I’m originally from southern New Jersey. My upbringing was conservative evangelical, and my
educational background reflects that. In my early 30s, I stepped outside of faith, creating a rift
between myself and my family and friends, which is still in place thirty years later. It’s because of this dramatic change in world-view and the unresolved separation from my extended family that I examine the nature of faith and the realm of non-faith in my writing so often. I have a desire to share what I’ve learned and to continue learning about the mystifying realms of particle physics and the cosmos.
I like to create computer graphics with programs like Photoshop. I used to spend a lot of time at Zazzle.com creating designs for mugs, T-shirts, and products like that, but I’ve gotten away from designing product graphics lately and just let my online store operate on autopilot.
(zazzle.com/store/carpecranium) I play word games like Wordament and Wordscapes when I’m between tasks or killing time or getting started in the morning. Over the years I’ve casually
explored a few of the big third-person shooters like Assassin’s Creed, GTA5, and now No Man’s Sky. I’m a totally non-competitive person and so I ignore the games’ missions and just wander through the huge, amazingly detailed environments.
In 1972, when I was 15, my family visited Disney World for the first time, and I was so
overwhelmed by the concept of an environment where every square foot had been designed by an artist, that my career plans shifted toward Disney. I was deeply evangelical then, and the most logical thing to me regarding career choices then was to combine Disney with the Bible and create animated features like Paradise Lost, Pilgrim’s Progress, and the Passion Week of Christ. It became my mission; I would break new ground. Of course no one knew what I was talking about back then; the 700 Club was still only a dot on the horizon. Who knew then that evangelical media would become so big? I studied film at an evangelical college and in my twenties I wrote several low-budget screenplays but couldn’t raise any funding for filmmaking equipment. Who knew back then that such powerful software would become available for free online? I also started a novel then, evangelical scifi of course, about a Space Shuttle that goes through a wormhole and encounters a planet with a human-like race that is unfallen and has no sin nature, similar to C.S. Lewis’ novel Perelandra. Most of my writing since then has been screenplays, until around 2012 when I finally made the switch to the novel format. But it can all be traced back to that first, earth-shifting visit to Disney World.
My short-lived first attempt at writing was in sixth grade, when I started a novel about an
Olympic athlete. I was inspired by the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City that year. So that
totals up to, with some long gaps, 52 years.
Because I don’t have deadlines to meet, I generally ignore writer’s block. If I can’t think of the
next scene to write, I don’t stress over it. Even if six months go by without writing anything new, I know that I’ll eventually get back to it and complete the project. I frequently re-read and edit what I’ve written, which keeps the project active in the back of my mind.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? I don’t really. I think I have a talent for writing, as well as a talent for writing music and drawing/painting. Maybe after my second book is published by an actual publisher I’ll start thinking of myself as a writer. at would require, of course, that I have a first book published by an actual publisher, which hasn’t happened yet.
Lots of online searches. I also buy too many books on the topic I’m researching. When I look
over my collection of nonfiction books purchased for research, I wish I had spent less. But it
seemed important at the time. On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?
It varies widely. I don’t have a goal of words per day.
The least favorite part is querying literary agents, knowing that the book will go nowhere and I’ll end up just publishing it myself. My favorite part is when I’m maybe five or six chapters into the book and it’s taking real shape and I’ve created characters I like.
I’ve completed six novels now. My favorite is whichever book I’m currently working on.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?
I’m surprised that I keep writing even though I haven’t interested in a literary agent in representing me and self-publishing my books produces only very slim sales. I continue writing because I find the process so engaging.
My favorite character is one of the characters in whatever book I’m working on. It’s usually the
central character, but with my most recent book it’s the character who challenges the central
character’s way of thinking.
The gay Amishman character in the Tinselfish books is the most autobiographical of all the
characters I’ve created. I chose to give him an Amish background because my own Baptist
background seemed just too drab, and also to give the reader a better idea of how separatist my family was and how strictly they interpreted Baptist doctrine. My parents spent their entire adult lives fairly isolated from the outside world. The character’s fish-out-of-water experience of leaving isolated Amish culture and ending up in West Hollywood was pretty similar to my own experience of leaving my family’s isolated social environment and ending up in the Castro in San Francisco.
Because my most recent story involves a theme park under construction, with an opening day
steadily approaching throughout the story, I thought fireworks on the cover would look forward to opening day and the colors might make the cover thumbnail stand out. e park in the story has an airport theme, and one of the coasters I created for the park looks like a plane taking off from a runway and encountering massive turbulence before safely landing on another runway. I envision the vehicle of that coaster being enclosed and designed to resemble a downsized commercial jet, and so I suggested that on the cover with the silhouette of a jet that appears to be on the track of a megacoaster.
A former resident of South Jersey and Central Florida, the author now resides in Burbank, California. He has previously written five novels, which can be found on his author page at Amazon.com. Leith, one of the lead designers, is a workaholic who is content in a loving, stable marriage that doesn’t require much maintenance.
The story is about a theme park designer with marital problems, and the motif of a new theme park taking shape lends itself easily and logically to multimedia. I wanted to explore with the story the political polarity in the US, and this is my first book where the central character is a conservative rather than a progressive. I wanted to write from a conservative’s point of view to try to see the issues as conservatives see them and to try to present that viewpoint sympathetically to my intended progressive readers. Originally I thought I would have the central character shift from red to blue by the end of the book, as political figures like Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt have done. But as the story progressed, that seemed less realistic than having the character on occasion being confronted with inescapable logic that pushes him, reluctantly, to change his mind about a given topic. At the end of the story, I have him describe his politics as more of a raspberry, a red only tending toward purple. I portrayed the progressive who influences him as a young, very likable, very smart professional woman who is concerned that the new park is being positioned as a conservative Disneyland.
The story is set in the timeframe of 2017 through 2019 and a few news events from that time are included to pin the story to those oddball years. The era of covid-19 is so drastically different that I didn’t want to attempt to integrate it into the story. This is also my first novel without a gay character. In my previous five books, either the central character is gay or there are important gay characters. I thought that making all the characters straight might make the book more marketable but, ironically, literary agents’ wish lists and bios almost always include requests for LGBTQ stories.
The unfamiliarity of the multimedia novel is another hurdle. People automatically think “A
novel doesn’t need video and audio.” I see the multimedia novel as a new genus of media, not just a new genre. The multimedia-novel category can include all the genres, and it exists in the space between streaming movies, eBooks, video games, websites, augmented reality, and other media and can incorporate them all. But I haven’t been able to convince a literary agent of that. It’s still too new. It’s ironic that once again I’m trying to push a new medium too soon. The mainstream film that came the closest to my grandiose visions of evangelical animated features is The Prince of Egypt from 1998, twenty years after I graduated with a degree in filmmaking. I’m sure that in the future, long-form fiction will integrate video, audio and computer scripts along with narrative text. And people then will chuckle that people now say “I don’t want video or audio distracting me when I’m reading a novel.” I see it as a natural evolution of storytelling, but I’m just a quiet little person who can’t be a Steve Jobs type showing people something completely new so they’ll know they want it.
I’ve also encountered the concept of transmedia storytelling, using different social media
platforms to tell different parts of a story. I created an Instagram account in the name of the
central character (instagram.com/leithahamilton) and have the character periodically post photos or videos. It adds to the character development in the book. If I wanted to I could create accounts for him on LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Reddit and others and even create a website for the online streaming-TV studio where he works, but that sounds like a lot of work without much payback. If the Instagram account generates buzz, it may get a literary agent’s attention.
I draw inspiration from the news, books and movies. My novel about gay Templars in the 12th
century was inspired by Brokeback Mountain and the reference to the Templars in The Da Vinci Code. The archaeology in The Talpiot Find was inspired by reading The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein. The continuing news coverage of the Mid-East in the early 00s inspired the inclusion of Iranian and Arab characters in the Tinselfish books.
John Updike is still at the top of the list. His prose style and his unpretentious braininess really resonate for me.
John Updike and Umberto Eco have influenced my style of writing, and Carl Sagan’s book
Cosmos has influenced what I write about and how I explain complex topics like universes with more than three dimensions and quantum decoherence.
It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer’s feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years. —J. D. Salinger
Trailer videos for novels
Secreta Corporis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPrXbvmfRv8&t=17s
The Talpiot Find: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNk_rjmIuFY&t=2s
Amazon author page
Tinselfish eBook editions (not on Amazon)
Webpage for Port Aero
Cover not to include
Life Doesn’t Always (out of print, replaced by Tinselfish)
The attached image is a simple map of the park. It’s included in the book to help the reader
visualize the layout of the park.