Category: Almost Home Novel
Saturday Show #52: The Cloak by Isak Dinesen (Secretly Known as Karen Blixen) + A Secret History of the American Crash by Gonzalo Lira
Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)
A Secret History of the American Crash by Gonzalo Lira
Jean Baudrillard as the High Priest of Postmodernism
Almost Home: The New Paltz Novel by Frank Marcopolos
The Whirligig: 6 Years of a Lit Mag, Edited by Frank Marcopolos
The Machinist, starring a scary Christian Bale
South by Southwest
Real Writers Fiction-Writing Workshop Meetup in Austin, TX
The contract that Mr. Lira makes with the reader at the start of this novel is this: fasten your seatbelt. He then proceeds to deliver on this contract throughout the narrative. The early relentless action, however, is connected by a plot that is believable, intimate, and yet somehow fantastical. To my mind, this is one of the greatest achievements of the novel.
One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is just how real all of the details feel. Phrases like “zipping mushrooms,” “Skunkworks,” and “poop” significantly enhance the narrative. The plot revolves around a covert operations work-group called “Acrobat,” which takes the reader inside the walls of the CIA as this workgroup prepares for and executes covert ops. I don’t know if the details are actually realistic or not, but they certainly feel that way.
A very fun novel. Highly recommended.
Gonzalo Lira has a new novel coming out in February about a band of underground historians who are persecuted as “Information Terrorists” by the DHS and the Clinton Administration. Click here to find out more about it.
Gonzalo was nice enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Here’s the result:
1) Gonzalo, You’re widely known as a financial expert. So, how is it that you were able to also develop into an excellent fiction writer? Are you some kind of Renaissance Man Super-Genius?
“Super-genius”? Hardly. I just like exploring new horizons. I got into writing novels after college because it was fun. Then I went into writing, producing and directing movies because that was fun too. Looking for money to make movies led me into the world of private equity and venture capital; it helped that I had a family background in finance and economics. Then when the 2008 Global Financial Crisis hit, I started researching things in order to understand them better, then writing about it—and suddenly, I found an audience who was interested in what I had to say. So from the outside, my different stages might seem random, but from where I’m sitting, they were each a natural evolution from previous stages. Now, with my new novel, A Secret History of The American Crash, I’m combining two things I love: Action writing, and macro-economics.
2) “Acrobat” is a high-speed thriller about a covert CIA workgroup. How much research did you do in order to get the details right in this novel?
Research helps, but imagination is the key—and writing believable characters.
3) Do you have personal experiences with the CIA that helped inform that narrative?
Personal CIA experience? If I say yes, I sound like a jerk, if I say no, I sound like I’m lying. So …
4) The book reads like a fast-paced, big budget action movie. Have you gotten any interest from Hollywood?
Yes, Acrobat sold to Miramax, bought for Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack’s propduction company. But as those two gentlemen have died, I think the project is in infamous “turnaround”. Meaning Disney (which currently owns the movie rights) wants someone to take it off their hands. I actually wrote a script for the book. It would be fun to make that project happen. We’ll see.
5) One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the amazing specificity of the details you used. How much emphasis did you put on getting all those details right, and how important do you think they are in how the book “feels” as the reader takes in the narrative?
Interestingly, details in a book are like spices in a meal: Too much is overwhelming, you have to put in just enough to tantalize and spark the imagination, but not so much that it smothers everything.
6) What were you trying to accomplish with the novel, and do you feel it was successful?
In the novel, I wanted to write something fast, fun and surprising—which I think the book does quite well. But in a movie, I’d like to explore the theme of betrayal more. It was only after finishing the novel that I realized that the Acrobat work-group feel that their principles were betrayed by the CIA. That’s something I think i didn’t emphasize enough, didn’t realize that clearly when I wrote the book. Now, with some maturity and distance, I realize what the book is about: Betrayal. Betrayal of principles, betrayal by the organization towards its members.
If a movie ever gets made of the book, and I write and direct it, I’d emphasize the aspect of betrayal. And of course, cool action sequences. (Of course!)
7) What’s next for you? Any plans for new novels?
Like I said, my next project is A Secret History of The American Crash. I’m very excited about it, I think it’s something people will enjoy, and which will make them think. I expect to have that done in a couple of months, and then release it as an ebook before looking for a print publisher. If people want to check out excerpts from it, they should go to my blog.
Relevant links and show notes:
A-Fraud ‘Roids His Way to Biggest Suspension Ever
“Nirvana” by Adam Johnson
“The Many Lives [and Lies?] of Alex Rodriguez” by Selena Roberts
“Juiced” by Jose Canseco
“Find the Bad Guy” by Jeffrey Eugenides
Audio player above uses Flash. Here is the iTunes.com link. There is also a Stitcher audio player on the top-right.
Saturday Show #16 Topics:
– “Midnight in Paris” — themes, characters, Owen Wilson
– The “weight” of scenes
– Narrative flow
– “The Contest” by Grace Paley
One thing that I find fascinating is the interplay between stories and their real, definitive impact on peoples’ lives. One example of this is with the story “Teddy” by J.D. Salinger. Listen to the story here:
Or buy “Nine Stories” on Amazon.com “Teddy” is the final, or curtain-closing, story in that fine collection.
I’m specifically thinking about the “debate” part of the story, which is a conversation between the 10-year-old genius, Teddy, and an Ivy League blow-hard named Nicholson. (Nickel Son, Son of Money.) In it, Teddy explains, with religious overtones and imagery, how perceived reality (through the 5 senses) is not reality at all, and how this truth was revealed to him by his spiritual practices.
Okay, interesting and fair enough.
But what makes this even more compelling and intriguing is that recent discoveries in the fields of quantum physics, epigenetics, morphogenetics, and the connection between beliefs and physical “reality” are basically confirming, scientifically, what Teddy was arguing for religiously way back in 1955.
For an in-depth and layman-oriented discussion of these advanced topics, listen to this interview by Joe Rogan with Dr. Amit Gotswami, a nuclear physicist:
It seems to me that this is a prime example of the power and importance of stories–short stories, novels, even movies, and well-done television. Maybe a return to an understanding of this power, to an expectation of it from our author/creator community, is what is needed to help us comprehend the complexities of the world around us. In that kind of comprehension comes a new, bigger context from which we can then operate in our world in a more secure, happy fashion. Confusion on a subconscious level breeds violence and unhappiness, after all, and when people are unhappy, the world becomes a more depressing place in which to live.
Also, perhaps we should re-examine those classic tales–those in the public domain and others–as things that are not just a product of a bygone era, but keys to illuminating the true nature and destiny of humankind.
Or maybe we should forget all this brain-busting mumbo-jumbo and go watch the latest Kardashian “reality” show.
Grab my novel, ALMOST HOME, at one of these cool e-tailers:
I started reading “Almost Home” by Frank Marcopolos under the assumption that it would be a very sports centric novel and was therefore surprised to find out that it was actually much more than this. The plot has several twists and turns and explores the overall drama of college life with particular attention being paid to the more seedy aspects.
The novel follows the conflict between two protagonists, Barry Budski and Enzo Prinziatta which occurs from the moment they meet at a Halloween Frat party. Things get worse at the part when a stripper appears to die from a drug overdose and Enzo is thrown out by a few of Barry’s fraternity brothers. Barry, who is president of the Frat house soon realises that he should try and keep his potential enemies closer and therefore joins the same baseball team as Enzo and even invites him to be a honourary fraternity brother. Before long the two of them are more or less working together but there is still a level of conflict that continues to bubble along beneath the surface, enhanced by the involvement of two women named Jenny & Shannon.
I found the book to be cleverly written, fast paced and interesting in the way it explored multiple elements of University life, from the wild parties to life in the dorms. I also appreciated how Marcopolos gives the readers a narrative that alternates between the viewpoints of both Barry and Enzo. This alternating viewpoint ensured that I could attempt to understand the way in which the characters were acting to the point that at times I couldn’t actually decide if I actually liked or disliked them. There really was no good or bad guys in the story, these were meant to be characters with both negative and positive aspects which I enjoyed seeing.
However, I did have some issues with the characters and that was in regards to their maturity. I will admit it was 10 years since I was at University myself and it was based in the UK but I don’t remember myself or my friends acting in such an immature manner. Maybe I am misremembering it as being much more highbrow that it really was or perhaps my friends and I were not the norm but either way it ensured that I struggled to really relate with the characters as much as I wanted to.
Overall, this was an interesting book and I enjoyed seeing characters in both a positive and negative light even if I did feel that they were a little bit immature for University students. Personally, I suspect this book will appeal to people in their mid-teens as that is the age group of people I think who would really relate with the characters and perhaps therefore gain more from reading it.
(c) 2013, Really Evil Corporation (REC). All rights reserved. “The fat man, he controls everything.”TESTING
As part of a clever, clever marketing ploy to tease you into wanting to buy ALMOST HOME, I’ve provided an audio version of the first chapter above. I am so dang clever it hurts. It hurts every part of my body. TMI, I know.
What’s the theme of ALMOST HOME? Why should I care about it?
ALMOST HOME does an audacious thing. It takes you on a thrill-ride of a story in order to highjack your emotions. It does this so that you may feel like the main character, may go on this thrill-ride with/as him. And the goal is that by the end of the story you’ve come to realize (through the vicarious adventure) something new, exciting, and life-changing.
Well, I told you it was audacious. And whether or not the novel meets this ambitious, audacious goal is entirely up to you.TESTING
Even worse, you’re being laughed at behind your back.
“The knowledge of how to build a nest in a bare tree, how to fly to the wintering place, how to perform the mating dance—all of this information is stored in the reservoirs of the bird’s instinctual brain. But human beings, sensing how much flexibility they might need in meeting new situations, decided to store this sort of knowledge outside the instinctual system; they stored it in STORIES. Stories, then…amount to a reservoir where we keep new ways of responding that we can adopt when the conventional and current ways wear out.” ~ Robert Bly
The secret structure of human relations is revealed by Dr. Paul Dobransky in his groundbreaking work on the “Operating System” of the human mind. [More info here: http://amzn.to/Ro1Oj2 and here: http://www.menspsychology.com/courses/migrowth] As outlined by Dr. Dobransky, people fall into one of four types of temperaments, labeled King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. Unlike other theories such as Myers-Briggs, Dr. Dobransky’s system allows for human growth, evolutionary development, and the effects of the decisions of free will over time. Meaning, you can determine EXACTLY how well-balanced (or not) you are.
As a disciple of Dr. Dobransky, I have taken this groundbreaking theory and applied it to a fictional setting. Since the system is designed to reveal the exact workings of human “character,” it only makes sense to apply it to fictional characters in a story designed to influence the destiny of the reader. After all, as pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus first pointed out, “Character is destiny.”
So, with that as a backdrop, what are some of the themes addressed in ALMOST HOME? They include the following:
– How should you conduct yourself in the face of enormous challenges?
– What is the superior way of dealing with, and vanquishing, our foes?
– What is the one sure-fire way to eliminate failure?
– In our evolution through adolescence, what is the optimal way to transition from youth to adulthood?
And, of course, in terms of style, the novel is written in a fun, emotionally-engaging way that turbo-drives the narrative forward. It combines the techniques of Dwight Swain with the witty humor J.D. Salinger to create a powerful, resonant story—the only sure-fire method humankind has ever created to make life-changing concepts take root in your mind.
And you get all of this in ALMOST HOME for less than a Starbucks coffee. Download it now.
“We are still beginners in the labor of learning how to live. We really don’t know what we are doing.” ~ Robert BlyTESTING