Welcome to Cat After Dark, Frank! It’s so nice to meet you. I’m glad that you were able to take time out of your schedule to let us get to know you a little bit better.
Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here!
Are you a full time writer or do you hold down a regular job as well?
In my non-writing life I’m a lawyer. I’ve been at that for about 16 years now, all on the defense side. Initially I worked in juvenile court and then for the last ten-plus years I’ve been trying cases exclusively in felony court, what we call the Court of Common Pleas here in Ohio. Recently I started handling an appellate case load. That’s mostly brief-writing, so I’m still writing even in my non-writing time.
What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?
I usually balk at answering this question. The only time I ever discussed an active, unfinished project in an interview it later fell apart.
However, in this case I am legitimately between books, so I really don’t have anything to reveal–or to worry about jinxing. I’ve got three or four ideas sitting on my desk, in various stages of outlining. Some are just sketches. Eventually one of them will pick up steam and I’ll run with it.
What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working? And how would you spend your time if there were no restrictions in place – either time or dollar-wise?
I love to travel, that’s probably my one great passion after writing. At last count I’ve visited just over 40 countries, and I’m always trying to add to the list.
If I had as much money and time as I wanted, that’s all I’d do. I would write for a few months non-stop, then take a month or two off to fly to some far-flung spot, backpack around, sample odd food, tour ancient ruins, look at exotic wildlife, etc.
When did you first start telling stories? Do you remember your first story?
I do! I was in the third grade. It was Halloween and I wrote a monster story for class, I believe it was a Dracula story (but it might have been a werewolf story, I’m not sure which one I did first, but I know I did versions of both). Anyway, the other kids passed it around and seemed to like it, so I wrote a few more. I’ve been doing it ever since.
If you could spend the evening having drinks with any one person from history, who would you choose and why? Language is not a problem.
I’m not believer in any particular religion, so none of the standard answers of Jesus, Buddha, etc. have much appeal to me. Second, my tangential relationship to government in my work-life leads me to believe that most political figures, however great their achievements or bold their leadership, are essentially cut from the same cloth. Most are willing to lie or cheat to get to those positions, and probably have to be that way in order to succeed. So I’m not interested in meeting any of them, even the great ones.
That leaves artists, thinkers, philosophers, maybe military types. Not much interest in the latter bunch, but I do think Leonardo, Shakespeare or Einstein would be on the list. However, if I had to pick one and only one, I’m leaning in a different direction. What I’d probably do is pick a fairly random, otherwise-anonymous person and find out everything I could about him or her.
I’ll give you my reasons, briefly. A few years ago I was at the Topkapi palace museum in Istanbul. There’s a section there with grave markers from the Roman era, going all the way back to the days of the East/West split of the Empire. The engravings are haunting, not because they’re unusual, but because they’re so mundane. They’re just like what we write now, two-thousand years later. People missed their parents. They mourned their spouses or their children who died too young, etc. Except for these markers, these people are completely unknown, unremembered and lost forever.
There are literally billions of people who have lived and died over the ages and we know virtually nothing about them. Not only are their names lost, but everything about them: what they cared about, who they loved, what they dreamt about, what they thought the world they were giving to their children would look like. I want to sit down with one of them. I want to find out all of those things from someone that history has forgotten.
Would you go on Dancing with the Stars if given the opportunity?
No, never. Absolutely not. I don’t care what they pay. There isn’t enough money in the world to get me to do that. I hate dancing.
What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?
Seriously tough question!
1) Robert E. Howard’s “Conan the Conqueror” (originally titled “The Hour of the Dragon”) is the first book I really fell in love with. I bought it as a used paperback for five cents at my local library sometime in middle school and read it repeatedly until it nearly fell apart.
2) Frank Herbert’s “Dune” I read one summer in high school, and it opened my eyes to what SciFi can be. It was huge and epic and tackled real, heavy issues. It showed me that speculative fiction could be so much more than spaceships and laser fights.
3) Super close call on #3 but I’m going to go with Clive Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart.” It’s the first book I read as an adult that just knocked me over and made me say “wow, I wish I could do that.”(Honorable mention here goes to Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere.” These two books are so close that if you asked me on another day, in a different mood, I might very well have reversed the order.
Right now I’m reading Mary Beard’s “SPQR” which is a study of the early days of the Roman Republic, the centuries before Caesar that set the stage for what Rome eventually became. I switch off between fiction and non-fiction, and try to read a little of both.
You just invented a magic portal. Anyone who passed though the portal would be ‘unexisted’. So they would not be missed and life would work itself out. You can send three people through the portal. Who will you send? Why?
That’s another tough one. It’s uncomfortably close to “who would you kill if you could get away with it?” Given my job, I’d be loath to wade into those waters. If I want to be consistent that I am against the use of the death penalty for anyone, no matter the offense, then I can’t in good conscience say that I think I possess the wisdom to use it “properly” if it were left up to my judgment. So I’ll have to abstain on this one.
If you could choose one time and place in history to visit for a day, where would it be and what would you do?
If we’re talking about the entire history of the Earth, then I’d probably visit one day before the Chicxulub impact about 65 million years ago. Take in the last day of the dinosaurs.
What would your death row meal consist of?
A large “Number 8” with everything from Nick’s Pizzeria in Bergenfield, New Jersey. It’s the best sandwich I’ve ever had, anywhere. I’ve literally dreamed about this hero before trips back home to visit. Ham, Genoa salami, capicola, prosciuttini, provolone, lettuce, tomato and onion with oil and vinegar on fresh-baked Italian bread. It is as close to a perfect sandwich as mankind will ever get.
How would you like the world to remember you?
I read an obituary recently in which they said the deceased had been “generous and kind to small children and animals.” I can’t imagine being remembered any better than that.
Are you looking for something a little different to read? Frank’s newest book, published just this past December is probably just what you’re craving. RITES OF AZATHOTH is a well thought out, super descriptive FBI thriller by way of Lovecraftian science fiction epic. Wow! It was a good storyline and if it seemed a little long in the beginning, I got over that once the story got started and I was invested in the plot, I read straight through to the end in with just one sleep break.
Available at Amazon.com
Thank you for an excellent interview, Frank. You sound like a fascinating person for whom one interview is not nearly enough! Thanks so much!