Today I’m welcoming David Carraturo, author of Cameron’s Quest to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a little about his writing. Cameron’s Quest was published on 22nd December 2016 and is available for purchase here.
Tuckahoe’s “Golden Boy” Chris Cameron had his future all mapped out. He was the big fish in the small pond as a star athlete and academic standout. Off to the University of Texas to play football, he was on track to make his Italian-American mother and Irish father proud.
His two blood brothers chose different paths. Soon after high school, Sal Esposito and Tony Albanese were swept into the life of organized crime. Imposing figures, the pair assisted with strong-armed activities for their capo. Away from that life, Cameron periodically returned to his neighborhood roots to assist his blood brothers in retribution and risk his promising future to avenge violent threats to his lifelong bond.
Filled with suspense and character twists, Cameron’s Quest is set in the 1980s and relives a time when an Italian-American family’s Sunday dinner table was the only setting needed for therapy sessions, interrogations, judgment, and jury for any punishment. This novel reminisces about the Mets’ championship season, Reagonomics, John Gotti’s underworld reign, and the pop culture of the time
An Interview with David Carraturo
Hi David. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
My pleasure Linda, I am so honored that you reached out to me for this interview. I would consider myself a fulltime dad/husband and a part-time writer. Writing is one of my passions, and I brand it to my wife Teresa as an expensive hobby. I live in the northern suburbs of NYC in the tiny village of Tuckahoe and have worked in Wall Street sales and research since 1986. I am married with three beautiful, growing daughters who are now 21-18 & 14. In addition to writing, I have a passion for exercise and at 52 years old, I label myself “Diesel Dad.” I compete regularly in the Wall Street Decathlon to raise money for pediatric cancer research at Sloan Kettering. In the few moments I have to myself, I am also an avid poker player and rabid New York Mets fan.
And tell me a little about your latest novel Cameron’s Quest (without spoiling the plot of course!)
Cameron’s Quest is the third instalment of the Columbus Avenue Boys trilogy. I wrote the first part, Cameron Nation in 2011 and followed this up with Columbus Avenue Boys in 2012. Cameron’s Quest delves into the formative years of my protagonist, Chris Cameron. I actually have three protagonists, the other two being Sal Esposito and Tony Albanese. Cameron’s Quest tells a vivid story of how three blood brothers deal with challenges in the ever-changing years after high school. Chris Cameron was the town golden boy. He ventured off to higher education and to play college football at the University of Texas while Sal and Tony earned their degree as enforcers and earners for a powerful and ruthless organized crime family in the NYC area. Chris, Sal and Tony – the Columbus Avenue Boys – galvanize as one to face life threatening challenges as they hang onto the crossbar of life’s rollercoaster. The story is in the 1983-1988 time period, so the setting is quite nostalgic and if you lived through this era, you will relive many of the marquee events that transpired.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
The running punch line I tell anyone who asks of this perennial B- student is that “people barely knew I could read, let alone write.” Looking back though, I had always loved to put pen to paper. I eagerly took a creative writing course my junior year of high school. I kept a notebook of my high school football season and even wrote made-up news articles prior to our championship 1981 season (I was quarterback). After college, on the train commute to NYC, I began to read and read and read. I became passionate about World War Two, politics, organized crime, the early 1900s and even time-period sagas. I read all of John Jakes. Twenty years ago, I even outlined a potential story about geriatric brothers playing poker and reminiscing about how they had lived unscathed through a life in organized crime. The point I am trying to make is that I could have never been a writer in my 20s or 30s as the core of my stories is certainly not literary prose, but the ability to bring characters, settings and events to live because of my life experiences – which continue to drive me to spur ideas, to this day.
What techniques did you use to create your 1980’s setting and why did you choose that era for Cameron’s Quest?
After Cameron Nation and Columbus Avenue Boys, the air pocket of time where I had the flexibility to develop a coherent and believable story was the 1983-1988 period. Questions remained after the first two works – Why did Chris Cameron leave his blood brothers and friendly confines of Tuckahoe behind and how did Sal and Tony’s fearsome reputations come about? I had much of the groundwork already laid out for me via the background stories and character development already written on. After that it was fun. I lived through the 1980s and graduated high school in 1982. God Bless the Internet to remind me of the music, clothes sports events, etc. I knew I had to interweave the Mets World Series championship 1986 season in some way. A little of this (Billy Joel, Cheers, Ronald Reagan, my favorite beer), a little of that (the memory of my grandfather, sporting events results, my glory days on the gridiron) and it all came together in a way I found was believable and made sense.
I know you’re really interested in World War 2. Do you have plans to write about that era too?
I wrote about this time period in Columbus Avenue Boys. I have read close to fifty books – fiction and non-fiction on the World War Two era. The Columbus Avenue Boys story is a “Godfatheresque” flashback story. Chris Cameron, Sal Esposito and Tony Albanese are not just blood brothers – they are also cousins and Tony’s grandfather is the last of the older generation and his early life is told via the flashbacks – beginning when all of their relatives emigrated from Italy in the 1880s through prohibition and tragic interactions with Bugsy Siegel and eventually to the war in the Pacific. My father served in the navy on the aircraft carrier. Intrepid and I had always wanted to honor him with a storyline. While he served in the late 1950s, through my research, I found out the Intrepid was in many battles in the Pacific theatre. I had Vincent Scala (Tony’s grandfather) be a marine who fought in Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan and then returned to the states via a ride on the Intrepid. To be more authentic, I would research the Medal of Honor website of the era to find real-life hero stories as well.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I am a stickler to detail – down to the weather of the day. I could never have written without the Internet. As an example, say I was writing about June 1984, I would Google the month and in front of me would be a potpourri of events and details of the snapshot in time. I’d pull one or two that peeked my interest (Born to Run was number one on the charts, Diane said yes to Sam Malone on Cheers) and extrapolate from there. This is also the reason I only write about what I know very well. If you read Cameron’s Quest, Columbus Avenue Boys or Cameron Nation one thing I am certain about is that you will believe the story and characters are authentic (or even think they are non-fiction) and that you will be learning along the way – poker, history, economics, sports betting, politics, organized crime, Italian-American family life. I will never write about drinking tea with your pinkie out at a cotillion. My stories are about the salt of the earth and everyday life that many people can relate to.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
Starting with the most difficult – I would say development of female characters and dialogue of are the hardest – because I am a dude. While writing Cameron Nation, my editor pointed this out in my early draft and it struck me as a major stumbling block. Therefore, my core female character, Sabina Cameron (Chris sister) was developed to be his opposite (liberal, do-gooder) and that helped a lot. In addition, I would say if I try and expound on areas where I have little to no knowledge, I tend to get sloppy and canned. While I am proud to say “I am a mile wide and an inch deep on many topics” there are areas in life that simply do not interest me. As an example, in real life, my father worked for GM and was passionate about cars – while I have zero interest (my wife knows exponentially more than me). Therefore, I give very little detail to cars and driving in my stories.
The easiest for me to write about is dialogue, settings and character development simply because I usually write about what I have experienced or passionate about. I am proud to say my dialogue is witty, authentic and educational. I pull from all areas of my life. Two quick examples are – 1. I have a cousin who is an imposing figure, yet has a tendency to cry at will – very emotional – so I used this trait for Tony Albanese. 2. Back in 1995, my wife and I went to Las Vegas for our one year anniversary. While playing poker, I sat next to an elderly, hunched over man who won a pot against a drunken twentysomething. The inebriated guy said “Old man, you’re kicking my ass.” Without missing a beat, the old man responded “I haven’t even started kicking your ass yet!” Fast forward seventeen years later and I used the exact line to come out of an elderly Vincent Scala’s mouth in Columbus Avenue Boys.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I never say, “today I am going to write the third part of my trilogy!” I can go days-weeks-months-years without writing, then I get an epiphany and I lock in. As a general rule, I never write more than a chapter a week. I get the draft down and then backfill and edit all past chapters. I write at all times of the day and night. When I am locked in, the story and characters takeover my life.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I read an eclectic mix of books, both fiction and non-fiction. My passion is World War Two and organized crime from 1920-2000s. I also read to get educated on topics like politics. However, I have even picked up chick-romance book from time to time. Most of my reading is done on the roundtrip 30 minute train ride from Westchester to NYC. John Jakes, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy were my early read-all’s from the 1980s.
I know you like to keep fit. How important do you think fitness is for writers?
Fitness is a passion of mine and through the years I have always had the most business and writing success during times of intense physical activity. Exercise clears stress from the body and gives the mind time to think – in a solitary setting. There are twenty-four hours in a day for a reason, and exercise should be incorporated in everyone’s routine.
You’ve lived in the same area all your life. How has this fact impacted on your writing?
Parkway Casino in Tuckaho
I am 52 and have moved four times yet never out of the Tuckahoe, NY 10707 zipcode. My family has roots to Tuckahoe since the 1910’s. On top of this, Tuckahoe has a rich history of interesting events (the marble capital of the world, a 1903 prize fight, many Italian immigrants, and colourful characters). I am proud of my heritage and that many of the town folk are intertwined (many six degrees of separation stories).
Cameron’s Quest‘s cover makes me think of brotherhood and striving. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
The image for Cameron’s Quest was “borrowed” from my writing partners (first fruits Entertainment, Maria and Kevin O’Bryan) and their short film, King’s Heart. The second I saw their image, I knew it would be perfect to have the Cameron’s Quest cover extrapolated. Their cover had one teen, while my cover has the three Columbus Avenue Boys.
If you could choose to be a character from Cameron’s Quest, who would you be and why?
I do love all my characters but in my heart, I wish I were Chris Cameron. Many of his fictional storylines were derived from my experiences as well as what I wanted to be in life. He has some issues, but is who all men should want to be in life – IMHO.
If Cameron’s Quest became a film, who would you like to play Chris Cameron and why would you choose them?
Since I have been through this exercise already with my screenplay writing partners, Kevin & Maria O’Bryan, for Columbus Avenue Boys (which had been optioned for screenplay in 2013 by EUE Sokolow – but unfortunately went nowhere!) we have kicked around some big-time Hollywood names. Chris Cameron is half-Italian and half-Irish, so he does not have the same features of the stereotypical look of Italian tough guys Sal and Tony. I would say the leading candidate to play Chris Cameron (in his 30s) is Ryan Reynolds. Zac Efron may be able to pull it off for Quest. Tall, athletic and smart- any suggestions from your followers?
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Cameron’s Quest should be their next read, what would you say?
The Columbus Avenue Boy’s trilogy is a well-rounded saga of three blood brothers facing life challenges and persevering. Cameron’s Quest is the genesis of their journey. More than 15 words, but it is a trilogy!
Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.
Linda, you are more than welcome. I am so honored you have given me this chance for fifteen minutes of fame.
About David Carraturo
David Carraturo is a life-long resident of Tuckahoe, a predominately Italian-Irish American community in Westchester County, New York. He has spent over thirty years working on Wall Street and is married and the father of three daughters. An avid poker player and organized crime/World War Two buff, he spends his free time with his family and exercising the mind and body to sustain happiness and success.
He loves to read a multitude of topics, both fiction and non-fiction but his true passion is anything related to World War Two as well as economics and politics. If you would like a novel reviewed, he is more than happy to review your work. War stories, Mafia reads, poker, economics and general American history would be his sweet spots for an educated review.