Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Warren Holston, 56 and Christy Laneri, 49
Fiona: Where are you from?
Warren is from Gulfport, Mississippi, and currently splits his time between Northern Virginia and Tampa, Florida. Christy is from East Haddam, Connecticut, and current lives in Northern, Va.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Warren: I’m an only child and grew up on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Graduated high school at 16 and joined the Navy at 18. During those 2 years I also traveled the world in a gospel band as the bass and lead guitarist. At some point at a concert in England I suddenly realized I was a terrible musician and I could easily starve to death if I stayed on that path so when I returned I signed up for the Navy. I spent a year on a ship and then I was accepted into the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (bomb squad) community where I spent the next 5 years. I was recruited out of the Navy in 1986 by the Central Intelligence Agency where I spent almost 20 years as a technical operations officer.
Christy: I grew up in East Haddam, CT and after high school made my way down the East coast eventually landing in Virginia and getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from George Mason University. I spent the years after that working for the Central Intelligence Agency, where Warren and I first met. Planning to move overseas, I went back to George Mason and got a Masters degree in Education. I moved overseas and started a family. After back to back tours in Japan and Austria, we returned to the United States. I continued to travel and homeschooled my four children for ten years. As they grew I turned back to the pursuit of art, and when Warren presented me with the opportunity to illustrate–it was too good to pass up.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
The latest news is that we have been featured as an introduction to the song Scarface Fitted by accomplished hip hop artist Intellect. The single will be released in June. Because of this opportunity we are now pursuing short audio books, EP style, readings of the words over music. We hope to have the first release sometime mid-summer.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I really started writing back in the Navy. A lot of nights I would sit on the ship staring out into the ocean and think about life and the world and I started to jot down my thoughts. And then as I started experiencing different cultures and lifestyles I started writing about the disparities I saw in the world. Most of my writing consists of short verse, complex thoughts in 140 characters or less. That was the beginning.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I never really considered myself a writer because I always thought I was terrible, I more considered myself an explorer of the complexities of life, where everything wasn’t clearly black and white, and then I tried to find a way to articulate those complexities.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
So actually my first book is “Beware the Predator”, a book written from my history as a CIA officer, outlining personal tradecraft and security techniques. I wanted to write a book that had something to do with my history in the agency but I did not want to write the typical tell all dirty laundry book. So I came up with some simple concepts for the layman to be able to look at their lives both professionally and personally, and identify weaknesses in security and safety and then be able to apply some simple principles to enhance their personal security. The book has a number of check sheets to get one pointed in the right direction. It has been fairly successful and is now the basis for curriculum in 2 universities in the Washington DC, Northern Virginia area. So that was the first book, and then because I had been doing this type of work for so long I wanted to do something creative and completely different because all I really ever wanted to do was create from the time that I played music to the time I began writing words. So I began going through all of the words and verse that I had written over the years and tried to decide how to present it in a book. This was the point where I reestablished contact with Christy. Through the power of social media, she and I reconnected after 23 years. Christie was an artist with the CIA in the early 90s and our families were friends. When we reconnected I asked her if she still painted. When she said yes I told her of my idea for a poetry book and would she be interested in doing the illustrations. This is how Peace in Darkness came about. I would hand her the words and she would come up with an image that was her interpretation of the words. She never changed my words and I never changed her images.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
We were trying to find a title that would express the concept that no matter the ugliness in the world or your experiences you could find a place to be at peace with reality. Or in many cases at peace with the fact there is no resolution to many of the dichotomies of life. After we discussed it for many months it suddenly became clear what were we trying to achieve was to find a peace in the darkness of the world. Strangely after the book was published and we were reading through it, we both realized that the name of the book might have actually been a subconscious reflection of one of the poems where I refer to peace in the darkness.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
So I never really thought about a particular writing style, but I do prefer verse and often free verse. What is really interesting is over the last year in developing the words and modifying the words to fit with the pictures aesthetically, I have moved more towards short verse or in the Twitter world, 140 characters or less. This not only fits well with most of the illustrations but as it turns out, it is about all the attention span we have today. So the idea of being able to articulate complex thought or explore dark realities in four to six lines is very exciting to me.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All of the words in Peace in Darkness were based on personal experiences and observations.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
So the words and the artwork have been inspired by many years of travel, between Christy and I we have traveled to well over 100 different countries. We each have seen a large diversity of cultures and lifestyles and religions, and from this, come the words and the artwork.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover art was done by Christy, and the cover design was done by Joe Field, a good friend and coworker over the years.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I guess the message in Peace in Darkness is really the exploration of thoughts that everyone has about the complexities of life but we often don’t want to express out loud. Kind of the ability to recognize the ugliness in the world and be able to wake up the next day and not have it affect your entire life, or if it does, how to deal with it.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Emily Dickinson comes to mind. Because she had a way of creating images in your mind through her poetry that is nothing short of extrodinary. And in the case of Peace in Darkness Christy took my words and from them created the illustrations of what she saw in her mind. It’s very humbling to know that your words can create those kinds of images.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I suppose that would be Christy. From the time that we started the project she was always consumed with the words and always felt like there was a broad audience for my thoughts.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I would like to be able to make this a career but it is a hard field especially in poetry and verse. So I have been fortunate enough to have a great career which affords me the time to focus on writing and exploring opportunities for actually making this a second career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No I don’t think so , it turned out surprisingly well in terms of the concept. I think Christy and I spent a lot of time working out how it was going to be presented and how the words would be incorporated into the artwork so from that perspective, the next book I think will be easier. Speaking of the next book we are working on the words and the art now. This one, we think, will be called Asylum of the Mind. we originally thought we were going to mix up the concept this time where she would do an image and then I would write the words. Unfortunately, this did not work out. It’s more of a logistical issue in how to incorporate the words in the image than anything else. So we went back to our original concept, I provide the words and she creates the image.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I think I learned that I imagine and look at the world in a way that we all often ignore for fear of realizing we are not as good and pure as we would like to believe.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t know that anything that I write will ever be a movie but if it were I think I would like Brad Pitt.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
To any aspiring writer, I would probably say don’t give up, keep collecting and writing because one day the opportunity may present itself in a way you never imagined, to publish and express yourself to the larger public. At 56 I never imagined that I would have a book of poetry and interest in the words for inclusion in modern music.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
As you read Peace in Darkness let your mind explore the bias of observations we all have.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Stormship Troopers, for some reason over the course of my life I have managed to miss this masterpiece. I met someone recently in Bulgaria who read Peace in Darkness and thought, based on the complexities of the book, I would probably appreciate Stormship Troopers.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not a clue.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Politics. I am a bit of a political news junkie, and the absurdity of politics worldwide makes me laugh, and the absurdity of politics worldwide makes me sad for humanity.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Genghis Khan, strangely I would like to meet him to see and understand the savagery he used to ascend to such greatness and then ask the modern day entrepreneurs why they think it’s a good idea to have restaurants named after a murderous villain, albeit be a great leader. It’s strange to me what we can forget in 800 years.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Warren: I love motorcycle riding, though I don’t know that’s particularly a hobby for me. I’ve been riding since I was 8 and I do like going out on social rides with others but over the years it has been largely transportation. I think the last number of years my hobby has been writing whether it was Beware the Predator or the current work of Peace in Darkness. I have really enjoyed developing my creative side.
Christy: I like travelling near and far, and constantly having things to look forward to on my calendar.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Warren: I don’t really watch TV. I seem to have 10,000 things in my life that need my attention all the time. I do like films and movies and prefer semi realistic action based films.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Warren: I love Indian food. Probably my favorite. But I do like a good Schnitzel from time to time. No Chinese, ever if possible. My favorite color is red and we can debate why, but largely because it’s not peaceful, and I’ve always been in love with jazz music, largely because it’s peaceful, and there is the dichotomy.
Christy: My favorite color is orange, probably because it represents mid-life, meaning I can still be fiery or mellow.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would probably read and enjoy other people’s work. I love to experience the imagination and the craftsmanship of others. I would also like to try playing music again just to see if I’m as terrible now as I was then.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Warren: Killing my enemies. 😊 Metaphorically speaking of course.
Christy: Driving him around to kill his enemies.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Warren: He always lived like he was going to die.
Christy: She raised amazing humans.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Twitter – @peace_darkness
Instagram – peace in darkness