While sitting on my back porch,
enjoying the gorgeous day, I gather my thoughts and get ready for my
virtual escapade across the country. I imagine it will take a couple
days on the road.
Jake (my dog)-check.
First stop, Colorado.
Having received my very first
assignment as an interviewer, I’m wondering if I should have learned
short-hand… although I doubt it would make this any easier.
I’ve felt edgy and a bit
apprehensive since finding out I had the ‘scary-story-telling’ author
to interview. I knew he wrote, ‘sit on the edge of your seat’ thrillers
and being a scaredy-cat at heart I speculate, will this change my
dreams into nightmares?
Robert Liparulo is an
award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short
stories. He’s filling our bookshelves with acclaimed thrillers, like Comes
A Horseman and GERM,
which have been optioned by Hollywood.
His latest thriller Deadfall,
is a techno retelling of Deliverance. Also, just
released is his young adult series Dreamhouse Kings.
The first of the 2008 summer sizzlers in this series are House
of Dark Shadows and Watcher
In The Woods.
In addition to his prolific
writing he’s an avid scuba diver, reader, traveler, and law
enforcement/military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado, with his wife
and four children.
My mythical meandering across
the U.S.A. to Colorado fared well, however the thoughts of the meeting
still had me a bit anxious. I wanted this to be great. My mind played
games as I visualized the scenario.
I’m picturing myself… first my
mind going blank, then… I’m speechless?
Bill reassures me, “That’ll
I sneer at hubby, “funny.”
I say a little silent prayer;
“Please God, Help! This is my big chance… I’m going to earn credits as
an author, on my own journey up the publishing world ladder.”
God miraculously hears me.
My unjustified jitters
disappear, as Bill, Jake, and I are greeted with warm smiles, and
friendly hellos. Mr. Liparulo and his family are gracious and kind.
Their hospitality calms any nervousness, and after a refreshing green
tea; I’m eager to get to work.
The author shows me to his
office. He offers me a seat on a beautiful leather sofa, which faces an
old dark-wood desk. I glance around as he gathers his papers together
and I think to myself… this looks so author-like.
Shelves filled with books, lots
of wood accents, a table-top replica of Michelangelo’s Moses and an old
hour glass; elegant pieces that adorn his study. I hear a familiar
melody softly playing from the sound system and I am eased by the
charming surroundings. A large window overlooks the treed yard and I
see my ‘boys’ have found a relaxing place to rest while they wait.
“This is delightful. I have so
many questions.” I glance at my paper work, fumbling for my glasses; I
take a breath, smile at him and ask, “May I begin?”
How do you personally relate to characters in your stories? For
example: Luco Scaramuzzi from Comes a Horseman.
I write from a character’s point of view, I am that character. Even
when I'm not actually writing, I sort of live that character: at a
restaurant, I may think, “What would so-and-so order?”; when I’m just
hanging out with my family and friends, I tend to think the way the
character thinks. So, I argue points from a position I normally
wouldn’t take, necessarily. I try to get inside that character’s mind.
“Method writing” I call it. Fortunately, my friends and family know
this about me, and they give me lots of grace. When I was working on my
young adult series, and the point-of-view character was a twelve year
old, I drove my wife crazy. I wanted to take the kids for ice cream
just about every day, go to the Six Flags amusement park in Denver,
watch adolescent movies . . . all the stuff a twelve-year-old boy would
With Scaramuzzi, who’s a bad guy
to the highest order, I got pretty dark. Since his thinking was
diametrically opposed to my own, I found myself in a funk whenever his
scenes came up. I did understand him, somewhat. Bad guys don’t think
they’re bad; only that they’re more enlightened than others. I hope
that I infused in him a humanity that his actions didn’t reflect, but
his thinking did. Now, from the perspective of several years since I
wrote about him, I hope I don’t have any of the greed and delusion that
were part of his character, but I’m sure on some level I do. Writing
about characters both good and evil helps me explore my own strengths
and weaknesses. As a writer, I’m interested in how some of us turn
toward the light and some go the other way. I think all of us have it
in us to go either way. But for the grace of God . . . And I mean that
How did you come up with his name?
have no idea. I do tend to come up with sharp-sounding names for
antagonists. Scaramuzzi, Karl Litt in Germ. In Deadfall,
I broke down and named a secondary bad guy “Bad,” but that was more of
a product of the youth and video game culture I was examining in that
story. Someone pointed out that in Deadfall, my bad
guys have unusual names—Declan, Bad, Kyrill—while the good guys were
Tom, David, Laura, John, who everyone called “Hutch,” a shortening of
his last name. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing, I don’t know: good is
normal; evil is unusual. I’m probably thinking too much about it now.
There’s a clue in Comes
a Horseman involving Scaramuzzi’s name. A character says
“scary movie,” and the protagonists, who’ve administered sodium
amytal—so-called truth serum—to this person, have no idea why he would
be repeating that. We learn later that he was saying “Scaramuzzi.” That
idea came when I told my wife over the phone that I’d been writing
about Scaramuzzi. She said, “Are you saying ‘scary movie’?” It seemed
Comes a Horseman and Germ are going to the big screen. Have you thought
about who could play your characters? Are you excited about the
possibilities, wondering if they’ll meet your expectations? Have you
didn’t have anybody in mind while writing the stories, so my ideas of
the “perfect” actors for the characters shift with the Hollywood winds.
I hear that producer is after a particular person or an actor expresses
interest, and I think, “Yeah, I can see that.” There are so many things
in Hollywood that factor into who might take on a role—scheduling,
money, who else is involved—that it’s a revolving door of
possibilities. In college, I started out as a motion picture production
major, before switching to English, so having so much interest in my
stories from producers is definitely exciting. I don’t write with
movies in mind, but I tend to write cinematically. I acted some in high
school, but quickly realize that wasn’t my calling. I directed some
theater, a discipline I think helps me describe scenes, but I can’t see
myself ever on stage or in front of the camera.
You have a large family. What sort of bedtime stories do you tell your
children? Have the kids been frightened by them?
tell them stories about my childhood, and I embellish the facts to make
the events sound more dramatic than they were—they know I do that, it’s
a running gag in our home. I used to live in the Azores Islands, for
example, and attended a running of the bulls, Pamplona-style. In my
story, the bulls won: They gored and trampled everyone in the street,
then jumped on boats and sailed away. And I have a nasty habit of
adding scary bits to even the stories I read. They do get mildly
frightened, and that’s my intention. All in good clean fun. Now, my
eleven-year-old writes stories, and I have to tell you, they are pretty
scary. Not in a disturbed way, but I sometimes think, “Wow, this kid
knows how to build suspense. Where did that come from?”
Have you or your family ever experienced ‘creepy’ feelings while
traveling? Motels, hotels… feel like you need to be checking around
corners, because of your vivid imagination?
family, no. Me, yes. I am constantly hopping out of bed, checking on
noises and into shadows. You can’t always turn it off. I like to write
late at night. Sometimes I catch movement in the corner of my eye and
jump, only to realize it was a passing car or my own reflection in the
window. My stories often involve a family member in jeopardy. I think
that’s a fear of mine that plays out in my stories. My sister died
young in a car accident. At the time, I had just started a family. My
first two children were babies. I remember going into their room the
day my sister died. I just looked at them sleeping, and I realize bad
things could happen to them at any time. I just wanted to embrace them
and never let them go, to protect them forever, but of course we can’t.
We have to pray for them and do the best we can, but we have to let
them venture into this big, scary world. Letting go, releasing that
embrace, involves hope. All of my stories have a central foundation on
Do you have experience with your weapons of choice, in your novels? Are
you a hunter, yourself?
Robert: I try
to shoot all of the weapons my characters use. I have friends who are
in the police department and others who are firearms collectors, so I
have incredible access to weapons that aren’t normally available to the
average person. Sometimes, I have to rely on research. I never handled
the China Type 64 used for
an assassination in the first chapter of Comes
a Horseman, but a weapons expert told me that would be the
ideal pistol for that situation, because it’s the quietest handgun ever
created. On a philosophical level, I’ve always been fascinated by
weaponry in general, how it can be used in either good ways or evil
ways. It’s analogous of a lot of things available to us—sex, wine,
money. I am a bow hunter, but I don’t get out as often as I’d like to.
Do you feel like the protector of your family? Have you ever been in a
scary situation, and then used it in your writing?
had friends compliment me on how protective I am of my family, but I
sometimes think I’m overprotective. It’s that
letting go I mentioned earlier. I’ll give you an example of a time I
caused a scary situation. The
first thing I did when I set out to
research the possibility of an actual organization like The Watchers
(that’s the name they go by in Comes a Horseman) is
call some theologian/researchers I know. They said they’d heard rumors
of such an organization, but the best they could do was refer me to
people who knew more about the subject. I’d call them and they’d send
me to someone else. Pretty typical stuff for a journalistic
The hope is that each person you
talk to brings you closer to the “inner circle,” the truth. Eventually,
the people I called became rude, telling me to mind my own business or
simply hanging up on me. One night,
at about three in the morning, I
got a call from one of the early researchers I’d spoken to. He told me
I was getting too close, that I had to stop the research. The next day,
there was a message on my office voice mail. The caller had used a
voice-changer to electronically disguise his voice. The message was,
“Stop... or else.” If I were writing nonfiction, I’d have continued the
pursuit. But this is fiction and between the two calls, I guessed
whosever toes I stepped on was ticked off and serious about stopping
me. I didn’t want to find our cat nailed to my front door, so I stopped
looking for The Watchers. In the book, I used the information I had
gathered to that point, and I also had one of the characters get called
by someone using an electronic voice-changer, so all was not lost.
In the beginning of your career, you wrote short stories and articles.
What made you decide to write your first novel?
heart, I’ve always been a fiction writer. I love telling stories. When
the short story market dried up—magazines started caring less about the
story than the names that would draw readers to them: Ray Bradbury,
John Updike—I turned to whatever would put bread on the table, and that
was non-fiction articles. I got caught up in making a living and wrote
as a journalist for many years. I became good friends with James Byron
Huggins, an extraordinarily talented novelist, and he learned of my
“first love.” He prodded me relentlessly to try my hand at fiction
again, particularly novels. After a year of enduring his late-night
calls to see if I’d put any storytelling on the page, I finally started
doing it. I’d get up at three or four in the morning and write on a
novel idea until eight or nine, when I’d have to get working on my
articles. Eventually, I wrote enough to show some agents and
Do you feel your faith played a role in where you are today?
Robert: I was
a freelance article writer for years. It’s not always a profitable
endeavor. I knew—knew—God made me to be a writer, so
I’d keep writing. There were days when I considered going into
accounting or advertising or anything that seemed more stable. But I’d
always come back to what I was designed, or wired, to do, and that was
to write. So, through feast and famine, that’s what I did. I always
thought if I died broke, at least I did what I believed was my calling
When my novel writing took off,
I faced a different dilemma: Do I try to infuse spirituality into my
stories, or do I write what was in my heart to write, whether it was
obviously spiritual or more subtly so? My goal was to match the craft
and entertainment value of best-selling mainstream authors: Lee Child,
Jonathan Kellerman, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, James Lee Burke. I
wanted a reader to experience the thrill of an interesting story well
told. Usually, for the secular reader, the big turn-off of “Christian
fiction” is the preachiness; while for Christian readers, secular
novels contain too many things that fly in the face of their faith.
Even so-called “clean” secular
novels often have salty language and things like the main character
living with a boyfriend or girlfriend, without that bad behavior ever
being addressed. I think there’s a way to show good as good and evil as
evil without offending God or His children and without being preachy. I
believe there’s a way to satisfy both worlds, so that secular readers
get what they’re missing from “Christian fiction” — God’s righteousness
— and Christian readers get what’s often missing from faith-based
fiction — topics that are edgy, nonstop pacing, and an emphasis on
entertainment. God’s at work on every page of Comes a
Horseman, Germ, Deadfall and my young adult novels—a series
called Dreamhouse Kings. I’m sure of that. But He
doesn’t need me to invoke His name on every page, any more than
mountain peaks need to have His name carved into them for people to see
Could you imagine yourself doing anything else with your life? You look
like a country singer, or a builder, or an actor; you look like you
could do anything. Is writing your only goal?
is. Writing is it. Maybe something in the movies or television, as a
writer, director, or creator, but I think any of those still fall into
the “storyteller” field. I once wrote some songs, which wound up on a
struggling band’s album. I can see maybe writing a song or two in the
future, but not performing. The only things I ever thought I’d like to
do other than storytelling, was child psychiatry or teaching. I love
kids and would love to help them find their place in this world. Maybe
God is showing me how to do that, and still stay in the field for which
He designed me, by putting the Dreamhouse Kings
story in me. It has all the excitement and action and thrills young
people love—it’s about a family that stumbles on a house that has
portals into the past—but ultimately there’s a positive message about
finding your purpose.
Last, I know you have been asked so many questions during your career,
but I was wondering… is there any one thing you would like to share
with your fans? Something they haven’t asked but you think they would
tough question, mostly because there are so many
things . . . . Probably, more than anything, I’d want to talk about the
stories themselves. Not where the ideas come from, or the mechanics of
how I write, or how to land an agent, or all those “business of
writing” questions I hear a lot. Let’s talk about story, about the passion
necessary for a story to take flight. Why this story? Why now? What’s
it about? Wherever it came from, you have to want to tell a story so
badly that it’s all you talk about, all you think about, to put in the
hours and days and months it takes it tell it, to tell it just the way
you were meant to tell it—whether people “get” it or not.
I think if you have a
story worth telling, one that people want to read, one that touches
them, it will find an audience. But even that shouldn’t be your primary
concern as a writer. You need only to want to tell a story that
resonates with you. We’re all experiencing much of the same things it
means to be human—in general and specifically in this time we find
ourselves living in, so a writer needs to have faith that what
resonates with him or her will resonate with others. It doesn’t matter
that some people don’t like the way you told it, or whatever. In fact,
if everyone likes your stories, they probably aren’t edgy enough or
profound enough to touch anyone deeply.
So . . . the question
I’d like to hear is, “What makes you so passionate about this story?”
For Deadfall it’s that I wanted to explore the idea
of doing what’s right, even if it meant losing your life doing it. What
makes a hero? Could I be heroic? Could I face an overwhelming enemy and
not run away, when others will perish because of my cowardice?
Kings, it’s that it says a lot about the meaning of family
and what we’d do for the ones we love. It’s everything I feel for my
family—and even beyond them, to what I feel for my friends, for my
neighbors, for my fellow humans. Do I love you enough to face danger
and to put aside my own interests to save your life, your dreams? I
hope I do . . . and that’s a story I wanted to tell.
“Wow!” Was this all I
could say. Mesmerized and awed, I knew this interview was great. With
confidence I stood up and offered my hand. “Mr. Liparulo?”
His grip expressed
sincerity. “You may call me, Robert.”
“This has been a
remarkable experience for me, and I appreciate your input. I know for
myself and all the reader’s it’s been a pleasure getting to know you.
Valerie Anne Faulkner,
a New York native moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida in 1973. Author of
“I Must Be in Heaven, a promise kept” she spends her days working side
by side with her husband Bill, as an electrician; then evenings, as a
writer. Valerie Anne’s family is very important to her, and she
cherishes time spent with her three grown children and six
A few hours enjoying
one of Florida’s Gulf beaches, is her favorite way to relieve stress
and refresh from her busy lifestyle.
with prayer… seldom unravels.”