crash for the night; I had just run a good collection of miles. I was beat, but I couldn’t. THE MAN WHO REMEMBERED TODAY that good. Honestly, it made me want to hear this anthology as an audio collection similar to METAtropolis.
I really enjoyed Peter’s story and I also enjoyed working with him to create this interview. Dig in, you will too. And when you’re done, go pick up a copy. These stories are that good, you’ll lose sleep.
MT I really enjoyed THE MAN WHO REMEMBERED TODAY. Kareem became a hero because of circumstance not because of amazing prodigy. It was equal parts crime story and temporal switch, and while I never really understood what was happening to our hero’s memory, I didn’t have to suspend my disbelief to be convinced. Where did you find the inspiration for this compelling short?
PC Yeah, that’s the nice thing about short stories, not every detail needs to be supplied, some can be left for the reader to ponder. In this case, why Kareem remembers the future is never explained, but the implication is that he’s wrapped up in the fate of his brother.
Racial profiling is a big deal in our society, and not just for law enforcement. We make all sorts of judgement about people based on appearance without an iota of reason behind our conclusions. Often, these attitudes are subconscious and we don’t realize we’re pigeonholing people based on their race, their gender, etc. And that got me thinking about how awful it would be for someone to be caught up in a dragnet. I liked the quandary the story posed — that Kareem has knowledge of future events, is entirely innocent, but is powerless to get anyone to believe him.
MT The ending to THE MAN WHO REMEMBERED TODAY made me think that this might be the first installation in a series. Do you have plans to develop Kareem and Deb? If so what can you tell us about them.
PC I’m tempted. It really depends on how much readers warm to the story. If there’s interest in a sequel, I’d love to write one and so deliberately left the ending open for that reason. And besides, stories have ends, but life goes on. I wanted to show that our glimpse into their day was just one chapter of the larger story that is their lives.
MT How did you become involved in the FROM THE INDIE SIDE project?
PC I was a late substitute, the guy called off the bench at the last minute. Jason Gurley reached out to me and asked me if I had any stories lying around that might suit an anthology. I didn’t, so I started hammering the keyboard. I’m glad he asked or this story would never have seen the light of day.
MT THE MAN WHO REMEMBERED TODAY seems like a bit of genre departure for you, compared to your bibliography. It is less classic science fiction and more speculative. Are you branching out?
PC Good writers challenge themselves. When choosing a story, I look for something that is both interesting to me from an exploratory perspective and technically challenging in one way or another. My latest novel, FEEDBACK was written largely because the storyline is so audacious I wanted to see if I could actually pull it off. I think I did, but I guess you’ll have to check the reader reviews to see if they agree. When it came to THE MAN WHO REMEMBERED TODAY, it was the challenge of not taking the easy path. I wanted to avoid the tried and tested scifi I love and dabble. Oh, and I loved the title. It’s anachronistic throwback to the pulp stories of the 50s, which hooked me right into the project.
MT I am very interested in the tools and processes other writers use to create their works. In THE MAN WHO REMEMBERS TODAY you have a impressive collection of action scenes. These are notoriously difficult scenes to write, especially with detail and clarity and you pulled them off well. How do you treat scenes like this? Do you use any special tools or techniques when writing action?
PC Normally, I’d do a mind map of a story, but with this story I couldn’t help but dive right in. When editing, though, I listen to my stories read back to me by the computer. By involving two senses while revising (sight and sound) I find I can get a good feel for the rhythm of a story.
MT In the afterword to your story you talk about the value of short fiction. And about how it has inspired some excellent movie productions. I usually dislike most film productions based on a novel length books, finding that the screen writers, directors, and editors necessarily need to chop up a perfectly good story in order to cram it into a watchable movie length. It occurs to me that short form may actually lend itself to this sort of transformation much better. Do you think this is true? If so, explain why, for instance, short fiction like Philip K Dick’s THE MINORITY REPORT makes a better film.
PC Novels establish character by peering inside the mind of a protagonist, which is something no movie can ever do. As much as I love watching a good movie, even with all their special effects they can never achieve the level of immersion you find in a novel. If stories are an iceberg, then the movie is all you see above the waterline, while the book is everything in the depths below. I think short stories and novellas work better as movies precisely because they’re a closer match. Like movies, they don’t have time to establish character familiarity and rely on interactions to reveal subtleties.
MT Was THE MAN WHO REMEMBERS TODAY something you had sitting in a drawer or did you write if specifically for the FROM THE INDIE SIDE anthology.
PC It was a vague what-if idea in the back of my mind that would have never been written outside of an anthology. Having written it, though, I’m now more interested in the short story format. Ideas are easy, execution is hard. The nice thing about a short story is the execution of the idea is that little bit easier. I look at what Jason Gurley has done with his short stories THE CARETAKER and THE DARK AGE and I’m inspired to write more in this manner. Being part of FROM THE INDIE SIDE has shown me that high-quality short stories are every bit as important as full length novels.
MT In the Forward to FROM THE INDIE SIDE Hugh Howey makes a very compelling case for being an independent author. He writes, “Just think about how many other adventures await, how many unknown authors are out there, fully independent, bending the rules while creating something extraordinary and new.” As an independent author myself I’m convinced, but I want to know if you would offer Indies advice about what they can do to reach those readers? You seemed to have figured out the ins and outs of discoverability.
PC Oh, I don’t know that I’ve been discovered just yet. Indie writing is tough. You’ve got to be incredibly patient. It’s a slow, long hill to climb, but writers are not in competition with each other. We’re in competition with Candy Crush and Facebook, reality television and movies. I smile whenever someone says they couldn’t put a book down because it means reading was more important to them than a dozen other distractions. Reading is chicken soup for the soul.
How does an upcoming author get discovered? By respecting the reader. Books are cheap. Even at fifty bucks a copy, a book’s financial cost is pittance. The real cost is the reader’s time. I try to never lose sight of that.
Writing a novel is relatively easy if you stick with it. Getting someone to read your novel, that’s the challenge. The only way to get read by a broad variety of people is by showing the utmost respect for your readers, by refining and revising, and that’s something I’ve found takes time and growth in maturity. With half a dozen books to my name, I feel like I’m only just learning to write.
It takes time and exposure to grow as a writer so get something out there. Polish your work. Get involved in writing workshops. Refine, revise and edit. Personally, I’m growing from one paragraph to the next.
MT Does music influence you while you write? You’ve got a list of favorites on your web site and I’m wondering if you crank up U2 or Dire Straits when you sit down and bang out the next chapter.
PC I write to all sorts of music, from Norah Jones to David Bowie, John Mayer to INXS and, as you note, U2 and Dire Straits. I don’t know that it influences what I write, but I deeply appreciate music with a heartfelt message. Chasing pirates by Norah Jones, as an example, is a song about a book she was reading that kept her up all night. I’d love to know the title of that book, and would like to imagine my writing can be just as inspiring.
MT I take it you have a day job. A commute. You have a family that requires your attention too. The standard twenty-first century responsibility package. How do you make time for writing? Does your writing space reflect this?
PC Yes, I work for a company that conducts performance tests of computer applications. I have a 45 minute commute each way, and I’m torn between Twitter, Facebook and reading books while on the bus. I’m a reader wrestling with the same demands and distractions as everyone else. Reality TV was the best thing that ever happened to my writing career, driving me away from the television. Once the kids are in bed, I’ll try to get in anywhere from 60-90 minutes writing. My wife is very long-suffering in this regard, as she knows how much I enjoy getting lost in a fictional universe.
Thank you for your interest in my writing and all the best in your writing career.