Inside the Literary Mind of Oliver F. Chase
March 14, 2017
I discovered if a character is given its head, the result is a wonderful, pleasurable and unforgivable chaos.
Says Oliver F. Chase: “I grew up on military bases and like all boys, played good guys and bad. After college, I stepped into a war zone where my best friend died a couple years before. The Smith Corona and I taught school on the Navajo Indian Reservation, joined a police department, flew commercial airplanes, and even worked as a manager.
“After a while, we both struck out on our own. Writing and my characters are the only way sometimes I could right some wrongs and be heard among all the other voices.
“My six novels include Marsh Island, Blind Marsh, and Levant Mirage, starring soldiers, cops, and crooks I’ve known all my life”
Question: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
Oliver: My newest book, Levant Mirage exposes more than just fifteen hundred years of religious turmoil. The world faces a grim choice: submit to the demands of terrorists or face mass obliteration. Adam Michaels, son of a jet-setting mother and a heroic Syrian father was exonerated for his part in the bloodiest day of America’s longest war. Yet when he returns home, neither forgiveness nor understanding greet him. His ambitious and politically connected wife files for divorce, a conspiracy in the halls of the Pentagon places a target squarely on his back, and a Broadway actress makes a life-threatening choice.
When a top-secret PhD dissertation is inexplicably declassified, Adam becomes the most hated man in the terrorist’s new caliphate. Believing he may hold the key to thwart a theocratic society of subjugation, a splinter group attempts to kidnap or at the very least, kill him. With a billion lives in the balance as the planet crumbles, Adam makes a choice that few understand and fewer will forgive.
Here’s the trailer for the 2015 book: Levant Mirage
Question: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
Oliver: I grew up on military bases throughout the country. Coaxing me into an afternoon of baseball, hiking the Southern California’s hills or paddling a North Carolina backwater didn’t take much unless a book grabbed me first. Unfortunately for my dubious athletic career, many did.
Like most of us in the writing game, I wrote and published in our school papers, and acted in high school plays. My best friend and I joined the Marines in college, but he left after finding stumbling blocks that seemed insurmountable. A year after graduating, I stepped onto a sweaty tarmac with a manual typewriter not far from where Herb had died. Fate has a way of putting day-to-day frustrations into a cruel perspective that becomes lost in the haze of everyday life.
Thirty-one of us flew days and nights trying to handle gunship missions. The only reason we ever went into some of those dark, frightening places was for our friends, none of whom we’d met before that long night.
After grad school, I spent time wandering and writing. Thank goodness, I never sold anything. If I had, a whole different path might have been laid before me. I did a bit of teaching, some years with the alphabet cops, contracted myself out, yada, yada. Like many of us, I helped raise and finance a family. I held onto my old manual typewriter for as long as possible, and sent short stories and novels to publisher’s row. When our writing world turned upside down a couple decades ago, and I discovered our work couldn’t be victimized by a privileged few in New York, and so promoted myself to fulltime novelist.
I’ve found a couple publishers, discovered modest success in some early work, and continue to plug along uttering the mantra: always improve … next word better than the first. At this stage in my life, I hope to see some commercial success, but that’s really not important anymore. If I have something to say and others like it, so much the better. If they don’t, then I hope they’ll share with me. Life is a game that requires all of us to build and improve. Writers in particular need to swim faster than the current or be swept into oblivion.
Question: What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?
Oliver: Flashlight in hand, covers over my head, I read novels like Exodus by Leon Uris; Youngblood Hawk by Herman Wouk; and Hawaii by James Michener. Were they the greatest early influence? Hard to say. They were important, yet there were others, too and often darker in their outlook.
Fallout from a single event shook my understanding of the world when deniers of the WWII holocaust emerged. I had no idea what they were talking about and of course, decided to find out. My search led me to novels such as Mila 18 and as I mentioned above, Exodus. That only drove my imagination into higher gear.
The pulp fiction book market responded with prurient, graphic descriptions and sometimes lurid, horrifying novels. These weren’t the made-up monsters of Finney and Lovecraft. These were real people doing things to other real people. Still gives me the shutters, but isn’t this ugliness still with us today? I discovered at an early age that if a lie is told often enough, some people believe it.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your books?
Oliver: I’ve known about the Levant concept but hadn’t given it more than passing thought. That is, until a terrorist movement claimed its central concept in their drive for world dominance. One might suppose with all my early reading about that part of the world, and the resultant wars and homeland disputes since then, a young writer should have anticipated the middle east of today. I didn’t. In Levant Mirage, I give vent to both my earlier interests, military background, and fascination with modern day politics. I mix these vigorously with the science fiction that will dominate our future.
My detective series with hero Phil Pfeiffer finds stories shaken (and never stirred) from events as reported and conjured in my brain. All my stories rely on facts faithfully reported and then fictionalized for the characters.
The last two presidential elections inspired my newest book Camelot Games, set to release in the Winter of 2017 (The Wild Rose Press). Written in the American deserts near Mojave, I tell the story of just how misdirected man can be when offered the world.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your characters?
Oliver: I like characters Phil Pfeiffer, Lisa Calendar, Walter LoPresti, and Victor Elephante (Marsh Island, Blind Marsh, and soon to be seen in Laurette’s Legacy and “Mop” working title). As with most, they are a montage of the men and women I’ve known growing up, in the military and while chasing bad guys for my daily bread. Spoken words are faithful to their calling, sometimes using language reserved for the streets, but always doing what they say they’ll do.
Levant Mirage’s Adam Michaels, Brad Benchley, and Miranda Cinclaire roam in a world and on a course, that will test their courage and faith. We can never go home or recover the lost, so choose wisely. The river of life is swift and unforgiving when we stumble.
In Camelot Games (release scheduled for Winter 2017), Scott McHale, Angie Molina, and Big Jim Dearborn clash in the world of politics and greed. They set out on a life’s course, yet never anticipate campaign staffer Juliette Pearson becoming the canary in the mine heralding the end of their ambition.
Question: How would you describe your writing style?
Oliver: Wow, that’s a tough one. I write way too many initial words, and find myself always cutting. A while ago, a writing guru suggested the story should flow from heart and brain onto the paper (read this as a computer screen), as fast as one’s fingers would fly. Disregard all the gaffs. He explained much would fall to the red pencil, anyway. Made sense, so that’s what I do. No one sees the first couple of drafts except me and the gremlin living inside the Toshiba.
I like solid plots with dead-on dialog, even though my characters try to grow out of control. I discovered if a character is given its head, the result is a wonderful, pleasurable and unforgivable chaos. Just like flying an airplane, the pilot (writer) must be in control at all times. That goes double for a favorite character, and we all have them.
True to that credo, I’ve become a scene slasher. If I start something that isn’t working, I force myself to finish. Big or small. I once read that Sinclair Lewis sometimes tossed out ten thousand words, often without a second thought. I’d be willing to bet those words were wonderful by anyone’s standards. The guy was a Nobel Laurette, after all. If the big man can do that, with an ink pen, I can too. Besides, the scenes remain in electron purgatory, because nothing in the modern world goes away. Good object lessons.
I plan my stories to death using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflakes while adapting my own variation of spreadsheets and box inserts. Because I like to write the occasional story within a story, organization and character discipline become essential. I track characters and insure they change and mature long before the first sentence is written. Scene creation and consistency is vital in a novel, and I’ve develop a simple spreadsheet to track the details. Once I start the fun part, the writing, I try not to stop to reorganize – but that’s usually a pipe dream. Making a cogent, flowing and engaging story is top priority, not my plan.
Question: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?
Oliver: Without a doubt, I find marketing in the broadest sense to be my most onerous task in writing. Some aspects such as offering talks, answering questions, and meeting with other authors is outright fun. In fact, sharing with other authors has become one of my favorite pastimes and I reach out all the time, especially with members writing in the thriller-mystery genre.
Nevertheless, as simple as social media seems, I find maintaining a crescendo of enthusiasm for throwing words into the ether to be the least satisfying and most difficult of all writing tasks. Call me silly, but one hundred and forty characters shot into the dark barrel of oblivion with a gazillion others, just isn’t satisfying. The same folks who tout internet prowess seem to fill up my inboxes with stuff I almost never read. I try not to be like them. I don’t have the willingness to join the madding race. Then again, consider that you’ve never heard of me, and that most likely, the books I’ve written may remain unread … forever.
There are exceptions. I follow James Clear occasionally. Kristen Lamb makes me laugh. Scott Lorenzo puts together interesting articles. Roland Hughes has something to say about everything. Write, read, live life, write some more … and when a few spare moments pop up, pull a favorite guru out of the morass and read him or her.
Question: What are your current projects?
Oliver: Marsh Island and Blind Marsh’s publishing rights were returned to me when AEC Stellar closed their doors. I’m correcting errors they missed and rewriting with vigor.
Camelot Games awaits the editors’ final galley approval before setting the release date. The cover was approved and completed in early November, as were the blurbs and taglines. I’ll be kicking the marketing plan into overdrive next month.
Laureate’s Legacy, next in the Phil Pfeiffer detective series is undergoing a recommended hiatus, hidden on a flash drive in my top desk drawer. This break gives my brain fresh eyes for the next step in completion. I’ll open that book in mid-December and begins the first draft’s rewrite over Christmas.
Mop (three letter working title), another in the detective series, is outlined (again Randy’s Snowflakes) with the basic elements of character, plot, setting, dialogue, point of view and length coming into focus. I’m still mulling about my uncomfortable second story element, that of a threatening and overwhelming family decision facing the family when technology threatens to liquefy martial harmony.
As always, I take continuing education on the side. Never stop learning, or swimming.
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