Hello again readers! Please grab a cup of coffee and sit back and listen in as I chat it up with Randall Lang about a soulful journey through the desert and how it changes more than one life in unbelievable ways. To read the review by Delane, check it out.
Thank you, Randall for taking the time to answer my questions about your writings and life in general.
Hi Danielle, It’s an honor for me to be here today. I have for years worshiped Karenne, my Lady of the Latte, and my Empress of the Espresso. Several years ago, I submitted an excerpt from one of my naughtier books and she gave me an official “Woo Hoo!”. My life has never been the same.
I recently had the chance to read your novel Magnificent Man. Why don’t you start off by telling the readers a little about the story?
My most recent release, Magnificent Man, may well be the culminating effort of my rather dubious writing career. It is a novel of adventure and romance in the American Southwest. The story follows Cassandra Taylor, a single mother from Shreveport, Louisiana who is struggling to hold her family together. She takes a chance and responds to an ad in a Hollywood fan magazine hoping for an opportunity that will improve life for her daughter, her Mother, and herself. Unfortunately, the ‘opportunity’ is not one that she can accept. She starts the long journey home from Los Angeles only to have her car break down on a desert highway. After she is abandoned on a lonely desert road, a group of thugs threatens her life. She is rescued by Coyote, a large, handsome, but strangely anachronistic man on a motorcycle who addresses her as, “My lady”, and treats her as a knight would treat a queen during the Middle Ages. He agrees to take her home, but first he has several stops he must make on reservations and isolated villages in the desert country. It is during their remarkable journey that she learns about Coyote and the work that he does among largely forgotten people. She also finds herself falling in love with Coyote, but she realizes the futility of such a love. She could not exist in his harsh desert world and he could not function in her modern world. Although both of them resist, their love is strong and it draws them into a crisis that threatens both.
I have to say when I started reading this novel, I was surprised that Cassie did not immediately realize what kind of “audition” she was going to. She seems to be a little naïve herself. Did you intend to write her as this type of character?
Before you judge Cassie as naïve, consider her situation. In high school, she was a beauty queen with all of the accolades that go along. Then her Father dies and her life falls apart. She does not get to attend college because she has to go to work to support herself and her Mother. She meets a man whom she loves and marries, only to find out, too late, that he is worthless. When the story opens about thirteen years later, she is a single mother struggling to support her Mother, her daughter, and herself. Her daughter wants to go to veterinary college, but Cassie has no way to pay for it. Her trip to California is based not so much upon naïveté as it is upon desperation and hope. With an increasing number of single mothers out there, I wanted to avoid the usual iron-willed, take-no-prisoners type of heroine in favor of one with whom struggling single mothers could identify.
Another thing that I noticed about her is how selfish, at least in the beginning of the story she seemed. When she first meets Coyote, she downplays his chivalrous attitude and seems embarrassed by it. Later I noticed a huge change in her demeanor toward him. Do you plot out every characteristic and event for your characters, or do they have a mind of their own?
I have had other reviewers also say that they felt Cassie was selfish early in the story. She was not intended to be that way. My intention was to portray her as a woman stretched to the limit of her tolerance. Consider everything that she had been through on the opening day of the story Poor Cassie was tired, still a little frightened, angry, dirty, frustrated, and just NOT ready to lay down in a dusty sleeping bag with a stranger in the middle of the desert. She wants what she wants and, in frustration, she expresses her wishes.
When Cassie first meets Coyote, remember her recent experiences. She met a man who wanted to put her in porn movies, a man who couldn’t fix her car, a truck driver who promised to help her but instead tries to abuse her, and finally she is assaulted and almost raped and murdered by four thugs. It has NOT been a great day. Suddenly she is faced by this ‘too good to be true’ man who claims that he wishes to serve her. The predictable combination of skepticism and disbelief leads her to doubt his chivalrous manner. After she has been with him a while and learns that he is genuine, she comes to appreciate and respect him for the way he is.
I want my characters to have personality. Once they have a personality, their reaction to circumstances will be in accordance with their personalities. In answer to your question, I do not plot out characteristics and events for my characters, but I am forced to consider how a given personality will react to a given set of circumstances. The characters DO have minds of their own, but as a writer, I feel that it is my obligation to make sure the characters do not launch off into unbelievable or unrealistic reactions that trigger the reader’s “he/she wouldn’t do that” reflex.
Let me talk about Coyote for a minute. Here is this powerful man who comes riding to Cassie’s rescue. He seems almost bigger than life but then talks about it not being right to ignore the suitcase in the middle of the road. Did you base him on any person in particular?
Coyote is my own hero. To me, being a hero is not about saving the world, it is about being the best person that you can be. Coyote is a humble man who does not see himself as a hero. In fact, there is a scene in Esperanza where he knocks on Cassie’s door in the middle of the night. He has been drinking and is maudlin because the men of the village insist that he is a great man He does not see himself as a great man any more than he sees himself as a hero. He is a man with a very definite sense of right and wrong, and returning her suitcase, like paying a parking ticket or repairing a television, is simply the right thing to do, no questions asked.
He has a childlike quality about him that has Cassie seeing everything with fresh eyes. At the same time, the pain he feels about certain topics is heartbreaking. Is there a specific reason that you made him so contradictory as far as his characteristics go?
I wanted Coyote to be a complicated and mysterious hero. One of the things that grabs and holds a reader is, “Why is Coyote the way he is?” Cassie wants to know and the reader wants to know.
As the story develops, Cassie learns bits and pieces about him, but just enough to whet her curiosity. The contradictions in Coyote’s personality are part of his humanity and his vulnerability. I did not want a ‘superhero’, I wanted a man with whom (hopefully) readers can identify and sympathize.
You used some very vivid details to describe the people and lands that Cassie and Coyote encounter. Are these actual people and places? Have you travelled this route yourself?
Ah! You have struck upon one of the secrets of the book. They ARE actual roads, towns, places, and yes, even people. A reader who wishes to follow the travel route described in Magnificent Man can do so with a map. The only fictional places are the villages of Peligroso and Esperanza; and Bishop County, Texas. Although, by following the roads a reader can see where these places would be if they existed. The names of real people were changed, but if you lived in the named town, you could easily recognize the people. I travelled only a portion of the route in the time I had for research, and I had to do that in a car. I hope someday to make the complete journey on a motorcycle.
Coyote talks a lot of being one with the land. That driving through the major cities will make a person become soulless. Is this something that you yourself believe in? If not, where did you get this idea?
An attachment to the land was a feeling that I experienced while there. It is strange how so much vast, empty land can draw you to it. Like most Americans, I travel the Interstate Highways and the only purpose is to get from one point to another as fast as possible. Getting away from the ‘big highway’ and onto the real dirt roads actually allows you experience what it must have been like on horseback hundreds of years ago. Once out of a car, there are unexpected sensory experiences to which both your mind and body react. There are subtle smells ranging from sweet flowers to dry clay dust that randomly drift. The wind makes sounds, sometimes with a rhythm, that makes you swear that you are hearing distant drums or chanting. There are sights such as plants and rock formations ranging from hostile and dangerous to the most soft and inviting. The heat and the wind combine to alternate between caressing your skin, and assaulting you with scorching blasts. The dry air saps the moisture from your nostrils and your brain experiences different scents depending upon how dry are your sinus. It becomes easy to see how Native Americans could find spirits in the land, the animals, and the water. I cannot say that I had a spiritual epiphany during my time in the desert, but I gained a new appreciation and respect for those who do find spirituality in that place. When I returned to the big roads and the cities, I did feel a loss at the breaking of the bond I had experienced. I could only image the magnitude of separation that someone who was deeply connected to the land would feel. I could easily translate that into loss of the soul.
A huge part of the story deals with racism, not only with Coyote being Indian but because he rides a motorcycle. Why include the dramatic events in an otherwise soul searching novel?
Coyote is not actually Native American. He wears several beaded Indian necklaces, his hair is long, and his skin is deeply tanned from the desert sun. He could easily be mistaken for Native American. The purpose of the drama was firstly to show Coyote’s unflinching respect for authority even when confronted by evil, as well as the intensity of his rage when Cassie is slapped. The second reason was to lay the groundwork for the climactic events that answer the questions about Coyote’s history and his relationship with Sancho.
I love how Cassie clarified some of the simpler electronics to Coyote, especially the washer and the remote control. How did you come up with the explanations that you did for these items?
I love humor and there are gag lines all through the book. Once Coyote and Cassie crossed into her modern world, I knew that she would expose him to things with which he was unfamiliar. Coyote is not a stupid man, he is an injured man. He, like any man, has a great fascination with gadgetry, and, again like any man, he will play with a gadget until he drives a woman crazy. This was my chance to show Coyote as a man with annoying habits as most men have, and to have fun at the same time. Remember how he would not ask for directions when they were searching for the Laundromat? It’s a guy thing. Cassie’s answers to his questions were the kind of response that Irma Bombeck would make to an inquisitive child to get them to stop being annoying.
If Magnificent Man were to become a movie, who would you want to play Coyote? And who would you want to play Cassie?
I’ve thought about this and never have been able to come up with satisfactory answers. I don’t know much at all about the current Hollywood actors and actresses, which no doubt dates me. I wish I could put Dustin Hoffman’s acting ability into the body of a young and well-tanned Dolph Lundgren. Coyote would be difficult to play because the actor would have to have such a complete understanding of the character. As Cassie, I could see Karen Allen, with her ability to explode into a scene. Sancho would definitely be Edward James Olmos.
You have a website. Do you have any other websites to which you belong? Blog? MySpace? Facebook? Twitter? Goodreads? ETC.
I am dragging myself kicking and screaming into technology. I no sooner got a website than the world was doing blogs. I got a blog and the world started Facebook, Twitter, etc. At the moment, I am SO lost with Twitter, etc., but who knows what the future may bring? My blog, The Mind of Randall Lang has become my pride and joy. Most blogs are little more that sales places for books, but mine is about how I see real life. If you go there, don’t miss the early posts. I am on Goodreads, Author’s Den, and Amazon, but I have not done much with Amazon due to technical problems. I have the book trailer for Magnificent Man on YouTube.. I am on dozens of groups and try to monitor all of them while contributing what I can.
I saw that you have written some erotica novels as well. Are there any other genres that you have written? Maybe something that you refuse to write? What genre have you not written but would like to?
I started out ten years ago writing erotica because that was what interested and excited me. Eventually I became tired of feeling as if I should stand in the shadows when authors discussed books. Magnificent Man, for better or worse, has allowed me to come into the sunshine. I wanted to write a mainstream romance novel and face the challenges that arise with a serious novel. One of my oft-repeated phrases about Magnificent Man is that it is my attempt to show that a straight man can write an emotionally charged and absorbing romance story without turning it into a Chuck Norris movie. This is guy romance and the difference from girl romance is that, if she leaves the book lying around, he will pick it up, read it, enjoy it, and see the adventure but not the romance.
My erotic books were originally intended to be little more than trashy romps involving busty women and well-hung men, but somewhere along the way the characters took over and started to become believable and interesting. My Trailer Park Nights series is in five volumes of a continuing story and the most recent book is actually longer than Magnificent Man. It has an involved and touching story and is really capable of being a novel on its own. The unfortunate part about erotica is that an author could write War and Peace or some comparable masterpiece, but once it is labeled as erotica, it is assumed to be filth.
What won’t I write? Well, there is the usual list of under-aged, forcible rape, bodily fluids, animals, etc. Despite my shady background and lifestyle, I really cannot get into heavy BDSM. Other than that, I’m just lost at vampires, shape-shifters, time travel, and sci-fi romance. Why women are enthralled by the living dead and animals that will shred your body and eat you simply escape me. I guess I can add that to the list of other things about women that I will never understand.
I have always wanted to write a humor romance story. If the right story ever comes along, I hope we’ll be here again discussing my new screamingly funny novel.
What kind of books do you like to read? Who is one of your favorite authors?
I’m actually hooked on history, and in particular local history. Much of my working life was spent in and around the coal mining industry. One of my favorite writers is Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys, the book that became the movie October Sky. He has numerous published books and many of them are from his youth in Coalwood, a small company town deep in southern West Virginia. I had met his Father, a mine supervisor featured in several of his books, and I was familiar with the town and its people. Reading Homer’s work taught me that an author could write an interesting and captivating story in plain words. Before that, I had assumed that authors had to have a PhD in literature from an Ivy League college and be fluent in four languages before they could write a book. Homer opened the mental doors that had held me back.
And one last question that I like to ask all of my interviewees. In keeping with Coffee Time Romance theme. If you were to be described as a flavor of coffee, what would it be and why?
Describe myself as a coffee? I’m gonna’ go out there and say Cocoa Mocha Twist. A mild coffee with a hint of cocoa. Tasty, familiar, comfortable, but at the same time a bit exotic and different. The kind of a drink that becomes your regular. Adventurous side trips to the more exotic are interesting, but it’s always good to come home.
Thank you Randall for taking the time to answer my questions. Magnificent Man is available from Midnight Showcase Fiction in both E-book format and print format.