Dystopian novels about an uncertain future are very much all the rage right now. Robert Corrado was once a local writer to me, but has since moved on to the mile high state of Colorado. I hope you enjoy his interview here on No Wasted Ink.
My name is Robert Corrado and I’m a 33 year old husband, author, telecommunications guru, geek extraordinaire, and generally awesome guy. I live in Denver, Colorado with my wife and my “son” Joey (he’s actually a Jack Russell Terrier). I grew up in a small town in the California foothills reading comic books and science fiction novels, muddling through pen and paper role-playing games, and filming amateur action shorts on my neighbor’s VHS camcorder. I now work in telecommunications and enjoy reading novels, watching films, skiing, dancing, karaoke with my wife Karen, and spending time with Joey.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I was in grade school. I can remember the first short story I wrote that got high praise from one of my teachers was a story involving an veteran of the Civil War. That was in sixth grade. I think I got into writing largely because I was such a huge gamer geek and I kept wanting to write my own games for my friends and I to play. That translated right into just writing entire worlds for my friends to read about and enjoy.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think it really hit me when I sold 20 advance copies of The Fifth Column right at the end of September. A small order but hopefully just my first of many. Depositing that check it hit me that someone is buying my work because they want to sell it to readers. Up until that point I always thought of it as just a hobby.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Absolutely. The Fifth Column is a dystopian fiction set a few decades into the future of the United States which has now become a police state that the characters refer to as the Unified State. A group of families in a small town find themselves swept up in the anti-government insurgency that is occurring across the country, and the novel explores how they deal with it, the choices they make, and ultimately what happens to them as a result.
What inspired you to write this book?
Some close friends and I dabbled in film around 2008 and we all took the same week off work and we put out this weird little amateur action comedy called Violent John, you can find it on the internet. The film was nowhere near the kind of production I had originally envisioned and although I learned a lot I was generally disappointed. So this result got me thinking about the type of movie that six or seven people could make on a shoestring budget and still have it look and feel like a movie put out by a studio. The Fifth Column started out as this concept but the more I wrote the more I realized that there was enough going on in the country politically and culturally that I could really build on these ideas I had. So I made it a full novel. There is so much fear and distrust about what is going on with our government, and also so much political passion for one side or another that it really inspired me to try and tap into that in the book.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Am I allowed to say I have a style after only one book? I’ll leave you with just a few vague comments. I love tragic heroes with a dark side. I really love using dialog, especially when I can make the dialog ring true. I want my characters to talk to one another how real people talk to one another because I think that puts you right into the world.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
The title is from a quote attributed to a Spanish fascist named Emilio Mola during the Spanish Civil War. It is quite a juxtaposition in my view because the protagonists in the book are actually fighting against Mola style fascism. Mola bragged to his enemies that he had four columns of troops moving against the city of Madrid, but that a fifth column of loyal citizens within the city would rise up and jump into the fight. In my book the Fifth Column is rising up to fight against this kind of thing.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are many. I really hope readers ask questions after reading it. Perhaps it provokes some debate on how they feel about things like free-will versus determinism, free-markets versus socialism, liberty versus safety. Even if it does not end up changing anyone’s mind I think the dialog can be healthy. We live in a society now that is red versus blue and I think we’ve lost so much capacity to open up our minds to other ideas. I tried to be fair to different ideologies in the book.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Many of them are. The park that Pedro plays in during the opening scene was a real park my father took me to in San Francisco. The families in the book are variations on my own upbringing. I’d like to say I fought a giant robot and won in my real life but that has not happened yet.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I really got started reading heavily with Star Wars because I loved the films as a child so much. I don’t think I would have considered putting pen to paper if I had not read so many great books set in that universe by Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson. As far as my absolute favorites I would say Phillip K. Dick for his ability to keep you thinking about the twist and questioning everything, Heinlein for his biting social commentary, Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov for being so great at writing about really large epic worlds that you wanted to stay in. I also really love David Drake because the action scenes he writes are so amazing and sincere.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
Glen Cook, who wrote all of the Black Company series of fantasy novels. Not only do I love his dark characters and settings but I love his real life story. He wrote the first Black Company novel when he was still working in an auto assembly line for General Motors. I wrote my first book while I’m still working my tail off in telecommunications. He wanted something different out of life and he put in the extra hours after his normal job to achieve that goal. He did it before Createspace was invented too!
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
I designed the cover myself. I selected that guy to do it because he did the work for the cost of a cup of coffee and a couple jelly donuts.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write as much as you can, even if it is uninspired crap. Sometimes I go back and see things that I thought were crap that I wrote a month ago but I tweak it and then I feel better about it. Getting it out of your brain and onto paper or into a computer is the best thing you can do.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope you enjoy the book. Whatever your political views and beliefs may be, I truly want you to enjoy my book. I wrote it so that it would entertain people. If it causes you to think outside the box for a few minutes that is just icing on the cake, but above all, ENJOY IT!