Blogger Fiona McVie recently caught up with Richard Correll for an interview about his career, life and 5 Years After:
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
For most of my career I have been a Radio broadcaster. I’ve had the pleasure to be part of the rise of modern music with Energy 108 and Z1035. A few years back I built a studio in my house and began doing commercials for ABC, NBC, Much Music, CTV, FOX and a lot of others. I have narrated television shows: The Will on the Oprah Winfrey network (In Canada it was called Inheriting Trouble) Born To Be on Much Music. I have also done a National Geographic special. In doing commercial work, I had a chance to take some time and get back to writing. It feels like coming back to the house you grew up in. Damn, its good to be back.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Five Years After is what takes up most of my time. Its more that an apocalypse story. It is an allegory of our times. That is not much of a stretch when you think about it. I like what Jason Gay of the New York Times said recently” Eight months ago what we thought of as bizarre is now commonplace.” We are living in dangerous times. How could you not want to write about it?
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I think I have always been a writer. I did it in high school for fun. Now, it is much more than that.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Good question. I guess I have always thought myself a writer. I guess it was 1990 when I was published in an anthology called Champagne Horror. There really is something euphoric about seeing your name in a magazine.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was in high school. I was in history class and I imagined how it must feel to be a citizen of an empire. While it rises you have little thought for those that have been crushed for you to attain such heights. But time is a thief and tables do turn. For this Greek tragedy of a story, I chose the city of Dresden in World War Two. The Russians, full of revenge a few miles away and Allied Bombers starting firestorms at night. A city does not need to be Rome for it to be burning, nor does it require a mad fiddle player. All things have their time and place of judgment. For my latest project, I was walking my dog when the first ideas of Five Years After came to me. It was actually just a short story. The next night I had another idea for the same Five Years After world. After a few days, I wrote all the ideas down and found twenty that were acceptable. I’ve worked it down carefully from there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Five Years After? I can’t really say. I just wanted something explanatory. Apocalyptic writing can be very lurid. I wanted to take a step back and tell a story of people’s lives in a landscape you could truly feel.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’ve been told I create startling images and very real settings. If I was a painter I would be the one obsessing over the details and using the lavish colors. I rewrite like mad until I can just feel it. I am lucky to have a tribe of very eager friends who pour over my recent chapters and give me feedback. One thing I love to do is get the landscape correct. I can remember a scene in Five Years After that describes the office of the Prime Minister of Canada. It took a long time to acquire photographs. I was able to ask a few people how the office felt.What it was like to sit there. Damn, it was worth it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
We all have to write about things in our lives. These are the experiences that cut closest to our hearts. We’ve felt the pain, the lust, the love and more. We know how it feels. To paraphrase Hemingway, All we have to do is sit down and bleed a little of ourselves on the page.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I do travel a bit. If I can’t get what I want from research I go to the place where the story is. It may be time consuming, but then you see the words forming on your screen and realize the investment was worth it. I mostly research, find the small things that no one knows. It might take you all night to get it right. But when you do……….
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My stepson Jake and I crafted the idea. He is one hell of an artist. We looked at the covers for apocalyptic fiction and found them over the top, lurid ( there’s that word again). We went for something more minimalist.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Five Years After (As I have said) is an allegory of our times. Our world is such a maddening place these days. Politics, religion and media. I am currently researching the third book with a storyline involving the World Bank. I don’t think apocalyptic fiction has touched upon that area. In the story, one of my characters, Molly Hunter has to walk through a neighborhood alone after dark. I don’t think I have ever written anything more terrifying. I don’t believe men realize how frightful it is for a woman to do that. We should. We need to. Five Years After is just that way.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I am a huge Robert Harris fan. His descriptive prose is incredible. That’s what I gravitate towards. A writer who can create scenes and characters that you literarily dream about.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Just one? I have my tribe of feed back friends who constantly inspire and suggest. They really make me think.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a life. Its just one of those things you just have to do
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nothing, absolutely nothing. I write, then re-read and then re-read again before editing. I have to say I love the way the series is going. The underlying current of social commentary is just strong without impeding the characters, plotline or action. The one thing I am proud of in 5 Years After is the unique decision not to end the world. We are merely soldiering on. It is a decision that really sets the series apart.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Plenty. That’s what happens when you research like crazy. Many of the issues that I researched were gender specific. As a man, I have always been a feminist and civil rights advocate. I researched enough to argue both sides of a point of view. That can create some very interesting moments.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Jennifer Chastaine would definitely be Maggie. Luke Perry would be great as Brett. Forrest Whitacker as the Deacon? Awesome. Keke Palmer as Molly.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Respect your characters. I really feel male writers sell their female characters short by not researching the differences between us. I read nothing but female writers for a year before really tackling my female characters in Five Years After.. It helped a lot. I have noticed the same flaw in female writers sometimes as well. Strong, relatable characters are a very big deal to me.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Five Years After is much more than genre fiction. If you feel there is a hidden meaning to a plotline, you are probably right. The characters are defined by their flaws and fragility. In short, they are very much like us. The world will seem very familiar. It is our world, it is our times with one notable exception. All around you is the sense of slow strangulation, the end of all things beyond the next horizon.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Good Night from London by Jennifer Robson. She has this knack for finding the smallest details about life in a particular time period. Just one of those tiny pieces of information like how much bus fare was in 1940’s London brings the whole story to life. Research is such an awesome tool for a writer.
I found an old copy of Ian Fleming’s Dr. No in a used bookstore. I love his style, straight, tough and right to the point.
A history book about the 1930’s called “The Road to War.” By Richard Overy. It is quite an eye opener into the countries that were in World War 2. The sociology, politics and challenges in the years preceding the war that ended up sending us off to disaster. If you know someone getting into history this is a must read.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Green Eggs and Ham I think.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I love all types of humor. The sillier, the better. I still laugh at old Bugs Bunny Cartoons. I really cannot stand seeing anyone degraded in any way. It makes me furious. I am a huge civil rights advocate.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I have had the pleasure of meeting some very famous people in my life because of my work in media. Isaac Asimov, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Tiesto, Jake Gylanhaal, Billy Joel etc. The one notable lesson I walked away from in this experience is there is nothing different about them. They were merely people who took a chance to dream.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I am a bit of a strategy game freak. I am an avid golfer, hiker and sports fan. I love a damn good conversation. But, I think writing is my real love/hobby right now.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Right now, I have immersed myself in the Five Years After universe so much that it is my TV show. Strange, but true. I have seen Stranger Things and I have loved the acting. There are a few movies and TV shows on my list but right now writing takes my time.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Music! I have had so many years of music in the media that it has created a very eclectic taste for me. Anything from old school funk, R and B, Hip hop to modern rock and nineties jams. Stevie Nicks in the eighties, 60’s Motown, the list could go on forever. As a Canadian, maple syrup anything makes me just go crazy.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I can’t. But if I had to I would continue voice acting. It is fun.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
It was a good life
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?