Official Interview: R. L. Crossland

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Official Interview: R. L. Crossland

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Today's Chat with Sarah features R. L. Crossland author of The Abalone Ukulele.

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1. How did you get started writing?

I was always interested in writing as an outlet and avocation. Creativity ran in the family. My mother was a painter who did not confine her creativity to paintings. My father was an engineer who held patents on numerous inventions. Halloween costumes in our family extravaganzas.

Art was one of my strengths, but to me, a piece of art just couldn't send complex messages to a wide audience.

While I was training in Coronado, California I signed up for the Famous Writers Correspondence course. I took several assignments with me to Vietnam. Those assignments inspired me to write and sell magazine short stories.

My best story, a mystery, brought me a book offer from a magazine's publisher that also published a line of books. Sadly, I'd just finished my four years in the active duty Navy, and I was about to enter law school, an all-consuming undertaking. I had to decline. Long before I'd been warned, "write books, but never quit your day job."

Later, I published my first novel. My first agents were Julie Fallowfield, and then Julian Bach, both made good but unsuccessful tries. The publishing industry's fiction division had not heard of SEALs, or in all probability, Solzhenitsyn. I finally sold it over the transom. At that point, I had the confidence to continue writing in fits and starts.

2. Who or what has been the biggest influence on your writing career?

Authors: Kenneth Roberts, C. S. Forester, James Clavell, Eric Ambler, James Michener.

3. Let's discuss your book The Abalone Ukulele. How long did it take you to write?

The brunt of it — the skeletal plot and climactic scenes (20%) — about two years; the optimum sequencing, dialogue, characterizations, cover, maps, and polish (80%) about another twelve years.

What was the research like for this historical fiction?

Historical non-fiction writer, Joseph A. Williams, whose work I admire, has described The Abalone Ukulele, as "immersive."

Looking back at my novels, I fully read about three books for every ten pages of text in each of my three books. Only a small part of that reading was for particular detail, I wanted to live in the period, feel the locale, and understand the people. Whether or not I published the book, I would "live" the adventure. I would have immersed myself in the adventure.

4. The book takes place in 1913. Why did you decide on this time period?

The year 1913 was one of the best of times and one of the worst of times. It was the end of the Gilded Age, the Belle Epoque, the Roaring 1890s, and the US Naval Rennaissance. It was the last year of a period of great advances in science, manufacturing, literacy, and upward mobility. It seemed the world was one great World's Fair and getting better and better in a way that would never end. The year 1914 marked the beginning of the Great War and that left a dark legacy that would not end until 1945.

One reason I like the early 20th Century was that by then regular sailors, not just officers, kept journals. I could write comfortably from still another point of view.

5. The reviewer praises the descriptions of locations. How did you make the multiple places come to life?

One other reason I picked the early 20th Century, was I could find photos of scenes I could use, and mentally colorize.

6. There are several important characters in the book. Which one is your favorite? Which one do you most relate to?

I can't play favorites with my ensemble; they each supply a viewpoint. Ultimately, this is a series about war/naval/intelligence and foreign cultures. I cannot write these mysteries/histories from a single viewpoint. My story must be woven like braided rope.

7. Is there a main point in the book — something you want readers to learn or remember?

My undergraduate degree was in history/sociology. "Sociology" has nothing to do with socialism. It is the study of diverse cultures. Pick out what social institutions they cobble together to preserve their values and keep themselves fed, sheltered, and safe.

All people are interesting.

8. What's next for you? Are you currently working on any books?

Yes, one that takes place in 1914. The Great War has just begun. The US will not participate for another three years.

Or will it?

Hobson and Draper will stay active. They will be spending more time at sea.

Did Clementine survive, and if so, what is in store for her?

If enough readers buy The Abalone Ukulele and give it a favorable review, I will make sure she lives to capture readers' affection at least one more book, maybe more. Extra points for paperback sales and book club discussions.

Enough enthusiastic sales and she'll be the next Skookum Yi.

I like to end with fun questions.

9. What is your favorite book?


Depends on the day and my mood. Same for favorite piece of music. Probably Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts had the greatest influence on my life.

10. Would you rather read only one book over again forever or never be able to reread another book?

Too depressing an eventuality to consider.

11. Which holiday is your favorite and why?

The Fourth of July. I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy, born in the Connecticut hometown of the pre-Revolutionary soldier who inspired the Connecticut State Anthem.

I'm sort of a George M. Cohan Yankee Doodle, figuratively born on the Fourth of July. My father was an Army Air Force captain, and my mother was a nurse with the La Croix Rouge Française. They met in Casablanca during WWII though not at Rick's Cafe. One of my mother's family often refers to the Greatest Party in the History of the World. It was when the Americans marched through Casablanca, and bonbons and champagne were everywhere.

12, What animal do you most want to be and why?

Homo Sapiens. We have opposing thumbs so we can climb rope and swing below monkey bars, and index fingers so we can write and turn pages. We can express complicated thoughts verbally and in print. We can travel and see more different things in different environments than any other animal.
A book is a dream you hold in your hands.
—Neil Gaiman
Shweta Gadgil
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Post by Shweta Gadgil »

It looks like a fantastic book with an interesting read.
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Post by gitaurobert »

After this insightful interview, I'll definetly give the book a read.
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Post by Samuelola22 »

Nice book
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Leelee11
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Post by Leelee11 »

It was so interesting to read.
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hil da
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Post by hil da »

so fantastic
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Post by Zaem30 »

Very nice books best story
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Post by Lilian Namatsi »

This seems to be an interesting book to read.
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Post by Zita Adjekota »

The interview is interesting to bread and it is good to meet R.L. Crossland.
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Post by vivien1022 »

I'm actually intrigued by the author's choice of the early 20th century as the setting for their novel, "The Abalone Ukulele." This interview provides a captivating glimpse into the mind of a dedicated writer whose passion for storytelling shines through in their work.
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Post by Mbone Buthees 1 »

I love these interviews! It's always exciting to get a behind the scenes perspective and get to hear how the writers of the books think and feel. Incredible!
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Post by Lilian Namatsi »

This seems to be a very interesting book with educative insights. I am glad to meet this passionate story teller with amazing linguistic skills.
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Oluwagbenga Akangbe
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Post by Oluwagbenga Akangbe »

I found this book enticing not only from the reviewer's view but the author's. The display of historical decadence and the relation of how 1913 was one of the best years in history because of many reasons including the prosperity as well as, industrial and economic glorification in that year. The book describes so much historical truth that it's a steal to read.
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Post by Mbone Buthees 1 »

This interview was intriguing. Always appreciate the authors point of view in these books. It gives you so much context.
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Post by Rose Odiwuor »

The author has given insightful answers from the interview and I am inspired to become a writer someday though I am still on a debate with myself.Is it possible for someone to write a good book in months?Lets say something like within 3 months because I am seeing most authors take years to complete a book like in this case is 2 years.
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