Author Interview: Charles Freedom Long

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A boy genius is taken from his family and trained for a suicide mission on the moon. But he falls in love with just the wrong person. This powerful and gripping novel explores questions of redemption, truth, love, and life beyond death. Richly detailed, imaginative and evocative, Dancing with the Dead blends science and spiritual fiction. Filled with vivid and convincingly drawn characters, this gripping tale is at once a poignant human/alien love story and a foray into the realms beyond.

Want to learn more about Dancing With The Dead? Stick around. Its author, Charles Freedom Long, is with us!

chas-tino-2-winter-20101. When did you start writing?
Neither of my parents finished grammar school. They strongly encouraged me to become educated. I began reading at the age of three. That led naturally to writing. By the time I was in fourth grade, a perceptive New York City Public Librarian who saw me attempting to take out books from the “adult” section, made me sit down and read a chapter in a book I wanted to borrow, asked me a number of questions about it, took my “childrens” card, and issued me an “adult” library card. I was off and running.

I began writing poetry in grammar school. By the time I entered college, I had notebooks filled with poems. I majored in literature and minored in far eastern studies. I took every literature class I could and became enamored of modern English literature, especially E. E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Allen Ginsberg, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Merton, and the novelists William Faulkner, D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell. I read and wrote, constantly, sometimes to the detriment of my other studies. I managed to see two poems published.

Life intervened. I made a living as a technical editor on the Apollo Project. Then, as a research assistant at NYU Medical Center’s Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, writing reports and grant proposals for studies into the design and implementation of tools and workplaces for the handicapped.

Life took me back to school, into graduate school, in organizational psychology, training in Gestalt therapy, and into a series of cross-country, cross-border, overseas, and third world expatriate work and living adventures that taught me how differently other people live life and view the world. How much what we assume is reality, and “the way things are,” is very different from what others assume. I’ve lived and worked in Canada, England, West Africa, four states and two regions in the U.S.

After all this travelling and living in foreign cultures, particularly the third world, I find science fiction is a natural place for me to write, since its boundaries of imagination are limitless. A recurrent theme in my writing is “It ain’t necessarily so.” I write to challenge readers’ fixed ideas in a way that will make them consider other possibilities.

2. Does your story have a moral?
Dancing With The Dead, which I published in the fall of 2015, is about the dance one joins with the spirits of the living and the dead while alive (that is, with a body) and dead (gone beyond the physical body). Dancing With The Dead has won three awards, and has been favorably compared to the work of Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, and C.J. Cherryh.

It’s a tale of a brilliant astrophysicist, whose entire life has been about becoming a “martyr for truth.” Fahd al-Sharfa is on a suicide mission to destroy two space stations and a thriving city on Luna. Until he falls in love with Doctor Quenby, a cat-like, bipedal alien coworker from a planetary race of pacifists. He begins to question his beliefs. The presence of the dead, beside and among the living cultures, both human and alien, respected for their insight and consulted at personal and political levels compounds the situation, as the dead on both the side of law enforcement and the terrorists struggle for victory, and Fahd’s quest for ultimate truth takes him beyond the veil called death.

After years of seeing the dead portrayed in countless fatuous ways, I decided it was time for someone to show another side of the story. That is, life continues beyond the change we call death, the personality survives passing beyond the earthly life and moves on into other dimensions. And truly civilized cultures integrate the dead into the society. I talk with deceased people all the time. So, with the help of some friends on both sides of the veil called death, I write science/speculative fiction, fiction to be sure, but with a spiritualist point of view. It will challenge your perception of death, life after death and the quest for truth that continues after the change called death.

3. Any project in the works?
I am currently finishing Alvar’s Spear, the sequel to Dancing With The Dead, and expect to have it in publication shortly. Alvar’s Spear takes on the theme of sentience, in addition to the theme of destiny versus free will that ran through Dancing With The Dead.

Thirty years after dancing with the dead, half-Terran, half-Antal, Gar has just one desperate last chance to save the Antal hive from immolation at the hands of its own mother, the sentient moon-world, Alvar. He must do this before a mutant conspiracy turns Alvar into a fetid swamp, controls the Galactic Bank, and enslaves the Antal.  Alvar has sworn to hurl herself into the gas giant she orbits before she allows that to happen. To become Alvar’s Spear, the planetary savior, Gar will confront enemies, assassins, a traitor, and a beautiful, brilliant, Terran geneticist. He will travel into the mysterious forbidden mountains of the vild, from which no one has returned. If successful, he will save Alvar. But the danger of creating a savior is that he will be his own person. He will do what he will, and whether his acts are judged good or bad will only be known in the unrolling of time. Time is not on Gar’s side.  But time does unroll. What it reveals may not be to everyone’s liking.

4. What is currently on your to-be-read shelf?
My to-be-read shelf has well over two hundred books. A good friend of mine once made the argument that a good case could be made for the existence of eternity simply on the basis that it is the only way you could ever read all those books you said you would.

Currently, I’m reading: John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, James Galbraith’s The End of Normal, Jessamyn Ward’s The Fire This Time, Esther De Waal’s The Way of Simplicity: The Cistercian Tradition, and Real LaPlaine’s Earth Escape. I usually have a few books going simultaneously, and depending on my mood, immerse myself in one or the other.

5. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. Read in the genre you write in. Read in other genres. Read the best writing you can find, because your own writing will rise or fall to the level of what you are reading.

And—write. Find a writer’s group to work with. Force yourself to suffer the slings and arrows of active criticism from people who have the same illness –the insatiable obsession to write—as you. If you write for any reason other than you cannot imagine not writing, stop. Do something else until you are overwhelmed by the incurable desire.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books.

2. Dogs or cats?
Dogs. I have three Maltese.

3. Summer or winter?
Summer. But not as a steady diet. That may explain to some degree why I live in snowy Western New York and not Florida.

4. Ebook or physical book?
Physical books. I know, I know. I’m a retrogrouch who writes science fiction—go figure.

5. Living in the city or living in the country?
The country, hands down. I live in a little village in the boonies where there are more cows than people.

6. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
I have both. But telepathy is more user friendly for me. My telekinesis kicks in sometimes when I’m in a dice rolling game, (never for money—I do not gamble, ever), but it kicks in more often when I’m p’o’d at my computer and then bad things happen to it. (Not fun).

7. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
Car, hands down. I spent way too much time on airplanes in the past. And now, puhleeze, no liquids? No metal objects? Squeezed in like sardines? strip searches?

8. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Another no-brainer for me. Love is all there is.

9. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
I spent a few years without a television at all. There was no television where we lived in very rural West Africa for two years. But, especially in a rural area, the internet is my link to the rest of the world.

10. Finding yourself caught in the middle of a hurricane or finding yourself caught in the middle of a snowstorm? (Note: in both scenarios, you’d be outdoors and have no access to shelter.)
Hurricanes terrify me. And snowstorms? Well, we get our share here in the snow belt, and I have been outdoors in the woods when a storm has suddenly come up, so I know what it’s like: scary.

11. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Aaargh! I love chocolate! I put chocolate in my coffee. (The South and Middle Americans do this). And then I write. I have to say neither of the above! Only a sadist would come up with this kind of choice.

Thank you for joining us, Charles!
Readers: want to connect with Charles? You can find him on Goodreads and Facebook. Also, be sure to check out his author website and blog. Interested in obtaining a copy of Dancing With The Dead? Click here.

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