How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I began writing poetry in grammar school. By the time I entered college, I had notebooks filled with poems. I took every literature class I could and became enamored of modern English literature, especially e.e. cummings, Ezra Pound, Allen Ginsberg, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Merton, and the novelists William Faulkner, D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell. I read and wrote, sometimes to the detriment of my other studies. I managed to see two poems published.
Then, life intervened. I made a living as a research assistant, writing grant proposals, then as a technical editor.
My first novel, written just after I left college, and sent to a friend with publishing connections, was a stream of consciousness mess. My friend actually kept the MS and gave it to my son almost forty years later, on a visit. I have it safely stowed away in the basement.
Life intervened again. This time, it took me back to school, and into a series of cross-country, cross-border, overseas, and third world expatriate work and living adventures that taught me how differently other people live life and view the world. How much of what we assume is reality and “the way things are” is very different from what others assume.
My second novel, written over a period of four(?) years, eight years ago, ran 750 pages long, with enough material for three or four novels and more gaffs than a fisherman’s convention. After taking a few chapters to my writer’s group– and now having to live with the occasional comment, “Are you glad to see me or is that a chicken in your pocket?” –Don’t ask– I decided it would be better to begin a new novel. The chicken in the pocket novel has become the back story for my current series.
After all this traveling and living in foreign cultures, particularly the third world, I find science fiction is a natural place for me to write, since its boundaries of imagination are limitless. A recurrent theme in my writing is “It ain’t necessarily so.” I write to challenge readers’ fixed ideas in a way that will make them consider other possibilities.
What have you written so far?
In the fall of 2015, I published Dancing With The Dead, which has won three awards and has been favorably compared to the work of Isaac Asimov and C.J. Cherryh.
It’s a tale of a brilliant astrophysicist, whose entire life has been about becoming a “martyr for truth.” Fahd al-Sharfa is on a suicide mission to destroy two space stations and a thriving city on Luna. Until he falls in love with Doctor Quenby, a cat-like, bipedal alien coworker from a planetary race of pacifists. He begins to question his beliefs. The presence of the dead, beside and among the living cultures, both human and alien, respected for their insight and consulted at personal and political levels compounds the situation, as the dead on both the side of law enforcement and the terrorists struggle for victory, and Fahd’s quest for ultimate truth takes him beyond the veil called death.
It will challenge your perception of death, life after death and the quest for truth that continues after the change called death.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
The sequel, Alvar’s Spear, should come out later this fall.
Thirty years after dancing with the dead, half-Terran, half-Antal, Gar takes on a perilous mission — to save the sentient moon-planet Alvar from self-destruction. He must do this before a mutant conspiracy turns Alvar into a fetid swamp, controls the Galactic Bank, and enslaves the Antal. To become Alvar’s Spear, the planetary savior, Gar will confront enemies, assassins, a traitor, and a beautiful, brilliant, Terran geneticist. He will travel into the mysterious forbidden mountains of the vild, from which no one has returned. If successful, he will save Alvar.
But the danger of creating a savior is that he will be his own person. He will do what he will, and whether his acts are judged good or bad will only be known in the unrolling of time. Time is not on Gar’s side. But time does unroll. What it reveals may not be to everyone’s liking.
Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?
I have a unique writing method. I begin with an idea, flesh it out, do a plot sketch and a chapter by chapter outline, and then let the creative juices take me where they will. The unique part is that I involve individuals from the other side of the veil called death in the process. I talk with deceased people all the time. After years of seeing the dead portrayed in countless fatuous ways, I decided it was time for someone to show them in a manner some might consider more truthful. That is, life continues beyond the change we call death, the personality survives passing beyond the earthly life and moves on into other dimensions. So, with the help of some friends on both sides of the veil called death, I write science fiction, fiction to be sure, but with a spiritualist point of view.
What role does research play in your writing?
World-building is the heart of my writing. I spent at least one year’s time researching the physical issues to creating the Anthelion Galaxy, the Seven Worlds in it, and the various races inhabiting those worlds. The line between fantasy and science fiction has been blurred, but science fiction still demands believability. In high school, I chose to take typing (now keyboarding) instead of physics—a choice I still believe was a good one—but in researching this series of books, I had to learn a whole lot about quantum physics, quantum energy, particles versus waves and what can, can’t, or just might be possible to do with them. When you go into “what if” realms, you had better have solid science behind your creations, or probable possibility, or you will have readers flinging your book into the nearest waste basket. How much heat does the system star generate? How does an elliptical orbit work? (Alvar orbits a gas giant in an elliptical orbit around its system star. So the orbit creates the yearly seasons, rather than the rotation of the planet, like earth’s circular orbit.)
And much of what I write is about things that are not apparent to everyone, that are not what they seem, but might be. Psionics for example, multi-sensory human beings, telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, clairsentience, energy medicine, awareness and ongoing communication between the living and the dead as a fact of daily life, and how that might affect life and philosophy of a world. Here, we’re in the world of the “not provable, but not impossible,” so logic must rule the day. You can stretch the rubber band of belief, up to, but not beyond the snapping point. So an equal but different kind of research is required. What does philosophy, religious and spiritual systems of thought, say, or wonder about these things?
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed creating the different alien races. Giving them bodies. Making them unique and clearly adapted to their various worlds. Creating languages, philosophies, values, beliefs, attitudes. And comparing and contrasting those with humans’. Showing the advantages and the flaws.
For example, the most advanced race of the Seven Worlds, the Nord, who live on the planet Narr. Incarnate Nord are strikingly beautiful, brilliant translucent beings of what we would mistakenly call “semi-viscous gas” within a semi-permeable shell that resembles a clear veneer. These wraithlike, round-shouldered light forms that glide along the surface of the planet are not humanoid but can grow instant arms, legs, or hands as they need. Males stand eight feet tall and vary from medium to deep blue in color. Females are about three inches shorter and pale violet to deep purple.
The dead, disembodied Nord, called Elders, the “passed beyond,” have transparent, pure energy forms in the same general colors and shapes they had been when inhabiting a denser body. They are unmistakably distinguishable.
The single most distinguishing feature of both types of Nord is a five-tiered eye where a face might otherwise be. A three inch wide, dark red eye, immediately joined by a concentric bright red band that juts out another inch, a thin dark blue ring around that, next an orange circle spreading out another inch from that, and a bright yellow fifth glimmering halo eye to complete the multicolored sphere. Five penetrating lights like a huge multicolored headlamp on a spectral train. The eye, capable of infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray, radio waves and particles, and microwave vision, enables the Nord to see in the dark, in blinding light, to see heat, the interior of dense objects, and perceive both particles and waves. To the Nord, thought forms are real, physical things. Kumlar, the Nord language, literally means “thought speak,” and it is far more thought than sound.
Because they accurately see thought forms, it is said that one cannot lie to the Nord, and though that is truer than not, it is not precisely accurate. And if anything, the Nord are precise, rational beings. Capable of ruling the galaxy, they choose to rule themselves instead, to live quietly with their thoughts, to manage, rather than dominate their planet, to treasure the terrestrial sheath of what they consider a living, sentient being and tolerate and encourage all its life forms and to remain galactic advisors.
Their philosophy is encapsulated in the Jintu Kor, the Nine Suggestions to Rule Oneself, the Way. Learn to distinguish the true reality from that which you desire it to be. Separateness is illusion. Bear in mind that whatever you do, you do to yourself. No one can make anyone else think, feel or do anything. You are responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. You cannot give others what you do not possess yourself. You must become what you wish the world to have. Remember fear, greed and sloth are the mothers of all the negative emotions. Accept your negativity. Only then use reason to moderate and overcome it. Do as little harm as possible. Master your passions. Respect the privacy of others.
But the dark side of the Nord comes during mating, when they must revert to vicious beings, driven by passion, fully capable of instantly killing each other. This becomes a life-threatening situation to two Terran lovers who find themselves inhabiting Nord bodies after they experience a quantum intrusion journey to Narr.
What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre that they need to know?
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio
What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?
Read. Read as if your life depends on it. Because your life as a writer does. Your writing will rise or sink to the level of what you are reading. Read the best writers you can find. Read in the genre you write in. Read in other genres. Read for research, yes, read for ideas, yes, read for technique, yes, but make sure you read for fun.
How can you learn more about Charles and find his work?