Today I’m pleased to welcome author Robert Downs, discussing his latest book Falling Immortality.
Robert aspired to be a writer before he realized how difficult the writing process was. Fortunately, he’d already fallen in love with the craft, otherwise Casey Holden of Falling Immortality might never have seen print. Originally from West Virginia, he has lived in Virginia, Massachusetts, and now resides in New Mexico.
Despite his literary side, numbers are very much a part of his world, to the point that he has a business administration degree from West Virginia University as well as an MBA from Columbia College.
1. Tell a little about yourself, what you do when you’re not writing, what are your aspirations for the future?
Sure, depending on my mood, I’m either a financial specialist or budget analyst with the government. So after staring at numbers and spreadsheets all day long, writing helps me stay sane. I have a business degree from West Virginia University and an MBA from Columbia College, which tells the world I can follow a study plan and that I’m trainable. The business degrees have served me well in the marketing of my debut novel, although the extent of my marketing skills is still debatable.
I lived in West Virginia for the first twenty-two years of my life, before I decided it might be fun to live in new areas and reinvent myself. Since then, I’ve lived in Virginia, Massachusetts, and now I reside in New Mexico.
My wife and I are avid movie watchers, and we’re doing our best to singlehandedly keep Netflix in business. We have both the streaming and DVD mail-in option. Traveling and golf are a couple of our favorite pastimes, although neither of us has picked up a golf club in more than a year. A sad, sad day, especially since Albuquerque is known for its 300+ days of sunshine.
As far as my aspirations for the future, I don’t have a grand plan, even though I’m great at planning ahead. I plan to write until I’m dead, and even then, I should probably leave instructions in my will for my wife to bury me with a manual typewriter and reams of paper. Since writing is as much a part of me as breathing, I can’t imagine living in a world where I don’t write. That would be one of the worst forms of torture I could possibly imagine.
2. When and why did you start writing?
It took me about eleven years to publish my first novel, and I’ve been writing for about another year or so on top of that, which means I’m either a bad writer, a highly persistent one, or that I had the writer gene in there somewhere, and I just needed the proper motivation, and to write a bunch of crap before I could write anything good. Honestly, it’s probably some combination of all three.
The movie Finding Forrester helped change my way of thinking when it came to writing, and it served as a source of inspiration for me. I always hated writing in school, because it was all about the rules (not necessarily a bad thing), and it was forced down my throat. I never thought of writing for myself, until I watched Finding Forrester. After the movie, though, something clicked for me, and I realized for a shy guy I had a whole lot to say. I opened this massive floodgate that I haven’t been able to close since. And if I’m lucky, it’ll never close.
3. If you could only read one book over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Honestly, I don’t think I could pick just one. I can’t even pick one genre of books, movies, TV shows, or music. I have a list of favorite authors, and it grows by the year. And someday I have plans to write outside of the mystery genre, so unfortunately, I can’t give you a simple answer to your question.
4. Give us some back story about Falling Immortality, where and when did you write it?
Most likely, I started the novel in 2004, although it all blends together a bit, so I can’t give you more accurate information on an actual date. I should have kept more accurate records. I do know I was living in the Hamptons Roads or Tidewater area, which is why I set the novel there. After growing up in West Virginia, I was a bit fascinated with being near the ocean, the growth of the Virginia Beach metropolitan area, the transient people, as well as its strong military presence. That particular area also has a rich history with Jamestown and Williamsburg. Since I couldn’t find many novels set there, it all sort of came together for me.
5. What inspired your story?
I can’t really tell you what exactly inspired it, since on some deeper level, it feels like this is exactly the story I was supposed write, and Casey Holden is the exact character who needs to tell the tale. But I can tell you how the novel came about. I’d been writing for about four years or so, and I was literally all over the place with my stories. I’d used the third person omniscient point of view, although I’ve blocked out specific details, since the writing was pretty awful. My mom, however, told me it was good, but then she’s always been my biggest cheerleader, even when she doesn’t know what she’s cheering for. It’s also one of the qualities that makes her truly special.
Anyway, I was all over the place as a writer, and I couldn’t plot if I had a .357 Magnum pointed at my head. So I needed direction and focus. The only way to literally save myself from my own ignorance was to box myself in as a writer. I love all types of mysteries, so I set out to write the type of mystery I’d want to read. To further confine myself, I decided to write a first person mystery, and since I know men a whole lot better than I do women, I wrote from the male perspective. Once I’m fully invested, I never do anything halfway, so I ended up writing the strongest male I possibly could. My dad, who is good with words, has told me he’s my alter-ego, and I’d say he’s not far from the truth.
6. What was your favorite part of Falling Immortality to write?
I’d have to say I really enjoyed all of it. I had more fun writing it than any other book I’d ever written before. I really got into Casey’s character, probably a bit too much in some cases, and I just loved his attitude and outlook on life, since it can be quite different from my own. He stands up for himself on every single occasion, and I take a much more calculated approach.
The other characters were a lot of fun for me to write as well. Even though I write what Stephen King has called MANfiction, I tried not to shy away from the female characters. I did my best to create strong counterpoints to his boisterous personality; Ian Jackard, whose personality more closely mirrors my own, amounts to a good foil.
7. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I like your use of the term projects, since I tend to work about four or five steps ahead of the publishing industry. The publishing industry, like the government, moves around about as well as an antelope on a tricycle. In either case, it’s certainly not their fault, as it takes quite a bit of work to bring a book to market, if you do it right, and the government ends up being a megacorporation. With books, as in life, there are no shortcuts to success. Hard work and persistence are the only aspects that will see you through.
The next two novels in the series are currently with my publisher. Graceful Immortality, the sequel to Falling Immortality, involves the murder of a female dancer from the Virginia Dance Company. Kathryn Gable, another dancer in the company, comes to Casey, and asks him to solve Jessica Mason’s murder. Like in the first novel, things aren’t quite what they seem, or before he even realizes it, he’s in over his head again.
I’m in various stages of completion on the next three novels, with the sixth Immortality mystery being the roughest at this point. I’ve also begun work on three novels outside of Casey, one of which is a mystery with a female lead, and two of which are thrillers. My mind tends to go off in various directions, and I do my best to keep it in check. It’s a constant give and take relationship.
8. Are you a Pantser or Plotter? Why?
Oh, I’m definitely a pantser. I understand the comfort of working with an outline, and I certainly respect all the writers that take such an approach, but it’s just not me. I figure if I can surprise myself when I’m writing it, then hopefully my readers will be surprised as well. If I have the entire story mapped out in front of me, I’m not sure how good I would be at actually sticking to the plan. I’ve heard some writers only end up using it as a guide, while other writers follow it much more extensively. Plus, I look at being a pantser as a challenge. If I know the beginning with only a vague idea of the ending, then half the fun of writing is actually getting there.
9. Do you have any tricks to your trade, bottomless coffee, a magic pen, a special muse?
Unfortunately, I don’t have any great secrets. My muse can be fickle; my inspiration can be fleeting; the writing ends up being both a joy and a constant struggle; and the hours can be long for what may amount to minimal pay. But I write because I love it; it ends up being as natural to me as breathing; and I can’t imagine not doing it. Like John Grisham has said, I place my butt to chair, and I read extensively. Everything else has to be earned.
10. If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would it be and why?
Since I’m such a big Lee Child fan, I’d have to say Jack Reacher. He’s a ladies man; he travels extensively; he never backs down from a challenge; and he has a take-no-prisoners attitude, along with a strong military background. What more could you possibly ask for?
Be sure to check out Falling Immortality. Feel free to leave a comment for the author!
Casey Holden, former cop, current PI in Virginia Beach, VA, screens his clients the way he screens his women, based on whichever drop-dead gorgeous woman happens to waltz through his door first and manages to hold his attention. So when Felicity Farren, widow-at-large, struts into his office asking him to solve the two-year-old murder of her husband Artis, she intrigues him. When Casey starts digging, he learns the murder isn’t what it seems to be and he doesn’t have a big enough shovel to unearth the truth. And to top it all off, his former rival at the police department, Greg Gilman, is determined to disrupt his investigation. Casey’s challenge is to learn what really happened to Artis, and why Gilman can’t seem to remove his head from his butt. And he’ll need all of his wits to complete the task.