Welcome to Jagged Edge!
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I emigrated from England to Canada when I was six years old and grew up in Southern Ontario. I returned to England to earn a degree in Metallurgy at the University of Sheffield then came back to Canada and joined the automotive industry.
In 1992, I was transferred to the Detroit, Michigan area. Now I’m nearing the end of my 35 year career in the automotive business. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to travel extensively in Europe - where I lived on assignment for four years - as well as to Mexico, Japan and Australia. My career has given me many insights and helps me bring diverse perspectives to my writing.
I first started writing novels ten years ago. But during that span of time, I had a three year hiatus when I didn’t write at all. During two of those years, I managed a rock band in my spare time. Boy, was that fun! When the band broke up, I started writing again.
I hope, in the not too distant future, to become a full time author. My debut novel, the mystery thriller, ‘Tiger Paw’ has been seven years in the making, including the time it lay dormant in my ‘bottom drawer’ during that three year dry spell. I want to write the sequel, ‘Lucifer’s Key’ in less than a year. I’ve started, but have some serious work ahead of me to pick up the pace from my first book!
What inspired you to write?
Later in my career, I earned my MBA part-time. After being out of school for over 20 years, it was a bit of a shock to return to writing essays and doing a thesis! It was a bit frightening. But through this experience, I rediscovered a love for creative writing that was my passion when I was much younger, in middle school. But as I went from high school to university, I left the arts behind to focus on science and engineering. As my career progressed, I found I became less and less interested in the technical side of my work and drawn more closely to the people side.
During my mid-career MBA studies, I found I really liked the process of researching facts (using my scientific skills) and then expanding them with ideas and imagination into ‘stories’ (using my artistic side). I think my writing process will always draw from my curiosity in learning new things in many different fields. It takes a lot longer to finish a novel that way, but I’m finding that when I stumble over some unique tidbit of research, I can turn that kernel of information into an interesting plot line or character. Tiger Paw required me to become immersed in many new subjects for me like Hinduism, mystic cults and the psychology of serial killers.
What authors influenced you as a writer?
When I was young I read a lot of classic science fiction. I read all of the Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘John Carter of Mars’ series, John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, HG Wells and others. But George Orwell’s ‘1984’ stood out for me. It was really a psychological thriller. Orwell’s nightmarish vision was set apart from the classic sc-fi I was reading because his dystopian world had profound political and societal forces acting on his characters not just technological change. I think he set a very high standard for writers in regards to communicating these kinds of ‘big picture’ ideas through the feelings of his characters and the story of their journey. I’ve tried to do some of that in ‘Tiger Paw’, although it’s up to my readers to judge how successful I have been.
What is your favorite quote?
“You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?" - George Bernard Shaw
If you could jump into a book, and live in that world, which would it be?
I’m torn between jumping into the adventure and glamour of an Ian Fleming ‘James Bond’ novel or the silliness and unpredictability of Doug Adams’ ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. They are both outrageous romps, in their own different ways. So that has me thinking, how about writing an intergalactic spy novel? Hmmm?
What is at least one thing that every writer needs to have or do?
Perserverance. I think the word ‘perserverance’ sums up all the aspects of patience, dedication, passion and continuous learning that are required to survive and prosper as a writer.
Are your books different than your personal favorite books by other authors?
Yes, they are. I read mainly for facts and information rather than entertainment. So I read books that are primarily non-fiction such as biographies, history, politics, business, current affairs, etc. I also read reference works that are research for my novels. Right now I’ve read two sociology books on Caribbean voodoo by authors who were eye witnesses to that culture. It’s truly fascinating. But I also like satire and I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson. But again, his books are non-fiction.
When I write, I’m trying to capture the essence of an escape from reality – a world removed from what I know, from everything comfortable and safe. I think that’s what draws readers to thrillers. I want to create a world that is realistic but dangerous, with characters that are dark and mysterious. Before writing in this genre, I did read thrillers. But today I rarely read one all the way through to the end because I don’t want to influence my own plot lines and characterizations by unconsciously mimicking the work of others. Most of the time, I read the first chapters of a thriller and then leave the rest unread. I just want to get a sense of what other authors’ have done in terms of style and pace. I particularly like Ted Bell and Greg Isles for that reason.
What led you to writing in this genre?
A lot of my inspiration comes from movies. Tiger Paw was a continuously playing ‘movie in my head’. I just had to find the time to write it down. The sequel is now emerging that way too. For inspiration, I find there is nothing like a strong character driven movie. I prefer those with action and suspense but I enjoy all manner of movie genres from period dramas to sci-fi. The Robert Redford / Brad Pitt movie ‘Spy Game’ inspired me to write my first book, an espionage novel. It was my first attempt at a full length thriller and after many rejections, it’s still unpublished. But writing it helped me learn the ‘craft’ of writing in so many ways. It wasn’t bad as a first start but still needs work to make it commercial. But I decided, instead of rewriting it, I would start over with ‘Tiger Paw’ because it was the movie that was ‘playing’ so vividly in my mind at the time.
I have a little bit of ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ in me, another of my favorite authors. I like the macabre, supernatural and the unusual. But for some reason I’m not drawn to writing gothic horror, paranormal fantasy or sci-fi. I want to write about things that are an escape but are possible. Something grounded in reality but not too far removed from it. And I want to leverage my insights into the business world.
Every story begins with a ‘what if?’ For Tiger Paw, the ‘what if’ question was, ‘What if Wall Street defrauded the wrong investors… people who could really fight back?’ In the end, Tiger Paw is a classic tale of good triumphing over evil. But for much of the book, it’s also a story of evil people taking revenge on other evil people. And that concept really interests me!
In my research on the psychology of serial killers, I discovered that sociopathic personalities can be very successful in business! From that point, it was a lock. The ‘script’ of my movie was woven around the sociopathic nature of Wall Street and what would happen when competing evil forces did battle with one another. The Hindu mysticism in Tiger Paw was the final element to help create the idea and symbolism of a mystic ‘Revenge Incarnate’.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
There is nothing better than having a vivid scene playing in your head of two of your characters locked in verbal combat - and then being thrust along with them as you write it down. The scene usually involves tension and conflict and the prose comes from deep inside as you experience your characters’ emotions as they spill out onto the page. There is some ‘improv’ involved and to see it unfold as you write is a thrill. I usually write dialogue without tag lines first, and then fill them in later so I don’t interrupt the flow of ideas. It helps to have a glass of wine on hand to nurture the process along.
Least favorite part of the writing process?
I think many people would suggest it is revision and editing but I don’t mind that at all. It gives you a chance to fill in those important little details and agonize over word choices, and this is integral to getting a quality result.
What I enjoy least is writing about getting from one physical place to another. That is, how people cross a room, get from point A to point B in a city, etc. It’s a real challenge to make it dynamic and interesting. It’s probably where I get stuck the most and scrap what I’ve first written and start over.
What are you currently working on?
Tiger Paw will have a sequel and also a third book in what I’m tentatively calling ‘The Temple Trilogy’. I have the entire storyline developed for the second book called ‘Lucifer’s Key’. I’m past the research stage and well into the writing of it. In ‘Lucifer’s Key’, FBI agent Scott Forrester is kidnapped by a voodoo cult on the Caribbean island of Trinidad while investigating the murder of an American virus researcher. He’s in a race against time to prevent a terrorist attack as well as rescue his love interest from the clutches of the evil Temple who, once again, are masterminding the mayhem. Like Tiger Paw, it has a surprise ending. It’s related to the prophecy of a voodoo sorceress, Tantie Neptune and I promise it’s a real shocker! It will set up the third book, which is in the research and concept stages now, and will be called ‘Black Venom’.
I’m also developing my ideas and doing reading for a mystery series set in Czarist Russia about a very unusual aristocratic detective that must solve crimes while the Communist Revolution unfolds around him. Again, I received my inspiration from film. It came to me after I thoroughly enjoyed watching ‘Downton Abbey’ and was struck by how much change there was in the structure of society in the period before and after World War I, and how rapidly the divide began to close between the aristocracy and ordinary people.
Where can readers find you?
My website is www.CharlesACornell.com
It has links to my blog which you can reach at: http://charlesacornell.wordpress.com/
I’m also on Facebook and GoodReads. Search and friend me!… Charles A Cornell.
I love interacting with readers. So please contact me!
Was there a question you wish I would have asked but didn't?
If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
A bulldog. They are tenacious but lovable, like me. They are thoughtful looking, in a wrinkly kind of way, again very much like me. They usually have a smile on their faces which is a combination of curiosity and congeniality. And that’s definitely me!
Thank you so much for inviting me to the Jagged Edge!