More questions, more answers, more Larry

Tell us a little about yourself, please.
Basically I am a “blue-collar guy”. It is the world I come from, a world of hard working, hard drinking construction workers, cops, long-shoremen, firemen, railroad workers, bus drivers, truckers, sanitation workers, etc. who were, for the most part, family men who loved their God, their families and their country—unconditionally. Consequently, if you would ask me to describe my work as a writer I would call it “blue-collar” meaning that I believe my work is simple fair, easily readable, no-nonsense, minimally superlative, and flows quickly. There is lots of dialogue and my tendency to be omniscient is obvious. I think that is because the characters and I are part of each other and I know what they are thinking.

What about your latest release?
“The Priest and the Peaches” officially launched on January 1st of this year. It is a story about five, newly orphaned kids growing up in the Bronx during the 1960’s who are now on a quest to remain together as a family. They have no money, the rent is past due, the utility payments are behind and the younger boys need clothes. Teddy Peach 18, is the oldest and he is determined to keep the family together but outside forces are at work trying to get the younger boys, aged 14, 10 and six, into a “properly supervised environment”. Enter Father Tim Sullivan, the local parish priest, who quietly acts as their guide as they begin navigating the turbulent waters of “grown-up world”.

Ok, let’s get down to the fun stuff. If you were stranded on a lush tropical island, and all of your basic needs were met, what two items would you have with you? What person would be with you? Remember, you’re stuck there for an indefinite period with only each other to occupy the time.
Well, I would probably like to have a bible. You can read it over and over and discuss it with the person who is with you. Since I am a mid-60s senior citizen I would also like (you ready) some denture cleaner. The person I would like to have with me would be my wife. She always has my back and my best interests at heart and could more than likely figure out a way to prepare the food that was available.

If you could play opposite any of your lead characters, which one would it be and why?
Probably, Dancer. He’s young, impetuous, and contrary. He would try to BS me but I am wise to him. I know that in due time I’ll wear him down and he’ll be the kid he should be. Plus, we love each other. If you could lead any of your secondary characters, which one would it be and why? I’m thinking the drunken attorney, Tom Hagenjack. Underneath his perpetual, drunken stupor is a kind man who is simply a victim of his own addiction. Maybe I might be able to reach out to him and help him get sober even though I know it is something only he can do.

You’re locked in a closet with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, three paperclips and a string. How do you get out?
Well, I would not worry about them or the paper clip or the string. I would just kick the door down (trust me, I can do it) and walk out. I would make sure that they are all okay and then be on my merry way.

Name five things you can do with a pencil.
Print & write, sharpen, erase, sketch and use as a weapon.

Who’s your favorite character from your book(s)? Why? Don’t worry, we won’t tell.
Father Tim Sullivan. This man grew up in the “Hell’s Kitchen” section of Manhattan down by the docks. He is street wise, and tough yet has a simple faith which allows him to see the Hand of God working even amidst chaos. He is not preachy, heavy handed or authoritarian, and has the ability to make folks smile. There should be more people like him.

You have questions? Larry has answers!

*Where are you from?
New York City (The Bronx)

*Coffee, tea or chocolate and why?
Coffee for sure—When I put the key in the ignition I want that old engine to start right up.

*What one animal do you think fits you the most and why?
Oh, I don’t know. Probably a chimp—funny and unpredictable.

*What does reading mean to you?
It is very important to me yet I don’t read nearly as much as I would like to.

*When and why did you begin writing?
I probably began in grade school because of assignments. I sort of liked doing it and began writing little things on my own.

*When did you first consider yourself a writer?
This might seem weird but I am just now beginning to consider myself a writer. I am a bit insecure in believing that I am actually any good at it.

*What inspired you to write your first book?
The seeds for my first book, ( a children’s book) “Slippery Willie’s Stupid Ugly Shoes”, were planted by a foster child we had years ago. His name was Brian and he was three years old. He was totally hyperactive, off the walls with no self-controls whatsoever. He would get up from a chair and run smack dab into the wall. He would eat anything–grass, the bark from a tree, pebbles. One time my wife was cleaning him after he went to the bathroom and and she started pulling this thing from him and a rubber band snapped out. (You can’t make this stuff up). Anyway, Brian would slip and fall, spin and fall etc—amazingly, he never got hurt. “Slippery Willie” is nothing like Brian except for the slipping and sliding..

*Do you have a specific writing style?
I am a blue-collar guy and I think my writing reflects that because it is not expansive or flowery but rather, short and to the point. (that’s my take)

*What was your life like before becoming an author?
I worked in the building trades in NYC for 15 years, came down with MS, had to stop doing that, moved to Florida for the warmer weather (no ice to slip on) went to college, began writing newspaper commentary, got healthy enough to do some home-repair work. Nothing earth shattering, for sure. Now I am officially a senior citizen with grandkids and a bald spot enjoying my “permanent senior moment” as a writer.

*What sparked the idea for your series?
I’m not sure if it will be a series. I am working on the sequel so we’ll see how that plays out over the next few months.

*Which comes first?
The chicken

*What was your favorite part of the book?
The ending and I am not going to give it away.

*How personal is your writing?
I’m not sure. I hate talking aout myself but being in this business I guess I have to. So, I am becoming more open about things. I have tried writing in the first person but all those I’s drive me crazy. I don’t know–maybe I am more personal than I think I am but I blow it off because I am using the characters instead of myself. Hey–you gave me something to think about. Thanks.

*What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Make sure your stuff is properly formatted (grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization etc.) Then– keep at it.

*What is your favorite authors/books?
I always go back to Hemingway’s , “Old Man & The Sea” for its simplicity and its ability to let you feel the love and caring that flows between the old man and the boy and, of course, between the old man and the great fish he must kill. I like C.S. Lewis also.

*If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
“Honest Abe” Lincoln. To me the greatest of all presidents. Brilliant mind, patient man, loved his country and brought it to reunification yet maintained his humility and simplicity throughout his life.

*Tell us your latest news?
Well, of course the new book has just come out and I am working on the sequel. More to follow.

"Have They Lost Their Minds? Get Out of My Faith!"

I’m tired. Not because I am a senior citizen or because my back hurts or because I am a cancer survivor or anything like that. All that stuff is GOOD. I am tired and worn out from being slapped upside the head because I am a catholic. Yeah–I am a blue-collar catholic guy who loves his faith and his church and that is all there is to it. My three priorities are; God, Family, and Country–in that order. But, no one ever bothered me about that. God bless the framers of the Constitution. Were they SMART. Freedom of Religion–the very FIRST amendment. God bless em—because those folks knew what kind of lid had to be placed on the pressure cooker of diversity that was to be America. Religion was the thing that transcended law. It made things either right or wrong. It said yes and no. Ah, “yes and no”–how archaic to so many in our sophisticated and secular 21st century world. Yet, how beautiful and reassuring to so many others. Such a paradox.

Okay–I, as do so many Catholics today and throughout the centuries past, like to, on occasion, pay a “visit” to our church. It doesn’t matter where the church is located. Anywhere in the world it is the same. Jesus is there. For real. We believe that. We know that for a fact. It is a faith thing. We can stop in for five minutes just to say HI Jesus. Or we can sit in His presence for five hours and just talk or not talk. If you have a problem with that–oh well. Freedom of religion—remember. For those who believe no explanation is necessary–for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible (unless you really want to have an open mind and check it out).

So–what’s my problem on this Memorial Day? Well, first of all I thought that we were supposed to live our faith the best we can, 24/7. I mean, when I leave church, is that it? Forget all the morality and faith and good works. The hell with the Golden Rule. Doesn’t going to church and attending Mass and sometimes making a “visit”prepare me and fortify me to leave that place and go out into the world? Am I now supposed to, by LAW, leave it in church.  My problem is that it seems that the Obama administration has sent forth a pseudo-catholic by the name of Sebelius who is now standing outside my church telling me just that. She and her other pseudo-catholic buddies like Biden and Pelosi and Kerry et al: are telling me that  as long as I am in church I can follow my faith. Once I leave church I had better follow the rule of law as set forth by the administration in power or face a hefty  fine or even imprisonment. They have even suggested that the church has declared a “war on women” because the church refuses to give contraception and abortifacient drugs. Have they LOST THEIR MINDS? President Nixon signed Title X into law in 1970, 42 years ago, and  contraception on demand has been available all over the country ever since.

Anyway, that’s why I am tired. Tired of this unrelenting attack on my faith supposedly being waged under the  banner of virtue. What a crock. Maybe we should close all the catholic hospitals and foundling homes and catholic charities and the St. Vincent De Paul Society and HIV/Aids centers and homes for the deaf and the blind and shelters for the homeless. HAVE THEY LOST THEIR MINDS?? Hey—get out of my faith.

Larry answers even MORE of your questions

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a writer?
I come from one of the many “blue-collar” neighborhoods that are spread all over New York City with my particular neighborhood being in the Morrisania section of the south Bronx. The vast majority of kids I grew up with went to Catholic school (including me) and the prevailing mindset of the people was love of God, family and country, in that order. That was “way” back in the 1950s and today I have graduated to senior citizen with a bunch of grandkids and I qualify for discounts on all sorts of things from coffee to car-rentals. Writing was always in me and I scribbled this and that for years. Then I began doing some newspaper commentary about 20 years ago. That was on a part-time basis and lasted for about five years as various newspapers went belly-up. I only began to write seriously about five years ago and it has become (as I like to say) my “permanent senior moment.” I love it and there is no turning back. My first book, Slippery Willie’s Stupid Ugly Shoes, a children’s book, came out in Jan. 2011. The Priest and The Peaches is my first full length novel which launched Jan. 2012.

Tell us a little about your book The Priest and the Peaches.
This is the story about five, newly orphaned kids who find themselves trying to stay together as a family. They have no money, the rent is past due, the utility payments are behind and the younger boys need clothes and shoes. Teddy Peach, 18, is the oldest and he is determined to keep the family together as outside forces are at work trying to break them apart. Enter Father Tim Sullivan, the local parish priest, who quietly acts as their guide as they begin to navigate the turbulent waters of “grown-up world.”

Thinking about the whole writing process, what is the easiest part of the process for you? What is the most difficult?
For me, the initial process begins with pen and paper. This might be the easiest. It is like my brain is a dump truck loaded with all of the necessary materials to build a house. The paper is the property where the house will be built. So I dump it all in a big pile on the paper as it pours out of my pen or pencil. Now all I have to do is figure out where everything goes. Onward to the keyboard to sort this mess. That’s the hard part. The hardest part is the final inspection prior to public viewing.

Do you have any routines or rituals when you are writing?
No, not really. I do work in the mornings though. Finish in the early afternnoon. That’s my ideal but even that is interrupted many times. The challenge is to avoid the interruptions but it is easier said than done when working from home.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yup–No matter what, you have to keep trudging along and never quit. My favorite quote is “Do your BEST, let God do the rest.”

Finally, can you tell us a little about what you are working on now?
I have begun the sequel to The Priest and the Peaches and already it has taken an unexpected direction. More to follow.

Larry answers even MORE of your questions

What drew you to writing this book?
Good question. For starters, let me say that although this is primarily a work of fiction, all fiction (at least in my mind) comes from, in essence, who we really are. My brothers and sister did lose our parents when we were very young and, trust me, it was quite the everday adventure moving forward. Having said that I must admit that I never planned to write a book based on any of that. Anyway, about five years ago our brother, Bobby, died unexpectedly. We all are very close and it was a tough time. At the funeral we were sitting around reminiscing about the “good old days” and all of the crazy stuff that had went on back then. We had a great time and laughter and back slapping ruled and this was at his funeral. For me, it was a beautiful thing. So I guess his funeral is what “drew” me to eventually write the book based on things that happened 45 years ago. Like I said, the book is fiction and many of the characters and incidents are fictional. The five kids are based on real people. My daughter, who is a social-worker, believes I did this for therapeutic reasons. Maybe I did. I don’t know.

It is so sad to think of five kids dealing with the death of their father, what is the beauty behind the sadness?
The beauty behind their sadness lies in the fact that they were able to join together as a family and to be able to L-Y-N (love your neighbor) as they began their separate journey’s through life. It was a legacy from their deceased father who had bequeathed that quality to them.

What is your favorite part about your book, no spoilers, if possible!!
The ending and I won’t spoil anything by mentioning it.

Share something personal –
I never mentioned this or owned up to it or—well, I’m a movie crier. It’s probably ridiculous but I even cried at the end of “Christmas Story” the other night when Ralphie finally got his Red-Ryder BB Gun. What got me (again) was the look on his dad’s face (Darren McGavin). He was just so happy that he could do that for his boy and all he did was display a slight smile of satisfaction. Great job of acting at that moment. It got to me. LOL

Larry answers more of your questions

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in NYC (South Bronx).

When did you begin writing?
I guess I began writing back in grade school doing short short stories (today they call it flash fiction) and things like that. That’s probably where I got the “itch”.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I was very undisciplined as to my writing habits and needed to take charge of that. Now I am up by 6 a.m and clean up messages and such from the previous evening. Then I go to 7 a.m Mass, return home by 7:40 and get busy with the writing. I do that until around 12:30 or 1 p.m, take a break and then go back to sort out messages and do the necessary social-networking. When working at home it is easy to let distractions get in the way so my discipline is still a work in progress.

What is this book about?
The book is about five kids who have already lost their mom and now, during the Christmas season, lose their dad. They are determined to stay together as a family and their primary guide in this journey is the parish priest who, in his own quiet way, always seems to “have their back.”

What inspired you to write it?
It just seemed to me that this was a good time to tell a story about a family of kids who, because of the nurturing of their deceased parents, realize the importance of being a family and are determined to remain so, no matter what.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I have come to learn that I was where I was when I was there for a reason and when I was there I did my best to always do the right thing. That may sound “shmaltzy” but that’s me.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
You must be tenacious, be ready to accept criticism and rejection and never give up. No matter who says what.

What is up next for you?
I am working on the sequel to the book and, as of now, I do not have a title I am sure of. My head goes in different directions so I am never sure where it will take me. After that is finished–who knows?

Is there anything you would like to add?
Sure. my favorite quote is “Do your BEST–Let God do the rest.”

Larry answers more of your questions

What’s your current project?
I have started writing the sequel to “The Priest and The Peaches”. This will see the younger boys go to rural New Jersey for their summer vacation to stay with friends of Father Sullivan’s. Things will happen and we shall delve into the paranormal, no vampire or zombies, but rather a good vs evil thing. That’s all I can say right now.

How do you respond to a reviewer if its not favorable?
Unfavorable reviews should be welcome (unless they are all unfavorable—then you might have a problem) because you can learn from them. It is nice to get a different slants or POVs from people you do not know. It can only help you as a writer.

How do you advertise your work?
Well, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and, of course, these type of reviews and guest blogs and interviews etc. I am weak in this area but hopefully I’ll get better at it as time goes by.

Do you have daily writing goals you set for yourself?
Not really. Some people want to make sure they do so many words a day etc. I can’t do that. —my goal is to write something and to discipline myself so as not to be distracted by ‘stuff”. When you work from home all sorts of things go on and you have to stay on track as best you can. So, sometimes I can throw down 10k words. Other times I might get two paragraphs done. I am what I am and that’s me.

Do you belong to any writing chapters and how do you feel they help you?
I belong to the Catholic Writer’s Guild and I do post a blog for them about once a month about writing. I listen to the feedback and it helps that way.

Thoughts from Albert Einstein

From the most brilliant scientist, Albert Einstein,  who managed to see beyond his own gift of brilliance.

“Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in AWE when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a HOLY curiosity.”

Larry answers more of your questions

Tell us about your current project.
I have started writing the sequel to “The Priest and The Peaches”. This will take place during summer vacation when the younger boys go to stay with friend’s of Father Sullivan’s who live in rural New Jersey. We venture into the paranormal with this story. No vampires or zombies or anything like that. It will be more about good vs evil. It is a work in progress and has a long way to go.

What will I as a reader like best about your hero?
Teddy, 18, even though frightened of his circumstances and all of the unknowns he must confront, plods forward doing his best for his family. It’s not always “pretty”. I think you have to admire him for that.

How will women identify with your heroine?
I’m not sure. Joanie was only 13 when her mom died. She was surrounded by an all male household and was thrust into the unintended position as ‘woman of the house’. I would imagine that women might feel sorry for her, secretly admire her and never want to be put in her position.

Is your muse currently sitting on your shoulder or is she illusive?
My muse is a scatter-brain. I wish I could slow him down sometimes and make him focus more. I think he has ADD.

Who is your favorite author?
I always go back to Hemingway because of his “The Old Man & The Sea”. A simple read but powerful in that you can feel the love and respect between the old man, Santiago, and the boy, Manolin and even the sadness in Santiago’s heart when he knew he must kill the great fish. Beautifully done. – Review
May 9, 2012

Catholic Fiction Book Review – The Priest and the Peaches
by Jody Rakis

The novel, THE PRIEST AND THE PEACHES, is the story of five children left to manage on their own. It is a story about love and blind faith. A faith that was taught to them by their parents and by their priest. It is a faith that a lot of us have lost. The children carry on as best they can, with the expectation that all things will be alright. I laughed, I cried and then I laughed and cried at the same time. I have not enjoyed reading a story like this one in a long time.

It is a story that will make you believe in miracles. But not big, flashy miracles, miracles that just happen because you believe and expect them to happen. The priest in this story is excited about his faith. He believes in the power of prayer and help from the saints when you ask. He is joyful when all else fails.

One aspect of the story that touches you is the fact that we judge people by our impressions of them. What we have seen and what we think we know. But there is goodness in all people. And the children only know part of the story of their father, who has left them now because of his drinking and they have no one to turn to but themselves. It is a story of believing in each other. The children respect each other and trust each other. There are disappointments along the way, and they learn many lessons in life during their adjustments, but they also see what they expected; warm, loving people who are there for them, when needed.

I really enjoyed this book, and encourage all to read it.