Name : Chuck Lovatt
Age: 59 (Whoa! Can that be right??)
Where are you from:
The tiny little hamlet of Carroll, Manitoba (pop +/- 20) on the Canadian prairies.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:
I grew up on the family farm, the youngest of five (two brothers & two sisters). In retrospect, I think that it’s the greatest environment for a child to be raised in, although I took it for granted at the time. After high school I became a carpenter’s apprentice, mostly because I had to do something, and thought that it might be kinda fun (Ha!) Close to forty years later I’ve supervised the building of everything from houses to hospitals, and lots of other stuff in between. Many of those projects were worth millions of dollars, but none of them ever gave me the same satisfaction as one solid day of writing.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My debut novel, “The Adventures o Charlie Smithers”, has just recently celebrated its first anniversary on Amazon. In that time it has made appearances on the best sellers list in three countries, and is currently enjoying a seven week (and counting) stint as a best seller in the US for African Historical Fiction.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began in the very early 80’s, because it just felt like something I had to do. Funny how that worked: I felt driven, but that didn’t mean I was any good at it. I didn’t have a very good environment for writing either. Not many people I knew read very much, so eventually I tried to pretend that it wasn’t very important. I’d continue to write every so often, when an idea would grab me by the scruff of the neck and sit me down at a typewriter (and eventually a computer – marvelous inventions!) but never with any consistency.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
About eight years ago, when I finally dropped the pretense and admitted that it was important to me after all. It took a bit of doing to shake off the rust and hone my skill, but I eventually got better and better.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always loved a good swashbuckler, so I thought I’d give it a try.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Gosh, I don’t know! I’ve been compared to George MacDonald Fraser (which I consider a huge compliment), but I couldn’t tell you if there’s any truth to it.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Adventures of Charlie Smithers? The adventure part more or less speaks for itself. As for the name, I wanted to write a period piece about someone who was a manservant to an English lord, which I thought was rather novel, and I wanted his name to accent that he was a commoner, and also to give just a hint of tongue-in-cheek, so that a prospective reader might expect a bit of humour. It took me all of five minutes to dream it up, and I think Charlie Smithers fits the bill rather well.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really. I want my readers to be entertained. I’ve come to consider myself as an instinctive writer as opposed to a thinking one. In the past, whenever I set out with a definite message in mind, it never turned out very well. Then one day I discovered that it was better to let the story tell itself, and I would serve as its narrator. Once I had that set in my mind I’ve never looked back. That isn’t to say that there are no profundities in my work, because I believe that there are; it’s just that they were already in the story when it found me.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I think that it’s very realistic. In fact, it could have been true, and quite possibly was.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I would think that they would have to be. I’ve based characters on people I know, or perhaps bits of several people. Also my life has had its ups and downs. I can’t say for certain that I’ve learned an awful lot from them, but I’ve absorbed each and every moment. That has to come out as self-expression, which is what I feel writing really is.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books. Not only am I greatly interested in the period and the meme, but his books were brilliant works of well-researched history, using side-splitting and completely irreverent humour as his vehicle. That has had a profound effect on my own writing. As for my life, I’ve always found that whatever path Flashman (the arch-cad from Tom Brown’s School Days) took, it was usually wise to choose the opposite.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Again, MacDonald Fraser.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper, a great Canadian author.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Certainly, at least relatively new to me. Pyper’s been around for a while, but I just discovered him a few years ago, along with another Canadian, Will Ferguson, winner of last year’s Giller with his novel, 419 – brilliant writer, along with the American, Tawny O’Dell, and Britain’s Zadie Smith. There are others, but those are the ones that leap to mind.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m happy to announce that I’ve just finished the rough draft to the sequel to Charlie Smithers, and have started in on the re-writes. I hope to have it ready early in 2014. As well, I’m gearing up for the second book of a trilogy based on the Seven Years War (or the French and Indian War for my American friends). The first book, “Josiah Stubb”, I’ve been told, is the best thing I’ve ever written, and is already at the publishers awaiting their go-ahead.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Without question my very good friend, Amber Clark, whose knowledge and opinions about literature I can respect and trust. None of this would ever have happened if it wasn’t for her encouragement and council. In fact, I’m pretty sure that, if it wasn’t for her, I’d still be trying to pretend that none of this was important to me, and feeling vaguely unhappy, without ever really knowing why.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It already is. Charlie Smithers is only the pinnacle (for now) of a writing career that’s spanned a number of years with a fair amount of success. Several of my short stories have been acclaimed all across Canada, the US, and the UK. Over the past two years three of them have one awards.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Reading. Every writer will tell you that they’re a voracious reader, and I’m not exception. The more you read the more you can differentiate between what’s good and what isn’t. Sooner or later you start to think, “I could do that,” and then you take a crack at it.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’ll give you the title, and this is the first time I’ve allowed even this much to come out: “Charlie Smithers – Adventures in India”. Of course subject to change without notice.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Discipline. When I’m not in the zone, there’s always that urge to goof off.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’ve already gone on at some length about George MacDonald Fraser, so this time I’ll say Stephen King. Both he and GMF were my mainstay for decades, and it’s hard to find any two writers who are any more different. With King, at first I was captured by the genre, the way he made me make sure that my toes were well tucked in whenever I was reading in bed. But then I grew to admire his style – it’s so relaxed. He’s not afraid to meander all over the place, but always, eventually, leads you back to the story. That’s something I’ll never be able to duplicate. My attention span simply isn’t that long.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Have to? Not really, but I do like to travel to where my stories take place, if for no better reason than to get a feel for them. For instance, “Josiah Stubb” takes place during the second siege of Louisbourg, so Amber and I flew out to Cape Breton to see the (reconstructed) fortress before flying off to Newfoundland to visit St. John’s, where my protagonist grew up. The information that I discovered there (through the good offices of a local archeologist, and the historian that he had on staff) were quite invaluable.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
It was a collaboration between my publisher, Wild Wolf (based out of Newcastle on Tyne) and the very talented artist, Peter Fussey. I may have offered my own two cents from time to time, but by and large it was their baby, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
When I had to kill one of my characters. I was inconsolable for days afterward.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that if a writer is going to be any good, they have to be faithful to the story, wherever it may lead. Sometimes it’s humorous, often exciting, but sometimes it’s quite painful as well. When that happens, you just have to get on with it and do the best that you can. Otherwise you’re not being true to your characters. They’re depending on you to get it right.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Funny you should ask this question, because I’ve just been invited to our local university to speak to their Creative Writing class to do just that. The first thing I’ll tell them is to read, read voraciously, find authors that they admire and read everything they’ve got, and never stop searching for others. The second thing I’ll tell them is to stay in touch with likeminded people – surround themselves with them, if they can. They are all too rare. Last, but not least – no matter how difficult or disheartening it may get (and it will), always believe in yourself, and never give up!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
First, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for inviting me, Fiona. Forums like these are invaluable to all those starving writers trying to get the word out.
As for your readers, thank you all very much for your interest. It is you, after all, who provide us with our bread and butter, to which I am grateful. And with that, if I may, I would like to leave you with the blurb and links for Charlie Smithers. Perhaps you might find that it suits your interest:
“Harry Flashman, step aside, old son. Make way for Charlie Smithers.
The time is the nineteenth century. The place, the Serengeti Plain, where one Charlie Smithers – faithful manservant to the arrogant bone-head, Lord Brampton (with five lines in Debrett, and a hopeless shot to boot) – becomes separated from his master during an unfortunate episode with an angry rhinoceros, thereby launching Charlie on an odyssey into Deepest Darkest Africa, and subsequently into the arms of the beautiful Loiyan…and that’s where the trouble really begins.
Maasai warriors, xenophobic locals, or evil Arab slavers, the two forbidden lovers encounter everything that the unforgiving jungle can throw at them.
“A truly engaging read that will keep anyone’s attention from the hilarious beginning until the last word. I highly recommend this 5 star novel.” ~ Chapters & Chats”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I hardly ever watch television, and most of the films that Hollywood cranks out these days aren’t much better – far too formulaic. There are a few exceptions. I loved Master and Commander, the same goes for The King’s Speech – two historical films that were well researched and thought out (perhaps you’ll notice the corollary there).
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I’m a sucker for a pot roast. Feed me that and I’ll be putty in your hands. Colour: royal blue, the colour of the home jersey of my favourite (Canadian) football team – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (even though they broke my heart again this year!) Music: I haven’t listened to it much ever since rap came on the scene. I do like William Blunt and Adele, but mostly I love the old folk singers: Stan Rogers, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchel, Cat Stevens et al.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Be independently wealthy. I honestly believe that’s my niche!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes, thanks for asking. It’s called Story River. Do drop by from time to time. There isn’t much that happens in my writing career that I don’t boast…that is to say, inform my readers about. I hope that you’ll find it interesting.
Once again, Fiona, thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure.