Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we talked to David Celley, author and a retired IT consultant, about his recently released novel Sultan Road, in which a quest for land in Southern California leads to murder and mayhem (read the review here).
David attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and California State University, Los Angeles receiving degrees in Economics, Business Administration, and Computer Information Systems. He is now retired, living in Orange County, California after a career as an IT consultant.
In addition, David is a private investor, a major sports fan, a jazz aficionado, and a fledgling art collector.
David’s publishing credits include Sultan Road, the quest for land in Southern California leads to murder; The Florida Caper, an adventure yarn set in South Florida involving stolen jewelry that carries a curse; Galvez Stadium, a unique piece of fiction about the endeavors of building a football stadium during a revolution in Santiago, Chile; and Woodruff’s Firebase, reflecting the great intensity of the conflict in Vietnam.
How often do you base your characters on real people?
No character in any of my stories is exactly like any real person whether I know the person or not. Most of my characters are composites of people I know with various other characteristics added in. Some characters are developed completely from scratch to suit their part in the story.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Just the one I’m working on right now. I have two more in my brain that I occasionally drum up thoughts about, but they haven’t officially been started yet.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success means than my flock of readers read and enjoy what I write. Certainly, I wouldn’t mind being a millionaire, but the former is more important than the latter.
Do you find writing therapeutic?
It was for me at first, as my first novel, Woodruff’s Firebase, helped me alleviate any burdens I had as a result of being in the Vietnam War. Nowadays, I just fall into “the zone” and go for it.
How many hours a day do you write?
I can only manage about two to three hours per day writing. It becomes stale for me if I try to stretch in any longer, and the results are not as good.
How often you read?
I read every night before going to bed. On the weekends I add additional reading time to the schedule.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I do try to suit my readers, however, my stories all have a uniqueness about them in that they are drawn from images and happenings in my life, then fictionalized and fit into a plot.
How do you select the names of your characters?
With great difficulty. Many of my characters have distinct ethnicity, so I attempt to fit a name that would be appropriate. It’s not uncommon for me to change a character’s name – sometimes more than once.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
While it was still a hobby, the first two books took over a decade each to finish. Now that I can commit more time, I’m expecting to be able to put out a finished product every two to three years.
Is writer’s block real?
It’s only real if a writer succumbs to it. I get around writer’s block by attempting to stay organized, break tasks down into smaller subtasks, and allocate a certain amount of time each day for writing, or writing associated projects.
How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?
A career in fiction writing is most difficult in that its requirements are very time consuming and not appreciably rewarding until the author develops a large readership. It would be best managed if the author had an independent means of support during the earlier years of developing the craft.
Tell us some more about your book.
Sultan Road begins with the murder of the accountant of an apartment complex in what appears to be a barroom fight. It ends with five more killings and the unraveling of largest act of criminal conspiracy and cover up in Southern California’s history. Not only are homicide detectives on the case, but also a young investigative reporter trying to migrate his writing to the newspaper’s front page. There’s an unusual co-operation between the reporter and the detectives, and a very large amount of diversity among the characters – the lead investigator is Latino, his partner is Korean, the woman that owns the housing project is African American, the key tipster is Middle Eastern, and the first victim is Vietnamese. However, the reporter is a white boy surfer. Whoever it was that engineered the accountant’s murder wants to prevent certain information about the land the complex sits on from reaching the wrong hands, and has hired an out-of-town killer to terrorize the owner and workers at the apartment complex.
Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
It’s drawn from images and experiences I achieved when I first moved to Los Angeles. In addition to my career, I helped out a friend who had some problems with his Section Eight Housing complex.
How do you come up with names for your characters?
See above for answer.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
In some stories the characters are more important. In others, the plot is more important. In every case, the way the characters deal with the circumstances created by the plot is what makes the story come alive.
Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
In Sultan Road, the mayor plays a minor but significant role. I had some difficulty in trying to reveal what this character was like while at the same time reserving what he actually does as it is pertinent to the plot.
Are any of your characters based on real people you know?
See above for answer.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
I like all the scenes pretty much the same. I think the climax is the most exciting, but to me it’s no more or less likeable than the beginning.
Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?
In Sultan Road, no scene was particularly more difficult to write than any other scene.
Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?
The story involves a conspiracy. I have some characters that could be or might not be connected to the conspiracy, and I had to change a few of them around to make it all work out.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I hope my readers will find an enjoyable story that gives them insight into Section Eight Housing, and the greed and malfeasance that can be found in real estate transactions in Southern California.
How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?
I essentially try to push the ups and downs of life towards the middle making it as smooth as I can. This cannot translate into writing fiction as the story must contain a conflict which causes the characters certain swings up and down to be entertaining. My perspective as the narrator keeps me neutral and even keeled.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
There’s a piece of my life’s experiences in every story.
Categories: Suspense and Thriller