It’s always a pleasure to discover books and authors outside my usual reading choices so I’m delighted to welcome Chris Calder to Linda’s Book Bag today. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this tour.
Staying in with Chris Calder
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Chris and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
Hi Linda, the book is called Celeste Three is Missing. I chose this one because it is set partly in the US and partly in Europe; something that should help to broaden its prospective reader appeal.
It certainly will – especially in these days of limited real travel! So, what can we expect from an evening in with Celeste Three is Missing?
This was the third of my novels; I have written five so far. The story is set in the near future, when Celeste Three is the world’s first passenger-carrying space plane. Despite the title, the narrative is not really about the craft; the plane is the means by which the determined protagonist brings to justice a monstrous Russian oligarch who murdered his friend years before and has since used his wealth and power to evade justice. For once, the Russian has stepped out of his tight security cocoon and booked a flight on Celeste.
That sounds exciting. How did you come up with the idea for the space plane?
I have been an aviation nut all my life and had been following the progress of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic craft since its inception. It is likely that in the near future something similar will be taking wealthy joy-riders around the world. That thought generated a ‘what if’ moment. What if the space plane disappeared? How? Why? And that gave me the idea for the story.
Are there any interesting sub-plots in the story?
A few, as there are in most thrillers, I suppose. My favourite is the developing romance between John Sturgess, the original test pilot for the Celeste project who has been dismissed from flying duty and Julie Fallon, a feisty private investigator who has been given the job of getting to know him in order to find out if he could be persuaded to fly the plane again. Here is a brief extract. The context is that Julie had driven John to his home after he had drunk too much alcohol the previous evening. She has stayed overnight:
Julie looked around the kitchen and found the coffee pot, mugs and milk. “Homogenized,” she sniffed, disparagingly. It would have to do. In the fridge were a carton of eggs, butter and some tired lettuce that was useless for any kind of breakfast. She found a box of cereal in a cupboard and was looking for crockery when a bleary John Sturgess shuffled in. He was wearing an orange bathrobe, socks that hadn’t been removed the previous night, and a weary expression. His hair was tousled like a schoolboy’s. Julie grinned.
“Morning, John,” she said brightly. “And what gets you up at the crack of ten o’clock?”
He slumped into a chair, put his head in his hands and groaned. “Uhhhh.”
“Coffee coming up. What do you want for breakfast? I found eggs and cereal. No toast, unless you tell me where you hide the bread.”
“Coffee.” He moaned again. “I feel like shit.”
Julie put a hand on her hip and made a happy face. “Sorry, I’m fresh out of shit, the eating kind, I mean.”
Sturgess frowned and sat up straight. “Say, what the hell you doing here, anyway?”
“You want me to go?”
He was massaging his forehead with one hand. He raised the other. “No. No, I didn’t mean that.”
“Then what did you mean, John?”
“Christ, I dunno, gimme a break. Oh, my head.”
Julie poured coffee into a mug. “No milk, black is what you need right now.” She handed him the mug. He reached for it and his robe came open.
She grinned again. “Nice view.”
He put the mug down, pulled the robe together quickly and tightened its belt.
“And another thing. What you done with my pants?”
“Hung ’em up with your coat. Before you ask, I slept in the spare room and I didn’t take advantage of you last night.”
He managed a weak smile. “You brought me home. Thanks…hell, I can’t even remember your name. I guess you think I’m a real horse’s ass.”
“Uh-huh. It’s Julie. Julie Fallon.”
“Julie, yeah. Thanks, Julie.”
“My pleasure.” She grinned. “Specially the last part.”
He looked at her and shook his head slowly. “You know, you’re something else.”
“I know. Now, you want some breakfast? It’ll have to be quick, I need to call a cab.”
“You’re going?” He seemed disappointed.
“I have to get my stuff and check out of the hotel. Then straight to the airport.”
“Will you be coming back?”
“Maybe. Depends on my client.”
She saw his face fall and immediately felt sorry for him. “OK, give me your number; I’ll call you if I do.”
Intriguing! We now want to know what happens to them!
What else have you brought along and why?
A couple of photographs; my part in a promotion by a tobacco company in 1966. I was a finalist in the Woodbine Flying scheme. A long, long time ago. (Sigh!) I had done a bit of gliding, so was delighted to have been selected. In those days nearly everybody smoked and of course, most photos were in monochrome. So much for my technicolour memories. These photos recorded my first flight in a powered light aircraft. Happy days!
In your writing career, is there something that you regret doing, or regret not doing?
Without a doubt, what I regret most is not starting to write books earlier in my life. In fact I might never have become a novelist at all had I not been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer shortly after retiring to live in France.
I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?
Following major surgery I found myself surrounded by lovely folk with whom I could not communicate. My French language skills at the time were, frankly, awful. Frustrated, I picked up a pen and drafted the bones of the story that became PAYBACK, a light thriller based loosely on some of the more interesting and bizarre incidents in my time as owner of a small engineering business. The book was published a year later and four more have followed since. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom, but it does provide the priceless benefit of life experience; something that cannot be bought. Perhaps not surprising, then, that I have become passionate about encouraging older folk to use their life experience and start writing. It’s never too late!
As someone approaching 60 who has only a first draft of their first novel I’m glad to hear that Chris! So, what are you working on now?
I try always to have two stories in progress at the same time. When the muse dries on the main one, I fall back on the second. It works for me. Currently I have a novella in progress, a comedy about an English soccer club manager from the East End of London whose meteoric rise to fame and fortune is followed by a disastrous slump in his career. He takes on the job of managing the national team of a West African nation. I’m enjoying writing it immensely.
That sounds like a lot of fun.
Finally, is there anything that you would change, if you could, about the process of writing and publishing as you have experienced it?
Writers should welcome and cherish good reviews, and swallow hard and learn from bad ones. But sometimes even good reviewers seem to lose sight of the fact that in dialogue, there is a big difference between what the character says and what the writer may say in real life. Authentic dialogue is fundamental to establish the nature of a character. A highly-rated reviewer once objected to what she termed “too many f-bombs” in one of my books. Personally I hate that four-letter word. OK, maybe the character could have had less dialogue, but I stand by its use in that context. Rant over!
Brilliant! Thanks so much for staying in with me Chris, and telling us more about your writing and Celeste Three is Missing.
Thank you, Linda, for your company this evening and for giving me the opportunity to be introduced to your readers and followers. As a writer of fiction I try always to entertain, divert and amuse. I welcome contact from readers and always respond promptly to their messages, happily acknowledging that I have benefited enormously from their input.
Celeste Three is Missing
The world’s first earth-orbit passenger plane, the sensational Celeste Three, takes off from its base in Arizona, also the only place where it is designed land. On a routine flight the craft disappears.
On board is Viktor Karenkov, billionaire oil magnate who has used his wealth to evade prosecution for a murder he committed years earlier. Gregory Topozian, the murdered man’s friend, has been waiting for a chance to bring Karenkov to justice. With dogged determination and considerable ingenuity, he conceives an audacious plan.
Getting the craft down in total secrecy is key. And someone has to pay the huge costs involved.
About Chris Calder
After ten happy years of retirement in rural France, Chris Calder is back in England. He came late to writing novels, penning his first whilst incarcerated in a French hospital following cancer surgery. At the time he spoke little French. Unable to communicate effectively with the staff, he spent his time fleshing out his first novel. Five more have followed; light thrillers leavened with humour. Best of all, the cancer is now history.
Chris knows that readers of fiction expect to be diverted and entertained. He loves feedback and believes passionately that taking on board readers’ views improves what what he does. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go on, he’d love to hear from you.