Carlos J Cortes’s newest release, THE PRISONER, released on the 27th. Luckily, he took a moment out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
How would you describe your writing style?
Layered. I strive for a simple and straightforward style but underneath there’s another level with richer cultural meaning, usually drawn from experience. I believe average readers are much more intelligent than most publishers think and I love to share what I’ve gathered in forty years of globetrotting.
What inspired you to start writing?
I could invent a tall story, but the truth is I don’t know. The other day I unearthed a thriller manuscript, written in longhand when I was sixteen. Ghastly, but with a few useful ideas. I’ve always written; thousands of technical articles, manuals, textbooks, short stories and scores of novels in both Spanish and English.
How did your friends/relatives react when you told them you wanted to be a writer?
I never did. I’ve written and hoarded notes from infancy. I suppose everybody assumed technical writing was a consequence of my profession and that fiction didn’t go farther than a hobby.
Then they’d be wrong. Your fiction writing is fully good enough to stand alongside any modern writer. What is the best piece of advice on writing you’ve ever received?
Kill your darlings. Delete every unnecessary word, clause, sentence, line, paragraph, scene or chapter, regardless of how much I love it, if it doesn’t further the story. Then read again with an eye to delete some more. Repeat twenty times.
That would certainly streamline the text. What kind of goals do you set for yourself when writing? Word count? Page count?
I hate starting a new project unless I have the full story developed in my head, down to the smallest detail. Once I have everything worked out, I commit it to a file: First I write a one-page synopsis, then a much longer one, perhaps ten to twenty pages. With the plot firmly grounded, I write a chapter-by-chapter outline and later a scene-by-scene structure. I don’t write linearly, but in loose scenes I select depending on my writing mood. Once I finish the structure and before I settle down to write the story I have a good idea of the manuscript’s extension.
Do you listen to music while you write?
Never. I can write in a room full of people or with noise and music in the background; I just switch it off in my mind. But if I can control my writing environment I prefer silence.
Silence is good. Something I don’t often have around here. The Prisoner is your second book. Was it different writing after you’d already published?
Though The Prisoner is my second fiction work in English, it’s my twelfth full-length publication. I’ve published ten non-fiction titles. The novelty wasn’t there anymore, so I approached writing The Prisoner as I would any other book. The only salient difference is that The Prisoner sold on a one-page synopsis and the first chapters. Thus, I knew exactly what the publishers wanted in terms of plot and voice.
That’s a lot of published books. Congratulations. How is the Prisoner different from Perfect Circle?
Perfect Circle is an escapist adventure without transcendence. The Prisoner addresses the dilemma of an ever expanding Prison System that threatens to bankrupt this nation. As I write this groups in several countries race to unravel the secrets of mammal hibernation and tests on humans are well on their way. It’s not a question of if, but when the technology will be applied to store inmates.
As I read the book, it sounded all to plausible and even necessary. Scary. Do you have anything in the works?
I’m writing Light Bondage, a near-future thriller already optioned to Random House and I’ve just finished another thriller centered on The Mahdi, the Muslim long awaited eschatological redeemer and his clash with the realities of our society. Mahdi is more literary and it doesn’t contain any SF elements, thus, my agent will seek alternative publishers.
Good luck with that. Who is your favorite character? From The Prisoner, Nikola Masek. He’s a most complex man; a fatalist with little faith in humanity, a professional and a student of human frailty.
Nikola is one of my favorite characters too. If you could have lunch with one writer, who would it be?
Thomas Harris, though I would rather share a light supper of wine and cheese on a deserted beach, with cognac and cigars for dessert.
Sounds good, though I’d pass on the cigar. Where can we find you? At http://www.carlosjcortes.com and, I hope, in your dreams after you read my work.
Thank you again, Carlos for taking the time to talk to me. Here is where you can find his books