I'm happy to have had the opportunity to interview Frank Cavallo, author of the dark fantasy, Eye of the Storm.
Tell me a little bit about your book.
“Eye of the Storm” is a Sword & Planet novel for the modern day. It involves a group of adventurers from Earth passing through a dimensional gateway and landing on a “lost world” in a parallel universe. Sword & Planet was popular back in the days of the pulp fiction magazines, before most of the conventions we typically associate with fantasy had become quite as well established. So while it has many of the things fantasy readers expect, knights, dragons and wizards etc., there are also elements of sci-fi—cyborgs and advanced tech, for example. It’s meant to be a bit of a throwback to the feeling of those old stories, with a fast pace and a lot of action-adventure sequences.
If you had to write this one all over again, go through the whole editing and publishing process from the beginning again, is there anything you’d do differently?
That is a really unusual question, I hope my answer doesn’t undermine the book, but I’ll give it a shot. Looking back, what I wish I had done is the exact opposite of what I set out to do, at least in one respect. I wrote “Eye of the Storm” intending to cut against the grain of fantasy stories always being told in trilogy form (or longer). I wanted to write a fully self-contained fantasy epic in one volume. The problem is, I had to make choices in order to do that. There’s only so much material you can squeeze into a single novel, even a long one, and this one tops out at over 400 pages.
Primarily this book was intended to hearken back to old time pulp fiction, as I noted a moment ago, so I elected to tailor it more heavily along the lines of an action-driven story. That left less room than normal for any deep character study, which I assumed no one would really miss because those old stories weren’t all that deep anyway. Turns out I may have misjudged what a lot of modern readers are expecting. Some people have complained that there isn’t enough character depth or the love story doesn’t go deep enough, etc. Those things are true, they’re just not accidental. I figured readers would appreciate a straightforward fantasy adventure without much of the hand-wringing and neuroses of the characters filling up the pages. Clearly some did, but I think if I had expanded the scope into three books, I could have included everything.
Are you a plotter and know what’s going to happen or are you a pantser that lets your characters lead you by the balls?
I’m going to have to give you a weasely answer here, because I’m a bit of both. I do plot out my books extensively in advance, however, part of the fun of it all is that once I get down to writing, things happen that alter the course of the story. So I always have to change direction in mid-stream.
I read an interview with Orson Welles years ago where he said that in making a movie, he plotted out every single shot in meticulous fashion ahead of time—but then was always willing to throw out the script entirely if some better idea developed once the shooting started. I think writing a novel is a slow-motion version of that process. Plan ahead, but never shy away from changing course once you’re in progress. If you’re doing it right, very often the characters will tell you where they want to go, and you just follow their lead.
What’s something that you are really good at that most people don’t know about?
I can do a solid Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone impression. I also do a decent Christopher Walken, but it’s a bit more over the top.
Do you think being a writer is a gift or is it a curse? Why?
I’m not sure it’s really either one, but if I had to pick, I’d say it’s a gift. To be a writer, even a middling one, is to be able to share your dreams (and your nightmares) with the entire world. It’s being able to speak to people you’ll never meet or who haven’t even been born yet, who might read your words a hundred years after you type them and be able to know you in some small but deeply personal way, long after you’re gone. That’d have to be a gift, right?
Parents like to say they don’t have a favorite child, but we all know that’s not true. I could say the same for writers. So who’s your favorite child... erm, I mean character?
This one is easy. My favorite character is the main guy from my book “The Hand of Osiris” an outlaw named Jedidiah Sykes. He’s made some bad choices that haunt him. Some of his good choices didn’t turn out so well either, and he’s nearly at the end of his rope. He thinks he’s just a little too far gone to find any kind of redemption, but somewhere deep down, he hopes it’s possible. He also gets drunk a lot and is really good at shooting people.
Do you usually root for the heroes or the villains?
I’d love to say that I root for the villains, like Barney Stinson pulling for Hans Gruber in “Die Hard” but I’m a softie. I root for the heroes. When you get into the Tony Soprano anti-hero types though, that’s where all the good stories are.
As far as your characters go, who would you like to have a beer with? Who do you wish you hadn’t created?
The main character in my new book “Rites of Azathoth” is a hard-edged FBI agent from Boston. I’d probably get along great with her over a few drinks. At least until we started talking baseball. She’s a Red Sox fan and I’m a lifelong Yankee fan. So our relationship would be doomed.
As far as characters I wish I hadn’t created, the only one I can think of is one I drew up for a Warhammer project a few years ago. I won’t use his name, because it was contract work and I don’t own him. The whole project didn’t work out the way I’d hoped and I didn’t really like how the character turned out. Too many cooks in that kitchen. It ruined the character.
Tell me one thing that’s on your bucket list.
I’ve never flown in a helicopter. It’s mundane, I know, but I’d like to do that someday.
If you were asked to write a book in a different genre than your current works, what genre would you choose and why?
I love to travel, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing travelogues. I read a book a few years ago called “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” about a guy’s journey through the Andes. I think that would be a fun thing to attempt. Even if the book doesn’t turn out well, at least I’d get to take a great trip.
So, say you just got arrested. What’s the most likely reason the cops are carting you off to jail?
In my non-writing life, I’m a criminal defense attorney, so I’m usually the one trying to get people out of jail. However, my line of work has exposed me to every conceivable violation of the law you can imagine, which has therefore made me uncommonly careful about how I live. So the worst thing I typically do is exceed the speed limit. That’s not generally an arrestable offense however, just a citation. In order to get hauled off to jail I’d probably have to miss a court date or blow off a fine on a ticket. I realize that’s not an exciting answer, but I’m a lawyer. We’re not exciting people.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for one of your books?
I drank fermented horse milk in Mongolia so that I could believably write about the taste of it in “Eye of the Storm”. It was as real as it gets too. We found a nomadic family living out on the steppe who milk their own horses and ferment the stuff in big barrels in their yurt. They invited us to eat and drink with them, and the father passed around a bowl of the stuff for everyone to drink before dinner. It wasn’t bad.
What’s the one book you wish you had written?
The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. The Cenobites (Pinhead and his ilk) get all the attention, but the real genius of that book is that the horror comes from the depraved hearts of the human characters, not the demonic ones. Their pursuit of desire, of pleasures forbidden for various reasons, is where all the evil comes from. The writing itself is also fantastic, equal parts elegant and profane.
When you were little, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
A firefighter. I was a big fan of the show “Emergency.” But by the time I was in middle school it was clear that I was ill-suited for that kind of physical work.
What’s your writing quirk? Every author’s got one ;)
I listen to music when I write. But it has to be the right music. I try to pick something that sounds like the mood I’m trying to convey in my book. For my first novel I was trying to settle into a creepy, dark vibe, so I played Alice in Chains albums over and over for months. When I was writing Warhammer battle scenes I played the Basil Poledouris “Conan” soundtracks on a loop.
In your most recent work, would you tell us about some of the material that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor?
The book I just released, “Rites of Azathoth” is thriller about summoning Lovecraftian entities from the great beyond. Originally though, I started writing it with a sci-fi bent, using technology instead of black magic to build a bridge between our world and the next. Ultimately I scrapped all the tech stuff and re-drafted it with all that material cut out.
What’s your favorite Disney movie? Seriously, this one is super important. Your life depends on your answer here.
There’s no doubt. Peter Pan, hands down, every single day and twice on Sunday. Nothing captures the rebellious, independent, fun-loving spirit of every little boy who ever complained when his parents called him home for dinner. Every little boy who wished his carefree summers would never end, but always knew that someday they would.
Where can our readers find your work?
My books are available at all the usual spots, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. My stuff with Necro Publications is available from their site directly (necropublications.com)
What/When is your next release coming out?
“Rites of Azathoth” was just released at the very end of January this year.
How do you want readers to keep in touch with you?
I’m on twitter (@fjcavallo) and facebook (Author.FrankCavallo) and I have a personal website www.frankcavallo.com with an email associated there as well, easy to remember: email@example.com I respond to pretty much everyone. I love getting notes from people who read my stuff.
About the Author:
Horror and dark fantasy author Frank Cavallo's work has appeared in magazines such as Another Realm, Ray Gun Revival, Every Day Fiction, Lost Souls and the Warhammer e-zine Hammer and Bolter.
His latest novel, Eye of the Storm, was released in August 2016 by Ravenswood Publishing.
“In Eye of the Storm, I try to bring back some of the elements that I like from old time pulp fiction,” says Frank. “It is a throwback to old school adventure stories, combining the pacing and the feel of those classic tales with some newer elements that are not all that common to typical fantasy fiction.”
Frank’s previously published works include The Lucifer Messiah, The Hand of Osiris, and the Gotrek & Felix novella Into the Valley of Death. He is currently working on a new novel, The Rites of Azathoth, with Necro Publications, due out in February 2017.
Frank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has been a criminal defense attorney for fifteen years.
Readers can connect with Frank on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.