Interview with Charles Bechtel

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I suppose I spend my time as do most people: fixing dinner, cleaning up after the cats, staring off into space, double-checking that I've flushed the toilet. A better question may be "How would I LIKE to spend my time when not writing?" Of course, that answer would be "writing," except quite a number of years ago I discovered sailing. Feeling the sun on my back, the wind on my face, the water flowing under my hull, and the unexpected rise and tilt from a sudden gust of wind... heaven. Oh yeah, and having sex. I'm male, so statistics says I am thinking about doing that about every seven seconds. Not that I want to have sex every seven seconds. I'd be dead in a minute. Smiling, but dead.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I confess: I don't. I can't get that queer inky smell into my nose when I e-book. It's a smell that is indelibly tied to the reading process. Without it, my mind wanders.

If I were sent out to discover e-books, however, I'd be using Smashwords. (That is the correct answer, right? Is this a test?)
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Unfortunately, yes. It was a complete rip-off of the Hardy Boys, was four paragraphs long and took me hours and hours. I was so proud, for like a day. I do not have it. My first longer work filled half of one of those end-stapled Composition notebooks, those black and white things. It was a complete rip-off of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, in which I had my hero kicking a bear in the throat. I still have it somewhere. I still rip-off things, but I am much cleverer about it nowadays.
What is your writing process?
I get a notion, a feeling, then an idea, spend time in contemplation, suffer hesitation, employ procrastination, in that order. Eventually I have to get out of bed because I can't sleep, write at least a page of absolutely brilliant prose, go back to sleep, then later wake up to find Gremlins have changed everything I've written into dreadful stuff. Then I moan, kick at the dog (not really, never had one) go back to contemplation, procrastinate some more, then eventually I get back to the drek and try to change the words back into brilliant. This last part isn't easy. The Gremlins cast spells or something that makes it impossible for the the brilliant words to get back on the page. Eventually I give up, knowing the Gremlins have won.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I ever "read" was actually one in which I participated. My parents forced me to leave home at the age of six, pointing me toward Sunday School, where we did the Noah's Ark story, animals two by two and all. I asked if I could bring my dog (not mine, my sisters, actually) but the nice Church Lady said, "I'm sorry, but we already have two dogs." I was appalled, burst into tears, fled the Church (pretty much forever) and wailed myself all the way back home. The impact was traumatic, and I think ever since I want in all of my stories someway for all the dogs to get on the boat. Crippling, it was.
How do you approach cover design?
Ah, this I can truthfully answer! I approach with trepidation! Once I arrive there, though, I call on my doppelganger, who has an excellent design sense. (We also have the same name, and even hands!) He is equally familiar with my works, and sits down at a computer to create. We scan stuff, steal stuff from the Internet, manipulate that stuff beyond recognition, as some type, move things around, check the pixel count and sizes, and voila! He's done it again.

In other words, I do all of my own covers.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
In no apparent order: "The Woodlanders" by Thomas Hardy; "The Hobbit" by JRR Tolkein; "Daniel Martin" by John Fowles; "Absalom, Absalom" by William Faulkner, and "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare.

My reasons for these five being my favorite? No idea, but I have read each of these works more than a dozen times each, so that must say something. (I know this is male-centric. If the question was "who are my five favorite authors, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf would top the list. This is not a sop to feminists who may point and say, "Ugh, no women." Truth is, I just haven't gotten any of their books into double-digit reads yet.)
What do you read for pleasure?
Books. Silly question.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Borrowed. Has to be. I don't own one yet, except for a crummy laptop and this PC.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Grabbing people by the collar and threatening their children. Other than that, I have not investigated the effectiveness of a technique. I am a writer, not a marketing research firm. Wish I could be more helpful to newbies seeking the secret (which newbies must want, as the successful surely would not look to me for a better way.)
Describe your desk
An eight-foot long Honduran mahogany library table refinished to gleaming perfection by hours of hand-sanding and carefully applied repeated coats of two-part marine varnish. It has two drawers, five legs, brass feet. Upon it sits the necessary accouterments to using a PC, a brass table lamp that weighs about twenty pounds, a photograph of my granddaughter at ten months wearing her mother's bra and a huge grin, a jar full of pens and pencils, several ceramic coasters used to keep my various forms of drinks from wrecking the mahogany, and some fake flowers my wife thinks makes things look pretty. Oh, and the proof galleys to my latest book that's awaiting input of pencilled corrections, if I ever finish with this Personal Interview.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I have yet to meet a writer who ever grew up. I have my suspicions that Thomas Hardy may have reached an adult mind, but he died before I was born. Oh, and Henry James and Bernard Malamud, two so serious writers whose stuff I can't get through.

As for influence: Everything influences my writing. I am powerless against influences.
When did you first start writing?
My sister, who was five years my senior, would come home from school when I was three and my kid sister two, and she'd play "School" with us. As a consequence I learned my letters well before I learned to remember, so I suppose my writing began then.

Unless the questuion is more specific about my present writing, then I'd say about 7:30am, Mountain time.
What's the story behind your latest book?
All of my books are equally late, so I don't know which one qualifies as the latest. My next book, however, will have a story inside of it. What story lies behind it is anybody's guess.

Okay, enough about coyness. I am going to finish the last two books in my six-book series: "Drew Nolan, reluctant detective," complete work already done on "Writing Tips," and work on "The Lady from Spain," which is a story of Spanish women affected by the execution of the patriarchs, a father and his son, in a Sevillano family of Jewish origins. Better?
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I am singularly motivated by the horrid state of affairs in traditional publishing, though delicious control over what I want to do has its influence. Any writer who wrestles with a text for months, years and even decades, must have control issues. I am one of those.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Without Smashwords I would be nothing, a miserable worm, a scar on the belly of a snake, a damned demi-maven unworthy of the tortures of Hell... this is a test, right? Oh, I'd also be an unpicked nose, the smell on the fingers after scratching the underarm, a pustule on a slug's bottom... this is so much fun, but too much fun is bad for me. I'll stop now.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I have yet to experience it. I suspect there is no joy in writing except possibly that feeling which is similar to having an itch right in the middle of your back where you can't reach go away. Now, if I ever had the opportunity to look across the aisle on a train and see someone reading my book, I guess I could claim joy in having written, but in writing? No, can't imagine that.
What are you working on next?
Fixing a plumbing problem in my kitchen, then some bills needing payment. Why? You want to help?
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Sunlight and a possible lack of bladder control. Sun arrives, I wake up, I immediately have to pee. Used to go right there in the bed, but my Mom put an end to that, so I must pad on down to the bathroom.
What do you think of genre writing?
It's where the money is. And all writing is genre writing. Literary fiction is not a pathway to God, it's a genre with its own clichés.
How do you think you'll die?
My plan is to drive into a phone pole because I had been staring too long at a nice butt on a sixteen-year old girl. However, I probably will go the way my parents went: unhappily, and without too much raging at the dying of the light. I'll miss light a lot, I think. And my wife, who is sure to outlive me. Bye, y'all.
Published 2013-09-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Lady from Spain
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 82,420. Language: English. Published: December 8, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
In a dark hour after midnight in 1938 a volley of shots ring out and a number of Spanish men fall dead. For them, from then on, there are no consequences. But for the women left behind, wives, mothers, daughters and sons, the echo from those gun barrels repeat, repeat, and repeat. This is the story of the women in one of those affected families.
And Then You Don't
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 83,610. Language: English. Published: April 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Is Drew Nolan chasing a ghost from his past this time? Two ghosts? Is there even anyone dead? Join Nolan on another adventure in which the only answers are those that lead him into forests of ever more questions. "And Then You Don't" is funny, engaging, and further explores whether "The One Who Knows has the Responsibility" to make what's hidden known — even though the consequences may be deadly.
Book of Days
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 113,230. Language: English. Published: September 28, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Travel a man's life through twelve chapters, each chapter the length and breadth of a day. Claude is a boy who wanted to draw, a youth who had much to see, and a man compelled to put himself and those around him onto a canvas. The twelve days visited invite a reader to inhabit this person, who sought only to find honesty and permanence among those who touched him, and within himself.
The Long and the short
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 63,530. Language: English. Published: September 25, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
This collection of 25 short stories is by the author of "Book of Days," "The Odor of Orchids," "The Lady from Spain" and the six-book series, "DREW NOLAN — reluctant detective." Both entertaining and quirky, these 25 showcase the author's ability to see things usually missed, and to present them in a clear and cogent appeal to the emotions, passions and intelligence of readers. They're also fun.
On Second Thoughts
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 65,180. Language: English. Published: September 8, 2013. Categories: Essay » Sociology, Essay » Political
A former newspaper columnist and publisher continued his print column, "On Second Thoughts," into the digital age. Inside are fifty "essays" from his weekly e-column. Ranging in topics from the death in Iraq of a local boy to a valentine to his father, to ruminations about social upheavals and to second thoughts on using words when, Bechtel gives life a quirky second look. Fit for the bathroom!
The Odor of Orchids
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 91,270. Language: English. Published: September 8, 2013 by Charles Bechtel. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
This book takes you into the steamy summer-hot mountains of western North Carolina, but it's not a regional book. History is made equally among people who do not make it into the news, and the history of three strangers coming together becomes a microcosm of what troubles the daily life of us all. Love, loss, sex, strangeness, hope, anxiety, confusion, betrayal... these and more are all in there.
Running Before Thunder
Series: The DREW NOLAN stories, Book 4. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 83,330. Language: English. Published: June 21, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Adventure » Action
In this 4th book in the series, Drew Nolan heads to the horse races at Santa Anita Park, and the funeral of a man he's never met. At the grave's edge he meets a beautiful Hispanic woman who let's on that the dead man died by no accident... he was murdered. Nolan's day at the races is no walk in the park. Conmen, jockeys, horse thieves, killers, the FBI... think Nolan can leave this alone? No way.
When The Ball Drops Foul
Series: The DREW NOLAN stories, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 78,360. Language: English. Published: June 21, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Adventure » Action
This time Drew Nolan and his girlfriend June find themselves deep in a mystery about who killed a young ballplayer in the worst way possible: he was lynched. Right place, but wrong time. Nolan lands back in it again. All they had to do was get back on their boat, but this injustice June could not let alone. Against Drew's reluctance, he plunges in again where he doesn't belong, and isn't wanted.
Hell's Cold Furies
Series: The DREW NOLAN stories, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 83,790. Language: English. Published: May 13, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Book Two in the series: Join Drew Nolan, reluctant detective, again. This time our former Philly cop lands his butt in a saddle on a dude ranch in Montana where, needing some relief, he finds himself staring down at a half-eaten corpse. Unlucky hiker wandered off a cliff? Nolan wishes that was all it was. Unfortunately for him, the fellow has a story to tell, and only Nolan hears it.
A Hole in the Water
Series: The DREW NOLAN stories, Book 1. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 83,170. Language: English. Published: May 13, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Adventure » Sea adventures
Meet Drew Nolan, reluctant detective. "A Hole in the Water" is the first of six books in a series about a former cop turned Charter Boat captain living in Key Largo. What he wants is to be a bum, away from it all. What he winds up is a guy who finds himself too often in the middle of other people's messes. He tells his stories with ironic humor and a bit of self-deprecation.