Hello and welcome to another installment of Ink Drop Interviews. Each week I attempt to shine a humble spotlight on another author, and this week, it is shining on Arthur J. Levine.
Arthur has a background in finance and publishing and is the author of the novel Johnny Oops, Sequin Boy and Cindy and the how to find faith book, The Magic of Faith. He has also written Home Grown Terrorist, Voyeur Bomb and The Magic Pill. He graduated from The Wharton School of Business with a BS in Economics and is a former Director of New Business for Family Circle Magazine. Arthur is married and has three children and seven grandchildren.
IDI – Arthur, I know you’re about 2 weeks away from publishing a paranormal romance called Sequin Boy and Cindy. Can you offer us a peek now?
AL – Absolutely. Sequin Boy and Cindy is about two lonely, abused young people who find each other and love. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
I never thought anything good was going to happen to me and then I met this girl.
I saw her standing on the train platform at Jamaica Station in Queens, NY fidgeting with the torn buckle on her faded blue backpack, waiting for the 5:35 to take her out to what I later found out was a group home in Blissville, Long Island where she lived. She’s a pretty girl with blond pigtails, big blue eyes and a great smile. And yet I sense there is something sad or withdrawn about her. Guess that makes two of us.
Cindy is eighteen and works in Jamaica as a dental assistant, a job that I found out she detests because she’s bored. I guess she can’t help staring across the platform at s strange-looking young man in hooded sweatshirt who appears to have some kind of shiny colored disks on his face, which are half hidden by the hood of his sweatshirt–that’s me. My name is Billy Wolk. I’m half Native American Indian. I have spirit ancestors.
She must have thought, what are they, those ornaments on his face? I guess she was wondering why this strange boy was staring at her, wondering what those things on my face are? Probably thinks I look sad and alone. I am.
I stare back. I am taken by the good looks of this thin girl who occasionally smiles at me. At least I think she is smiling at me. It’s hard to be sure from this distance. No one ever smiled at me. Sometimes they stare in disbelief. I never smile. My Native American blood comes from my mother’s side. I guess that’s where I get my black hair and light olive complexion. My mother died when I was ten-years-old. My real father disappeared years before. My drunken stepfather kicked me out of his home when I was sixteen after beating me bloody with the brass buckle of his belt and telling me I was a worthless outcast–a social reject.
“I hate that bastard,” is all I can think whenever the image of the beating and the hurtful words I got from my stepfather crossed my mind. I found a job working for ten dollars an hour at a pulp romance magazine with offices in Jamaica, NY as an article writer. I was always good at English and writing in high school. Any one could have written for that rag, their standards were so low.
I live in a one-room fourth floor walk up–I guess you could say it’s a dump–on Eleventh Street and First Avenue in New York City, and am headed home when I see her. I wish I had the courage to cross the platform and talk to that girl. I wish I had some faith in myself and wasn’t so shy.
Self-consciously I pull at the sequins on my upper lip. I have two neat rows of eight brightly colored sequins sewn on either side of my nose on my cheekbones, and I have three long rows of twenty sequins in red, yellow and blue sewn on my forehead, and a tinier row of silver sequins above my upper lip. Why did I ever let some tattoo and piercing artist in the Bronx talk me into doing this as an eighteenth birthday present to myself? I guess I wanted to keep people away from me. How anti-social can you get? I must be an idiot. maybe my stepfather was right about me.
I’ve never been with a girl before, never even kissed one. Haven’t had much interest until now. I’ve been more in a survival mode just wanting to be left alone, but this girl across the platform with the blond pigtails really turns me on. I think she is staring at me. I wonder how much of my face she can see while I’m wearing this hooded sweatshirt? Maybe I should step back into the shadows. Why did I get these damn sequins sewn on my face? Makes me look like a real weirdo. Guess that’s what I wanted.
How do I know what I want? I’m only eighteen-years-old. I she smiling at me? I think she’s smiling at me.
For days the two of us stare across the platform at each other, I always make sure to get to my train platform at the same time every day so I can see her. I don’t know what I will do if one day she isn’t there.
Finally, I get my courage up and cross to her side of the platform. “Hello,” I barely whisper with my eyes on the ground.
I mumble in a quiet voice unused to speaking to other people about anything except yes or no or chicken and garlic sauce at the Chinese take-out place. “I’m so onely, I saw you looking at me. Can I ride with you?”
I get a real shock when Cindy gently takes my hand and says, “Yes.” For some reason I guess she feels drawn to me. Makes me feel good.
I hold her hand all the way out to her train stop. I can feel her pulse beat. Her hand is so soft. We don’t talk until the train pulls up at her station except to mention our names.
I say, “My name is Billy what’s your name? Can we go for coffee?”
Cindy nods her head yes, smiles shyly at me and says, “Yes, my name’s Cindy.”
I didn’t realize how pretty she is with her peaches and cream complexion. She guides me across the street to a local coffee shop, and for the first time in years I speak about my life and myself. Words and emotions came pouring out of me about my loneliness, and my drunken stepfather, who used to beat me. I can’t stop. I cry. I feel so foolish, but I think Cindy doesn’t mind. Somehow I think she understand what real loneliness is. Somehow I think she instinctively knows my heart. I can’t believe how fast everything is happening. I have real feelings for this girl. I just wish she talked more. She say so little. I wonder what she is holding back.
IDI – When it comes to your writing, what are you the most passionate about?
AL – Each of my books has some social message. I find that mixing fantasy with the needs of the community brings a light touch to the subject of caring about others and doing good works.
IDI – Did you always know you were born to be a writer or was it more like a 3AM epiphany?
AL – I’ve always had an interest in writing, but only in the last five years have I had the opportunity and the time to practice my craft.
IDI – Do you have any habits that you attribute to your writing?
AL – Not really. The only thing I can think of is that when I get a thought for a book I’m working on, I have to write it down right away no matter where I am. Drives my wife crazy!
IDI – Are your stories plot or character driven.
AL – They’re character driven. My characters develop the story. I don’t work from an outline. Ideas just pop out of my head. I hate when I discover the ending too soon. Then I tend to rush to the finish.
IDI – I believe that we become the people we write, at least for a time. We think what they think, feel what they feel, know what they know… What are your thoughts on this?
AL – I do put myself inside my character’s heads. Sometimes, I think it’s the reverse. My imagination tends to run wild. I never really feel like I am them though. We are separate entities. We each tend to go our own ways.
IDI – Who is your favorite author, and why?
AL – My favorite author is J.D. Salinger whose Catcher in the Rye coming of age novel gave me the idea for my modern-day novel Johnny Oops. his book was designed for adults, as mine is.
IDI – You say that you targeted an adult audience when you wrote Johnny Oops. Sequin Boy and Cindy seems to target a younger audience. Do you write for a different audience with each book or do you have a general target audience?
AL – My target audience is those people who question their own sense of reality and want to be young again. I have sections in Johnny Oops that deal with quantum computing and alternate realities, and Johnny thinks he can live in different worlds at the same time.
IDI – What is your version of ‘the dream’?
AL – I guess my dreams aren’t unlike anyone else’s. I would just like to be recognized as a good writer. I have been getting some good reviews lately on Amazon and they mean a lot to me. I guess I always question if I know what I’m doing.
IDI – Where do you find your inspiration? A quiet room in your house or the bustle of the bookstore?
AL – My little corner at the computer in my living room. My wife says I’m constantly saying ‘what’ to her questions when I’m writing because I don’t really hear what she is saying when I’m writing. I’m in my own little world.
IDI – What advice would you give to new-unpublished writers?
AL – Follow your instincts. Write what you like. Use your imagination. Don’t give up.
IDI – In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception new authors have about the publishing industry?
AL – That it is impossible to break in. With the advent of Indie Authors and self publishing, a whole new world opened up.
IDI – Arthur, I love the title ‘Johnny Oops’ and would like to take a minute to let the readers into Johnny’s world. Now I view Johnny as somewhat of a complex being. Why does he at times think he is a prophet and at other times a charlatan or not even real at all?
AL – Johnny is like a lot of us that question our purpose in life. In Johnny’s case, his imagination leads him to believe he is more than an average human and at other times he worries he may be a phony and not even a real human being with the proper human instincts. it’s a matter of insecurity.
IDI – What drives Johnny to do good works even when he himself is a sinner?
AL – I think it is Johnny’s need for acceptance by his peers. He wants to be liked. He wants to be respected, but he can’t contain the human weaknesses that so many of us are subject to in one way or another. I think that in this respect he is very human.
IDI – I’d like to ask one more question about Johnny Oops, without giving too much away. Why is sex so important to Johnny?
AL – I think it’s because he is constantly striving to prove that he is a real man. In Johnny’s mind, having sex is one of the few things he thinks he is really good at. I think this too is a question of a basic insecurity about his real worth.
I have to admit, my curiosity is piqued!! Arthur was generous enough to give me the gift of his book and I am anxious to find out more about Johnny Oops.
It was a pleasure working with Arthur and if you’d like to know more about him or any of his works, be sure to catch him on his Almost Made It Moment with Jenny Milchman this Friday, June 10th. Here is a link to Jenny’s site: Jenny@wedskull.com
Links to Arthur:
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0041KL52M
Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of 3 novels, most recently, ‘Lily White Lies’, due out this month. Follow me on Twitter @kathyreinhart or Facebook www.facebook.com/KathyReinhart.Novelist
If interested in participating in my author promotion blog at Ink Drop Interviews, please contact me at ladybuggerly@hotmail
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*All answers, excerpts and opinions contained in this interview are those of the interviewed’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the interviewer.