Interview with Charles Rocha

Published 2023-07-14.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I started publishing in earnest around the year 2002, while I was in grad school. I had some success getting published in small journals and magazines. (In those days, the hopeful author still had to mail printed copies of material to prospective agents and publishers.) Around that time, I moved to Ukraine to start my teaching career, which effectively ended my ability to submit work for publication due to logistics, i.e., an unreliable postal system. When self-publishing services such as Smashwords became popular, I simply decided to take advantage of the opportunity for its low cost and "100 percent acceptance rate" for getting published.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Ideas come to me out of the blue and at the most unexpected times. These ideas often fall outside my immediate realm of thought and experience, which makes me wonder where they really do come from. That said, I have no shortage of ideas for stories; I only lack the time to write them all. When I sit down to write a new story, the question I ask myself is not "what should I write," but rather, "which story should I write." Not all the ideas that come to me are good ones. It is often hard to tell if they are. Sometimes, I don’t know if the idea was really a good one until I have finished the story and then go back to read it.
Who are your influences?
In my adolescence, I was a voracious reader who devoured everything I could get my hands on. Naturally, I try to emulate the best of what I read back then in my own writing. If there is one author in particular who has influenced me, I would say it is Ray Bradbury. I am particularly impressed by those story collections of his that are linked by a framing story, such as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. I tried to replicate that structure to some degree with my story collection, Zyloft. I will also do something similar with my upcoming collection, Musing Out Loud.
What is your writing process?
My writing time is precious, and so I try to use it productively. I start writing a story only after I have thought it through from beginning to end. To put it another way, I already know the last word of the story before I sit down to write the first. The finer details of the story come to me naturally during the writing process. I try to use everything that I write and throw nothing away. I find that my best work is done when I write entire stories or chapters from start to finish in one sitting. If I don’t do this, or if I spread the writing of a story over several sessions, a lot of small inconsistencies tend to creep into the writing, which are hard to locate and fix later.
How do you approach cover design?
To some, the covers of my books might look odd or amateurish. However, they are actually throwbacks to the covers of Penguin and Pelican (publishers) books from the 1960s and 1970s. I absolutely love the crudely simple (yet evocative) style of those book covers and like the way I feel when I see them, so I try to replicate that same feeling in my own covers. For other covers, I made use of the paintings of Edvard Munch (1863–1944), a Norwegian painter whose work I admire very much. The dream-like representations of melancholy, grief, and longing in his work resonate with me.
How would you describe your writing style?
My goal as a writer is to use whatever form serves the purpose of what I want to say without regard to the way others write or what is popular. That means I might write a story, poem, essay, or something else if I think it serves the purpose. Evidence of this varied approach can be found in my latest two books, Zyloft and Lo, The Mighty Rat. In terms of literary style, two consistent differences you will find in my work that distinguish it from most others' are low plot tension and the absence of evil. This means you will not find me writing "thrillers" or stories in which the protagonists must struggle against someone or something that is outright evil. It follows my life philosophy that we make our own realities and spend most of our lives struggling against the negative sides of our natures and those nasty situations we create for ourselves. Indeed, there is evil in the world, but most of the time, this evil has an effect on us only if we invite it into our lives or allow it to make us its victims. We all have choices.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don’t remember the first story I ever read, but I do remember the one that affected me the most and essentially started my writing. It was a book called What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. After reading that book, not only was my view of the world profoundly changed, but I also began writing. I was awestruck by the theme and quality of writing in that book, and I decided that I also wanted to write like that. Up to that point, I had been reading a lot of Steven King, mostly his early short stories from collections such as The Night Shift. Most of my early stories were imitations of his work, at least in terms of style. As the years passed, I kind of drifted away from that.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My first story was one I called "Windows," which I wrote when I got my first computer around 1987. It was about a man who gets involved in a car accident and wakes up in a new body with a completely new identity. He eventually becomes this person. Sadly, this story was lost forever when the only copy of it was accidentally erased from a computer hard drive. Incidentally, the second story I ever wrote, a space opera novelette called "Flight of the Persephone," survived from this era and will be reworked and published in my upcoming story collection, Musing Out Loud.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I can’t say that Smashwords has thus far contributed to my "success" in terms of gaining a large readership. As I write this, my readership is low, just as it has always been. As I see it, there are two reasons for this. First, I have done very little to promote my work on the site. Even writing this interview was a stretch for me, and I’m only doing it now, six years after first publishing on Smashwords. That is not the fault of Smashwords, however, as they offer excellent advice and tools to promote one's work. Second, judging from the titles most popular on Smashwords, most of which are either space operas, romances, or LBGT-themed fiction, people do not come to Smashwords for the kind of stuff that I write. To me, it does not really matter. My greatest pleasure is writing and then receiving satisfaction from releasing the book into the world. If that is considered "success," then I suppose that Smashwords has contributed greatly.
What's the story behind The Aperture?
The Aperture is loosely based on an old, long-forgotten fantasy role-playing system called Swordbearer, written by B. Dennis Sustare and originally published by Heritage. I played Swordbearer a lot in the mid-1980s with my school friends, and my intent was to write something in remembrance of that pleasant period of my life that was all too short. This book sat unfinished for almost 24 years before I finished it last year.
What inspired you to write those strange rat books?
To date, there are three books: Lo, the Mighty Rat, Eyes Like Black Pearls, and Seasons of the Rat. I have long been a fan of rats, and so I decided to write things that celebrate this underappreciated animal. I conceived of these books as unconventional works that would show the rat from multiple perspectives, using elements of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and poetry. These books were nearly effortless for me to write because the inspiration came so easily. They’re a labor of love, written with a fairly narrow audience in mind. I doubt they will ever be widely read, but they weren't intended to be.
What are you working on next?
Actually, I’m working on three projects. The first is a literary novel called The Shades of Silvertown; the second is a new collection of short stories called Musing Out Loud; and the third is another rat book, which I intend to release on Rat Day in 2024. As a side project, I'm proofreading The Aperture to fix the multitude of mistakes and grammatical errors that I somehow missed when I published it. I hope to publish a fixed version of this book in the near future.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
At this time, there is a full-scale war going on in Ukraine, where I currently live. Because of the situation, I spend a lot of time at home. On weekdays, when I’m not writing and/or sitting in the bomb shelter, I teach English lessons online, write new material for my lessons, or spend time with my rats. I am also the owner and director of an English school, and occasionally I go there to take care of business. On weekends, I sometimes hang out with friends. My life might seem boring compared to a lot of people’s, but it’s actually very calm and allows me time for introspection.
Describe your desk.
Organized, but very dusty!
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Latest books by This Author

Time, Space & Spirit
Price: $3.99 $2.00 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 83,200. Language: American English. Published: May 13, 2024 . Categories: Fiction » Horror » General
Time, Space & Spirit is a collection of twenty-four short stories of horror, the surreal, and the supernatural.
Seasons of the Rat
Price: Free! Words: 19,610. Language: American English. Published: April 30, 2023 . Categories: Nonfiction » Home & Garden » Pets & livestock » Rodents, Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Photography - Photo books
(4.00 from 1 review)
Here is a photo journal that documents the lives of some pet rats who happen to live in Ukraine along with their owner. This unique type of journal consists of over 500 photos and covers four generations of rats over a period of seven years, from before and after the COVID epidemic and into the war in Ukraine.
Eyes Like Black Pearls
Price: $2.99 $1.49 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 52,390. Language: American English. Published: April 4, 2023 . Categories: Nonfiction » Home & Garden » Pets & livestock » Rodents
Here's another collection of stories, poems, and other works inspired by rats. In this volume, you will learn how to identify the signs of rat addiction, set up a rat-tour business in your city, engage effectively in rat activism, and much more! Also included is a journal of the remarkable lives of the author’s 13 rats in Dnipro, Ukraine, picking up where "Lo, the Mighty Rat!" left off a year ago.
Haunted Realms
Price: $2.99 $1.49 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 19,560. Language: American English. Published: May 24, 2022 . Categories: Nonfiction » Entertainment » Games, puzzles, & brain twisters » Role Playing & Fantasy
Haunted Realms is an adventure module for the Fantasy Knights role-playing game system. To use it, you need a copy of the Fantasy Knights rules, a pencil, paper, and six-sided dice.
Fantasy Knights
Price: $2.99 $1.49 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 10,440. Language: English. Published: May 7, 2022 . Categories: Nonfiction » Entertainment » Games, puzzles, & brain twisters » Role Playing & Fantasy
Fantasy Knights is an introductory sword-and-sorcery role-playing system for experienced gamemasters and beginning adventurers. To play it, you need only a pencil, paper, and six-sided dice. It is suitable for short campaigns and one-off adventures.
The Aperture
Price: $2.99 $1.49 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 264,720. Language: American English. Published: April 30, 2022 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
CIA Agent Connie Bain puts on a magical bracelet confiscated from a suspected terrorist and finds herself transported to a parallel universe, where she is unwittingly pressed into a quest to save the world from Chaos.
Lo, the Mighty Rat
Price: $2.99 $1.49 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 69,340. Language: American English. Published: February 22, 2022 . Categories: Nonfiction » Home & Garden » Pets & livestock » Rodents
(4.00 from 1 review)
Here is a collection of stories, poems, memoirs, and religious texts inspired by rats. In this unusual book, you will find rat poetry, science fiction stories about rats, philosophical speculation about the spiritual nature of the rat, a guide on how to harness "The Power of the Rat" through meditation, and much more! Also included is a photo journal of the author's numerous Ukrainian rats.
Visiting Spirits
Price: $3.99 $1.99 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 85,750. Language: American English. Published: January 16, 2022 . Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Visionary & metaphysical
What you’ll find here is a curated collection of stories and poems for those who exist psychologically outside the mainstream or who are looking for something a little different from the usual literary fare. Some of these stories are strange or may touch you in odd ways. You’ve been warned!
Zyloft
Price: $3.99 $1.99 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 128,670. Language: American English. Published: December 12, 2021 . Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Themes & motifs » Spiritual & metaphysical
Sometime in the near future, an antidepressant drug called Zyloft will be released, which will have the unexpected side effect of allowing some people to see their past lives. Here is a collection of stories related to Zyloft and the experiences of those who see their past lives (whether they like it or not) and the effects of their past-life recollections on their present lifetimes.
Twisted Ring
Price: $2.99 $1.49 USD. (50% off until July 31!) Words: 29,680. Language: American English. Published: December 12, 2021 . Categories: Screenplays » Sci-Fi
This is the final version of the screenplay "Twisted Ring,” which is based on the science fiction novel, Beyond the Twisted Ring.
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