Monday, July 22, 2013

Caterino on Caterino

All writers of fiction have a split personality. After all, they spent most of the time absorbed in worlds of their own creation populated with made-up people who are as real to them as flesh and blood. So it makes perfect sense that the best way to gain insight into the deep psyche (and psychosis) of a creative writer is the self-interview.

So tell me, why do you write?

I write stories I want to read, but nobody else had written them. So I have to write them.

When did you start writing fiction?

I believe the first completely finished, edited, and typed up short story I wrote was at the age of 12 for a project at school. It was this really hilarious over the top space opera inspired by "Star Trek", "Space 1999", etc. I forget the name of it...something like "Beyond the Stars". I am sure I have still have it sitting around in storage somewhere.

Did you stick with the writing after that?

In one form or another. Always filling out notebooks with story outlines, characters, and key scenes I would use later on. Wrote about a dozen or so short stories in college. Then it was on to screenplays.

Were any of them good?

Mostly no. Well-crafted maybe—structure always came natural to me—but vapid. I simply had not lived enough life. A couple of the short stories were well-received by the class. It was one of those classes where you had to sit silent for an hour while everyone discussed and reviewed your work out loud. One of the screenplays was good. It actually came close to being optioned. I went out to LA and pitched it around back in 2003. By that time I had developed a true sense of who I was as an artist with my own viewpoint, personal set of thematic obsessions, and demons. It was an S&M supernatural horror story about re-incarnation called “Steel Phantom”. Much of the material ended up being used in “She” and “All About Amy”.

S&M huh? Whips, chains, and torture are present in many of your books.  I have noticed a very strong—sexual content would be the wrong term—a pervasive eroticism embedded in the style, and at times, the story content. Where does that come from?

I am an intensely physical person. It is a viewpoint, a way of seeing the world and of interacting with it. We live out are life in this form. The physical is intricately bound to the emotional, the intellectual, and the spiritual. The sexual drive is imprinted on our DNA and hard-wired to the pleasure center of the brain. There is no more powerful drive in all of nature. Take a look at our evolutionary history. Research other great apes such as the highly sexualized, matriarchal (and peaceful) culture of the Bonobos and you will see what I mean.

Okay, let’s get on to why I came here today—to ask about Caitlin Star. What is the deal with her?

Caitlin Star made her first appearance in a published screenplay I wrote a few  years ago, “Rise of the Bull Mongoni”. The story centered around Tyrone Fulton and how he came to be trained under Gunner Star and taught the ways of the Bull Mongoni. When Tyrone was brought into Gunner’s secret world, Caitlin was already firmly entrenched as the second in command at the age of 22. Clearly she is special and in “Caitlin Star” we get to learn about her unique past, her special talents, and the world-changing historic destiny that awaits her.

Do people need to read “Rise of the Bull Mongoni” before checking out “Caitlin Star”.

Oh God no! As a matter of fact I insist that you do NOT. “Rise of the Bull Mongoni” and “Sword of the Bull Mongoni” are written and published in screenplay form. The format is unreadable to anyone who has not been to film school, worked in the business, or downloaded and read a ton of scripts from Drew’s or one of the other screenplay databases. I have received many angry emails saying stuff like “Caterino, why the fuck did you do this in the screenplay format. Really wanted to read this…as a novel like it should have been. You suck!” So yeah, unless you are familiar with screenplays, avoid those books. EVERYTHING you need to know is in “Caitlin Star”. It is completely self-contained. Trust me on this.

What about the book where it all started, “Gunner Star”? It is a novel, right?

Yes. A very readable novel that introduces Gunner Star as he takes on a protégé named Joe Fenton. Fenton would go on later to write books about the Bull Mongoni, the mysterious forgotten species of hominids from the recent evolutionary past and the philosophy preached by Gunner Star. But again, no need to read it.

So the other books, including Gunner Star and Action Figure, are merely extra backstory if fans want to find out more about the Bull Mongoni universe?

Yes. Except "Action Figure" is sort of its own entity. It references the Bull Mongoni a lot because the main character, Wes Jackson, is a fan of Joe Fenton's books.

There is a real depth to the characters and relationships in “Caitlin Star”, far beyond anything in other books you have done. Some of the scenes were very emotional. I really loved the relationship between Gunner and Caitlin.

To me that was it. There is one special reason to write every book that stands above all others. It is the reason you must press on and finish and get this story out to the world. For me, that one thing was the relationship between Gunner and Caitlin.

One final question. Caitlin is such a great character. She felt so real.  What are the influences? Did you base her on any real people you have known? Because it sure feels like it. Okay, that was two questions.

Indeed it was. Well to the first question. Yes, and as to specifics of who the real people are…not in a million years my friend. As far as influences on Caitlin—besides real people from my life—“Birds of Prey” and “Witchblade” comics, Supergirl, Kate Beckinsale, Milla Jovovich, and the female characters from the films of James Cameron.

Great stuff! Thank you Jim.

My pleasure.

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