Name: Charles M. Fraser
Where are you from:
I was born in Orlando, raised in Eustis and grew up in Sanford, Floridas, respectively. Attending the University of Central Florida to study history, I then mimicked my novel’s protagonist by coming to New York after university, with the sincere hope of figuring this book out.
A little about your self `ie your education and family life etc:
I’ve now lived longer in New York than Florida and miss home more every day.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Starting with a cliché, to tell the truth, the latest news is your request for this interview that I read this morning and am now answering questions for, having begun at 4:15 PM American EST – Eastern Standard Time. Thursday, November 6, 2014. Finishing at 9:30 PM.
The novel’s latest news is it’s still not a household name. But I am somewhat content, despite major-publishing frustrations. My life’s endeavor produced a product. The Hammer and Cycle Messenger Service. A good parody of The Cold War through A Kaleidoscopic View, so to speak.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As a kid I had a concept there really wasn’t anything else I’d rather do than have ideas. Going to university really began things. Learning poetry was the best method for acquiring the ability to carve words. From 1976 –
Closing in on a goal to achieve, one must clear their own frontier.
Keep sights in line, and goals in time and great wonders will appear.
Once conceived, all you’ll need, is the effort which attains accomplishment.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Poems were a real step. But at age 30, in 1987, writing and editing Fifth, Park and Madison made it at least official in my head. Plus the documentary brought me the honor of introducing it in The Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York City for THE BATTLE OF THE BIKE BAN 25th Anniversary. But as an honest-to-goodness paid writer, it wasn’t until January 1995 and my television review Different Spokes in TOTAL TV about DOUBLE RUSH from Murphy Brown creator Diane English. The review’s author bio was the first ever public mentioning of the hammer and cycle title. – What most assuredly shouldn’t become lost in the digital fracturing of the science of commercial literature is the importance and value of a real worthwhile relationship with an (your) editor.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
This answer was being saved for an essay on the writing of the novel for the literary magazine, Quail Bell. In university in Russian and Soviet History class I was enamored with the idea the 19th Century Russian novelists inspired Russia’s 20th Century change. The novel explains its inspiration better.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
It scares me to think I don’t look close enough to know what my actual style is. I so relentlessly re-read. I found my test for becoming a writer was not boring me. The key is being able to re-read yourself over and over so thoroughly the text writes itself. I’d say my style is long sentences crafted together to make better sense of the twisted idea. A brain has to feel “What am I saying?” – most all the time. My novel’s advisor had me read several of James Ellroy’s written in a staccato cadence, such as American Tabloid. Reading them was like being invited to be more descriptive.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Mentally confronting myself that there must be something usable in the name of the American businessman with Soviet interests, Dr. Armand Hammer. Crafting Hammer and Sickle into Cycle was almost instantaneous and significant enough for me to stop pedaling and put my foot on the curb to focus and come up with Messenger Service.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Life carries people along too willingly. Independence is skepticism.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
It’s meant to be factually accurate historical fiction.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
When I met Malcolm Forbes in 1988 and he liked the idea for the novel, he wanted to set up a lunch for me with Dr. Hammer. Malcolm thought my decision was sound not to personally meet the man and guard my political independence against implied association. Its been in the years since that I realized if I had guts what happened to the protagonist, Hank Greenway, could have been me.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Candide by Voltaire, first year of Seminole Community College. I was floored by the concept of a heroic symbol intellectually changing how the world sees itself. Vonnegut. When I finally got around to it, John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold was a gut wrenching encapsulation of the innocent victims of the totalitarian tragedy. As excellent as his other Cold War novels are, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold means the most.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
To think in terms of mystery I read all of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler that hooked me on reading detectives. Martin Cruz Smith’s Renko novel climaxing with 1991’s Soviet August Coup, Red Square was influential. I saw Mr. Smith on You Tube at the New York Public Library saying everybody compliments his Renko books. I always avoid bandwagons but I’m on this one. Arkady Renko was like water in a desert for me. I hated they had to end.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
49 Stories by John O”Hara. 1962. Nice slices of life short stories capturing the nuance of his era’s customs.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Not necessarily I’m embarrassed to admit.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I write news essays as The Soapbox View and looking to subsidize my vocation unloading and loading trucks.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Jay B. Gissen
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
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?
Writing was just always about expressing ideas.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Other than The Soapbox View I have not figured out my next white whale yet.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Challenging myself to try for a higher bar every time.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
They all can be when I’m in their story.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not for the moment. Technically there was the ride from Queens to Manhattan to read in Dave Perry’s Bike Works NYC bike shop for the Bike Shop Book Tour. But otherwise I’ve been a sadly mediocre politician for the book so far.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I designed the covers. The hammer and cycle patch was designed for a Polo shirt plus t-shirt that still may yet see the light of day.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
In a big full rich novel the writer keeps track of everything as the source of where everything began. Before getting that far, it seems impossible.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for reading. I think bothering everyone with the hammer and cycle is worth it.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy was the first book I wanted to read but didn’t. My father had checked it out from our public library and the school’s librarians told the second grader it was a little beyond my age but at least I was ambitious. Good book.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
funny stuff/sad things
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Abraham Lincoln so he could tell me what he remembered about his night speaking at Cooper Union. But to be with my parents again could even be better.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Archived by the National Library of Australia because it is such an honor for my most ambitious book.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Swimming. Bike a way of life.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
PERRY MASON, BARNEY MILLER, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW
STRANGELOVE again in maybe another year. CITIZEN KANE. A lot of stuff. It’s virtually magical how much has been produced for our gratification, entertainment and amusement.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Salmon, shrimp, chili. Blue. King Crimson, Yes and Genesis. Ozric Tentacles, et al. Sometimes cute music is fine but generally pop is just whack and I’m sorry for that. I want to be more tolerant.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?