The Venice Beach Boardwalk has a lot to offer its visitors. From the outdoor Muscle Beach to rollerbladers and skateboarders, it’s an ideal backdrop where a writer can sit back and watch an eclectic group of people go about life. Recently, it provided the venue for my conversation with David Cassidy, author of the bestselling thriller, Velvet Rain.
Do you remember the very first character you ever created? How old were you?
I was writing my own comic books when I was very young—around seven or eight, I’d say. I would create superheroes. The one I remember most vividly was an anti-hero. I called him The Fat Clown. He wore a three-piece suit, bow tie, and had the power of spin—he was a politician, believe it or not. He had a sidekick named Weasel Boy. All true.
The Fat Clown? Weasel Boy? I wouldn’t mind reading about those. Obviously, you were creative from a very young age. But what did you do before you hit your stride as a writer? And how were you able to suppress that urge to write before you discovered an outlet?
The usual path. Gas jockey. Desk clerk. Photography. But really, I’ve never suppressed the urge to write. I’ve been writing things on and off since I was a kid. I never considered it something that I could make a career out of, for some reason. Life got in the way, I suppose.
For so many talented people, it’s unfortunate life has a tendency to intrude. What was the toughest story you ever wrote? Was it tough because you couldn’t get a handle on the characters or for some other reason?
Velvet Rain was easily the toughest. It’s a period piece, and you have to get it right. Being a history buff helped a great deal as I knew a lot about the time period. Research was immensely time-consuming—about two years of it before I wrote a single word.
Not many writers are able to carry off a period piece, but you definitely did it with Velvet Rain. Where do you go when you need to get away from all that research, to recharge away from the laptop from work? And why do you pick that spot?
Luckily, there are two things that I never tire of: writing and photography. They complement one another. Being a very creative person, it’s easy for me to lose myself in one or the other at different times. So it’s never boring or tiresome. They are wonderful outlets in and of themselves, so if one isn’t going particularly well at the time, I just jump into the other and create. Now, if neither is working, or life is just getting a little too real, I exercise. Weight train. Run. Rollerblade. I love slapping on my blades and hitting the beach.
Hitting the beach works for me. Living in a scenic area like you do, is that how you got into photography? I’m such a fan of people who capture nature in all its beauty. I’d say it’s actually a tough thing to do, exactly like writing a story is sometimes difficult to get into a character. But you seem to do a damn fine job of it.
Thank you for that compliment, Vickie. Getting into photography was just another creative outlet for me, I suppose. As a kid, I was always reading National Geographic. Those iconic images remain in my heart and in my mind to this day. They were so artistic, and so it was probably a natural extension of my creative side to explore my own photography and create my own artistic vision.
National Geographic. SIGH!! I never missed an issue as a kid. Have you ever been disappointed in something you’ve photographed but knew you wouldn’t get another chance to capture that one moment again? And what was it?
I’ve been disappointed many times with some images. Sometimes you just don’t nail it the way you want to. It can be timing; the wrong light at the moment. But those images never see the light of day. I’ve got to be happy with it. More to your question, though, yes—I missed an opportunity to photograph the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) a few years ago when there was an incredible display. I missed it by minutes, and it was one of the most impressive ever. Being an avid amateur astronomer, I appreciate the night sky and all its wonder, and when you miss something like that as a photographer, it sticks with you. The shots I took were very disappointing.
I doubt those photos were disappointing to those of us who love the night sky. Maybe one day I’ll be able to experience the Northern Lights phenomenon firsthand. Until then, I’ll have to rely on photographers like yourself to provide that imagery. You must use that same dedicated approach to a WIP. What preparation do you do beforehand?
For me, it’s research. I read and read and read. About the places and the people. The history. No detail is too small. Regarding my own characters, I need to know them inside-out before I write a single word. I create detailed histories of them. They become so real to me in my head that they may actually have zip codes.
Excellent. Readers appreciate detailed characters with their own zip codes. Most people usually don’t think Indie authors have to deal with deadlines, but we all have our expectations of when we want to release the next project. How do you deal with the stress of a deadline?
Drugs and alcohol. Seriously, though, usually it’s exercise. It’s a natural stress killer.
Who influenced you the most to take that fire in the belly and become a writer? A teacher, another author, a parent?
There was no real inspiration. No magic moment. It was a really protracted experience for me, one that took years. As I’ve mentioned, I was always writing at one time or another, but I just never pursued it until recently. Still, there was always some kind of little voice inside that was telling me to explore it. I just ignored it until it became this very vocal monster that said, “Okay, time to see what you can really do.”
You should never ignore those “little voices” in your head. It’s been my experience they only get more intolerable if you do. Did you always have the confidence to put your work out there for the public, or did it build slowly over time?
I’m not Madonna, LOL. This is a business where the skin has to grow very thick, very quickly. But being a photographer, I was fortunate to grow a thick skin over a period of years. You learn to realize that you can’t please everyone, whether it’s through words or images. So by the time I decided to show people my written work, I went into it knowing that some would love it, some would hate it. It’s the nature of the creative beast.
Seems to me, if you realize you can’t please everyone early on, you’ve got to be ahead of the game in this business. So do you pay attention to negative reviews or criticism at all?
Absolutely. I try to be objective about it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion or perspective. But if one looks at what someone is telling you with objectivity and you try to understand where they’re coming from, the negativity can be a positive thing. You can learn from it. Do they sting? They can often be a sharp brick to swallow. Any creative person, regardless of their art, will tell you that. Regardless, I respect the process. You have to take the good with the bad, and hopefully, the good will prevail.
On the flip side of that, how do you handle praise when people gush over your work?
I’m always humbled by it. I’m a very quiet, reserved person, and I’m also my own worst critic of my work. So when someone likes it, it’s like, “Wow. Really?”
If you could sit down with one author and ask one question, which author would it be and what would you ask?
The guy who wrote the Bible. Is this stuff really true? Seriously, though, if I had to pick one, it would probably be Oprah. I’d ask her to endorse my book.
Okay, enough of that. Clive Barker. The man is a writing god. I’d like to know if he’s the real thing or has some writing deal with the Devil.
That’s probably why Clive Barker is picking up the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award this June, which makes me wonder. Are you ever tempted to write outside the genre you’re best known for?
All the time. Velvet Rain is a thriller. I’m writing a supernatural horror novel right now. My third book will be different yet. I may release a book of humor, as well. With my photography, everything is a subject—people, places, things—so I see no reason to limit my creativity when it comes to writing.
Hmm, limiting creativity sounds like a bad thing to me. So you’re working on a supernatural horror novel? Can you tell us why you chose that particular project or did it choose you?
I’m actually working on two books right now. The Dark is a supernatural thriller. Very atmospheric. The third is a secret. But I don’t know which I’ll actually release first. The jury is still out on that.
To answer the last part of your question, I have no idea. Ideas just come to me. It’s my weird, overactive brain. I’m constantly bombarded with things, a mile a minute. If one of these things strikes me the right way, I go with it.
Oh a secret!! How cool is that? Since I can’t be trusted with sitting on a secret, what do you do to quiet those voices inside your head? I know writing is the outlet, but do you talk it out, do you act it out, do you go over a scene that’s troubling you with another person you trust?
Quiet voices? I wish I had those. Mine are always screaming. If I’m struggling with something, I’ve learned to realize that the best solution is to just walk away from it in the moment. I’m not one of those writers who has to work on a schedule, pound out 5,000 words a day. If something’s not working, I just go and do something else and come back to it. I might write three days later, or next week. I let the subconscious figure it out, and it always does.
Last but not least, where can people find your work or connect with you online?
Velvet Rain: http://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Rain-ebook/dp/B007OBN21M