Lisa: We’re so pleased to welcome author/actor Charlie David to The Novel Approach today to chat about the 2nd edition release of his novel Mulligans.
Welcome, Charlie. Why don’t we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself?
Charlie: Sure! I enjoy Chicago mix popcorn because it’s so contradictory yet delicious. My current hobbies are gardening, ceramic mosaics, and SCUBA diving. The latter generally dictates my travel choices. This year my partner and I have explored Turkey, Tanzania & Zanzibar, Turks & Caicos and Cuba. We prioritize saving and planning for travel over nearly everything – occasionally even haircuts.
Lisa: So, you’re a man of many talents. Tell us which bit first, the acting bug or the writing bug? And when did you know you wanted to do both?
Charlie: I wanted to be an actor as far back as I could remember. I realize now the word I didn’t have that would prove a better fit was simply Storyteller. I’ve acted, directed, produced, and authored films, TV shows, books, and documentaries. The motivation behind all of it is to share an emotional ride that brings a reader or audience to reflect on something new. I get just as much joy helping filmmaker friends with casting, or narrating another author’s book to bring it to life as an audio book. Whether it’s a story of my invention or helping bring someone else’s to life – that’s what really fulfills me.
Lisa: Between the acting and the writing, do you feel that one craft is more difficult than the other? If so, which and why?
Charlie: I think they really both have their own challenges. The biggest challenge for most actors is having an opportunity to actually practice their craft. You know the old story or perhaps have some actor friends that never seem to be working. So much time and effort is put into headshots and auditions and waiting for the phone to ring. Being an actor was very frustrating for me and I was fortunate enough to generally have work. But for anyone who loves what they do – you want to do it all the time. I decided to channel my energy into creation and producing my own work and work for others. Once I was knee deep into writing, producing and directing I realized acting was just what I thought I was meant to do. In reality it was just one thing I enjoyed and could do.
For writers I think the biggest challenge is discipline. Putting pen to paper and fingers to the keyboard. When I’ve been most successful as a writer (and by that I mean simply having the fortitude to take a story from beginning to end) it was after reading Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Obviously Mr. King is prolific and I really appreciated the no nonsense advice he gives writers in that book. He faced countless rejection at the beginning of his career but kept going. What really stuck was when he wrote and I’m paraphrasing here, you can’t wait for your muse. You need to show up, everyday and write. Your muse needs to know where to find you.
I started carving out time in my day to write – getting up at 5:30am and writing from six to seven thirty. That’s the time of day I know my mind is quiet enough to be creative. And it worked – every screenplay or novel I’ve written has been completed through incremental hours scheduled into my day.
Lisa: Before we jump into Mulligans, I want to ask you a few questions about the first of your books I personally ever read, Shadowlands. How long had you been writing the short stories for that collection—were they stories you’d been writing over the years, or were they all written specifically for this anthology?
Charlie: The short stories in Shadowlands were all written over the course of about a year. It was my third book and they just started pouring out in those morning writing sessions. I’d recently finished the novel for Mulligans and felt that exploring bite size stories would be a good way to keep my creative juices flowing. Once I had amassed a small collection and they were thematically akin I thought they would make a good anthology.
Lisa: Death and grief are elements that thread their way throughout the stories, universal ties that bind us together across genders, religions, ethnicities, sexualities as part of simply being human. Why explore some of the darker themes of the human condition? And how did these stories challenge you from both a personal and creative standpoint?
Charlie: The feedback I receive on Shadowlands is generally, you wrote this? For people who may have known me as the bubbly travel host from Bump, I think they were surprised or intrigued that these darker themes came out of me. Like a lot of creative people I can be somewhat melancholy. It’s taken me many years to understand the emotional rollercoaster of my life and to really become the one in control and be on the ride but also the driver. There’s been times when I’ve wondered to myself and those closest to me if seeking counseling would be a good idea because my highs are high and my lows can be low. Right or wrong I’ve decided to gain my own counsel through my creative work. I know that when I’m creating I’m fulfilled.
I think we have an incredible amount of pressure in our society to ‘be happy’. And I think the reality of the human condition is that we cannot embody that state at all times. The beauty is in the spectrum of emotions and experiences. I guess writing the stories in Shadowlands, although in some ways fantastical, always felt very authentic and real to me as well. My heart went into that writing because it knows what angst, longing, defeat, loss, and grief are – just as it knows joy, hope, faith and love.
Lisa: Do you have a favorite story in the collection. Which would you say holds a special place in your heart?
Charlie: You know, Lisa, that is a difficult question. I just skimmed through the stories and my heart still beats staccato at small remembrances from many of them. Forced to choose I would say Numbers, which is prose. Everything I write comes from some nugget of experience but Numbers really is me. There’s no fiction there, those are simply pages ripped from my life and written in a way that I would say is closest to how I actually think. And there’s a lot of heart break and regret and what if’s…
Lisa: In the story October 13th, you chose not to name your characters, only using epithets to distinguish “the one on the left” and “the one on the right.” Why was it important to you not to give those two men names?
Charlie: I didn’t name them because one is me and the other a best friend. This was my experience for a few years – being hopelessly in love with my straight best friend. It was a bromance before that term existed and it was delicious and impossible and endorphin flowing agony.
Lisa: Okay, let’s get to the business at hand: Mulligans. For those who aren’t aware, this is actually the 2nd edition of the book, and the book is also a movie. In fact, the film came first, yes? What makes now a good time to re-release the book?
Charlie: Mulligans is about coming out later in life. We explore the dynamics of a family after an affair is discovered between the father and his college aged son’s best friend. The film was released about seven years ago and so much has changed in our society even since then. People are more open to claiming a sexual identity or electing to not be labeled at all. I wanted to explore what it’s like to fall in love when it’s not convenient, recommended or advisable in any way.
Marriage has been going through so many ideological changes lately and that’s also something I thought was worthy to explore again. We have musicians like Bruno Mars singing, ‘we’re looking for something dumb to do. Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you.’ We have TV shows like Married at First Site. It hits me in the gut and feels like this absurdist mockery by a heteronormative society of a right that’s been withheld from gay and lesbian people for so long.
50% of marriages in the USA end in divorce and there’s still this puritan idea that is persistent that it is the moral high road. With Mulligans, I wanted to break that apart and examine it. I wanted to create a story that would incite conversation about what’s right and wrong instead of just accepting an assumption.
Lisa: Once again, you’re exploring a storyline that I don’t think anyone would describe as lighthearted and whimsical. What is it about the relationship dynamic between these characters, especially Chase and Nathan, that you hope a new audience of readers will take away from the book?
Charlie: This isn’t a happily ever after book. In fact it was probably the hardest ‘ending’ I’ve ever been challenged to write. The reality is that in most scenarios when there’s been an affair it takes months or years for a relationship to progress and for those people to find reconciliation. I also find this flabbergasting. In our society it is more forgivable to cheat than it would be for people to be non-monogamist and honest with each other and their social circles. We’ve created a paradigm where it’s expected we’ll receive everything we need in life from one person in a marriage – mind blowing sex, a business partner, an emotional crutch, someone to put us into fits of laughter.
Challenging ourselves to get to a place of emotional maturity where we can accept that I cannot be all things to you and I can’t expect you to be all things to me is a good first step. The relationship between Chase and Nathan may not be one that will end with vows at the alter but they both propel each other forward to emotional growth in different ways.
Lisa: Have you ever been tempted to revisit these characters, or is their story done as far as you’re concerned?
Charlie: It’s been really rewarding to hear from readers who love the family and characters in Mulligans. Lots of people have asked for a sequel and perhaps that’s worth exploring.
Lisa: Charlie, thanks so much for being here with us today, and congrats on the release of the book. Would you like to share with us where we can find you on social media?
Charlie: Thanks so much for having me!
MAKING THE MOVIE VIDEO PLAYLIST
MOVIE BONUS FOR READERS: You’ve read the novel, now watch the film! Readers unlock a 50% discount on the rental or purchase of the film by entering promocode Dreamspinner at Vimeo.com.
About the Book
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 200 Pages
Release Date: 25 May 2016
Categories: Contemporary, New Adult
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Blurb: Chase never had many friends, but at college, he meets and forms close ties with straight jock Tyler Davidson—a connection he fears he’ll lose if he tells Tyler he’s gay. Keeping his sexuality secret becomes harder for Chase as he joins Tyler and his family at their idyllic lake house for the summer. It grows more and more difficult for Chase to avoid Tyler’s attempts to set him up with girls, and he’s tired of making excuses. Chase is ready to embrace the man he is, but he’s afraid of what it will cost him.
The Davidsons seem like the perfect family, but Chase soon realizes there’s trouble in paradise. Tyler’s dad, Nathan, has done everything to make a good life for his wife and children—including suppressing his sexuality and denying his needs for years. But like Chase, Nathan is growing weary of living a lie. What begins as an offer of support from Chase grows into an unexpected attraction that will have profound effects on everyone. Chase and the Davidsons are about to learn that there’s no such thing as a perfect family, but that perfection isn’t a requirement for friendship and love.