BookView Interview with Author Charles Crittenden

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed author Charles Crittenden, about his writing and his debut novel, The Inhabitant, an absorbing piece of verse fiction about determination, courage, resistance, and hope. (Read the review here.)

Charles Crittenden received a BS in Math and Computer Science from Webster University and a Master’s Certificate in Music Production from Berklee College of Music, recording and producing albums with several bands through the years. A creative type born and raised in St. Louis, he finds escape in art, music, and travel. Exploring themes of isolation and searching, Inhabitant was inspired by years of road trips, the nuance of the everyday, and the wonder of our planet. Find more at charlescrittenden.com

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

The number one thing I would tell younger self is to not stop writing. I took a break for a while, and while I don’t regret it, it is unfortunate that I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity to practice my craft as often as possible. The time away gave me a different perspective and drive to write again that I don’t think I would understand otherwise though. I’ve always liked Seinfeld’s “Write something every day” mantra, and I think that’s something I do wish I would have done more regularly. What I do still have from my younger days is very interesting to go back and appreciate what I’ve learned over time.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

I remember when I first read Brave New World in High School. It completely changed my perspective on storytelling. Not only did shift my brain for what a book could be, it also helped me better understand how little time has passed since that book was released. The themes, the setting, everything was still as applicable then (and now) as it was when it was written. It gave me a new lens on the passage of time that helped me appreciate both those who came before us but also the evolution of ideas and perspectives over time. I remember writing a way-too-long paper on the intricate details of the themes and how they folded into many of the developing issues in the post-9/11 times.

Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?

I do! It isn’t as much out of desire to know whether the work was liked, but rather out of intrigue to know how it may be connecting with other people. As this is my first book, I’m still piecing together exactly what my voice will be, so it’s helpful to hear from other people what works or doesn’t work for them, so that I can consider what I may have missed in my approach. I also think it’s very interesting to see how the different themes percolate through for different people.

Were your parents interested in literature? Did they read a lot? What books did you have in the house?

My parents have always been very voracious readers. We grew up with many bookshelves in the house filled with a wide variety of options to choose from: classic literature, science fiction, mysteries, you name it. It helped me to really appreciate the variety of what was out there. Pulling something off of the shelf that I didn’t know anything about only to be blown away was always a thrill. I remember discovering Poe in this way, devouring his wonderful stories. When I got my first big bookshelf as a kid, I was so excited to fill it! I still have many of those early influential books to this day.

What’s more important: characters or plot?

For me character makes or breaks the story. If the plot is an engaging, interesting story, it has the chance of being something great, but it is truly dependent on the characters. Whether they are relatable isn’t really what calls to me, it’s whether or not the presence they bring to the work is memorable.

How different was your life one year ago?

Almost my entire life has changed from a year ago. The pandemic has been a lot for everyone, but 2021 brought some new challenges for me. We had a number of losses in our family that really shook us to our core, and it’s been a trial digging back out of that. In addition to that I had a series of surgeries last year to fix things up. Now that time has moved forward and those one-year anniversaries start to pass, I’m finally starting to get a better idea on what my overall direction is from here.

Are any of your characters based on real people you know?

Most of the time characters I write end up being mostly fiction though. Bits and pieces of people I know can seep through into the work, but mostly it’s in feel than in representation. Though, I will say, the spider in my book is 100% based on a spider that lived in my car for a long time, and the long journey to accepting him was influenced by my own experience.

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

For me it’s a tie between Holding On and Sunset. I’m very proud of both of them for entirely different reasons. The sense of wonder and appreciation for the small things on Earth that we all often overlook on a regular basis is one I try bringing to every day. On the other hand with Sunset, I’m very proud of the cinematic journey I brought to life. There’s so much to tell when a planet is collapsing, so I wanted to capture the camaraderie that can arise in times of trial.

Has this novel changed drastically as you created it?

The main goal of the novel stayed pretty much exactly on track throughout the entire process, but the way I would tell the story shifted a few times. I decided I wanted to tell the story in a way that would best allow the reader to enter the mindset of the traveler. With so much space and time for self-reflection, I wanted to use a format that allowed for the reader that time to join in the reflection themselves. I also considered a few other formats to finish the story, but they didn’t bring me as much excitement as telling it with poetry in this manner.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I’d like readers to take away a feeling of hope that whether they make their time on Earth more purposeful or their search for meaning more purposeful, they can find that desire to move forward.

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