I was the kid in high school that always had his creative writing assignments read in front of the class. Sometimes, I had to do it, which was rather nerve racking as I recall. I was told by my English teacher in senior year that I could be a “trail blazer”, but I didn’t take her seriously. I wish I had done so and started writing back then. I waited until 2010 to finish my first novel, The Dregs of Exodus. I was shocked when I was shopping for a publisher back then. The amount of time that they expected you to wait for an answer seemed insane to me. I’m not a very patient man, so I went about self-publishing it even as my second novel, The Pirates of Exodus was being written. I kept on going with short stories that I self- published for e-book only, then I tackled Campanelli: Sentinel, my third novel, which the good people at Solstice Publishing decided to take on. With renewed confidence, I jumped right into the next project, which I hope they’ll like, too.
2. What genre, or genres, do you write?
I’m still fascinated with the dystopian sci-fi line that I’ve been doing. It’s like Star Trek with regards to the overall positiveness of it. For the most part, 6 billion people move to this colony planet and really prosper. Those that remain on Earth have to suffer through the slow regression of technology and the re-emergence of influenza and cancer. Generally, I’m an optimist, but you can’t write very interesting stories if every little thing goes right. There’s no fun to be had there.
3. What is your latest book called and what is it about?
This one’s called, Campanelli: Sentinel. It’s the sequel to my short story, Campanelli: The Ping Tom Affair. It focuses on a future Chicago that has been ripped up by a recycling campaign to reclaim steel and other materials for the sake of starship construction. It’s a city without a Sears/Willis Tower, John Hancock building, etc. It still has quite a few structures, but illness and the continued exodus is making the population of the city plummet to around 700,000 at the time of this novel. That’s down from its current 2.7 million.
Frank Campanelli is the main character, a transplant from New York City, which suffers from the same fate. He is blind due to a fire in his NYC apartment building which also killed his wife and daughter. Bio-electronics plays a BIG part in all of my books, but Frank’s optical replacements are special full service devices, not just the ones that I firmly believe will be commercially available for the populace in our near future. Migration to the colony is illegal as of 2109 due to this population drain, but it continues at a smaller scale with the help of the mob and other criminal organizations. This story is about the CPD trying to take down the largest human trafficking network in the city.
4. What was the inspiration for your book? When did you first get the idea for Campanelli: Sentinel?
It all stems from Dregs really. In that book, it's mentioned that Michael Trane was an aircraft mechanic working at O'Hare International Airport when he was younger. One day, I contemplated what Michael's past would have been like, living and working in the Chicago area during the time prior to a real breakdown of law and order. The anti-migration laws were mentioned in The Pirates of Exodus, so I pondered what it must have been like to try to enforce such a law from the ground. I had not written a crime drama, so I thought I would do it. I thought it would be fun to feature Michael Trane in both Campanelli tales in some small way.
5. How long did it take you to write it? What is your writing process like?
Campanelli: Sentinel is a novella, weighing in at 73K words. I think it was something like 3 months. As a rule, I don’t start writing until the work is done in my head. Not word for word, but it has to have main characters in mind, a setting at the outset, a path for it to follow which is the core of the story and a defined and clear ending. Without this complete picture, I don’t proceed.
6. What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve written a script which adapts my short story, "Lunar Troll" into a graphic novel. My cover artists, Arvin Candelaria and Velvet Lyght are working on that, among other things. Also, my next short story, "Minuteman Merlin" is completed and I’m submitting that to Solstice Publishing soon. I’ve just begun a fourth novel that uses a minor character from my second book, The Pirates of Exodus, and the main character from the short story "Runt Pulse". The two are teaming up and taking on a new adventure. I’m also trying to get out there and promote myself and Solstice by attending some conventions this year. I have a couple lined up, but I’m shooting for one a month.
7. Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
There’s nothing like my first novel. I just love The Dregs of Exodus. I’ve been working backwards for the most part since then. Everything else happens chronologically before The Dregs of Exodus, but there’s no real necessity to read them in any order. Every story stands alone. I have to say that Michael Trane from The Dregs of Exodus was my favorite character before Frank Campanelli. Michael even cameos in both Campanelli stories. Right now, Frank is my favorite, but I have a feeling it will change as novel #4 is being written.
8. Do you plot ahead of time, or do you let the plot emerge as you write?
It’s like building a railroad for me. You have to know where point A is, where the tracks will lead you, and what you have to build to get to point B. Along the way, just like the little towns that would spring up along the Transcontinental Railway, the smaller ideas and events get put in as they occur.
9. Who are some of your favorite authors to read? Favorite books?
I like Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Pohl, Tolkien, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub. There are so many more and titles from all of them that I just love.
10. Where can we buy your books?
You can find everything on Amazon, although you can buy The Dregs of Exodus, The Pirates of Exodus and Campanelli: Sentinel through B&N as well. There’s a wonderful new & used bookstore here in Villa Park by the name of Cornerstone Used Books that was kind enough to take on the first two novels as well.
It is 2110 and migration to the colony planet, Alethea, has depleted Earth of billions of people. As a result, migration has been declared illegal by all world governments. Human trafficking becomes highly profitable for organized crime and their influence reaches beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Many starships returning from Alethea are diverted from the scrapping process and secretly refurbished, allowing the population to shrink further.
Frank Campanelli is a blind Chicago Police detective who depends on his fully functional bio-electronic implants to see and do his job. After assisting on a botched infiltration of a top human trafficking network, he and his partner Marcus Williams are transferred into the CPD’s Organized Crime Division to head the newly formed Sentinel group and bring down the Ignatola family business.
Character name: Captain of Detectives (Honorary Rank) Frank Campanelli
Book title: Campanelli: Sentinel
Tell me a little about yourself?
Born and raised in New York, New York. I became a cop as a young man. There was not much else for me to do. I couldn’t afford much college education and the choices were really slim by the 2070’s.
Where do you live?
Chicago. Right across the street from the District 1 station house.
Who is the most important person in your life?
Tamara Billingsley. I’d do anything at all for that little lady. Don’t tell her I said that.
What was your childhood like?
Rough. I’ve heard Queens always had its bad times and places. But, while the Great Exodus was going on, there was a strange mix of crimes going on. Less murders but more assaults. More break-ins but less muggings. Not the easiest place to grow up, in any case.
Of all the people you've met, who would you LEAST like to be stuck in an elevator with?
Ha! My partner Marcus Williams after a Gyro sandwich. Murder…absolute murder.
What is the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
This city. NY had too many memories for me to stay. Coming to Chicago was the perfect thing for me to do. It’s like NY in many ways, but just different. I don’t have to stare at a building as I drive by it and think of my wife and kid.
What is your biggest fear?
An empty city. Being surrounded by death and inactivity actually is the only thing that I think I’m truly afraid of.
What is the most important thing that ever happened to you? Why?
I can’t really talk about it. That was another life, another city. That part of my life is over.
Do you have any special talents or abilities?
Sure. With these optics I can sort of “zoom in" on things. They’re 3D instead of the regular ones that a lot of people have for entertainment and communications. My peripheral vision is really sharp.
How do you see your future?
I’m hoping that enough people choose to stay in Chicago. With the Sentinel Division, I’m supposed to keep them from leaving, but I’ve always thought that it’s really up to the individual. I do my job, that’s all I can say.
If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?
I think I’d like to hang out for a day with Humphrey Bogart. Tam and I love his movies. Those glimpses into the past are just a lot of fun.
If you had a free day with no responsibilities, how would you spend it?
I do get one every once in a while. I like Chinatown. I like cruising through and stopping at the shops and restaurants. There’s fewer and fewer all the time, though.
Where can we find out more about you?
Just read Campanelli: The Ping Tom Affair, Campanelli: Sentinel and Comfort in a Man Named Jakc. I’m in that last one, too.
(The misspelling of the name Jack is explained in the story. In the title, it’s on purpose.)
About the author
In 2009, Frederick began writing his first novel, The Dregs of Exodus, which was self-published in late 2010. This was followed up with another novel, The Pirates of Exodus in 2012.
Throughout that year and early 2013, he continued writing and published four short stories in eBook form for Kindle and Nook. All of these stories share the same premise, but all are independent from one another.
Campanelli: Sentinel was published in December, 2014 by Solstice Publishing. He loves writing and enjoys meeting and talking to readers at book signing events.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheDregsOfExodus?ref=hl
Twitter name: @FrederickHCrook
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Frederick-H.-Crook/e/B00P83FW02/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1422036266&sr=1-2-ent