iUniverse introduces Vincent Di Blasi, who tells us about his recently published book, Creating Cassandra.
Please briefly describe your book . . .
In the process of authoring Creating Cassandra, I found myself writing two love stories, one within the other, about the same man and woman set 800 years apart. The novel begins in the 1990s as the Boston based author is seeking and ultimately finds his model of the Cassandra that he needs for his twelfth-century novella about a man and woman who will share their names and their characteristics in that other age.
His model – and ultimately his muse – as well as the character she inspires, are strong, ambitious women. Both will marry rich and powerful men who will die leaving them and their not necessarily legitimate fortunes vulnerable. And this sets the stage for the drama that follows as each Cassandra calls upon her own century’s version of a knight, mercenary or gangster in order to help her hold on to what otherwise would be lost.
The obsessions that drive the highly superstitious author and his determined Cassandra influence what will come to pass in the novella, just as what the author ascribes to his twelfth-century characters find their way into the lives of their 1990s counterparts as he writes and she reviews what he has written. When the two worlds meet, there are ample warnings of danger but since this is about Cassandra, no warning or prophecy is ever heeded. Neither the author nor Cassandra would ever have anticipated the price they would have to pay for the worlds they fought so hard to create in either century. What they had created would reshape their own lives.
And can you tell us a little about yourself?
While I have written since I was in college, up to now it has been solely for my own pleasure while I have earned my living working in other areas; mostly by coordinating educational programs or managing educational publishing sales. This has included years in Latin America and inside NASA. At this point, I am teaching part-time (Citizenship and English) which is giving me time to devote myself to writing.
Do you have any particular literary influences?
As far as subject matter, I imagine my work is most directly impacted by the writers I admire most (Camus, Steinbeck, Pirandello, Carlos Fuentes), the Magic Realism of Latin American authors in general, as well as lesser known authors who deal with the lawless and chaotic circumstances created by war or other forms of catastrophe and their aftermath. Examples would include relatively less known but still significant writers like Vittorini who wrote about the challenges of life in the aftermath of the foreign invasions that ravaged Sicily during World War II. But whether it is the result of invasion, plague, or life in the decade-long Mexican Revolution, people left to themselves to create their own social order do so with remarkable success. You can see who people are when they do not have anyone else to turn to for law and order…or food or water. By some estimates, one out of five Mexicans were killed, wounded or abducted between 1910 and 1920. There was often no external social order beyond that of the family, village and what they themselves created. That gives a people time to get to know who they are and writers a time to deal with what matters most. For me, that must include human resiliency.
As for Creating Cassandra itself, the character of Cassandra has haunted me ever since I was introduced to her in my early teens. Although I have chosen not to place her in the original setting we associate with Homer, and while I have departed from the traditional dark haired description ascribed to her, the reader will find that my Cassandra is the Cassandra, and this is alluded to in the third book of the novel. While she may not always seem conscious of her history, the impact of that history influences everything she does in both the twelfth and twentieth centuries. And as long as writers continue to appreciate what she signifies to humanity and what we can learn from her experiences as both a princess and a slave, I believe she will remain in our consciousness.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
There are stories beyond this or that time and place. Perhaps those are among the most important stories that we need to tell.
Are you working on a sequel to your book?
It would be tempting to work on a sequel. I purposely left some questions unanswered with respect to the twelfth-century novella and the present day story ends just a few years from where it began in the 1990s when a number of possible paths are seen opening to the author and his Cassandra.
Are there any events, marketing ideas or promotions planned for your book?
This and a book of short stories (To Whom It May Concern) were simultaneously released in November, both by iUniverse. At this point, I am waiting on reviews to see what will be said of my beloved printed children in order to prioritize my time.
What was your favorite part of your publishing experience, overall and with iUniverse?
This is easy. I thank iUniverse for the opportunity to do what I so want to do. There is great irony today in that while the traditional houses are making it more and more difficult for new authors to publish, those who truly want to write and publish can and will thanks to companies like iUniverse.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read and write and then write and read.
Read seemingly disparate things and celebrate the fact that you may be the only one who read this book, for example, one concerning time or human genetics, and that book by Steinbeck or Morrison, at the same time. Look for the synergies in everything you read. Ideas blossom from the synergetic connections between things that may first appear completely foreign to one another. And look to your dreams, too. Dreams are bridges to our subconscious and some of the best stories come from deep inside us. There are sources of inspiration everywhere.
And then write before you are sure you know where it will take you. You can write endings, middles or beginnings in any order. I believe the muse favors those who trust her to return and help us put the pieces together. I know she shuns those who will not trust her…or expect her to show up on our own schedules!