I first met Charlie through the Del Rey online workshop ten years ago. His intelligence, friendliness, and passion for writing came through clear and have only grown over the years as he’s become a well known and very well respected writer. Fame has only made Charlie a nicer guy. He’s the author of five books, including The Patriot Witch, the first in the Traitor To The Crown series published by Del Rey Books. He was born in New York but grew up in rural Ohio, where his appetite for story was satiated by comic books and paperbacks. He saw enough episodes of Gilligan’s Island to know that how you make a radio with coconuts but he would still prefer a satellite phone and an ereader. His website is at http://www.ccfinlay.com/
1. Why did you choose publishing for a career?
I chose story-telling for a career because I believe that stories matter. Stories are the way we make sense of the world. Publishing seemed like the best way to reach people with the stories I want to tell.
2. What’s the future look like for book publishing?
I think the real question is what does the future look like for book distribution? Will people prefer electronic books, and if so, what will be the best delivery method? Will cheap print-on-demand change the way physical books are made and distributed? Will specialty publishers who make beautiful collectible limited editions come to be the standard for print? I can make up stories about any of those futures but I don’t really know.
3. What advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Make your own footsteps. Every writer has to forge their own trail. No two creative careers are exactly alike.
4. What author or publishing insider living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired me as a kid, when I was ten, twelve, fourteen years old. The musty-smelling Grosset & Dunlap hardcovers at the old Carnegie library, the brand new Ballantine editions with Neal Addams covers, the yellowed old paperbacks I scavenged at yard sales — I loved them all. He clearly had so much fun writing. A lot of people look down at his books for being escapist literature, but I was an unhappy kid with a life I wanted escape from and those adventure stories were like a map to somewhere better. I wouldn’t mind telling him thanks.
5. If stranded on a desert island without the cast of Lost (or the S.S. Minnow,) what five books would you want to have with you?
Couldn’t I just have a solar-powered e-reader with all the books I ever wanted?
6. Why do books matter?
People are hard-wired for story. It’s our most basic form for understanding cause and effect, why things happen. In its crudest form we’ll take completely unconnected events and construct a narrative out of them: the rain falls because we sacrificed a goat and prayed for rain. In its refined form, story is the way we make sense out of and give purpose to our lives: where we come from, why we do the things we do, where we hope to end up. We compare, contrast, and model our own lives after the stories we are drawn to, taking on the values portrayed in those stories. Story provides us a way to connect to other people and events that are larger than ourselves. Those stories can be biographical or historical, they can be fiction, they can be transmitted by word or film, they can be drawn in pictures, they can be the narrative of sport written in events as we watch them unfold. Books matter because they are still the best way for many of us to get at story. Books matter because story matters.