I love when an author is able to surprise me with a story that feels completely unique. Author Luke Goldstein did that with his debut novel What Came First?. I’m excited to have Luke as a guest here today. Before we talk about his book, I want to introduce the man behind the words:
Luke Goldstein has lived in three of the four corners of the country, but currently resides in Simi Valley, CA. While *What Came First?* is his debut novel, he has been telling stories for years in various ways including short stories, screenplays, spoken word and paintings. Some might think of him as unfocused, but he prefers eclectic.
Connect with Luke in the following places:
Their lives and stories weave into each other to create a safety net for some and an unwanted cage for others.
Authors often struggle to find a truly unique way to tell a fiction tale. With What Came First?, you found that unique spin. What inspired this story?
I love the old saying “making a mountain out of a molehill”. I grew up in the suburbia, so I didn’t even know what a molehill was, but I couldn’t help imagining people just lording over this little pile of dirt, trying to make something gigantic. I think so many people in today’s society are set to overdrive when they respond to something unknown, so I tried to create a situation where a large group of strangers get thrown together and have to figure what they think this weird object means to them. Then I focused in on the four main characters, to bring them in not only from all four corners of life experience, but also in stark differences in where they are heading. Seeing the effect of the egg on each of them was one of my main goals, especially when they start using that effect as a weapon against the others.
I found your characters compelling. Tell us about your process for character development.
Like many writers I was told early on, “just write what you know”, so each one of the characters has a little piece of me in them. I have a tendency to play my own devil’s advocate in all sorts of internal discussions (and possibly external ones as well if no one’s around), so I found myself thinking about each aspect of my personality and how it would handle this situation. Each one molded into a character and I moved forward like that. After the first draft was written, I went through on the next draft only looking at the characters, their arcs, and most importantly their voices. I tried to make sure they each had a specific tone and driving desire, which was hopefully motivating each action they took. I also wanted to take the spark of their creation and fully mold them into more well-rounded characters that were more than just pieces of me.
Which do you find more difficult to write – the beginning, middle or end? Why?
It’s a tie for me between the middle and the end. The middle is hard because I worry that the pace is slowing down too much and I panic over finding ways to keep the momentum going and not lose the reader. The end has its own level of terror since I worry I’m not tying it up appropriately. I want the end to be exciting, tight and unexpected, but worthy of all the pages before it. You also want to leave your readers with a good impression and so much of that can come from those precious last pages.
What Came First? is your first book. What was the biggest challenge for you throughout the writing and publishing process?
The hardest part of the writing process was just keeping it going. As a debut author it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve never published anything before it can be easy to fall into a self-defeating belief that no matter how well you write there will be no way to actually get it out to people. Then, the moment you start to see the end in sight, you now have to deal with the fear of actually having a finished product that people can applaud or destroy.
On the publishing end I’ve had nothing but great experiences so far, even the hiccups in the road were easy to solve. I went through BookBaby for my digital distribution and their customer service has been top notch, while the paperback version went through Createspace because it allowed me to set the whole thing up without upfront costs. The quality of print-on-demand has gone up exponentially in the last few years and this will continue to be a huge benefit for the self-published author. My first copy of the novel is now sitting on the shelf in my office and looks perfectly at home there with all the big mass market releases.
Is there a time of day or night when you’re most creative?
Since I am still working a day job as well, my most productive time is usually on the weekends around midday, but in terms of my mental creativity it is definitely the evening, usually when I am trying to go to sleep. I have to keep notepads nearby otherwise I roll story ideas or literary phrases around in my head until the wee hours of the morning. It’s hard not to follow the breadcrumb trail once I get started on a new idea, but eventually sleep takes over. If I don’t get it noted down in some fashion, I just hope beyond hope that I remember it. Then again, if I don’t remember in the morning, it likely wasn’t that good of an idea to begin with. Mitch Hedberg joked once, “Sometimes in the middle of the night, I think of something that’s funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen’s too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.” I totally get that.
I can so relate! When the night gets very quiet, the characters all get very loud.
Tell us about your writing environment. Messy or neat? Do you prefer noise or silence?
My office at home is mostly organized, with a safe level of artistic distraction. If it gets too messy I usually end up procrastinating on my current project and cleaning the office top to bottom. In terms of sound, I’ve met a few writers who write to certain genres of music, depending on their project, but I’ve found it way too distracting for me. I will put on various mixes when I trying to plot out a story in my head (dubstep for sci-fi/action, orchestral for romantic elements, etc…), but once I get the beats jotted down I have to turn the music off in order to actually work. I also used to be a singer when I was a kid, so anything with lyrics just steals my attention completely.
What scares you the most, and why?
I’ve learned I am equally scared of rejection and success. Rejection is something I think we are all brought up to fear, it’s how our entire education system is built, but success is a fear I grew into all on my own. The idea of something getting out into the public sphere and doing well brings with it pressure to continue, pressure to reach that same quality and has the negative effect of making me second guess whether my talent the first time around was real or a fluke. I’ve done my best to swallow that fear and work through it, but it still hangs around like a boogeyman in my mental closet.
Insightful answer. You explained it perfectly. I think many of us share that fear of success.
Describe yourself in one word or phrase.
Thank you, Luke, for hanging out with us and giving such thoughtful answers.
I hope you’ll take the time to connect with Luke and explore his fictional world.
Thanks for reading.