Today our guest is Mr Steven Quentin Cumber, a Jersey City guy and the humble author of The Last Pickle Famine:
Who is the main character in “The Last Pickle Famine? Is he a fictional character? Can you describe him?
What inspired you to write this story? What is your key message?
I’m not sure what inspired me to write TLPF. It’s a bucket list thing, for sure. And I suppose that I needed an outlet for all of the crazy thoughts that are racing around in my head at night. If I put them to paper, maybe I get to sleep better and maybe my readers get to enjoy the off-the-wall characters, the dark and mysterious places, the unusual events. In a way, the message of TLPF is about how we handle all of those paralyzing thoughts rattling around in our heads. What do we do with them? How do we live our lives with them there?
I’ve been writing TLPF for 25 years or more and between the writing and the editing I must have read it from cover to cover at least 50 times. Now keep in mind that I’m not someone who is really able to appreciate my own work, but that being said, TLPF still makes me laugh every time I read it. I feel like I discover something new and funny and just so different from what other authors are writing about and just so different from their writing styles. I read my own book like a reader, not like an author and the reader in me wants to ask other readers what they thought, did they laugh, did they get it, how would they review it? As an author I suppose that great reviews would be appreciated, but as a fellow reader a wink, a nod and a smile from someone who sees me reading TLPF on the bus might be equally rewarding.
Which authors’ books do you read? Who/what influences you the most in your writing?
I love certain books written by the likes of Sai Zhenzhu, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, John Steinbeck, J. D. Salinger, Joseph Heller and on and on and on. I really dig a great adventure story with colorful characters, stories that make me feel the hunger, the passion, the pain, the bliss, just like I’m there living the story. This sort of depth of the reader’s involvement is what I strive for when I write, hoping that my readers can live the story with me.
When do you plan to release a second book?
There is a much threatened sequel to TLPF already in the works….and who knows, maybe a prequel. I’d better get moving on it though, since my first book took 25 years to finish and….well, let’s not dwell on how many 25 year periods we have to squander. And besides, in TLPF Steven Quentin Cumber has a certain date in mind for his departure and let’s just say that he has to get busy if he’s going to finish his sequel before then.
See you at the revolution,
Book: the Last Pickle Famine
Author: Steven Quentin Cumber
Who or what inspires you in the development of your main character in your book Sir Laurence Dies?
When I was developing Sir Laurence Dies, I decided early on I needed a quirky detective because I believe those characters, with their own flaws and issues, stand above the average and are remembered for not just their brilliance, but their eccentricity too. I have always been a mystery fan and whilst I’ve read and watched a significant amount, I decided I’d begin with mystery-genre royalty. So I went straight to Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for my primary inspiration.
Doctor Pieter Straay’s personality is developed from an amalgam of the best qualities I found in Christie’s “Hercule Poirot”, Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes”. Rodney David Wingfield’s “Jack Frost”, Edgar Allen Poe’s “Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin” also contributed to the character development, as Poirot and Holmes were both, in my opinion, heavily influenced by Dupin also.
Using Doctor Watson’s method, I wrote a list of the traits I admired most in those characters, good or bad, and wove them into his make-up. I listed habits along with psychological and physical problems. Straay is a child of the First World War. We know a little of his background but there is some mystery surrounding his father and the circumstances of his arrival into England that hasn’t been explored, just hinted at. In Dr. Chandrix Dies – the prequel to Sir Laurence Dies – we learn a little more, but that mystery is woven into the subplot of his character, rather than the narrative, so we are left with more questions than answers.
In a similar way, the development of Chief Inspector Henry Drake came from looking at Inspector Lestrade (Doyle) Chief Inspector James Japp (Christie) and Chief Inspector Jack Frost (Wingfield). It was never my intention to develop two detectives but as I began to develop the story I found I enjoyed the interplay between them. Drake is painstakingly procedural and because of that logical intelligence, he is probably one of the finest detectives at Scotland Yard. Like Straay, Drake has an interesting ambiguity to his background … and in the tradition of Christie and Doyle we find that despite Chief Inspector Henry Drake’s brilliance and his hugely successful career, he is no match for the irritating and pedantic Criminal Psychologist, Doctor Pieter Straay.
How does your background in human behavioural studies and psychology help you in crafting more mysterious plots and develop more exciting traits in the characters of your stories?
Behavioural science is fascinating. I’ve had a unique opportunity in a number of corporations across two countries to study and try to understand people’s actions, by analysing the way they outwardly behave, and thereby assist to either help change or modify those behaviours. I went back to school to learn and develop a greater understanding of the subject, to ensure a higher level of realism in the structure of my narrative tales. I’ve always been a people watcher. If I’m sitting in a bar or in an airport, maybe a Doctor’s office, or supermarket, I find myself making observations … I’m listening in on conversations, trying to determine something about who they are. Snippets of heard or half-heard conversations can often be inspirational, hilarious, and sometimes terrifying at the same time. And in combination with this and news stories of the day, I develop plots that have intricacy and excitement, because they are real.
Which is your favourite best known literary and fictional character? Why
I would have to go with Hercule Poirot. For the reasons I explained before. He is quirky, brilliant, difficult, with his fastidiousness for order and method. Poirot is often described as a walking brain. He is concerned with orderliness, perfectionism and often displays excessive attention to details. He has mental and interpersonal control. When a case takes him he indulges in intricate rituals to the point of excluding friendships. The character of Poirot exhibits a strong indication of an obsessive compulsive personality disorder, I’m not sure if that was Christie’s original intention, but it’s inspired.
Being an author of mystery and fantasy, what has been the most unsettling or unconventional plot you have ever read? Who wrote it?
I think the most unsettling plot I ever read was the one for the series Torchwood – Children of Earth, written by Russel T. Davies, John Fay, and James Moran. A spin off of the hugely popular British show, Doctor Who, the story revolves around a group of aliens who come to Earth and demand that 10% of all the children on the planet be handed over or they’ll destroy the world. Without giving too much away, the focus is not on special effects or technobabble, but on a real human-level, with focus on the seriousness of political decision makers and those who serve in the Civil Service, remaining once a Government changes. We get to experience what it must be like to have made poor decisions leading to choices and sacrifices made because of them. The story takes us on journey of mixed morals. It’s relentless. It’s emotionally charged and we get to observe debates of officials justifying the actions that must follow … but in the background are the elected men and women, who are the ones who must make the difficult decisions, and it’s all behind closed-doors. We can only sit back in horror as they come up with the justifications they need to decide which 10% should be sacrificed.
Don’t get me wrong – it was well written – but it bothered me for a long time afterwards. I still have not been able to re-watch it.
For the most part I don’t find too many mystery plots unconventional or unsettling to be honest. There is a format that a lot of mystery writers like to stick to. It’s tried and tested and whilst it might seem a little cliché to admit it, the closed room “whodunit” is still very popular.
Humans have been writing about dual morality for thousands upon thousands of years. What is in writing about the ‘Good and Evil’ conflict that challenges you the most?
I’m not a black and white kinda guy. I certainly think, in mystery, it isn’t always possible to define things that way. I mean sure we have a bad guy who murders someone and then we have a good guy who catches them and brings them to justice – but sometimes motive aren’t always easy to classify in those terms, certainly not as simple as good vs evil.
Songs of the Osirian, my latest book, challenges me to stick to that concept– but because of my own natural dislike for the simplicity of it, I add a character that walks the line between both. There are so many shades of grey in our world and I’ve met people who define things in ways that suggest it’s either on or it’s off – there is no in between with some people. I wanted to get away from the simplicity of stories like Star Wars. Luke Skywalker is good and Darth Vader is evil so it’s perfectly fine to blow up the Death Star, twice, with a million people on it and not feel a “great disturbance in the Force”. I suppose there is historical evidence that justifies this claim, but I just don’t see all people as either good or evil, with the exception of a few in our recorded history, but these people are anomalies.
I also took concepts of Monothelitism and mixed it with Polytheism. I wanted to give some detached plausibility to the ideology and cosmology of the Osirian that worked in a science-fiction and fantasy way. Man worship the Osirian as Gods, yet the Osirian worship the Ardunadine as Gods, and the Ardunadine worship Arrandori as THE God of all. But each group are simply higher forms of life, evolved beyond each other’s understanding making their abilities seem godlike.
What is your secret in writing your second book Dr Chandrix Dies as a standalone read, as well as a temptation for readers to want to read the first Sir Laurence Dies after?
It’s a secret! No, seriously. I wanted each story to have a murder, and a resolution. Sir Laurence Dies was written in such a way, as to cement each character with the motive to have committed the crime. I wrote multiple endings in the development stage so I could keep a tense uncertainty throughout the narrative–it’s classic closed-room murder mystery whodunit. In contrast Dr. Chandrix Dies was a little less whodunit and more political-thriller. There are red herrings, bodies, and intrigue–but it’s definitely more of a linear story than Sir Laurence. I haven’t heard that anyone solved either before they arrived at the conclusion. When I’d finished them, I purposely went back and put clues in each chapter. If you re-read it, you should spot them … it is possible for the story to be solved as all the information needed is there.
I wanted each book to be read in isolation, yet have subtle connections that run throughout the series. There are some mentions here and there of unsolved crimes. There are some vague links to people or groups in the background. When I began the Dies trilogy, it was important to me that each book has a single mystery that was solved by the end of the book. It must be able to be read standalone. I start with a basic plot. I have the people written and their traits defined. I begin with a brief outline which almost always changes. I write to around 50,000 words and stop, and then I write the end. Once the end is done, I write the bridge.
My hope is, there should be just enough in each book to entice the reader to pick up the other.
Was any part of your books based on your personal encounters and past working experiences?
There are some unconscious elements of personal interactions, observations, experiences, but I didn’t set out to write any of my books on those experiences directly. I think we writers certainly hide ourselves in our books, and perhaps, one or two of the bodies might be people I have encountered in the past, but murder in print is perfectly acceptable!
Today our guest is aspiring author Jennifer Reinfried who is an avid reader, loves gaming, comics, zombies, and playing bass. We have conducted an interview with her.
recently published debut novel, The Author – The Characters’ Short Living Story, that took a decade in the making.
1- How do you capture the essence of what a writer goes through including the characters’ obstacles and their intricacies?
First of all, one would have to become a writer to know the experience of what a writer goes through at writing, and that is simply being true at writing. The story takes on a journey where The Author shares that experience through the characters’ adventures and its world is unfolded through the narration. The book itself is a frame of mind in which the very essence of the story is going through and beyond the fourth-wall. It took careful dedication and strategy in composition to harmoniously balance The Reader’s experience, The Characters’ journey and The Author’s essence.
2 – If you can only protect five of the six characters, which ones will you choose? Why?
If the Author had to choose, he wouldn’t . . . Either he protects all six of them, or they all die. It is in this truthful neutral objectivity of taking the word for its word, which makes Him eternal, as well as the concept of the togetherness of the six. Furthermore, he wouldn’t protect them, for in his perspective, the characters dying would only mean transformation. What would He protect them from?
However, me, personally, Facundo Raganato; I would change between those answers. If we were asking the Facundo at the age of 16, when I started writing this story, I would choose Violet and Joe as the top two to protect, for instance. Yet, at 22, perhaps Leo and Henry would be more appropriate to prioritize. At this present, perhaps Lisa and Kimberly would be a more appropriate answer. Either way, I would have to leave out the sixth character in the darkness, temporarily, until the natural cycle makes the characters switch position again; this in the answer of the situational question of course.
Nonetheless, we would both agree to say that, regarding the six characters, each one is as equally as important as the other, for they do not compete as to who’s who, and what, and why, but instead, it is a complementary balance of personalities which push and pull each other harmoniously with/without the Reader and/or The Author. Out of the magical impulsive present I would say: Violet, Joe, Henry, Kimberly and Lisa.
I’m interested in how you would answer that question. Which ones will you choose?
3 – Which part of your (10 years of) work on this book do you feel being fascinated by the melancholia, the irrational and the sublimity?
Right now, I am fascinated by this question. Perhaps I am fascinated by the remembrance. If you go to my room when I was 16, and this story was beginning to bloom, you would see a brown wooden desk, and 7 index cards pinned on top, where my characters were first drawn, and my laptop below waiting to be typed; this was supposed to be only a short story, before The Author was born. And I remember . . . I would look at them and ask “What would Kimberly do? What would Leo say?”
Art must be crafted, it is in that process where quality is polished. I am fascinated how many endless nights I typed till my eyes fell or my head stopped. How much I this deep world alive as the characters were living the story, this adventure, this odyssey, this journey for the truth. Art is a reflection of discovery, of harmoniously integrating, exploring, creating, dreaming. I remember how happy I was because I felt how much joy moved me through me because the characters where not only unveiling philosophical answers through questions, but they would also be living the story as I wrote and thought: “This is where Chapter XV would end.” I am fascinated by how many nights I was circling and reflecting the depth of the forbidden, the unthinkable, the impossible, the plot, the Author, the Reader and the Character in this reality, in my reality, and in the future reality of the Reader as they read the story now. I am fascinated by how much I sacrificed into really shaping this world in a multidimensional level, sometimes even without even writing. The times I had to sleep the story off and build bridges which originally felt like gaps, until I found what I sought, spiritually, alchemically, existentially. Who are you? Why are you Here?
Art is pure human expression, and that is the most valuable essence one can create, I am fascinated how much I have grown with this book and how much I have made it grown; these 10 years feel like watching a tree bloom for the eyes to see when it was born out of a simple seed.
The sublime is goes hand in hand with this world; it is in these words where nothing can grasp what this story is about really; it may seem like an irrational line of writing, or falling in love, or surviving, or dying, or seeking, or finding; where it seems like madness, reaching the beyond beyond space and time, the eternal stillness of a moment, the long but relatively short story one experiences as one fluxes through literature, the meanings, the minds. We call crazy what we can’t understand. The melancholia can refer to various and deep emotions that are connected in the story, before, after, in it, through it and beyond it.
4 – Why is it important/recommended for readers to read “The Author” thrice?
The Apprentice shows the apple of knowledge & wisdom to the Master. The story can be read through the Apprentice’s eyes, through the eyes of the Master, or through the eyes of “the apple,” for instance. Yet, this is a format of layers of knowledge & wisdom, or as I like to say, it is an alchemical process. If I say “9,” this number would have no meaning because it does not make a rational sense in regards to the theme, or at least it creates a meaning in the Reader’s mind in relation to their subjective experience with that number. If I say “9,” these letters make that number a question.
But if I say “6 + 3,” then the number “9” would have a meaning as the rational mind connects the dots in a “question/answer” relation, for instance. However, this story’s composition has thin yet strong lines that constructs the world of the story, and they are open enough for the broad minds to enter and mirror themselves in it, letting light in, letting meanings in. As soon as one finishes to read the story, the experience of the journey creates a unique experience for every Reader of seeing the beginning in new eyes, or perhaps, deeper eyes, or perhaps, contradictory or even irrational from its “rationality;” or vice versa.
If I had said “6 + 3” first, and then saying “9,” would you take it as the question or as the answer?
5 – During the writing odyssey, what questions arise that makes you feel the most discomfort? How did you overcome them?
I have to make clear that during this writing odyssey, I was not only myself; I was accustomed to be able to place myself in other “states of beings,” per se, which some of them, as you questioned, caused me discomfort. I had to alchemically face the discomfort of each character, The Author and even the Reader. However, perhaps the most important question that caused me most discomfort is: “What is meaning?” Now, the discomfort is the conflict, it is the risk, the adventure, it is the question that opens up the search for the answer, and I find it interesting when to take this in a larger scale; as a society, as a civilized race, as political minds, as spiritual beings, as biological species, as pure artists, as believers, as creators, as dreamers.
Each one has a discomfort in many questions, it is in that process where we look for answers, usually to find peace. I have found my inner peace through this story. I hope you find it too, or at least, wakes your search to find it in a spiritual level. It is important that we are conscious of the new paths that open, or the answers we find, it is in that search for what we are looking that we find that it was already there; so it is basically a process of discomfort to awakening, where the discomfort is healed, purified, alchemically transformative.
For me, the questions are what causes me comfort, for I see it is a way to expand and/or dig in; to find the Beauty in the unresolved is to harmoniously keep a curious mind in thirst for knowledge and wisdom that keeps searching for the Truth. Loving that Beauty is how I learned to overcome them.
6 – What inspires you to write a book for people who likes making their own decisions? How do you feel being crowned “a well-honed literary mind”?
What inspires me is the thought that I already wrote it, and readers are able to enjoy it, because it was not easy to write and compose in a way that The Reader would understand, implicitly, that they are free to make their own decisions about it. However, I wouldn’t have written it another way. Take the following analogy as a reference, not only as its meaning, but only as one plane of its dimension: God created us with the so called “free will,” it is interesting to think that he made us with the liberty to make our own decisions if we choose to do “evil” or “good” (following this train of thought) and it is up to us to decide what to do with our own conscientious choice, in relation to what we think or believe it is to judge what “good” and “evil” is.
Also, where do the meanings lie? One reader can see one meaning from one chapter, yet another reader would have another . . .
How many professors does it take to discuss among each other to concur a meaning with the depth of the philosophical questions raised? Even with its answers! This is the master question: How can the meaning of its literature be rationalized in order to explain what the Truth is when each one of those professors will find it in the story in their own way?
I’m flattered and honored, with an innocent humbling pride which makes me shine inside to think that even though I journeyed with the characters through the darkness of the underworld, through the intricacies, puzzles, and traps, through closing halls and endless stairs, peril after peril, I feel the sacrifice it was worth it. To plunge deep into the literary world and find the light. Do you think The Characters would think it was worth it?
I guess I just feel very grateful to hear such comment. What other kind of minds exist?
Youtube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzS7Sb3OLqQ
- Why did you choose to write about the 25th century?
- How unique is this book (compared with other similar genre) hard science fiction novel?
- Which was the first doubt/belief you personally had about Teleportation?
- What is the target you have set forth to reach for the crowdfunding of this book?
- What are the further development for this book if you win the contest by Geek & Sundry?