Monday, April 15, 2024

Five By Five—Author follows her dream as her new book take readers on a romantic journey

By Max Bowen

Before we get into the book, you’re probably wondering what “Five By Five” is. This is the new name for our series of written Q&A interviews with writers and musicians.

The name actually refers to audio signals, which ties in with our regular podcast. Five By Five is another way to say “good signal strength” or “loud and clear,” but can also mean “exceptional quality,” which certainly lines up with the artists we speak with. Now with that out of the way, on to the book!

Set to be released on April 30, Norah Woodsey’s book “The States” follows a young woman who enters a sleep-study that allows her to lucidly dream of summers in Ireland, and the boy she was forced to leave behind. Here’s a look at the plot:

“Tildy Sullivan is the middle child in an elite family who amassed their wealth with a cosmetics company. Despite the comforts of life, all Tildy cares about are the summers she spent in Galway, Ireland and the boy she was forced to let go. After her mother’s death eight years ago, she was persuaded to leave Ireland and Aidan behind. Now, as her family’s fortune dwindles and concerns about her future arise, she signs up for a sleep study where she lucidly dreams about her past, hoping to reconcile with the boy she can’t let go. With the dream of being with Aidan again, Tildy embarks on a journey back to Ireland hoping that her dreams can soon become a reality.”

The book is a reimagine of Jane Austen’s classic “Persuasion” and in this interview, we talk about the book inspired Noorah’s, Tildy’s relationship with Austin and the original version being written during NaNoWRiMo.

For those not familiar, what is Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and how did it inspire this book?
“Persuasion” is Jane Austen’s final completed novel, published in 1817 soon after her death. Unlike Austen’s other novels, we meet Anne Elliot not before her youthful love story begins, but after it has ended. The reader learns that 8 years prior to the events of the novel, Anne chose her aristocratic family over herself, over her love, Captain Wentworth, and broke his heart. She kept it all a secret from nearly everyone. Then, her father, a vain and careless baronet, stands to lose everything and suddenly, Anne’s former love returns to her life. He is now wealthy and still handsome, and she must endure his anger while loving him still, all on the sidelines. Until things begin to shift, and… I’ll leave it there!

I have loved this book since I first read it in college. I had read Austen’s other works well before then, but I didn’t read “Persuasion” until a snowy day when I had nothing else to do. I’m glad I waited. I love “Pride and Prejudice,” I respect “Emma” and “Northanger Abbey,” but “Persuasion” beautifully describes living with regret and overcoming it to find happiness. It explores loving, mourning that love, and learning to love as a new person who has experienced that pain. It also shows the contrast between the gentry and those who work, with exquisitely written adult friendships that exist beyond aristocratic connections and money.

How does your story interpret Austen’s?
Much of “Persuasion” explores loyalty and regret, in addition to Austen’s more consistent themes of class hierarchy, family drama, romantic love, and a woman finding her place in the world. I directly discuss these elements in “The States,” but I chose to give Tildy a more direct hand in her isolation. In “Persuasion,” Anne refuses to fight for herself for much of the story, but you do get the sense she and Wentworth had a lot to lose by chasing their love. His career, her place in society and her inheritance were at stake. However, modern society gives women more freedom. A modern-day Anne could have pursued Wentworth, and his career wouldn’t have suffered. When I wrote “The States,” I had to decide – why didn’t Tildy pursue Aidan? It had to be a cage of her own making. From there, I added in my science-fiction element of the dream experiment as a way for her to create a dream world to shun the real one.

I also expanded the story to discuss her mother. I think Austen deliberately made Lady Elliot a distant, beloved figure. We learn very little about her and that makes her compelling. In “The States,” I wanted to explore Tildy’s maternal side. Her mother, her nana, her mother’s origins. I always felt, maybe incorrectly, that many of the negative events in Persuasion wouldn’t have happened had Lady Elliot lived. I couldn’t resist bringing a character with that power more forward in my retelling. 

What was Tildy’s relationship with Aidan and why did it have to end?
Tildy and Aidan met as teenagers. Over summers together, when Tildy would visit her nana in the Galway Gaeltacht, an Irish speaking area just beyond Galway City. Their friendship quickly turned to love. Tildy promised to come back and stay, and build a life with him. But her life fell apart. Out of familial obligation, she left Aidan behind and stayed in Manhattan with her father, sisters, and the family cosmetics empire. 8 years later, Aidan is wealthy. A famous chef, handsome, and beloved by his friends. Tildy is the black sheep of her family, though she feels obligated to support them. Her father’s business is failing, her family is oblivious to imminent ruin, and Tildy dreams of returning to before her fateful choice. When they meet again, he resents her for the heartbreak but knows her better than any person in the world, as well as she knows him.

I read that this was first written during NaNoWriMo. How did it grow to the finished product?
It started out as a fun little distraction from my much darker novel, “The Control Problem.” I wrote about longing for Ireland, for my grandmother, in the guise of a love story between an Irish man and a first-generation Irish-American. By the end of the month, I hit the word count and set it aside, promising myself to turn it into something someday. “The Control Problem” was released at the end of 2021, so I switched back to my Irish-American love story with fresh eyes. And I realized what was best about it really made it a rough draft of a “Persuasion” retelling. I gave it a few days, primarily to feel sorry for myself that I can’t write an original love story! Then, I decided to do the hard work of making it an honest retelling. I spent a month re-reading “Persuasion,” marking up a paperback copy I bought for the purpose, as well as listening to the audiobook and watching (most) of the movies and miniseries adaptations.

I had a lot of fun weaving in details from “Persuasion” into “The States,” particularly during the scenes with Tildy’s father and sisters. With the additional material of Tildy’s mother and nana, I think it grew into a novel that stands on its own, while still being a faithful retelling.

Why did you choose a sleep study to be used in the story?
I’m fascinated by our relationships and dependencies on technology, whether from the perspective of a scientist, a user, or a research subject. I had a dream machine idea earlier in my career, but it wasn’t strong enough to support a full story. When I realized this was going to be a novel about Tildy’s internal desires versus her lived reality, I decided to use that dream machine idea now.

When I had made that decision, I got in touch with the brilliant cognitive neuroscientist Delphine Oudiette from Northwestern University. She graciously helped me understand how lucid dreaming could be initiated by an external device, the flaws in existent technology, and I tried to incorporate as much of that information into the novel as I could.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mystery boxes and twist endings with “Jill and the Killers”

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Oh, what’s that? It’s a real crime? And we need to solve it? And we could be killed? Yeah, that’ll be fine.

In the Oni Press four-part series, “Jill and the Killers,” teenager Jill Estrada is dealing with the unsolved disappearance of her mother, a police detective, and trying to get back to a normal life. . . . even as her friends become obsessed with Box Killers, a true-crime subscription game where each month’s “unsolved case” is custom-tailored to the life of its player. There’s only one catch: Jill’s game seems to be all too real—and when her clues begin to connect the dots to a very real series of disappearances in her hometown, Jill and her friends must conquer their fears and own personal struggles to solve the case.

Series writer Olivia Cuartero-Briggs joins us to talk about its origins, as well as why she chose to use a subscription box as the vehicle for the story. Olivia worked with artist Roberta Ingranata on “Jill and the Killers” and we talk about how the two met and the collaboration process. Olivia’s worked on murder mysteries before and goes into how the past experience informed this new project.

We’ve gotten the chance to read the final issue (out on April 17), and while we won’t be giving out any spoilers, Olivia does share how she devised the end of the series and hints at a possible continuation.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Citywide Bytes-Joseph Macolino takes us on a tour of the world of Evorath

In the latest live episode of Citywide Bytes, Max talked with author Joseph Macolino for his recently-finished (or is it?) “Evorath Trilogy.” 

He released the third book, “The Battle for Erathal,” and we go into how this wraps up the story, as well as what he has planned next.

This series is years in the making, and Joseph talks about the lengthy world-building he did, which included a lot of education to expand his knowledge and create a more varied Evorath. 

He also shares the character creation process, how he’s seen them grow, and the challenge of deciding when certain ones need to meet a grisly end.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Tim Facciola talks amnesiac gladiators and extensive worldbuilding for his epic trilogy

Our next guest is a familiar name, having been featured as part of our artist Q&A series. We had such a great time, we knew we had to have him back to talk about his third book. Author Tim Facciola joins us to talk about his soon-to-be-released “The Age of the End,” out on April 16. Here’s a quick synopsis of the overall story.

In a world where blood is a short resolution for rebellion, Zephryus only knows two things: he is prophesied to bring peace and balance to the world, and he doesn’t remember anything before his life as an enslaved gladiator. With the fragmented shards of his memory, he is bought by the prince to fight in the gladiator ring, and spy on the queen’s bloody rebellion against the king. Fighting as a gladiator means fighting for his life, and as he faces the prince’s foes and thwarts the queen’s plans, he also discovers that there is more injustice in this world than he imagined. Will Zephyrus be able to stay alive long enough to enact his revenge? Or will the vengeful plot within this royal family keep him from fulfilling his destiny?

Tim shares the inspiration for this book as well as the 10 years he spent developing the world and its characters. He explains how Zephyrus’ amnesia shapes the story, as well as the extensive psychological research he did during the writing process.

Tim talks about the story’s conclusion (with no spoilers!) and the possibility for spinoff or prequel down the road. We go into the many reviews he’s gotten, if he reads them, and how such feedback affects him as a writer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Lorenzo Petruzziello channels love of noir in his new book

By Max Bowen 

Lorenzo Petruzziello took a veritable master’s course when writing his new book, “A Taste of Datura” (April 2, Magnusmade). In preparation, he studied the greats, not only the writers, but the filmmakers as well. “North by Northwest,” “The Third Man” and many more were the foundation of his book, but the story is all his own.

Nick seeks the value of an antique bracelet in his possession. He encounters Laura, an amateur medium cursed by uncontrollable visions. With Laura’s help, Nick closes in on the origin of his treasure. But as the word gets out, the quest puts them both in danger.

In this interview, Lorenzo talks about what inspired this book, how he made the main character of Nick Terenzi, and coming up with a story that was, in his words, “worth sharing.”

What about the genres of noir and suspense made you want to write a story in this style?
I am a fan of classic noir films because of the emotion and sensations they give the audience. Tension, darkness, suspense and mystery. But, what really draws me are the characters, and their immoral and seedy personalities. Their back stories, and the decisions they make that puts them in dangerous situations.
Some of my favorite films are “Strangers on the Train,” “North by NorthWest,” “The Third Man,” “The Big Sleep,” “Niagara” and “Double Indemnity.” Of course, many of these are Hitchcock classics – the master of suspense. I’m also a reader of the books that inspired the films, including stories by authors Patricia Highsmith and Cornell Woolrich.

I like the character of Nick Terenzi. How did you craft him?
Nick is meant to be a vague main character. Someone the reader can place anywhere in their imagination. I studied the main characters as portrayed by Cary Grant – specifically his character in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” And Joseph Cotton in “The Third Man” or “Double Indemnity.” These men had a small definition of who they were. Just enough to connect the audience and allow them to focus on the other characters and situations around them. I wanted Nick to be just as vague, and just as crafty.

This is your second crime novel, after “A Mistake Incomplete.” Was the writing process any easier for this book?
No and yes. It was difficult for me to come up with a story that was worth sharing. I knew I wanted to connect both books, but I didn’t know how. I wanted a connection, but not necessarily a sequel. I wanted the two books to be separate – not requiring the reader to have to read both – but have a connection or a nod to each. Add the uncertainty of the pandemic, my mind was just focused on stories. But, once I figured out a connection and premise, I knew what I was writing. Knowing that helped move the process along much faster than it did for “A Mistake Incomplete.”
Although my first book, “The Love Fool,” is not a crime story, it also has a slight connection to this world. There is no direct connection – just a subtle easter egg dropped in “A Mistake Incomplete.”

I read that Italy is a familiar place to you. How did the country inspire or shape your writing?
As a kid, I spent my summers in Italy with my grandparents. Each year, when school ended, I would be on a flight to Italy, and return just before school began in the fall. This started in middle school through college. After that, I travelled to Italy every year – spending less time than a whole summer, but there all the same. The time spent in Europe helped shape the man I am.
Speaking two languages and leaning in to the culture, I adopted a global mentality, that allows me the ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Allows me to see situations in many different ways. And allows me to focus on understanding views. So, Italy, and my time there, will always be an inspiration to anything I do in life.

Will there be more books? If so, what ideas are you working on?
When I started the journey of writing my first book, “The Love Fool,” I had moved to Rome temporarily. I thought to myself, ‘if I can write a book, then I will promise myself to write three.’ Once “The Love Fool” was completed and published, I knew my plan: to write stories set in cities that had meaning to me. Rome: because I was living there when I started this writing journey. Milan: Because I studied there in the mid-90s and really enjoyed being in that part of Italy. Naples: Because this is the region where I spent my summers. So, my personal Italian trilogy goal is now complete. Do I have more cities that I connect with? Yes. So there are ideas brewing. One is maybe return to Rome with crime. But, who knows what will be next? For now, I want to breathe and enjoy my accomplishment of completing my three novels I had promised myself.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Escape The Paradigm shares 11 years of music

Over the years, brothers Brandon Brodzinski and Johnathan Rockwood with Donny Hoover III have made a lot of memories while playing in Escape The Paradigm, and they hop on the show to give us all the details.

From touring with All That Remains to playing some kickass full houses, there’s a lot to go over, along with how this three-member band came together and what’s kept Escape The Paradigm going for more than a decade.

Escape The Paradigm came to our attention through Curtain Call Records and we go into how the band came to work with them and how that’s gone. We also talk live shows, recording their two albums, “Mistaken” and “All Fall Down,” and what is planned for later this year.

Opening the episode is a brief excerpt from the Escape The Paradigm’s “Villain,” and closing things out is the complete “Fixated.”

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Citywide Bytes— Andrew Yampolskyi of Homeless Radio talks musical tributes

The lesson here is to make the call…the worse thing they’ll say is no.

Years ago, Andrew Yampolskyi took that chance when he reached out to Sunset Alliance of California, and in 2021, his band Homeless Radio released their debut EP, “The Truth.”

In our March 30 Citywide Bytes show, Andrew joins Max to talk about how this Ukranian rock band formed in 2016, making a name for themselves locally and growing over the years.

The band faced adversity in 2022 during the Russian invasion, dispersing its members across Ukraine and Andrew shares how they continued to make music, releasing two singles, “About You” and “Submarine,” the latter of which was a tribute to a novel of the same name.

Closing out this episode is the band’s recent release, “Submarine.”