Donald Calvanese is the author of “Carcium: The Conflict Begins”, a fascinating fantasy novel I recently reviewed. A restaurateur and a song-writer, Donald talks about his book and his authorly life.
Ia: Hello Donald, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of CARCIUM: The Conflict Begins?
Donald: An exciting, enjoyable story for the entire family.
You have such an amazing story and vivid descriptions of the settings and characters. How real are your characters?
Donald: When I write, the characters are real people to me. They have personality, depth, and heart. When I see them in my mind’s eye they are living. On my website I have created digital paintings of the characters. This I believe makes my characters more life-like. I spent many hours working with the artist to make them just how I envision them.
Wow, Duras Carcer sure looks spooky in that painting!
Who or what inspired you to write this book? When did you first know you just had to write?
The thought of creating an entire world from my mind inspired me to create Carcium.
When I was 12 I saw my first guitar in a music store window, from there I learned of lyrics. I thought it was amazing you could write your feelings down and turn them into songs. I remember watching a movie and thinking how wonderful it would be to create a world of my very own. From that moment I never looked back and now I write every day.
I hope to hear your own song/s in your book trailer one day. And you must have written a lot of stories! How long did it take you to write The Conflict Begins?
It took about a year.
How did you come up with the title CARCIUM?
I wanted a word that did not exist. So I just started jumbling words and letters around ‘til I found one I felt sounded like a kingdom.
Brilliant! What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
I spend as much time as I can in schools with my program, Writing and Reading Across the Universe. One day before I started the program a young boy ran up to me, hardly able to speak because he was so excited to meet me. He told me how much he just loved Troy and Brutus and could not wait for the second book in the trilogy. I was very humbled by this experience.
Another time, at work a man came up to the Bar. He told me he purchased the book for his mother who was struggling with cancer. He said that she was determined to live because she just had to finish the book. He said my book help to keep his mother going. I gave him my personal email and told him to have his mother email me and I would send her the second book before it went to print.
Words cannot express how this made me feel. I am blessed to have this gift of writing. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that my story connects to so many different people.
You sure bring joy to many people. Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?
My wife, my daughter, and my late mother give, or have given me the most encouragement. I believe when you have the help and encouragement of the people closest to you in your life, you can accomplish anything. With the support of those people I have refused to quit. I have been writing for many years and no matter how many doors get closed I turn and knock on another.
I try to convey this message in my writing to help children understand the power they all have inside.
Tell us your next installment of Carcium. What’s your latest news?
The second book is called “Carcium—Darkness Falls”. This book is going to give the reader even more excitement. I introduce more characters. I take the reader on a crazy non-stop thrill ride in their mind. I will move their heart as well as their soul. I do not let go of them until the very end of the book. I can promise the reader they will be begging for the third book when they are finished.
Looking forward to read that. And how do you view your writing? Is it a career or distraction? Why?
I see writing as a career. When you love something you will wait a lifetime to be with it.
I sure relate to that!
Now, how much do you have in common with Troy?
I think the one thing I have in common with Troy is the understanding and willingness to step outside and look at myself. Also to be able to support a friend even when it will not help my cause in any way. My wife and daughter think he looks a bit like me.
Aren’t you tempted to write about food or being a restaurateur? Tell us a bit about the restaurant. When do you find the time to write?
I have to say, I do not think of writing a book about being a restaurateur, but the thousands of people I have met over the years give me many ideas for new and exciting characters in my writing.
The restaurant is an old tavern from 1779. It was moved by a woman in 1927 to a fair ground. During the holiday season walking in will bring you back years with a warm fireplace in the corner, carolers singing silent night, and the smell of a traditional New England meal of roast Turkey, mashed potatoes and butternut squash. You can admire the original woodwork while you sip a pint of ale. Sometimes late at night when I am all alone, I sit and wonder about the men and women sat here 200 years ago.
William Faulkner wrote while he was a night watchman. I do much of the same. I find time here and there during the day, and then when I am waiting for the dishwashers to finish at the end of the night.
A restaurant with histories! How intriguing. I think we have a lot in common, when in an old place I too often wonder about the people of the past. And I quoted Faulkner somewhere in my novel.
What are your hobbies?
I write music. Build legos. I enjoy playing sports with my daughter and making up stories to help put my little girl to sleep. She has me make up stories from a cookbook she received at the Build-a-Bear store. A title of one the stories is “Best Friends Popcorn”, from the recipe of the same name. It was about two little girls. One named Two Cups Brown Sugar and one named Two Sticks Margarine. Together they would make best friend popcorn. This popcorn they used to feed Santa’s reindeer because they need food to keep them going through the long journey. If you leave them food, the reindeer will leave you a special present.
Well on Christmas morning my daughter opened a gift she did not ask for. She turned to me and said, “Dad it worked. Look what the reindeer left me!” That is just one of the joys of writing for a little child’s heart.
You sound like my mother! She used to tell brilliant made-to-order impromptu stories for my toddler.
Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.
Who matters most to me in my life is my wife and little girl Alivia. I guess what matters most is making sure I give my girl whatever she needs to be the best person she can be. This is one of the messages I try to express to young readers through my character’s challenges in Carcium.
What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?
That I am human.
Why….because I want children to understand they are built the same way as the people they look up to or aspire to be like.
Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?
Just enjoy whatever you read or write. You only get one of each day, and if you do something you enjoy if for only a moment, that is a good day.
That’s inspiring. Thank you so much, Donald.
Dear readers, check out Donald’s website, Facebook, and Video Trailer. The first book in his Carcium trilogy is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tate Publishing, IndieBound, & Books-A-Million. And here comes my review of the novel:
Carcium – Reviewed by Ia Uaro of BookPleasures.com
It has been a quite a while since I last felt this enthralled by a Fantasy read. What an imagination! Delightful and wholesome, Carcium: The Conflicts Begins is an original, superbly crafted action-packed fantasy for both young adults and adults where a spoiled and selfish prince must fight abominable evil in order to regain his kingdom and save his people, and along the way learns about the beauty of nature, the power of kindness and the value of friendships.
Prince Troy of Carcium is lazy, haughty, and mean. Formerly secreted for safety reasons, he is brought to live in the palace after the demise of his father, the wise king. Troy lives in opulence and doesn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt over the sufferings his poor subjects must endure due to his extravagant lifestyle. He takes away their harvests for endless sumptuous state dinners on his honor, and he deprives his people of water by channeling the streams to his own royal gardens.
Unbeknownst to him, his every movement is being watched by the mystical elves who oversee the kingdoms, and Troy fails their leadership test miserably. This means, Carcium is put in limbo, and evil sorceror Duras Carcer–who draws his life force from fallen kingdoms–will have the opportunity to rule Carcium. Troy has one last chance to redeem himself and revive his kingdom, but first he must find the only weapon that can destroy Duras Carcer. And so, rudely thrown out his lavish castle, the unprepared pampered prince begins his perilous quest…
Calvanese’s storyline is carefully plotted. The action and sword fights–during treacherous encounters with dangerous snake vines, starving giant cats, slobbering gargoyles, despicable knights, revolting demons–are choreographed in suspenseful details, forcing readers to tighten their seatbelts as they are brilliantly taken on a magical journey through the richly drawn settings that aren’t just challenging and spooky, some actually move, and oh, add to that foul scents, vile substances, fires, lightning, deadly obstacles and the time constraints. And the hideous villains! Calvanese cleverly creates chilling characters that even your worst nightmares wouldn’t conjure–malicious malevolent monsters so evil that you sympathize with Troy and his newfound friends, such that you even forgive the very frequent but necessary use of violence in their quest to save the innocent people of Carcium.
Suffice to say, Donald Calvanese is a masterful storyteller with vivid imagination who knows his target audience well. He is at times wicked, often insightful, with powerful narration and the knack to heighten readers’ fear. The first book in the Carcium series, Carcium : The Conflicts Begins is a wonderful read that both young people and adults are sure to enjoy, particularly those who love watching the recent teen Merlin series, speaking of which, I’d absolutely love to see CARCIUM on the big screen, to appreciate its marvelous lands and beautiful creatures, even though I’d be gripping my seat in terror half of the time.
I give it 4 stars because the structure could be balanced slightly better by assigning more proportion to the “human” aspect. A few existing typos don’t bother me and an editor can easily clean them up.