I'm stepping away from the paranormal today to feature the contemporary thriller, The Schwarzschild Radius, set in my fair city. When Rachel's sister goes missing, the 18-year-old Columbia University student falls into a violent underworld of child pornography, snuff films, and other horrific crimes. In searching for her sister, Rachel finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who "auctions the deaths of young girls in an eBay of agony." This book is not for the faint of heart, with trigger warnings galore, but it's getting some terrific reviews, and worth a look if you like exciting but unsettling reads.
You can visit author Gustavo Florentin over on his website, connect with him on Facebook. And look for the giveaway at the end of the interview -- it's for a $50 Amazon gift card!
Tell me about The Schwarzschild Radius. What inspired you to tell Rachel’s story?
The Schwarzschild Radius had its genesis decades ago when I attended the Bronx High School of Science. I met so many brilliant young people there and a few years later I thought it would be a good idea to write a story about some geniuses who solve a mystery using their wits.
What type of world is the New York City that you have created in the book? Is it similar to the NYC we know, or are there certain elements that you created?
The New York City in the book really exists, though it may not be something most people are familiar with. The abandoned subway tunnels, for instance, go back to the Civil War, and there really are people living in some of them. They are called “mole people." (Ed note: For those interested, there's a great book from the early 90s, about the homeless that live in the abandoned subway tunnels, The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath NYC)
What drew you to writing thrillers?
I started out reading the classics when I was young. Later, I came to admire devices like plot twists and surprise endings. There are many more of those in thrillers than in The Brothers Karamazov, for example. I really liked The Day of the Jackal. Forsythe combined research, suspense and a beautifully elegant writing style into a blockbuster and that book really set the bar for me.
Many of the reviews for this book focus on how frightening and dangerous the world is that Rachel dives into. And that the “monsters” are real rather than paranormal creatures make it all the more horrific. Is it difficult to write “human” monsters? How do you get into their heads?
I can identify to some extent even with the bad guys, but at some point, I simply have to use a lot of technique. These antagonists are SO evil that it’s hard to get into their skin. I find that making them intelligent and at times reserved is more effective than making them act over the top all the time. That would get tiresome and the evil would lose its impact.
You have a fascinating, very technical day job! Is it tough moving between engineer and writer? How do you balance the two?
One has nothing to do with the other, it’s true. Sometimes when I’ve had a really stressful day I have to unwind before writing by listening to music or playing the violin for a while. When you’re doing one job, you really have to forget the other. Needless to say, I would rather be writing than solving IT problems.
Now that The Schwarzschild Radius is released, what is next for you?
I’m working on my next thriller, but I find that marketing The Schwarzschild Radius takes more time than I thought it would. Marketing is not something you give much thought to when you start writing. I don’t really care for self-promotion, but it’s a reality of the writing life. My new novel is a political thriller where the main character is John McKenna, the detective in The Schwarzschild Radius. I needed someone with his background and he fit the bill perfectly, so that saved me the trouble of creating a new protagonist.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Yes, I tend to read first. I’m usually reading four or five books at a time and I’ll read a chapter of each to get into the groove. Then I’ll read what I wrote yesterday, then I’ll start writing my day’s quota, which is 500 words during the week and 1000 to 1500 words on the weekends. It’s a tough regimen between my day job, marketing The Schwarzschild Radius and having a life.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I do all my writing on a home-made lapdesk in front of my fireplace. I have a really nice office which I use for my engineering work, but when I quit for the day, I don’t go back in there.
What inspires you to write?
I like originality. I’ll always look for an original premise and I have to be able to condense it into a great pitch under 30 words. Above all, the idea has to move me. I have to get the feeling that this story HAS to be told. Only then can I commit a couple of years of my life to writing it.
What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?
It’s all over the map. Money Shot, by Crista Faust, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Snow Leopard by Peter Mathiessen, Hollywood by Gore Vidal and an Agatha Christie collection.
What do you recommend people see/read/hear?
Well, certainly if you’re into fiction and drama, immerse yourself in it. Find an inexpensive playhouse and see plays whenever you can. Read history, classics and the modern works. I watch a lot of foreign films on Netflix. Get a feel for what’s been done, so when you get an idea, you’ll know if it’s worthy.