Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Coinage of Commitment": An Interview with Author R. Costelloe

Official Tour Page

2008 National Indie Excellence book award's finalist, Coinage of Commitment.

From a hardly typical romance writer, that is R. Costelloe we have a story where characters are looking for something higher, richer, and longer lasting..

Book Synopsis
Wayne and Nancy grow up on opposite sides of the country, each certain they must have love better than what others will settle for. Something stronger, something richer, something worth searching for. During the turbulent nineteen-sixties, they meet while he is attending blue-collar Drexel, and she is at neighboring, Ivy League Penn. Although irresistibly drawn to each other, they must overcome obstacles posed by the class and social differences that separate them, as well as opposition from both families, and later, a twist of fate that will be the cruelest test of all. Can they reach the emotional heights they seek? Can they overcome time's downward pulling inertia? Coinage of Commitment is dedicated to all who ever wondered about the altitude love might soar to.
Content Rating: The book is PG-13 rated.

Continue to the interview, author bio, and giveaway.

In the author's words . . .

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
I wrote a few stories as a kid, and then after college I wrote a first novel that I submitted to publishers. But it was of such poor quality that I left fiction writing and got deeply involved in career and raising a family. I was determined to never write fiction again. But then in 2005 something dramatic happened to turn my life inside out. I read a love story by Anita Shreve. It was a book-tape I randomly picked off the public library shelf. I’ll keep you guessing on the title, but in the last paragraph, the author had the male protagonist commit suicide, and she consigned the heroine to an old age of despair. Well, I just couldn’t believe what I had read. This plot reversal was so sudden, it was an utter ambush. It was also a punishment, and I was outraged. But not so much for me. Rather, I kept thinking of all the readers who had suffered because of such literary cruelty. English-speaking readers deserved better than this, I decided, and suddenly I felt the call. At first, it felt unreal. This can’t be happening, I thought, even as I unwillingly started anticipating the research I would need to pursue this preposterous notion. But the clincher was that I could already see the story—at least enough of it to be drawn by its siren song. I held out awhile. It was a delicious time of being suspended over a decision that seemed the stuff of fairy tales. But this suspense only lasted a short time, and by the next day I was writing what would become my first published novel, Coinage of Commitment.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?
I’ve always enjoyed film. In fact, I’ve long been more movie goer than fiction reader. And this became more pronounced once I became a writing contest judge and book reviewer. For mental conditioning, I do read a lot of fiction, but always as book tapes, and even then, I only finish a fraction of what I start. It’s film I usually rely on for inspiring my stories.

What inspired the idea behind your book?
It always struck me as odd that no one wrote love stories that got deeper into the nature of love and what it is capable of, the heights it is capable of achieving. I mean, if you’re a young, single character who’s hungry for romance, and you look around at the placidly humdrum marriages that most people have, then why would you want to follow the same romantic path they have? If you do everything the same, you’re only likely to end up the same. If you want something higher, something stronger, something richer and longer lasting, then you’re going to have to think and plan about how to achieve the better outcome you seek. I decided that if I ever returned to writing fiction, it would feature characters who want something better from love, and who are willing to work and plan to make it happen. This is the theme that dominates Coinage of Commitment. Although Wayne and Nancy have class, political, and religious differences—plus opposition from both families—they are drawn to each other. And they each share a dream of achieving love that’s higher and longer lasting than any other.

What has been your greatest challenge in writing Coinage of Commitment?
The second weekend I was drafting Coinage of Commitment, I got the flash inspiration for the book’s surprise ending, one unlike any I’d encountered in literature or film. It was the inspiration of a lifetime, and it changed the frame of reference for producing the book. To make best use of the ending, I incorporated new characters, and I added a love triangle I hadn’t thought of until then. As I drafted the book, it became clear the character and plot elements were harmonizing in a special way. My challenge, then, was to write prose good enough to match the quality of story I’d been given. The original print edition benefitted from three rounds of professional editing before publication. The print book then became a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Book Awards. I went on to publish another novel, plus I undertook nonfiction pursuits, but I always felt a certain bonding with this one special story. A few years later, in the spring of 2012, I realized that my writing ability had improved dramatically since writing Coinage. In the next instant, I knew I would rewrite the book. I simply could not turn away from the opportunity to make it substantially better than what the National Indie Excellence Judges had originally seen. The rewrite took seven months; the digital second edition was published on the Kindle platform in January.

What message do you hope readers take away from the book?
I hope they get a glimpse that higher love is within our grasp, it’s doable, and that with work and planning, it can indeed last. Most of all, I hope they come away thinking the effort is worth it.

Which character in Coinage of Commitment will be the most difficult to part with?
All the characters change and grow throughout a story that spans decades. But one of the

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
Not when I’m passionate about a project. I wrote Coinage while dining in restaurants, while waiting in airports, and while sitting in the Costco snack area. Many times I awoke in the night and rushed to the adjoining bathroom. There I would scribble draft while kneeling at the sink.

Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?
Coinage of Commitment is my favorite because it’s an exceptional story with a unique surprise ending. And the characters are the best I’ve come up with who strive for higher love and refuse to settle for less.

How do you unwind after a long writing session?
I’ll usually watch a movie.

Why did you choose to be an Indie writer and would you choose to self-publish again?
Indie self-publishing has become such an attractive option that even some established authors with traditional publishers are choosing that route. Many traditional authors are finding that their publishers will no longer budget funds for promoting their books. They are literally on their own. Traditional publishers still have a monopoly lock on supplying brick-and-mortar bookstores, but the stores themselves are withering away. I am happy with the switch to Indie publishing. I would choose that route again.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Great prose can’t happen unless you write clearly and with the fewest words.

How long did it take to get this book from idea to being published? What was the most grueling process?
The original print edition took twenty months from inception to publication. That included two query campaigns and three passes of professional editing. Plus I designed the cover. The second edition rewrite took seven months. That included one pass of editing, one conventional query campaign, a week for professional formatting, and a few hours to actually get the book digitally published. For me, the most grueling aspect of the process is querying.

What is your favorite movie based on a book, where you preferred the movie?
The Count of Monte Cristo, the 2002 version starring Jim Caviezel, is superior to the original classic, which I’ve read many times. The screenwriter took liberties with the plot and characters to produce a magnificent love story, one of my all-time favorites on film. If you’ve read the original book, this movie is a delightful surprise to take in the first time.

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen/pencil for writing?
I use all of the above. When inspiration strikes, I grab whatever is handy. But apart from that, I write certain scenes by hand, and others by word processor. I can’t detect any logic to it, but I always know which to use. Then there are other instances where I’ll start drafting by hand, then switch to writing on the PC.

Have you ever literally deleted or thrown away a book you’ve written?
Yes, my first novel, completed when I was in my twenties, was so dreadful in quality that I eventually discarded it.

Enjoy an Excerpt
Setup: Late Friday night, 1968, at Philadelphia’s 30th St. Subway Station. Wayne is looking from the trolley station, where he stands, to the adjacent subway train (El) platform.
As he watched absently, the girl from Sullivan’s came down the El station steps opposite him. She paused at the foot of the stairs, getting her bearings. Although adequate lighting bathed the platform, most riders took stock of others in the vicinity for safety’s sake. It was a natural precaution, instinctive for most, and especially important this late at night. She saw him, signaled recognition by a parting of her lips that was not quite a smile, then she lowered her gaze, turned, and strolled slowly out of sight to the other side of the stairway.
Seeing her again pricked him with an off-kilter joy, uplifting and refreshing, partly because she recognized and acknowledged him, but also because she seemed so buoyantly out of place down here, her bright beauty undefeated by the dank-smelling gloom of the subway. He smiled, turned away, and sauntered to the south side of the trolley platform. The minutes dragged, but no trolley car arrived. He began mentally composing a theme paper for his International Politics course, the only non-technical one he had that semester. Ideas came to him, prancing, and he thought of getting a notebook from his bag.
“Police! Help! Help me!” A woman’s screaming and it came from the El platform.
Thinking frantically of the girl, he ran to the north edge of the platform and jumped the foot or so that got him down onto the trolley tracks. A steel grate fence separated the two transit systems, but it had seen better days. A section was ajar, just ten feet to his left, and he swung it open enough to squeeze through.
Now things got difficult. The El platform was too high and far to jump to. The train tracks gleamed below him, the electrified rail closest, then the two steel tracks. He saw only one way to get there and didn’t slow down to analyze the risk. He threw his bag onto the opposite platform, then leaped forward, over the electrified rail, and down into the square trench that ran a foot and a half below and between the steel tracks. The platform loomed just above him, and the smell of ozone was stronger this close to the electrified rail—the one he must not fall back against. With his momentum still carrying forward from the jump, he kept moving, aware his footing and balance must be perfect. He reached up and grabbed the El platform edge, stepped up on the rail before him, then used his grip on the edge to lever himself up and onto the platform, landing on his right shoulder and side. Feeling no pain, he got to his feet and sprinted west down the platform toward the woman’s screams.
As he ran, he recalled what he had seen: the girl from Sullivan’s, a nondescript man, and three black youths: teens with their heads wrapped in dark bandannas, signifying…he knew not what. They were what fueled his urgency. Where was she? The commotion was still ahead of him.
He ran at top speed past the central vending area and spotted figures near the far steps. He could see her blond mane, somewhat disheveled now, and she stood with her arm across a shorter girl’s shoulder. The nondescript man ran up and joined them.
“He took my purse,” the other girl wailed. “I can’t believe I was so careless to let him get my purse that easily.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the blond girl said, her arm still across the smaller girl’s shoulder in comfort.
      “All my ID. A credit card. And I just got my paycheck cashed today. How stupid can you get?”
Another woman came down the steps and joined the group. As Wayne approached and slowed, a balding, thirtyish-looking man passed him from behind, joined the scene, said he had heard the commotion from above, and that a companion had gone to the toll booths to get help. Then two of the black youths he had seen earlier ran up from the west.
“He high-tailed it onto the tracks,” said the shorter of the youths. “He’s got choice of Thirty-third Street trolley or Thirty-fourth Street El station, so it looks like we kiss that one good-bye. You know what I’m saying? The Fuzz’l never collar that dude now.”
As though on cue, a police officer, complete with German Shepherd, came down the steps and assumed authority. The third black youth also joined the crowd. Wayne held back, not seeing what he could contribute by his late arrival. The blond girl had seen his running approach. Or had she? Her gaze had flicked briefly in his direction, then back to her charge. The tension eased with collective relief, and the officer started questioning the stricken girl, unpacking a notebook as he spoke.
Wayne thought of how the blond girl continued to be too distracted to notice him, and he felt bemused by the irony of his situation. He had arrived about 7.2 seconds too late to be of any use, even to the wrong damsel in distress. His breathing slowed. Still not seeing anything he could contribute, he turned and walked slowly in the direction he had come. He needed to retrieve his bag from where he had tossed it onto the platform. When he got there, he picked up the bag and looked out over the gleaming tracks toward the trolley station. No way, he thought, realizing with a shiver the danger he had risked. The price of another transit token wasn’t nearly worth the peril. And then, as though to underscore the irony, his trolley arrived and then quickly departed. Oh well, might as well climb the stairs to the mid-level pay booths so he could get back down to the trolley station. He took his sweet time since he probably had at least a twenty-minute wait. He approached the corner of the stairway, trying to remember whether the trolleys discontinued service during the wee hours. Suddenly the blond girl stood in front of him, her eyes wide, her expression anxious.
“It just dawned on me,” she said. “How did you get over here?”

Meet the Author
Rob Costelloe wrote fiction as a youngster, and completed his first novel a few years after college. But then the demands of family and career intervened, and his writing was mostly business or technical. But then in 2005, he read an Anita Shreve novel whose ending was so abruptly despairing that he felt outrage on behalf of so many abused readers. The result was two books, Coinage of Commitment, which became a National Indie Excellence Book Award finalist, and Pocket Piece Cameo, both published by Saga Books in the next three years.
Again he went off into nonfiction pursuits, but in 2012, he elected to rewrite both titles for the simple reason that he could make them better stories for his readers. Both titles have been published digitally, and are available from Amazon and other outlets.

The Giveaway

1 comment:

  1. That whole generation just fascinates me. Plus I LOVE the music and fashion from then.