APKY/AMP: Hello, Ed, and thanks for this interview. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?
I was working on an island in the Dutch Caribbean, Aruba. I was the general manager of a casino, there. I had begun working in Las Vegas casinos at the age of 22; this was many years later and I had come up through the ranks.
The island, at the time, had not become as modern as it is now. There were no bookstores; TV in English was limited, no cable, and no supermarkets. Fortunately, I have never been a big TV watcher, but have been a reader since I was a young child.
I bought pocket books from the pharmacy in the hotel lobby and devoured them. All I did was work and read. Many of them were not very well written or if they were, the plots were not interesting. I thought to myself, I can write better stuff than this trash.
One of the frequent guests to the casino, an American local, who was the editor of the local English language newspaper, said to me one day, “You are always talking about writing. Why don’t you write something and bring it to me and I’ll tell you what I think.”
Than night I went home and began writing a novel, which became: The Cheaters: Turning Vegas Around.
I did not have a story goal or characters. I just began writing, beginning with a male protagonist and decided there needed to be a love interest and so on. I would look at pocket books I had read to get an idea of how the mechanics of writing a novel worked. My friend, the editor, told me to write about 50 pages. I brought them to him. A few days later he returned my manuscript. He had written, “Eddie, when I told you to write something, I had no idea you could actually write. This is really pretty good.” Ben, the editor, was they type of person who would have said, if the writing was bad, “Get another hobby.” I was happy and that’s how it began. I sent off for some how to write a novel books and discovered that most of them were worthless except for a few gems in each “how-to-book.”
APKY/AMP: Wow, that sounds like the writing version of from-rags-to-riches. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
I have a couple of novels that I have written that take place mainly in casinos. I have only published one: Cheaters.
I am trying to write in another genre now. Detective crime fiction with a horrible antagonist who has committed crimes that involves stalking, torturing and killing not only humans, but also[…]
APKY/AMP: Way to go, Ed. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. People who go to casinos and do what they think is gambling, should realize that in reality they are paying for entertainment. They are paying to have fun playing table games or watching the reels spin around in slot machines or playing video poker.
APKY/AMP: Right, entertainment rather than, erm, a habit. What have you had published to-date?
The Cheaters: Turning Vegas Around Is my only published novel.
APKY/AMP: Well, the nasty antagonist is on the way. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. Good writing is rewriting. Write the first draft and hone it over and over. If it is affordable have a qualified independent editor go through it for you. A good editor will evaluate your manuscript and make suggestions, as how to shape it to make it better. Everybody needs an editor, even the best selling authors. There is usually a thank you page for the editor because the editor has been such a tremendous help.
APKY/AMP: Correct. Now, why should we buy your book? ‘
I spent most of my life in the casino business. In my twenties, I cheated players for the casino and then began cheating the casinos. I know all about casinos and my novel is the only accurate book I have ever read about casinos. The movies about casinos are laughable, and the writers who write them don’t know anything about casinos.
APKY/AMP: Hope those writers read this.;) How much of the marketing do you do for your published work or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
I write a blog called: Stealinglasvegas.wordpress.com. The posts are from my early days cheating for casinos and simultaneously cheating the casinos. The blog is to illustrate to the followers that I actually have the credibility to write about cheating casinos and depict the action accurately, so the blog followers will purchase my novel.
I have blog business cards I pass out with the name of my novel on the back of the card. I’m considering hiring a publicist, but they want quite a bit of money.
My book is on Amazon.com and I need reviews. Reviews sell books.
APKY/AMP: Indeed. I could do with a few reviews myself. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
I made it to the last 100 on the CreateSpace writer’s award contest. I have not been shortlisted, but it certainly would help to have that on the book flap if a writer did win a competition.
APKY/AMP: Right, I won a competition with a short story which my publisher sent in for the 2012 Caine Prize. I think I should cash in on that. Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Yes. I write on a desktop computer in my office at home. Going to the park and writing on a laptop computer does not work for me. Writing in the same place is what I have become accustomed to.
APKY/AMP: Hmm. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
I considered a pseudonym, Curl Edwards. My editor told me that was silly, that I had written a good book and should take credit for it, so I did.
APKY/AMP: I agree with the editor. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
It is almost impossible to get a literary agent. They receive so many unsolicited manuscripts a month that they don’t look at them themselves. Usually it is an intern who looks at the first ten pages and is looking for something that she/he thinks the agent might be interested in.
I finally went with CreateSpace. That company is absolutely great. You can phone them with a question and be talking to one of your team members in less than a minute. They will have your complete file on their monitor. CreateSpace is a subsidiary of Amazon.com
APKY/AMP: You’re now thanking them with a bit of an ad. What are you working on at the moment / next?
I’m working on two things and have to decide which one I should focus on and which one to set aside. I’m working on a sequel to my first published novel, Cheaters, and the detective crime fiction novel. I am thinking of taking elements of the crime fiction novel and putting it in the sequel to Cheaters.
In the first novel, there was a lot of money stolen. Now somebody is after them.
APKY/AMP: I’m already biting my nails! Do you manage to write every day?
Almost every day, and when I do write it is not always at the same time, but it is during the day.
APKY/AMP: JWhat is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
I haven’t encountered writers block, but I have written myself into a situation where the character has taken over and I struggled to think of a way to write my way out of the corner the character put me in.
APKY/AMP: Yes, characters tend to do that to me too. J Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and off you are with it?
I once read something E.L. Doctorow said. He said that the way he writes is like driving a car down a dark country road and he can only see as far as the headlights. As the car moves along he keeps seeing farther down the road. That is how I do it. I do not know exactly what I am going to write next except for a few sentences. I have a short-term goal, sure, but I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to end that chapter.
It is important to have a story goal, state it on the first few pages and go from there. I have ideas as I go along and also carry a notebook and pen with me at all times. If I think of something good I jot it down so I can use it later. I have a tendency to write things after the fact and “drop” them in someplace earlier.
If I had written, say on page 200, that a young woman was being chased and she could run like a gazelle, I’ll go back and write something about she, as a teenager, won the state track competitions. This lets the reader know it is credible when she kicks off her high heels and runs like heck and gets away. She was a track star .
APKY/AMP: Good to know there’s another “slotter-in” out there, Ed! Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
I take names off of the return address on an envelope or hear a name I like. I have a protagonist whose name I changed several times until I hit one I liked. The find and replace function in MS Word is a great thing.
If a person comes from the Midwest in the United States, their name should be plain. If the character comes from the Deep South in the states, the name should be something like Lucas, or Clayton.
APKY/AMP: I’ll note that for future reference. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Showing your work to people who are not capable of critiquing your work always say the same thing, “I like it.” If asked what they liked about it they don’t really have an answer. They can be pressed about who was the best character and sometimes they have a favorite character.
Showing your work to friends or relatives is practically worthless. The best person to show your work to is a professional editor who will tell you, “This is bad or this is good” This is the editor’s job.
APKY/AMP: Great advice. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
I do a lot of rewriting of scenes, either cutting them back or expanding them. And yes after writing hundreds of thousands of words to end up with 90 thousands words or so, one gets better at getting it right the first time.
APKY/AMP: Right, practice makes perfect! Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
I touch type relatively fast, 57 WPM, and when trying to write by hand I can’t keep up with my thoughts. Besides, my handwriting is so bad I can hardly read it myself.
APKY/AMP: (laughing) What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
I like third person multiple point of view. I have not tried second person, but have tried first person. First person seems easier to some, but to write in first person and do it well is another thing.
APKY/AMP: OK, and what do you like to read?
I read mainly fiction, spy stories, detective stuff, and lawyer novels. Books where there is character development and a good story that will keep me up until 2: a.m.
APKY/AMP: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
I read, exercise using some machines I have and go for walks in the park.
APKY/AMP: Lazybones here prefers walks! J Where can we find out about you and your work?
The Cheaters: Turning Vegas Around by Edward Curley is on Amazon.com
I mention my background in the synopsis of Cheaters that I, at one time, cheated for the casinos and cheated the casinos, and I was the general manager of casino on the island of Aruba in the Dutch Caribbean for ten years.
Stealinglasvegas.wordpress.com is another good place to find out about me. Really find out how I was once upon a time when I was bulletproof and invisible, or so I thought.
“Ah the pity youth is wasted on the young” _ George Bernard Shaw.
APKY/AMP: (laughing) Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
The link to my novel on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_12?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+cheaters+turning+vegas+around&sprefix=The+Cheaters%2Cstripbooks%2C298
APKY/AMP: Thank you, Ed. I invite you to include an extract of your writing.
This is the prologue:
LAKE TAHOE, NEVADA 1975
Clay Parish sat down on the seat at second base, the center of the blackjack game, putting a hundred dollar bill on the table. Reed Martin was already sitting on first base, the first seat to the dealer’s left. Reed was betting two dollars a hand. It was his function to distract the dealer and bosses for Clay if he needed to. They pretended to be strangers, not knowing each other.
The dealer called out, “Change a hundred.”
“Give me all nickel chips.”
“Yes, sir.” The dealer cut four stacks of five each and placed them in front of Clay.
Clay began betting five dollars a hand. When the dealer offered Reed the deck of cards to cut, Clay rounded the dealer momentarily, asking him to get the cocktail waitress. Reed stole the top card; it was a six.
In the year 1975 Clay and Reed were not concerned with casino video cameras, as there were none. Reed passed the stolen card under the tabletop to Clay.
Clay was doing several things at the same time. Besides watching out for the dealer and pit boss, he also kept an eye on Reed for signals that everything was clear.
Clay needed to be able to see the stolen card, not having to remember its value.
He put the stolen card face up in the inside crook of his leg at the knee.
He could glance down to his knee crook and see the value of the card without having to remember it. He was now playing with three cards, a strong advantage.
He raised his bet to $25. He was dealt a ten and a five, a bad hand. He reached for the six from behind his knee and switched the ten for the six, placing the ten in the crook of his knee, and turned a hand of eleven face up in front of his bet. “I’m doubling down.” Clay slid another $25 in chips next to his bet.
He lifted the corner of the double-down card; it was a four. He reached down to his knee, palmed the ten, peeked at his double down card again and simultaneously slid the ten in under the four, mucking in the ten, changing it for the five. He now had 21. He put the four in the crook of his knee and waited for the next hand, leaving the $50 in the bet box.
An hour later they were in their hotel room, upstairs from the casino. “We won $900, right?”
Clay pulled $1,100 in green $25 chips from his sport coat pockets. “A little more than that,” Clay smiled. You’ve got to watch me, Reed.”
“I don’t need to watch you. I know you’re honorable when it comes to cutting up the money.”
Clay had another $200 in greens in his pockets and decided to keep it. Screw ‘em all but six, he thought.
Clay looked at Reed, “Let’s hit the slots on the way out of this joint and then we’ll head
back to Vegas.”
“You got keys to the machines?”
“Of course I do.”
Clay wanted to put up some $500 progressive jackpot slot figuring, to cheat two machines. Reed liked to steam up things and insisted on a third pot.
They got some heat with the third pot and four security guards came after them, chasing them through the casino. For the hell of it, Reed knocked an old lady off a stool while she was playing a slot machine. He laughed. Clay and Reed ran out the door. It was 100 yards to the state line and they made it.
Three of the guards stopped at the state line, but one red-hot kept coming. The guard wasn’t supposed to come across the state line. Reed was first to the car. It was unlocked. He grabbed a heavy chain out of the back seat, and ran head on toward the strapping young security guard. The guard veered away, but Reed was after him, swinging the chain over his head like a bola. The security guard was only a few feet away when Reed let the chain go. The chain wrapped around the upper body of the guard, bringing him down. Then Reed began to stomp and kick him in the head and face.
“What are you doing? We’ve got to get out of here!” Clay screamed.
“I’m going to fix this sucker real good.”
“Leave him alone.”
Reed kept kicking the youth in the head, unable to stop.
“We’ve got to go,” Clay yelled. “They’ve called the California cops by now.”
APKY/AMP: Wow! Thank you, once again Ed. And good luck with this.