Monday, November 25, 2013

Interview with Author Oliver F. Chase

Oliver Frank Chase

Good morning, Frank.  Welcome to Vision and Verse, the place for Art and Authors.  We are happy to have you with us this morning.  Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Oliver F. Chase – Friend and Foe call me Frank; to everyone else, I’m Oliver.  My home is on a little acreage near the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. Our family home is nearby in Florida with more family in Louisiana, Virginia, Texas, Washington, Brisbane, and Oregon. We may be a little scattered but we’re close always trading stories and slights, and anticipating our next “dreaded reunion.” In fact, we’ll hold one in Fort Walton Beach in a few weeks over Thanksgiving 2013. We recently lost my mother, so there’ll be a some mourning, a little healing, and much more story telling. My family is quite an accomplishment. We have senior and junior military officers, television producers, pilots, and contractors that support our military. We have entrepreneurs, doctors, and an accomplished artist routinely spotlighted in shows throughout the country. We are conservatives, liberals, and libertarians; humanists, humanitarians and religious. I suppose one could say we’re a microcosm of America. A little bit of everything and having great time being it.

What have you written?
I’ve written six novels, a box full of short stories and a novella. Few will see the light of day again although I do enjoy becoming reacquainted with a few of the characters. They’re like old friends.

What is your favorite genre to write?
Mystery, thriller with strong male and female actors. Wimps are not allowed – good or bad. I find a plot that’s interesting, germane, or controversial. I play around with an ending so I know where I’d like to go and develop a character or two to get me there. That’s the easy part. I draw a half dozen mental circles representing the events that must occur for the outcome and develop my opening gambit. That’s when all heck breaks loose. Once those characters get to moving, I’m pressed to keep them herded toward the finish. Each circle stays connected or is trashed. New characters find life along the way and compete for billing. Once in a while, I let them win especially if I’ve met and know them. Start to finish, the ride is really quite thrilling.

Favorite food.
I like salads with bits of everything that a garden can offer. If a lean pork chop shows up, too, who am I to complain?

Where would you like to visit?
A significant part of my family’s heritage is Swiss. We’ve lost contact with those in the old country but not the three or four hundred extended mostly centered around Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. After a little research, I’d like to visit to see if there are any cousins on the other side of the pond that might speak English.

Favorite musical artist/Do you listen to music when you write?
I’m C&W and old rock and roll fan. I like the older stuff from George Strait and Vince Gill. If nostalgia is the mood for the evening or the car ride, I listen to Bob Segar, some memories from the very old like the Kingston Trio and anti-war Joan Baez. Puts me in the mood to step on a few toes with people in the northeast that refuse to learn from history and only want to repeat our  mistakes. When I write, I like quiet rooms with the door closed, an interesting canvas on the wall, and a distant scene of the pasture and woods outside my window. That’s not to say that I haven’t written in noisy airports, in the back of C130’s charging through thunderstorms, inside canvas tents with a Norwegian rain pouring outside, sitting on the open ammo bay panel of a Cobra helicopter, and the front seat of pickup trucks at some crossroads literal and antithetical.

What makes you laugh? 
Can I change the question a little? What makes me smile?
The young learning about a new world and the unquestioning trust placed in our careless words. The old staring into eternity intent with passing on one last lesson just in case we hadn’t heard yet. The innocence of prayers learned decades ago as they rise unbidden in moments of crisis.

How about what catches my heart? The opening bars to our National Anthem or the Marine Corps Hymm, the promise still there, and our unvarnished declaration to the rest of the world. The hug from a brother. The trust of a niece. A two line email from a daughter. The plans Jane and I make on a Saturday morning.  Too much information? Sorry.

No, not at all. How old were you when you started writing?
The first story I remember rendering to the critics was a 3rd grade assignment about the American Revolution. My dog and Paul Revere were the ones who actually rode the countryside. The dog was in the saddlebags shouting encouragement and alarm. History books had that part wrong. Mrs. Baumgartner assigned the work and although I do not remember my grade, she had my best interests in mind. I suspect she was a tough reviewer and thank goodness for that.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I plan my plot and put the chessmen out. Each are assigned a personality and driving characteristics. Each may or may not have a private agenda, hidden political ambitions, or a seminal incident somewhere in their background. I blow the whistle and we begin working our way through plot events. Pretty exciting watching as everyone assumes their place and fortifies their positions. Along the way, new characters and circumstances are encountered and the story reacts. I’m the guidance counselor who must separate the combatants and assure our progress. I also function as puppet master – god is far too strong a concept – and give the reader what they want. My inspiration? I’m usually just along for the ride.

What do you do when you get a writer's block?
This is something I’ve yet to experience. I suspect the block is the result of someone’s expectation, deadline, outside pressures, etc. My life has plenty of distractions so the act of carving out time in the day to write overcomes mental blips.

Who is your favorite author?
Stephen King, John Sanford, James Lee Burke, Ernest Hemmingway in no particular order.

Best book you ever read.
Exodus by Leon Uris. Powerful, dramatic, influential, life molding even if slanted by passion.

Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
Easy, my Dad. He was pragmatic, no-nonsense, never lifted a paint brush to a canvas, and never read fiction from the time he dropped out of high school. He rose from orphan to Marine Corps officer, war hero, and died far too early. He was absolutely my biggest life and literary critic. He was self taught, self directed, and held great sway over many of my early decisions. And, I was always a little afraid of him. Larger than life, especially in my memory, he guided me through the shoals of fidelity, confidence, and integrity. He was also flawed. Thank, God. He let me keep my humanity.

If you could sit down and have a conversation with ONE person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
What an absorbing question. I’ve run the gambit of known historical and literary figures, imagined characters, and present day authors that would be fun. I’d like to think that James Lee Burke, John Sanford, and I would enjoy sharing company and a backyard beer. I have to confess however, pound for pound, I’d like to meet a fictional Stephen King character. Let’s talk complex, heroic, tragic, confused, passionate, and human. Jake Epping in Stephen King’s 11-23-1963 is just that guy. Think about going back and altering the seminal event of the 20th Century; an event that changed the most powerful country in world history from innocent and optimistic to something completely different. Forget about your politics. Think about altering the lives of 300 million people in a single moment. Jake is goaded into accepting that challenge, looses everything and gains himself in the effort. Mr. King weaves his story and his character into each of us.  Jake Epping never listened to me even though I warned him quite thoroughly through both my reads of Mr. King’s book. And they danced.

What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
Write. Don’t listen to me. Listen to the greats: find time and write. Forget the excuses and put it to paper…or screen. Don’t crumple it up. Print and lay it in a box. You should see mine. Old stuff and even some new is boxed and not for posterity. My work good and bad is an affirmation that I take the writing craft seriously and that I’m willing to learn. You are your best teacher if you’ll listen to others, commit yourself to become a learning creature, and trust your own judgment. When it comes time to close the door, be alone with your characters and your story, and write. Sometimes, you need to be alone with your box, too. That works.


  1. You asked a lot of great questions and took the time to publish. I appreciate that.

    Oliver Chase